What Is Overlanding?
First, let's answer the big question of "what is overlanding?" Let's start with the basics! Grassroots overlanding typically involves the following:
Lengthy travel exclusively over land
A remote destination or route
Heavy reliance on your vehicle
Spirit of adventure
Like a lot of things, the definition of overlanding is changing. As the global population climbs, there are fewer truly remote places as people push further out which leaves us with a dwindling number of grassroots overlanding experiences. Also, as more people like you and I jump into the world of overlanding, there are fewer people looking for the true grassroots experience. Because of this, you might see an overlanding experience that involves a lot of "car camping" or essentially driving to an established campground with predefined sites available to campers, often for a fee. Although purists would disagree, this type of experience is still qualifies as overlanding as you you can still fulfil the core requirement of overlanding: heavy reliance on your vehicle.
So know that we know a bit about what overlanding is, what do we need to get started?
A Route & Destination
First and foremost you need a route and a destination. The destination is not necessarily as important as your destination can be the same place you start out for instance. What is important is the route. You need to make sure you head out as far as you are comfortable in doing and then go farther. It doesn't have to be that much farther out but you do have to challenge yourself! I can usually tell when I have the right route in mind when I start getting a case of the "what-ifs". You will certainly have a lot of what-ifs your first time planning a trip and that's when you know you're off to a good start!
You should always travel with someone but, if you're like me and can't resist venturing out solo, at least let someone know your plans in case something should happen to you along the way. Missing an expected check-in is a great first indicator to anyone that something has happened and you might be in need of assistance. That said, help is still a length of time away and you will need to be able to handle what might pop-up unexpectedly. That can be anything from personal wounds needing first-aid treatment or a motor vehicle problem that you will have to address on the trip. Whatever the case may be, you need to be prepared for anything that could happen and more! If you weren't having any what-ifs before, you should be now.
Every overlander needs a vehicle, or rig, of some kind. There is no getting around it. If you're like me, you probably don't have tons of expendable income to fund a dedicated overlander so you're probably going to use your daily driver as I have. That can have the obvious benefit of not having to deal with extra maintenance, however, it does mean more maintenance, wear, and tear on your only vehicle. Whether you can have a dedicated overland rig or not, you need to be sure your vehicle is up for the task. Small issues can be easily exacerbated by the length of the trip, the often torrid pace, and the occasional "barely usable road" if you really want to go grassroots. Suffering a breakdown hundreds or thousands of miles from home can really ruin an overwise enjoyable experience so be sure to set yourself up for success and pick a reliable vehicle to start with.
This is a very broad topic for sure. You will certainly need to bring the essentials to cover the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. Outside of that, you should bring a well stocked automotive tool set and some extra parts that might end up causing you problems. Things like extra fuses, light bulbs, and maybe a tire repair kit, if you don't have a full-sized spare tire, are all things to consider. Even if you do have a full-sized spare, a tire repair kit and air compressor wouldn't hurt if you can make it happen. For a more in-depth look at what you really need for overlanding, check out our next article: "What Do You Really Need To Overland"