Beginner’s Guide to Overlanding

Beginner’s Guide to Overlanding
Top tools, apps, and community resources for becoming an RVing overlander!
By: Nick Riebe

Greetings GoLifers! “Overlanding” is a term we have all heard over the past few years, as it has become increasingly popular among the 4x4 community. But what is overlanding? And do we as RVers fit that description or lifestyle? 

First, let me introduce you to overlanding and what full-time adventure travel in an RV is like. Then, I will share some insider info on what tools, gear, and apps I use to make the best of full-time adventure travel. Lastly, I’ll let you know how you can get involved in the overlanding community and connect with like-minded adventure travelers. 

So, What is “Overlanding?” 

As defined by Overland Journal, it describes 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 (months to years) and often spanning international boundaries. While expedition is defined as a journey with a purpose, overlanding sees the journey as the purpose.

Overlanding is about exploration, rather than conquering obstacles. While the roads and trails we travel might be rough or technically challenging, they are the means to an end, not the goal itself. The goal is to see and learn about our world, whether on a weekend trip 100 miles from home, or a 10,000-mile expedition across another continent. The vehicle and equipment can be simple or extravagant - they, too, are simply a means to an end. History, wildlife, culture, scenery, self-sufficiency - these are the rewards of overlanding.

Can RVers Be Overlanders?

So, the question remains… Do we as RVers fit into the overland community? I’d like to briefly share one of my adventure travel stories with you, that may help you better understand what overlanding is about.

In early June 2019, I departed from an undisclosed location in Utah. Destination - Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, and the Arctic Ocean. My means of travel was a mostly stock 2018 Winnebago Travato 59K. Looming before us was a 3,100-mile, one-way adventure to the end of the Dempster Highway. 

Those who know this road, describe it as one of the most challenging roads in North America. A roughly 600-mile, one-way gravel road that stretches from Canada’s Dawson City, YT, to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. Once I arrived in Dawson City, YT, my worries began. 

I witnessed several kitted-out off-road vehicles covered in mud, with completely blown-out tires mounted where their spare(s) used to be. I was basically driving a luxurious cargo van with six inches of ground clearance and only one spare tire. 

After speaking with several “overlanders,” the recommendation was to have two. At minimum, one complete spare (wheel and tire), and one spare tire only. I only had one complete spare and went with that. I also had a variety of other tools, spare parts, and recovery gear onboard to ensure I was prepared for the road ahead (which we will discuss later). 

The entire trip up the Dempster Highway to Tuktoyaktuk and back was uneventful as far as problems were concerned. No breakdowns, no flat tires, etc. BUT I was prepared in the event anything were to happen. I have a lifetime of memories from that trip and gained a lot of real-world experience. So, even though I am a full-time RVer, I consider myself an overlander because of the way I live, and the way I travel. 

Do you fit into this category? That’s a question only you can answer. Now let’s talk about some tools of the trade as it were. 

Must-Haves For Overlanding

There is an ancient proverb by an unknown author that says, “The only tool you will ever need, is the one you don’t have.” I have found that to be true on numerous occasions. 

Top Overlanding Tools & Gear

Am I saying to bring every tool you own? No. But at least have a basic toolkit that may help get you or someone else out of a jam. I recently upgraded my old unorganized tool bag, to a new tool roll. 

A tool roll allows you to keep everything nice and organized. Wrenches in one pouch, sockets in another. So on and so forth. After a few uses, I absolutely recommend a tool roll of some sort. 

Also, if you are unable to fix your mechanical issue, or if you are injured, you’ll need to call for help. If you are out of cellphone range (which is where I sometimes find myself), investing in a satellite communicator like a Garmin inReach Mini could be worth its weight in gold. I have been using one for years, and I don’t travel without it. 

Next up is recovery gear. This is where you need to know your vehicle. Especially its weight. You should have at a minimum… 

  • A tow strap rated higher than your vehicle's weight, and two shackles. I prefer soft shackles (again, rated for more than the weight of your vehicle). 
  • Also, have a tire plug kit and a tire inflator rated to handle the size of your tires. 
  • Having a spare tire, jack, and tire change tools are also a necessity in my book. 
  • There are dozens more items you can pack away for roadside emergencies, so please use your own discretion on what you may need.
  • A few spare parts to consider… 
    • A replacement serpentine belt, extra fuses, bulbs, etc. 
    • I also carry a spare quart of engine oil and a gallon of coolant. 

Again, there are a plethora of other items you can carry, so you may want to add a few more. 

Useful Apps for Overlanding

We all have smartphones, right? Well, most of us do. There are soooo many apps out there and trying to find the best ones can be daunting sometimes. Here are a few that I absolutely recommend in no specific order. A few of these I rely on daily. Just trust me and download them before starting your overlanding journey! 

Here are my go-to overlanding apps:

  • Waze
  • Google Maps
  • maps.me
  • Gaia gps
  • AllTrails
  • iOverlander
  • trucker path
  • freeroam
  • public lands
  • onX off-road
  • GasBuddy

Yes, I know there are hundreds more, but these are the ones I use all the time, and they have never let me down. 

How to Get Involved in the Overlanding Community

Are you feeling more like an overlander, yet? You should be! But how do you get involved in the community? How do you meet like-minded people and share your adventures? 

There are numerous Overland Expos that happen throughout the year, where thousands of overlanders and vendors meet to indulge in everything overland. As an ambassador for Winnebago, I have attended many of these in order to help bridge the gap between the RV industry, and the overland community. 

Along with the Overland Expos, there are Adventure Van Expos, and various other rallies and events throughout the year that are overland-centric. There are also numerous Facebook groups, Instagram accounts, and YouTube channels dedicated to overlanding. 

So, if overlanding is something you are curious about, or want to get involved in, please do! If you are passionate about adventure travel to remote destinations, and love to explore, this community is for you! 

Just because we travel in RVs and not kitted-out Land Rovers, does not mean we are not “Overlanders.” Get out there GoLifers! Adventure Awaits!

Comments

User commented on December 7, 2021 5:50 PM
Great! Adventure on!
User commented on December 7, 2021 5:54 PM
Great insight Nick! Appreciate it! Randy K.
User commented on December 7, 2021 7:48 PM
Nick, I can feel your excitement in your words as I read your article. I, as well as many other readers, envy you and your travels being an Overlander. I love the pictures of some of your adventures. I am sure many of your fellow RVers have learned from all of your experiences. Looking to read more of your articles in the future. Hoping to be an Overlander like you some day Anthony
User commented on December 7, 2021 10:19 PM
Thanks for this informative article Nick!
User commented on December 9, 2021 3:23 AM
So you did not knock off your sewer pipe?
User commented on December 9, 2021 3:48 PM
Thanks, Nick. I admire your approach to to journey! And thanks for identifying a few apps I didn't know about; I'm sure they will be useful in my adventuring.
User commented on December 9, 2021 4:37 PM
this guy is a joke.
User commented on December 9, 2021 9:45 PM
Carry on! Rod B
User commented on December 10, 2021 8:50 AM
Great Information Nick. I especially enjoyed hearing about your first trip - what an adventure!