What is Overland?
Overlanding is not just about the rig.
When someone asks me what that hashtag is on all my posts of my FJ Cruiser, I find myself explaining what Overlanding is. It’s not a sport or a category for racing, so it is not easily defined, and it often comes down to some individual interpretation. Your definition of overlanding may depend on what you’ve seen and experienced, the setup you have, and a bit of personal bias.
I think it’s best to first explain what it’s not: It is not about revving motors and drinking beer and huge bonfires. It’s not about Red Bull, girls, and assault riffles. Not to say that any of that is wrong, and some of those things may occasionally make an appearance, but they’re not at the core of the overlanding world.
For perspective, here’s a little about me: My parents took me on my first camping trip at 5 weeks old, and every year since then. I love car camping and getting away from roads and the human-constructed world. I always hated generators, and RV hook ups are not for me, because I feel at that point you might as well just stay home! So when I found out about Overlanding, I knew it was for me.
Think of it as backpacking, but with a car. The gear on the car is mostly to be able to carry stuff for when you make camp. Everything you need for your survival and comfort, you bring with you. The lift, the tires, the performance parts are not there just for show or to shine in pictures; they exist to get you to remote destinations.
This is the biggest difference between rock crawling and rally cars. We are not building just so we can have the best rig; we are building to what we feel is personally important in our camping experience. And that’s what’s exciting about seeing overland vehicles: they’re all customized to the unique priorities of their owners. Some of the coolest rigs I have seen are ones that have been fabricated with passion and ingenuity instead of cash. At a meetup or on a group trip, you might see brand new TRD Pro Tacoma right next to a base 1990’s Subaru, a Jeep Rubicon with every add-on you can think of, then a hand-built trailer. Everyone does it their own way and proudly show off their creations, but they’re also always interested in checking out how others decide to do it. And there’s always new gear and tech coming out, so there’s always something new to see.
When you hit the trail, overlanding allows you to camp closer to nature. Your vehicle allows you to widen your traversable landscape, and explore areas you would never be able to reach in a city car or a cushy RV. Primitive camp areas where you bring everything that you need in, and take everything back out when you leave. With this access to serene and often awe-inspiring beauty and solitude, you gain a deeper respect for protected lands, and act as a conservator . The vehicles may seem large and aggressive, but overland campers are not at odds with the Forestry Service. In fact, many overland groups organize cleanup events.
This was a big reason I got into overlanding. I love wild places and very much value their preservation.
So, hopefully this provides a good explanation of what overlanding is about (or at the very least some of what makes it interesting).