If you claim to be a weekend warrior, you probably have a few long trips under your belt. Maybe you drove hundreds of miles to spend the day on the beach, or perhaps you spent a month on the road, visiting all the small, Southwestern towns you have dreamed of seeing. However, if you are ready for your next adventure, overlanding is something you should check out.
Overlanding is an entirely new experience, with different priorities than you are probably used to. Rather than being focused on a destination or conquering obstacles, overland travel in your van is all about enjoying the journey.
If you are in need of a new experience and what to get good use out of your adventure van, keep reading to get all the information you need on overlanding. We promise you won’t regret it!
What Is Overlanding?
All you need to go on an overlanding trip is an adventurous spirit, some free time, and a mode of transportation (we recommend an adventure van).
Unlike a road trip, the goal of an overlanding experience is not the destination. Nor is the goal to overcome challenging obstacles, like it is in off-roading experiences. Rather, the goal of overlanding is to experience something new. Like Emerson said, “Man is his own star” — the mission of the day is self-reliance.
In fact, the primary characteristic of an overlanding trip is to travel through remote locations. These travelers want to experience a culture that is different from their own, explore underrated or under-documented regions, and rely on themselves in unfamiliar locations.
With these guidelines, you can imagine that an overlanding trip can take many forms. Countless parts of the country would be perfect for an overlanding trip. Additionally, your trip doesn’t need to last for months on end. In fact, weekends give you a great timeline for an overlanding trip.
Although this may seem like an incredibly obvious start, proper planning is essential for an overlanding trip. Since one of the goals of an overlanding trip is to drive through remote areas, you might not have cell service for some or most of your trip. You might want to plan your route ahead of time so you can rely on notes, onX Maps, or printed-out maps when you’re truly off-grid.
We recommend using onX Maps - it’s the perfect planning tool for your next overland van adventure! With their comprehensive and up-to-date map data, you'll be able to plan the ideal route for your trip. And with their handy mobile app, you can access your maps on the go. So whether you're looking for the perfect van trail to conquer or the best camping spot in the area, Onx Offroad Maps has you covered!
It’s also best to let your family and friends know what you are doing before leaving for your overland journey. Give them a general idea of where you’re headed or use location-sharing features or devices if technology permits
And, of course, you will want to pack your adventure van to have all the gear you will need on your journey. Once you have your route planned, your family and friends in the loop, and your van packed, you are ready to go.
Take Nothing, Leave Nothing: Leave No Trace
Another important tip to make your journey successful and ethical is to live by the “leave no trace” rule. Respecting the landscape is an important standard that the overlanding community holds, so be sure to have your camera ready at all times to capture the memories that way.
Similarly, as you depart, you want to leave the landscape as pristine as you found it. That means triple checking for any garbage around your van, only dumping in dump sites, and making sure you don’t accidentally leave anything else behind.
Learn Basic Car Maintenance
Overlanders through remote locations with shaky cell service and limited options for car shops, so brush up on your tire-changing skills. That way, if you’re traveling down a dirt road and you get a flat, you won’t be stuck.
Also, it’s best to have enough understanding so that if you pop open the hood of your van, you know exactly what everything is. This will reduce any anxiety if there is a weird sound in your car or, worst-case scenario, smoke is coming out of the hood. Hopefully, you’ll be able to spot the source of the problem in no time.
Get To Know the Area
Another major component of overlanding is immersing yourself in a culture or area that isn’t your own. This can be as simple as getting to know life in rural areas if you live in a city, or it can be as extreme as traveling in another country that doesn’t speak your language.
As you travel, take advantage of anything you see that might draw locals in. If you pass any small shops or gathering centers, be sure to go in and introduce yourself. If you explain that you are on a journey to explore new areas and meet new people, they will most likely be happy to tell you more about where they live and what cool and exciting places you should visit nearby.
Overlanding Essentials - 8 Must-Have Items for Success
A Roof Rack
While traveling to remote destinations, you aren't going to have the attractions of a city to lean on when you stop in a particular area for a day. Therefore, you want to come prepared with gear to keep you occupied and safe in the middle of nowhere. We are talking about kayaks, bikes, gas cans, and camping gear. Plus, it frees up space inside your van so you can enjoy the journey.
We recommend grabbing a roof rack to utilize the space outside your van for storage.
Recovery Kit Items
When you're off-roading, there's always a chance you could get stuck. That's why having recovery items in your van is essential. A recovery kit should include things like a shovel, an axe, a winch, and tow straps. With these items, you'll be able to get yourself unstuck and back on the road in no time.
A Spare Tire
Another essential for off-roading success is a spare tire. You never know when you're going to run over a nail or get a flat tire that's unrepairable, so it's always better to be safe than sorry. Having a spare tire with you will ensure that you can change your tire and get back on the road quickly if you have a flat.
We recommend storing your spare tire on the back of your van with one of our Spare Tire Carriers - available for Sprinter and Transit vans.
When you're in remote areas, there's always a chance something could go wrong. That's why it's crucial to have a first-aid kit in your van. A well-stocked first-aid kit should include bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and more. With these items on hand, you'll be able to deal with minor injuries quickly and easily.
LED lights are another essential for overlanding success because they allow you to see—and be seen—in low-light conditions. When off-roading, chances are you'll be doing some driving at night or in heavily wooded areas where visibility is limited. LED lights will ensure that you can see where you're going and that other motorists can also see you.
Recovery boards are another essential for overlanding success because they allow you to get unstuck when your vehicle gets bogged down in sand, mud, or snow. With recovery boards, all you have to do is place them under your tires and drive—the boards will provide traction and help pull your vehicle out of whatever predicament it's gotten itself into.
Air Compressor & Tire Pressure Gauge
It’s also wise to bring a tire pressure gauge and air compressor to ensure your tires are adequately filled and are supporting your adventure travel van.
It’s also best to come prepared with portable tools while traveling remotely. Plenty of mobile options will enhance your trip and make your days and nights more convenient and comfortable.
Besides your tool kit and first aid kit, we have a few suggestions:
If you are traveling through a hot area, try using a portable air conditioner to stay cool. This portable cooler can blow 45% cooler air from regular tap water and can cool down your entire van.
Perhaps opt for a portable shower to stay clean without struggling to find a campsite with showers. Portable showers come in many different shapes and sizes, so you have the chance to pick one that fits your needs and space best.
Lastly, we recommend bringing a portable fire pit for easy outdoor cooking and nighttime entertainment. All you have to do is add some wood and light it, easy as can be!
Time for an Overland Adventure
Now that you have the lowdown on overlanding, why you should do it, and what to bring- you are ready to go! Just remember to plan beforehand (so you don’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere), treat the landscape well, and have the essential gear on and in your van.
We are confident that once you get on the road and are free of the pressure to hit specific destinations or complete a difficult obstacle route, you will be hooked on overlanding. So, what are you waiting for? Pick a weekend and get out there!