Overlanding: The Good and The Bad


Overlanding in remote desert by salt lake.

Overlanding is a growing trend in the American off-road community fueled by the desire for adventure and escape from the mundane. In recent times more overlanders have begun heading outdoors in their rigs to explore public lands and enjoy nature.

Overlanding has been around for a relatively long time and came to prominence in the mid-1900s in Australia as the outback became open to mechanized travel. In Europe, many overlanders travel internationally across borders in their vehicles to explore and experience something new. In the USA the trend has more recently come to prominence as Americans choose to get in touch with their public lands.

Why is it Popular?

Overlanding at its heart is driven by the love of outdoors and desire for adventure. In the modern day, many take multi day or week trips to the backcountry in their 4x4 vehicles exploring the remote regions of the US and camping for extended periods of time.

The trend has picked up lately as more people find the desire to get in touch with the outdoors and explore beyond their local cities and towns. In my opinion, it is a rebellion against the mundane nine-to-five work culture that is the standard in the modern United States. People are craving something new beyond the cubicles they work in.

The trend has been further accelerated by the increasing connectiveness of the world. As more people have more information and communication available at their finger tips and larger satellite networks make it easier for people to connect at a distance, it has become even easier to live a life on the road. You can maintain your relationships with family and friends long distance. You can also work remotely on the road and still earn a living.

Automotive companies have began taking advantage of the trend, with more and more vehicles coming out of the factory off-road capable, overlanding is no longer reserved for those with extensive mechanical skills.

The Good

The increasing accessibility of off-roading has allowed many people who dwell in more populated areas and cities to find an escape from the modern world. In my opinion this is a good thing.

Forest Landscape Winter

As society has become more concentrated in cities most people go months or even years without getting out into nature. Overall, the growth of modern society is not a bad thing but people have a primitive need to experience nature. All of the stimulation and distraction in cities is constantly trigging the human mind which was built and designed for a simpler time. Sitting in a desk and staring at a screen all day can cause health problems. Humans were meant to be outside and active.

As the outdoors become more accessible it is easier for people to get outdoors and get that escape from the norm. Getting in touch with nature is good for your health and your mind.

Additionally, getting in touch with nature helps people understand the affect we have on the environment and understand the world we live in better. It is hard for someone living in an apartment complex in the city to truly understand the natural world. Getting outside of the box that they have come accustomed to opens their mind to something new and more real.

The Bad

The growing trend is not all meadows and sunshine. As many newbie off-roaders and outdoorsman hit the backcountry in search of an adventure, problems with overcrowding of recreational sites and littering have grown exponentially. Waves of people, who are not properly prepared or aware of outdoor ethics, heading to public lands have cause clear problems for the environment

As it becomes easier to access the outdoors many have chosen to explore and experience outdoors without being responsible or respectful of the lands that they visit. Large groups of people heading to nature has caused overcrowding of public lands, trails, and campsites. This impacts wildlife and the natural composition of the ecosystem. This is a clear negative to the rising trend.

Not everyone is mindful of the affect that they have on the environment and leave the areas that they explore damaged. As the lockdowns this year have driven more and more people to chose a outdoor hobby, litter and vandalism on public lands have increase. Many people do not take responsibility for the garbage that they produce and leave it for another person or animal to come across. In modern society, people consume and throw away, and when there is no easily accessible garbage can to throw away their plastic bags or cans of beer they leave it because that is how they have been conditioned.

Another issue with overlanding resides in the off-roading culture that it grew out of. Many old school off-roaders believe that the hobby is about building your vehicle as much as going on the adventure. As more prepackaged off-road vehicles hit the market and inexperience overlanders looking for cool Instagram pictures hit the trails this has cause frustration and conflict in the off-road community. This is further increased by overcrowding of trails and shutting down of mistreated public sites.

The Balance

Desert Mountain Winter

The rise in the overland trend has clear positives and negatives, so how can there be a balance. It starts with every person who chooses to explore the backcountry needs to take responsibility for there impact.

Every single off-roader must stay on the trails, respect wildlife, and leave no trace.

  • Before going on any off-road trip overlanders must be aware of what trails are open and not stray from them and damage the land.
  • They must be aware that the outdoors are home to many other living creatures.
  • Most important, overlander must clean up every spec of trash and leave no trace. Put out your fires and properly dispose of your human waste. Leave the land exactly as it was before you got there.

 

There is nothing wrong with exploring the backcountry, weather you are an inexperience off-roader or seasoned outdoorsman, but it is your responsibility to take care of the land and be aware of the impact that you and those around you have on the land.

Be responsible, be safe, and get outdoors.

Read our article on Responsible Overlanding for more information on how to care for public lands.

 

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