By Randy Putt

What is it?

Some call it overlanding, some call it backcountry adventure, I call it a lot of fun without spending a fortune! Overland Journal defines overlanding this way: “Self-reliant adventure travel to remote destinations where the journey is the primary goal. Typically, but not exclusively, accommodated by mechanized off-highway capable transport (from bicycles to trucks) where the principal form of lodging is camping; often lasting for extended lengths of time”

While I have yet to spend more than four days in the backcountry and have not ventured more than about 250 miles from home (so far) the journey is the goal and the adventure is the attraction.

Vehicle Preparation
First let me say, don’t wait until your rig is fully built out to experience this great adventure! If you have a 4x4 vehicle with at least 31” off-road capable tires and tow points front and rear you should be able to get out there. Once you’re out there, observe how others have built their rig and what and how they pack. This could prevent some unnecessary mods as you decide what works for you. Vehicle preparation depends in large part on the terrain you plan to cover. For the most part overlanding is not rock crawling although depending on the route some rock crawling may be required. My experience has been mostly in the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas, but with 1.2 million acres of varying terrain from river crossings to elevations up to 2,753 feet there is a little bit of just about every type of wheeling with the exception of sand maybe. So for the type of terrain I typically encounter a 4x4 vehicle is highly recommended. While you can get by with a 31” tire, if you plan to do much of this type travel, I would recommend a 33” tire. I actually run 35’s on my jeep JKU but, that’s left over from my rock crawling roots. Lockers are a plus on occasion but aren’t required as long as someone in the group has a tow strap or winch for the occasional muddy section or rocky ledge. That being said, it is important to have tow points front and rear. The most important thing, however, is to have a rig that is in good mechanical condition because you can ruin a great adventure with mechanical problems. While a snorkel is not a requirement, it will help you cross deeper water with more confidence

Sleeping Accommodations
After the sun goes down and the campfire dims you will need some way to sleep comfortably. Hammocks are a popular low cost solution for those that don’t want to limit their nature experience to the daylight hours. Tents are probably the most popular sleeping accommodation with prices ranging from about $50 to well over $500. If you’re like me, you may have had your share of sleeping in ground tents and maybe you prefer building a sleep platform in you rig or purchasing a roof top tent that gets you out of reach of most curious forest creatures! Here are a few examples of what you might see out there on the trail.

What to take?
Start with the basics, food and shelter; also be sure to take plenty of water, especially if you plan to venture off on foot. A gallon of water a day per person is a good rule of thumb. Again, don’t wait till you get everything you need. You can always borrow some of this stuff from a buddy or even rent it in some areas. Some of the other things you will need include:

• Sleeping bag
• Cook stove
• Cooking utensils
• Extra clothing
First aid kit
Survival gear
• Flashlight
• Lantern

Some other things you might consider:

• Camera
• Binoculars
• Chain saw
• Bug spray
• Sunscreen
• Spare parts
You can find a more exhausting list online as well. Click HERE for one example.

All packed up and no place to go? Here again, the web is a great source for maps and trip ideas from several days to several months or even years! Once you decide on an area you would like to explore get a map of the area. The more detail the better. Even if you have a GPS unit with digital maps loaded I recommend you have a paper map as backup. Paper maps also help you see the entire route at one time. If you don’t have a GPS unit most tablets and iPads have GPS receivers built in now and there are navigation apps available for both android and ios based tablets and phones. Backcountry Navigator, Motion X, and Gaia are a few I have used or known others that have. The other navigational aid is of course the old fashioned compass, be sure and have one with you, you never want to depend solely on electronics, they can become damaged leaving you stranded. Always have a backup.

Safety considerations
First and foremost don’t go alone and always make sure someone knows your route and itinerary. Don’t depend on your phone; many remote areas have limited cell service so make sure those at home know they may not be able to reach you for long periods of time depending on the area you’re in. If it’s important that you be able to communicate with others while adventuring off-road you might consider a satellite phone. Satellite phones are fairly expensive but can be invaluable in emergency situations. Another consideration is to get your HAM radio license. There are good handheld HAM units that are very affordable these days. Turn around don’t drown! Don’t take chances with swift water or deep water. If there is any doubt walk across to make sure you can make it across safely. When traveling with a group of rigs sometimes you can get spread out and if you’re not careful you could miss a turn. To prevent this situation we use a technique we call bump-and-go. This is where each rig is responsible for the rig behind them. If you make a turn make sure the rig behind you sees where you turned before continuing. In this way nobody gets separated from the group. Once you get to camp make sure you don’t leave any food or trash where it might attract wild animals also check for burn bans before building a campfire and if you do have a fire keep it small and make sure it’s completely out before retiring for the night. These are just a few safety considerations, the most important thing is to use common sense and don’t take unnecessary risk.

Tread Lightly
This is very important. Make sure you know the principles of Tread Lightly. Unfortunately off-roading attracts some folks that care more about having fun than they do about taking care of the beautiful creation God has entrusted to us. If we don’t start self policing we are going to end up with no place to wheel but private off-road parks, so please follow Tread Lightly principles while you’re out there and help remind other’s of the consequences of reckless off-roading. Stay on designated trails, if you pack it in, pack it out and leave the area in better shape than you find it. Only cross water at designated crossings and don’t drive in the creek bed. Check out Tread Lightly's website for more information and help keep trails open for generations to come.

A quick web search for overlanding will turn up many good resources where you can learn more about this great pastime. Our club website has an Overlanding page with links to some good information. A few of my favorites are:

Expedition Portal
Overland Journal
Overland Guild

Now What?
Get out there and start enjoying this great past time. If you’re like me it’s just another way to get my jeep off-road. The thing I like most about overlanding is the fact that you never know what you might find out there, you have to play the hand that’s dealt you and do the best with what you have. In the words of Louis L’Amour “Too often…I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen”. Remember it’s not the destination it’s the journey. Every trip is an adventure!

Until our paths cross again,
Trailfrog out