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by Kyle Buchter
Quadratec Channel Correspondent

Overlanding. Camping. Off-Roading. For many, all three categories are essentially the same thing. You go out into the dirt and trees, maybe camp a night or two, perhaps for the weekend and do some off-road driving over all kinds of different terrain. Hence, overlanding.

And yet, really, all three things have their own mostly separate place in the world. Not to say one is better than another, but true overlanding isn't necessarily camping the way many imagine, and neither is it serious off-roading. It can be, but it is not by design.

Before we get started, this was not written to offend or discriminate. In a time now when a lot of unknowns are all around us, we could all use a little laugh and some lightheartedness.

Odds are high that you are bunkered down in your house these days as social distancing is pretty much the norm. Google tells us to ‘Do the FIVE’ which includes staying more than three feet apart from others, while events all over the country are being cancelled due to COVID-19. These actions are in our best interest, of course, but being told to keep away from others, avoid crowds, staying isolated—these all are kind of what overlanding is all about, right? Hey, get the roof top tent and grill ready, honey.

But hold on just a second.

While ‘overlanding’ in your backyard is a great way to pass the time and make some memories, this isn’t technically overlanding. You see, the traditional overlander is a self-sufficient individual who travels ‘off the grid’ for weeks, months or even years to remote locations to explore new cultures and areas.

We are encouraged not to do this right now.

Since the term overland first came to prominence several years ago, it has exploded into a lifestyle that has captured the attention of all kinds of people. It has also evolved and now includes numerous educational festivals/events throughout the year, while a slew of companies specifically offer all kinds of accessories to those who have taken an interest in this category, as well as the lifestyle it offers.

Growing up, we had off-roading and we had camping. That’s what we called them. You could do them separate or together. Wow. Off-roading and camping. Makes you feel old doesn’t it?

So if you still love these activities today like I do, are you an overlander, off-road enthusiast or a camper? And how do you tell where you fall into all of this?

Here is a little breakdown.

Off-Roader: One who visits a designated off-road area and drives slowly over rocks, logs and other significant obstacles while spending most of the day in 4-low. Modifications might be made to reduce vehicle weight and make it more suitable to get through tougher obstacles. Vehicle preservation is a focus, but often moved to the bottom of list.

Camper: Has a designated area to call ‘home’ in either a tent or camper for the duration of their trip, which could be a few days to a few weeks. The camper drives away to explore new areas, but always returns to finish off each day by relaxing near the fire.

Today’s overlander: One who takes a little bit of the two above and combines together—with a larger focus. The vehicle is purpose-built and used for traveling to remote, sometimes hard-to-reach locations, as well as acting as a camp. This can mean a trailer, roof top tent or a ground tent—with the vehicle acting as part of the living set up and support. Overlanders are constantly on the move and usually have many different camp set ups as they travel from one location to the next. Most often, easier trails and dirt roads are scouted out first and vehicle longevity, as well as preservation, is key. Overlanders can travel long term, such as around a state or country, or take many short trips to different locations.

Just to recap:

  • Off roader: Drives over stuff, goes home at some point.
  • Camper: Camp stays, vehicle moves.
  • Overlander: Vehicle and camp move together—often for weeks, months, or years.

Now, there are a lot of people who go to off road parks and then set up their tent at a campground. The next day they head off-road, then come back and camp for the second night before heading home. Not to burst any bubbles, but this is more of a camping and off-roading weekend versus overlanding.

The thing is, everyone loves the term overland. But just because you slept in your cool ‘Overland Trailer’ for a night doesn’t mean you are an overlander—but that is okay. Do what you like and make it yours.

Over the years, we have met many variations of all of the above as the days of off road, camper and overlander evolved. Let’s take a look at the various modern day overlander lifestyles.

Meet the modern-day 'hippie'—living solely out of the vehicle or trailer set up while traveling around. The quote ‘Not all who wander are lost’ is their motto. The sites they see, their experiences, encounters and the smells—yes the smells—are all interesting.

This version of an overlander is vehicle supported and to them it is not about finding the best trails or toughest obstacles. It is about the destination, the sights and the experiences. These folks are often very road-weathered and unshaven, hence the hippie reference. And how do they find means to support themselves? They have to eat and fill up the tank, right? Well, many have found success making videos and building a subscriber base. What you see in these videos is the life of a social media nomad as they share their adventures with you. They are often inspiring, and take us to a place that gives us a nice break from reality.

Speaking of reality, let’s talk about what you won’t see in these videos. At least we hope not.

Smell-a-vision was never invented so you won’t have to endure the odor that comes with life on the road—with just a truck stop shower from time to time. And one last thing you should know about these modern day hippies is they know how to make a nice cat or scat hole. With the current toilet paper situation, perhaps we can all learn a thing or two from the modern day hippie and their outdoor techniques.

Next up; the weekend warrior. From Monday to Friday you will find them doing the workplace thing, but on the weekends—look out. And if it is a three-day weekend, it is game on.

This type takes trips wherever they can, all while exploring and using the vehicle to camp and visit off-pavement areas. You may even find them in a field with a Wok-type grill cooking something, and they take pride in building out a full course meal as they share it on Instagram and Facebook. (I smell a new Food Network show—oh no wait, that is the modern hippie passing by.)

Look for the weekend warrior prepping themselves for their getaway by stocking up on all kinds of supplies before heading out into the unknown. They commonly seek, and can be seen, on dirt roads and splashing through puddles at high speed. Why pay off road park fees when you can go drive through mud puddles on this dirt road? Their vehicle often weighs an extra 4000 lbs., or more, from all the gear they pack—note we didn’t say from all the gear they need.

Okay, now for the one a lot of us are but don’t want to admit. Get ready. Please meet ‘The Off-roader Who Camps'. This group rolls into an off road location and sets up their camp with any form of tent, camper, or motor home. And the camp is often set up like a man cave in or on the edge of the woods, and becomes quite the hang out after a day on the trails. From a distance, some of the vehicles even look like the Beverly Hillbillys just went rolling from their house to their camp, and brought grannies kitchen sink with them.

Setting up the camp is an art form to this group, and must be done a certain way. Once said camp has finished construction, it is time to go play on the trails. This is where the off roader/camper really comes to life as though they are back in high school. For a moment, or two, they are in their youth as this is possibly their only time of year away from normal life, work and kids. They won’t admit how much they miss their cozy beds till they get home.

Next up; the Off-Roader. This is the group who drives on highways to legal off road parks, or other off-road public land areas, and spends time on one main thing. Wheeling. Their goal is to play on real off road trails. Forget scenery and woks. Give this group rocks, dirt, mud, logs, hills, and more. Then, when they are done, you can follow their trail of mud to the local gas station.

While they play it off, the off-road gang normally beams with excitement and pride in direct correlation to the amount of mud they have accumulated—which they won’t wash off for a while. Now here is the tricky part, these folks can either camp or hotel it up. The campers usually build a site because most of their money goes into the off road vehicle, and who really wants to waste money on a clean room when you can have get a longarm suspension kit. They swear to survive off hot dogs and Gatorade for the weekend.

On a side note: If you do love off-roading AND use a hotel, then you are not, I repeat you are not, in any way shape or form an overlander. But you knew that already, right?

Last, but certainly not least, we have ‘The Camper’. All this group wants is to get away from the daily grind and sit by a camp fire. It doesn’t matter if it is the depths of summer, with a swarm of mosquitoes—these individuals will be out next to their fire taking a break from normal society.

You can identify a camper as they will often smell like a campfire and may even have marshmallow remnants left over in their hair.

So there you have it. Whether you are the modern day hippie who wanders, or the off-roader who camps, it is your lifestyle. So make it yours and do what you love. If you are able, then go grab that roof top tent, wok and dig that scat hole in the backyard. Make plans to go have fun when everything calms down; to explore and see the world, or your local off road park. Get out into nature and enjoy the experience.

While all of these versions are different, the one thing we all must have in common is respect for the environment, trails, wildlife, etc., that we encounter. We all want our version of ‘overlanding’ to be there for us and for future generations. Please don’t ruin it by being destructive, trespassing or leaving your trash behind. You are representing the entire Jeep community so be respectable, presentable and forever Tread Lightly.

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