If you’ve got any interest in outdoor adventure, off-roading, and traveling, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the term “overlanding” in recent years. However, it seems there’s some confusion about what it really is. We’re going to uncover the truth right here so you’ve got a full understanding the next time someone asks “What is overlanding?”

The Definition of “Overlanding”

Many people think overlanding is simply a combination of long distance off-roading and camping, but ask anyone involved in it and they’ll tell you there’s a lot more to it. A better way to define modern overlanding is to describe it as travel to remote destinations by vehicle where self-reliance is key. Others would go a step further and refer to the term overlanding as vehicle-based camping often lasting for extended lengths of time – months to years –  and often spanning international boundaries. Some would say it includes everything from bicycles to trucks. While we won’t go into all the details regarding capable transport from bicycles, the motivations and principles remain the same regardless of the vessel. Everything needed to survive needs to be in the vehicle and between your ears.

And we’re not talking about maintained campsites with water and electricity, and certainly not hotels and cabins. Whether you travel in trucks where the principal form of lodging is a sleeping bag in the truck bed or an SUV with a tent next to it, each day brings new surroundings. Common overlanding routes are typically but not exclusively mapped, which brings overlanders through rugged, awe-inspiring landscapes.

What You Need to Start

So you’re considering taking your first overlanding trip but aren’t sure where or how to start? Before you max out the credit cards and take out a loan on a new Land Rover, take inventory of what you currently own. And don’t bite off more than you can chew. As appealing as it sounds to take an overland journey from Argentina to Alaska, it’s best to get your feet wet with something smaller. The best part is there’s a decent chance you already have a four-wheel drive vehicle that can get you started. Trucks, jeeps, vans, and SUVs can all be used as an overlanding vehicle.

Don’t overthink your basic needs – at the root of it all, we need food, water, shelter, and fuel for the vehicle. Overland travel typically takes you through areas where basic necessities aren’t for sale at every corner. Again, the form of lodging is camping and the value of a full night’s rest can’t be overstated when you’re on the road for weeks, months, or maybe longer. Beyond that, you want to be well-versed in basic first aid, survival tools, camping equipment, and common vehicle repairs. Regardless of your specific gear, bring an overland journal to document each day. Otherwise, many trips end with the days blurring together and many small moments and challenges being forgotten.

What takes greater preparation is understanding your individual needs and anticipating the biggest challenges. Maybe you’ve spent a lot of time troubleshooting and repairing vehicles…chances are flat tires and unexpected repairs won’t phase you much. Or you’ve spent months roughing it in wilderness settings where managing your water supply and surviving terrible weather was just an average day. But what if those challenges are new to you? Or you’ll miss the small comforts of home more than you realize? These are all considerations before you sink your teeth into wild places and big adventures.

Why Overlanding?

Don’t forget the loose definition of overlanding: vehicle-based adventure highlighted by self-reliance, adventure, and independence. The beauty of overlanding is that it gives you the ability to go after something highly individual – after all, it’s about destinations where the journey itself is the goal. It’s exploration, pushing your limits, and challenging yourself – of course while being enjoyable.

If a term like “rugged individualism” appeals to you, you just might have the right state of mind.  It’s not for those seeking comfort or a chair next to a pool at the end of the day. If you want a challenge and journey that shifts your perspective, overlanding could be the ticket to a life-changing adventure.