There is something so amazing about journeying into the outdoors, off into the great unknown. For us overlanders, being somewhere unfamiliar and uncharted is what we live for. Maybe were drawn by the thrill of riding on trails, or maybe we just love being in nature, but out on the trail is somewhere everything feels right.
As overlanders we have a responsibility to help preserve the trails we ride on and nature that we venture to. There is nothing wrong with off-roading to spend time in your favorite places, but it is important to prepare and plan as to preserve the land. Please read this article and make sure you practice responsible overlanding.
Stay on the Trails
The trails are there for a reason, they are the path to the outdoors. They are the road from point A to point B and staying on them is of the upmost importance. A trail is created when people drive on a specific patch of land long enough. Eventually others followed and it became an established trail. Some trails where formed recently for emergency vehicles or recreational enthusiasts and some were created as far back as the 1800s from horse and wagon in pioneer times.
Once as someone drives their car onto a patch of land a mark is left on the environment and a path for others to follow. However, these go off into habitats and affect the organisms that live there as well as the environment. Damaging the land with your rig takes away from the natural beauty. It will also cause the area to potential be closed to OHV use—no good.
I don’t know about you all, but I overland to get away from signs of the modern world—to decompress. As much as it may be a thrill to plow over bushes, trees, or meadows please be mindful of how you affect the land you enjoy so much. If you do not preserve it how do you expect it to be preserved at all.
The outdoors are yours to enjoy, but that does not mean that it isn’t another animal's home. It does not mean that if you do not respect the wildlife that the beauty and the tranquility of the sites you enjoy cannot disappear. Nature is beautiful because it is alive, and as much as you should have lands to explore and enjoy, you have a responsibility to respect that land and to not damage it.
Take care of the wildlife. Make sure you do not destroy the natural systems that you travel through. Be responsible and protect the creatures that live outdoors. If you love the outdoors it is your duty.
While driving out on the trails, drive cautiously! It is important to not cause unnecessary damage to the trails and environment, but you also do not want to hurt any other outdoor enthusiasts that you may encounter. A trail could have any number of off-roaders, mountain bikers, or hikers on it at any given time. You should be ready to stop if necessary and let someone pass as to avoid a collision.
This takes more than just driving slow, but also paying attention. Watch where you are going and keep your eye down the trail as far as you can see—that way, there are no surprises. What someone if climbs out of the bushes or jumps across the trail with their bike? What if someone else is not paying attention while driving and comes around a blind curve too fast? Be ready for the unexpected, because you, your rig, or someone else could end up seriously hurt.
Minimize Your Impact
While exploring and adventuring on the trails you should always strive to minimize your impact. When driving on trails you erode the terrain. Tearing across trails aggressively or unnecessarily spinning out going over obstacles are not only amateur but also detrimental to the trail systems and the environment.
As people go over trails aggressively, they create larger ruts in the trail and make it harder for others to travel on that road. Some may not care or want to limit trials to only the most capable vehicles, but you are increasing the chances that someone gets stuck or hurt, or damages the land that you enjoy. This not only causes problems for off-roaders on the trail but increases the chance of the trail being shut down. Do your part to minimize your impact.
Leave No Trace
The most basic tenet for any outdoor enthusiast and the most important. It is something everyone needs to take responsibility for. LEAVE NO TRACE. When you take a trip to the outdoors and cook, drink, or camp make sure that everything you used, any piece of garbage, recycling, or trace of campfire is completely cleaned up before you depart and that the land is left better than before you got there. It is shocking to see people go outdoors and enjoy their time out there but do not take responsibility for their garbage. Why would you want to ruin the land for future use by yourself or others? Clean up after yourself!
I am going to add another piece to this tenet: if you see garbage or leftover human traces, clean it up and leave it better than when you got there. Even if you have cleaned up after yourself and made sure your own impact is limited, not everyone is taking responsibility for their garbage. You can work to keep the land preserved and open for use, even if others do not. Plus, with a large vehicle you can bring out more garbage than a backpacker or biker. Pack out more than you pack in.
Keep the outdoors special, keep the experience pure. Make sure to respect the land and always leave the place better than you found it.