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Behind the Trend: "Overlanding" is More Popular Than Ever, But What Exactly is It?

Overlanding. We’ve all heard the word. We’ve heard people use the term like it’s been around forever. And we can probably all identify an “overland build” just by looking at it.

Toyota 4Runner Overland Build

Yet for a relative newcomer to the scene (like myself) or just someone who isn’t on up on the lingo you might be wondering what exactly is overlanding? And how does it differ from traditional off-roading or simply camping?

Jeep Wrangler Overlanding on Beach

The Traditional Definition of Overlanding

By its historical definition, overlanding basically means vehicular exploration—combining off-roading with camping and a mission of venturing into uncharted and unknown areas.

Overland campsite

So rather than hitting up a known and popular off-road trail or visiting a scenic campsite in your rig, to be overlanding in the original sense, one would have to be taking your vehicle to far-reaching, undiscovered locales.

Jeep Wranglers on Nitto Trail Grappler Tires

Obviously, given population growth and modern communication methods and navigation, this is going be something that's harder to do in the modern era than when the term first appeared in the early 1900s, but the spirit is the same. 

Ford E-Series Overland Van

Another big key to Overlanding is being self-sufficient, bringing along everything you need to survive while being out in wild—food, sleeping arrangements, hygiene products and more. And that’s all aside from the capability of your vehicle itself.

Overlanding with Trailer

But this focus on self-reliance and being “off the grid” is something that's still important even if you aren’t hundreds of miles from civilization or spending weeks in the wilderness.

Lexus GX470 Overland Build

The Modern Definition of Overlanding

So to look at it realistically, overlanding as it’s talked about today, is most often a combination of off-roading and camping.

On average, an overlander will have more space for gear (and people) than a typical purpose-built off-roader will, and at the same time it might not need the same hard core capability that say—a serious rock crawler might.

Jeep Wrangler on Trail

There is after all, a reason why were are seeing more and more crossovers and other more casual SUVs become increasingly involved in the “overlanding scene.”

Toyota 4Runner White Overland Build

A capable rig loaded with all the right gear will allow you to access places where large RVs can’t go, and at the same time will allow you to enjoy the adventure of off-roading in new ways.

Travel Trailer Toy Hauler

While Overlanding in its original form might be more difficult and less common than it seems, its popularity—or at least the popularity of “overland adjacent” activity shows no signs of slowing.

Toyota 4Runner Overlanding

Purists may argue over what truly is and ins’t “overlanding” but the undeniable fact is more people are getting out there and having fun than ever, learning about machinery, about the outdoors and finding the analog satisfaction that today’s digital world doesn’t offer.

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