Exploring the great outdoors: Overlanding 101
|driving.ca 17 Sep 2019 at 14:29|
If you’ve spent any amount of time perusing off-road websites or outdoor-focused magazines, you’ve seen them: burly trucks or SUVs built for dirt roads and laden with a phalanx of camping gear. They’re called overlanders , a type of recreational activity that mashes off-road driving and off-grid camping .
In case you haven’t guessed, the sport is currently exploding in popularity. Outfits that rent pre-packed overlanding rigs abound, giving those new to the sport a taste of the lifestyle. Getting away from it all has never been so easy.
There’s a bit more to it than just tossing a pup tent in the back of your 4×4 and hitting the trail. Real overlanding, the type which finds campers out of cell phone range and away from other humans for a couple of days, requires a dose of planning and some specialized kit. It’s not rocket science but, as with most things in life, it is certainly better to be overprepared.
Experienced overlanders know the value of assembling their required kit before leaving the pavement. At the head of their list, as you may expect, is a place to sleep. Bunking in the cargo area of one’s Wrangler or 4Runner is certainly an option but you’re likely to find the space a bit crowded once all your other gear is stored and stashed.
Rooftop tents are the answer to this conundrum. Styled like a thin cargo box but expanding into a comfortable sleeping area, some of these units pop up to reveal a place to slumber while others fold out like a school textbook to reveal their accommodations. All types are secured to a sturdy roof rack system, meaning you’re evenly distributing the weight over the entire top. For easiest deployment at the end of a long day, look for a setup that uses hydraulic struts to raise the tent into place. Don’t forget your sleeping bag.
Once that’s looked after, it’s time to kit out the vehicle. Start with the basics, like items with which to build a campfire and a good multi-tool . The latter, such as a Leatherman, packs in more functionality per square centimetre than anything else you’ll take on the trip. Equipped with pliers, sharp blades, screwdrivers, and even firestarters on some models, a Leatherman can mean the difference between a quick save-the-day fix to your tent and a disappointed trip back to town.
Absent of being able to make a quick run to the corner store, overlanders pack enough food and water for the duration of their trip. Not necessary but certainly welcome is a refrigerator that can be powered from a vehicle’s 12V outlet. The chill keeps food fresh and, just as importantly, away from the alert noses of curious Canadian wildlife. At the very least, bring a cooler. Some folks simply arrange all this gear neatly in the cargo area while others rebuild the inside of their vehicles with the zeal of Bob Vila on an episode of This Old House.
It’ll not escape your notice that most overlanding vehicles are purpose-built off-road rigs. This certainly ratchets up the cool factor but, depending on one’s destination, it’s not always necessary. Certainly, there is more challenge in navigating a forest service road than a light gravel track but overlanding is not limited to those with zillion-dollar custom rigs. A stock and well-maintained Jeep Wrangler or Toyota Tacoma can get most drivers in (and out!) of the majority of places in which one will find themselves while overlanding in Canada.
As an aside, it never hurts to improve one’s driving skills, so brushing up on your truck’s 4×4 system and reminding oneself of how to successfully navigate out of being stuck in the mud is a good idea. There are even off-road driving courses one can take, designed to impart a variety of information that will help you operate your rig safely. Using an expedition style of driving, it will help you preserve not just your equipment but also the nature and environment through which you’re travelling.
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Overlanding is definitely the type of adventure in which the journey is just as important than the destination. Your author likes to describe it as ‘meaningful travel’, an experience in which one gets out and learns a bit about the world around them and miles apart from the sanitized experience of a bus tour or cruise ship. If you truly want to get away from it all, overlanding is your answer.