Skip to main content

What Is Overlanding?

“It’s not the destination, It’s the journey”. This quote pretty much sums up what Overlanding is.  This is a form of travel that is skyrocketing in popularity. Similar to off-roading and camping, today Overlanding is an industry in itself

So, what is Overlanding? The term Overlanding indicates a form of self-reliant travel, trekking through uncharted terrain where the journey is the primary goal and not the destination. Usually, the journey is made using a set of mechanized wheels that is capable of offroading. You could either go a hundred miles or travel thousands of miles through continents and still call it Overlanding. Often the journey spans over continents and takes months if not years to accomplish.

In this article, we shall cover all the basics regarding Overlanding. From the basic gear that you need, the commitments you need to make and the skills you need to develop.

land cruiser overlanding through desert

Origins Of Overlanding

Overlanding wasn’t always this cross-country journey made on an automobile. The term Overlanding originated in Australia. It referred to herding livestock over large distances to find new grazing grounds or to transport livestock. 

One of the earliest noted Overlanding expeditions was made by Alfred Canning between 1906 and 1910. He journeyed through 1500 km overland herding cattle. This opened up a stock route for bringing cattle. 

Overlanding has come a long way since the early 20th century. Ever since the boom of automobiles, Overlanding has grown as a recreational trip. In the mid-20th century, Overlanding was explored through different forms of travel. Usually, the best choice was a 4×4, but it wasn’t unheard of to go Overlanding in vans and even motorcycles.

The last couple of decades has been huge for Overlanding. High-profile events like the camel trophy and the Land Rover G4 challenge provided Overlanding with much-needed exposure.

Difference Between Overlanding And Camping

Jeep Cherokee camping with tent in forest

People often tend to substitute the two words Overlanding and camping for each other. Though they share a lot of similarities, they are not the same thing. Both are great ways to explore the outdoors, and you’d be setting up camp in both forms of travel.

So, how do these two activities differ? First, you need to look at the planning that goes behind each. When you go camping you plan out the entire journey to reach the campsite to call it a night. When you go Overlanding, there is no such thing as a campsite. You go as far as you can and find a flat spread of land to set up camp. The main goal that you have when camping is relaxation. Overlanding is more about exploration.

More often than not, the campsite provides the greatest joy when camping. When Overlanding, you end up enjoying the journey and camp is just to get some rest to drive on the next day.

Finally, the gear you pack for camping and Overlanding is completely different. When you pack for a camping trip, you get your daily essentials to make it a few days. All these can be packed in a single backpack and carried over your shoulder. 

Overlanding is much more demanding for you as a person and your ride. You need food and water to sustain you for multiple days, and you also need to worry about backups. The same attention needs to be given to your ride. You need to have the gear for minor repairs and also have replacements for batteries, tires, and other components that might fail. Unlike camping, when Overlanding, you do not have the room to pack luxuries, you need to be more focused on the necessities.

Difference Between Overlanding And Off-Roading

Jeep tj climbing up steep hill in woods

Maybe camping and Overlanding aren’t the same, but what about Overroading and Off-roading? After all, off-roading is also about the journey.

Here a major difference comes in the form of the vehicle itself. When Overlanding, you modify your vehicle to live off of it. Making more room for cargo and other essentials. This takes out the ability to go off-road if the conditions are extreme. Though you’d be able to cover basic rough terrain, there are certain limits.

When you are off-roading, you build your vehicle to tackle the roughest terrain. You’d be able to drive over huge boulders, ascend near-vertical cliffs and cross through deep puddles or rivers. Off-roading is about tackling the greatest obstacles with your ride. 

Going off-road and off-roading are two completely different things. Though you’d be going off-road when you are Overlanding, that is not off-roading. 

Another key difference is the distance of the journey. You don’t go off-roading with tons of stuff packed in your truck. If you do so, the improper weight distribution will make it impossible to tackle the terrain. Often, you limit off-roading to a day. This is not the case when Overlanding. You need to have the essentials to get you through months on the drive.

Challenges That Come With Overlanding

Now that we have the terminology sorted out, let us look at some challenges that you might face when you are Overlanding. 

The truth is Overlanding is not for the faint-hearted. It is demanding physically and mentally. You need to be ready to overcome anything the universe throws at you to complete your journey. Here are some troubles and challenges that you might face.


Traffic is not something that you aren’t familiar with. By now you might already be used to it. But if you decide to go Overlanding through different countries or if you start in a completely new location, you need to be educated about that place. Traffic won’t be the same in two different countries. For starters, different countries have the driver seat on different sides. Similarly, you would have to drive on different sides of the road.

Before driving into a new region, educate yourself about the laws there. This will not only ensure your safety but will keep you out of jail.

Off-Road Accidents

suv rolled over on shoulder of icy road

You will encounter different types of terrain if you decide to drive thousands of miles. Sometimes, you might not be familiar with such terrain. So, you should know your limits and your capabilities. Remember you are not only depending on your skills but also your car’s capabilities.

If you think that you cannot go through specific obstacles, do not hesitate to turn around and take the long road. After all, you are looking forward to the journey and not the destination, so why should you be in a hurry. 

An accident while off-roading will not only cause major damage to your car, but it will also leave you hurt. You could end up being stranded in the middle of nowhere. 

A great solution for this would be to travel in groups. This way you’d have a backup if needed.

Isolated Locations

land cruiser on salt lake bed

Overlanding will test your self-reliance. You should be prepared to drive through some alienated locations. Sometimes, you might not have human contact for days. Though you might relish the chance to be alone in the middle of nowhere, you should when to draw the line. 

Before you go into a remote location, let someone know about your whereabouts. So, if you are stranded, they will know where to look for you. 

Make sure to have everything you might need. If you are away from civilization, you need to have the resources to get back to it. If you run out of gas, pushing your truck is not an option. Therefore, plan your journey depending on the resources that you have.


Sunset from top of a grassy mountain

Even though you decide to go Overlanding in the great outdoors to enjoy nature, it is one greatest threats that you might face. Make sure to stay hydrated. Filter your water before you drink it. Be aware of the climate. The weather could change in an instant. Don’t set camps in places where you could encounter flash floods.

Depending on where you are, you would have to worry about wild animals. Try to avoid encounters as much as possible and keep your distance.

Do You Need A 4×4 To Go Overlanding?

Though it is not necessary, a 4×4 will make your journey easier. But if you have the recovery gear and the experience, you should be able to manage with a 2WD. 

If you do not have experience driving off-road, it might not be such a good idea for you to go Overlanding on 2WD. A 4×4 is much more capable of handling the rough and rugged terrain compared to a 2WD vehicle.

What To Pack When Overlanding

Knowing what to pack is imperative. You are better off having something and not needing it rather than needing something and not having it. You should always expect the worst and prepare accordingly. That way you should be able to navigate through unwelcome surprises that you might encounter on the road. So here’s what you need to carry if you are planning on Overlanding.


Some of the most important things you will need to pack will be your recovery gear. Having a tow strap or winch can be the deciding factor of how your trip goes.


Make sure to pack the basic tools that you might need to perform repairs. The brutal terrain will surely beat up your car and you’d be forced to do some repairs on the road. Packing a quality bottle jack in case you need to swap out a flat tire.


You can’t be eating out of cans for the entire trip. So, you need to have a cooler to store food that needs to be refrigerated. Investing in a high quality ice chest that can keep cool for 2-4 days is a great option or a 12V cooler that can be powered using your car battery. Make sure to get one before you go Overlanding.

Cooking Utensils

You probably won’t cook a five course meal when camping on the trail. But you need to have the basic cooking and eating utensils. Pack some pots and pans along with a propane grill.

Need help selecting the perfect propane grill? Check out our grill buyer’s guide.


Keeping up with new episodes of the Sunday family lineup isn’t our first priority when out on the open road, but for those who need to add a touch of technology into the mix. There are many options, be it tablets, laptops, Bluetooth speakers, movie projectors or just simply using our phones. And don’t forget board games or those oversized lawn games.

Check out our article on other fun activates while camping.


If you have the luxury of a truck bed, you should choose to buy a tent that mounts on your truck bed itself. The truck bed will provide you with a flat surface to sleep on. Assembling and disassembling the tent is also much easier.

Even if you do not have the luxury of a truck bed, you need to have a tent. Again, choose a tent that is easy to set up and pack up. This will give you more time to stay on the road.

Need help selecting the perfect tent? Check out our tent buyer’s guide or our roof top tent buyer’s guide.


First aid is always important and something to consider when traveling. And another concern if you are traveling with kids and pets. Having the right first aid kit for various unforeseen accidents and situations. Clean water sustainability is in all cases vital for not just first -aid but as well for cooking food and drinking. If there is no freshwater or you are trying to conserve your reserves, make sure you have an available way to purify a water source such as a life straw, matches flint, kindling for boiling, or yes my weird idea that even a magnifying glass is worth packing ( they are not just for torturing ants).

Check out our article for our complete list of safety gear.


We have all made that joke of sending out the bird call or smoke signals when we get into trouble. But in all events, if you need to get someone’s attention we now can easily use other forms of communication. Cb radio/ satellite 2 way or ham phone with tracker beacon.

Kids and Furry Kids 

“Are we there yet?” Traveling with kids and of course, our also beloved furry kids can be a whole adventure on its own. Whether it’s just a trip to the store or a long road trip. Make sure you plan extra entertainment and comfort for all your little ones.

Heating, cooling, and shade

Depending on where you’re planning your trip it’s important that you look at the forecast and pack accordingly. Having a campfire is great so long as it’s permitted but many locations do not allow open fires. If that’s the case I recommend checking out a propane campfire.

Sleeping Bag, Air Mattress, or cots

This is all about comfort. Having a good night’s rest is important if you want to have a productive day. You can choose to have an air mattress or a sleeping bag. If you have doubts, pack both.

Gas Cans

This is one of the most important things to pack. Your truck will not run without gas. You do not know how long you’d have to drive before coming up to the next gas station. Fill up a few cans of gas as a backup. This could be a lifesaver.

These are just a few of the essentials that you need to pack. Make sure to thoroughly plan before you step onto the road and pack whatever that you might need.

Summary – Should You Go Overlanding?

Overlanding is not the same as camping or off-roading. Now that you know the difference, it is safe to say that Overlanding is more demanding than the two.

But why should you decide to go Overlanding? Overlanding is turning into a global sensation. Unlike in the past, now you have a ton of gear that is made to make such a journey as easy as possible. 

If you love the wilderness, Overlanding is a fun and cost-effective way to have a retreat from your daily life. If you are looking for a challenge, to step out of your comfort zone and push your limits, this is a fun way to do it. You are sure to come out of the other side with an exciting adventure and some unforgettable memories. Hit the road, Its waiting for you