Overlanding – What is Overlanding?

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By Ferenc Elekes

Overlanding is booming in popularity, largely because people yearn for knowledge and adventure. Perhaps more folks are wanting to get away from the city madness! Whatever the reason, overlanding gives you an opportunity to explore the world and learn from it. But what is overlanding?

We are enthusiasts of overlanding, and we want to share the humble knowledge we have built up on this matter. It is our hope by so doing we can help you explore the world and learn from it. What is overlanding and where is it coming from?

In this article we highlight the origins and history of overlanding, bucket list-worthy routes, basic gear and skill requirements. We hope, over time, to accumulate and share knowledge on every aspect of this awesome way of travel and adventure.

What Is Overlanding And Where Did It Originate?

If we would like to define Overlanding, we need to look at the different types of vehicle assisted travel. 

Overlanding is often confused with off-roading. Off-roading is a type of adventure that takes place on un-surfaced roads or no roads at all. It is different from overlanding where the type of road is not an issue.

Overlanding often takes you through rough terrains and off-road trails, but tackling a steep hill which resembles a wall is not a primary objective when overlanding. Overlanding can go straight through cities as well.

You might say then, that overland travel is just another word for a road trip. Well, the main difference is that a road trip has a destination, whereas overlanding is about the journey itself. Besides that, the primary mode of accommodation for overlanders is camping with all of its fun and challenge.

As we’ve mentioned, Overlanding is definitely a growing trend. This style of travel entails using usually an off-road vehicle or a van to cover a long distance, typically in a remote area.

More emphasis is placed on the journey and taking in the landscape rather than any destination. It opens up a world of opportunities for those who love to discover the planet on their terms and at their own pace.

Overlanding may not be for everyone, however, the opportunity to make unforgettable memories are unrivaled.

The term Overlanding seems to have originated in Australia, and referred to driving cattle long distances across the Outback. Later, road construction crews used it as they opened up the vast landscapes that characterize the Australian wilderness. More on this later…

Today, serious overlanders, armed with some serious gear have taken this concept to an entirely new level. It is quite common to have people overlanding for weeks, months or even years in some remote regions of the world. 

One of the most common misconceptions about overlanding is that you have to be young, child free and in the sort of peak physical shape of a mountain climber.

This is, in fact, not true; overlanding can be a family adventure for people of any age or almost any fitness level. Provided you are willing to occasionally dig your vehicle out of a hole, and you of course probably need to have at least a mild attraction to the great outdoors.

Additionally, some people may think that overlanding means they will have to disconnect from their electronic devices and be forced to live like a nomad for weeks.

If you genuinely require your tools for work while overlanding, it’s become easier to utilize your devices whilst on the road. With advances in battery technology, you can bring enough juice with you to power your devices.

The History of Overlanding

We could say that one of the first overland expeditions can be traced back to the 13th century when Marco Polo made his trip to the Court of Kublai Khan, all the way from Venice. However, it took a few more centuries before the modern form of overlanding was developed.

As we mentioned, the term overlanding can be traced back to the Australian outback. At the time, farmers had to move their cattle across long distances as the seasons changed.

They had to traverse the long distance, and that is how they coined the word. Later on, as workers were building highways to open up the Outback, they used the phrase overlanding to describe their journey across the outback.

Up to this day, overlanding enthusiasts use these roads in Australia.

In general, in Australia as well as in South-Africa there is a long tradition of exploring by a self-contained vehicle or motorcycle.

One of the first ever use of motorized transport for leisure only can be traced back to the United States. It took place in 1903 when George A. Wyman rode a motorized bicycle to New York from San Francisco.

He managed to cover 3,800 miles in just 50 days. However, his bicycle’s engine broke down on the final 150 miles, and he had to pedal to the finish.

A well documented, among the largest and peaceful overland expedition took off from the UK to India and back. The entire convoy comprised over twenty coaches that carried 25 people each.

The Commonwealth Expedition, which was often called the Comex 3, still holds the record as the most prominent overlanding expedition ever. The expedition took place in 1969 and was among the largest and most peaceful overland expeditions of the time.

The entire convoy comprised over twenty coaches that carried 25 people each who traversed the huge distances between the UK and India.

Another notable expedition took place between 1969 and 1970. A convoy of four Land Rovers embarked on an overland journey that took them from South Africa to the UK.

As you can imagine, it was not easy.

The main reason being the poor state of the roads in Africa at the time. Members of the expedition had to spend long hours trying to pull their vehicles out of the mud in areas used to foot or animal traffic. However you can imagine the rewards far outweighed the effort.

To be continued……..