What Is Overland Camping?
Overland camping is popular worldwide. However, it’s a relatively new activity in the United States.
Initially pioneered in the Australian Outback out of economic necessity, now Americans have found enjoyment through overland camping.
Overland Camping 101
Overland Camping, also known as Overlanding, essentially combines both off-roading and camping into one. It focuses on self-sufficient travel over rugged, remote terrain in search of new or pre-existing destinations with exploration and discovery as the primary goal.
Unlike traditional camping and backpacking, overland camping is typically accompanied by motorized transportation with off-road capabilities. On a popular overlanding route, you’ll see a lot of Jeeps, trucks, SUVs, and even motorcycles.
Is Overland Camping the Same as Off-Roading?
Overland camping is different from traditional off-roading because of how overlanders view the obstacles on the roads.
The obstacles and terrain crossed on an overland camping trip are simply obstructions that need traversing to reach an end destination, not the overall goal itself.
Whether traveling a few hundred miles from home, or over a continent on the other side of the world, overland campers view the history, nature, wildlife, cultures, and experiences with those accompanying them as the real rewards.
Are Overland Vehicles Comfortable?
Overland vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, from Jeeps and trucks to vans and motorcycles. Just about anyone can find a vehicle that’s comfortable for them.
One thing to keep in mind about overland vehicles is the comfier they ride on rugged trails, the harsher they will ride on paved roads and highways. Bigger, grippier tires mean louder road chatter and lower gas mileage while traveling on paved roads.
More flexible sway bars mean your vehicle will handle uneven terrain better with the lateral sway tradeoff when taking turns at higher speeds.
Shocks with more travel will result in a smoother ride over rocks, boulders, and logs, but a bouncier commute.
Think about what your needs are to determine which vehicle is right for you.
As far as space goes, many overland rigs don’t come equipped with loads of square footage. Many people use Jeeps, trucks, and SUVs for their overland camping, which aren’t the most spacious vehicles.
You’ll see many overland rigs with rooftop tents, sunshade awnings, and even outdoor showers. All the comforts of home, away from home.
Finding Overland Camping Areas in the USA
Most people will be able to find an overlanding route within a few hundred miles of home. If you happen to live in the American Southwest, it’s the mecca of overlanding in the United States.
Utah itself is home to some of the best overland routes in the Lower 48. From beginner to advanced you’ll be able to find something up your alley here. A must-see beginner route being the Valley of the Gods Road in Mexican Hat, Utah.
This 17-mile dirt road traverses some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire country and is a great beginners route to get your feet wet with overland camping. There’s plenty of dispersed camping along the route that shouldn’t be missed. If you’re in need of a quick getaway, this route is perfect. It can be completed in around six hours with a capable vehicle.
The rugged Sierras in California offer great overlanding opportunities, too. These granite cliffs’ scenic and rugged terrain brings spectacular exploration and camping options for a wide range of overland campers.
One route in particular, The Rubicon Trail, explores the historical road that created the first safe passage across the Sierra Mountains. Don’t be fooled by the trail’s popularity though, as it’s considered one of the more dangerous overlanding routes and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
A few other areas where overland camping is popular are Arizona (home of a major overlanding expo), Colorado, and for the east-coast dwellers, North Carolina.
If you’re looking to get out of the states for some exploration, the Baja Peninsula offers miles of beach roads. You can head up north to Canada where you can find some snowy routes to explore.
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