Outside magazine overlandin itinerary feature
Outside magazine overlandin itinerary feature (illustration: Graham Murdoch)

#Vanlife, Meet Overlanding

To see more than just paved roads and parking lots, a new breed of explorers are taking a cue from the Aussies

To see more than just paved roads and parking lots, a new breed of explorers are taking a cue from the Aussies

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

You may have noticed: our wild places are get­ting crowded. Last year, 331 million people visited the U.S.’s 59 national parks—58 million more than ten years ago. Which means that if you want solitude, you’ve got to work for it. 

One way is through overlanding, which, loosely defined, is off-road camping. Some head out for years on end, but the majority take their rigs on weeklong jaunts. “It’s about using sturdy vehicles to explore, whether 100 miles or 10,000 miles from home,” says Roseann Hanson, founder of Overland Expo, a semiannual gathering of the tribe in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Asheville, North Carolina. The practice has long been popular in places like Australia and South ­Africa, but it’s gaining traction in the U.S. Rooftop tents are popping up in Brooklyn as well as Bozeman. And 12,000 people turned out for this year’s OE in Flagstaff, 20 percent more than last year.

Much of the gear is overkill, but a few select items can help the exceptionally itinerant find the space they need.

Must Have


Toyo Open Country RT
Toyo Open Country RT (Courtesy Toyo)

The most important tool, hands down, is a set of all-terrain tires. Toyo’s Open Country RT (from $181) increases off-road traction and helps prevent punctures.


Traction Devices

Maxtrax MKII
Maxtrax MKII (Courtesy Maxtrax)

Trucks get stuck. Corrugated boards like the Maxtrax MKII ($299) placed under the tires pro­vide traction to get them out.



An ARB Awning 1250 ($181) provides shade from the hot sun and a place to cook during a rainstorm. 


Recovery Strap

ARB Snatch Strap
ARB Snatch Strap (Courtesy ARB)

If a rig is really mired, it might need to be towed out. A stretchy ARB Snatch Strap (from $63) makes the process safer and more efficient. (Friend to do the pulling not included.)


Nice To Have

Rooftop Tent

Alu-Cab Gen3
Alu-Cab Gen3 (Courtesy Alu Cab)

The Alu-Cab Gen3 ($3,999) rooftop tent sets up in less than ten seconds and comes with burly aluminum bars for mounting gear. The three-inch foam mattress is as comfy as any hotel bed. 


Electric Cooler

ARB Fridge Freezer
ARB Fridge Freezer (Courtesy ARB)

Few coolers are a match for a week on the road. The 50-quart ARB Fridge Freezer ($924) runs off a vehicle’s battery, keeping everything cold without ice.


Kitchen Box

Trail Kitchens’ Camp Kitchen
Trail Kitchens’ Camp Kitchen (Courtesy Trail Kitchens)

When stowed, Trail Kitchens’ Camp Kitchen ($699) is about the size of a 15-gallon plastic tub. Unfolded, it’s a full cook station with a spot for a stove and shelving to spare.


Expert Opinions

The Guru

(Courtesy Scott Brady)

Scott Brady, founder of Overland Journal

His rig: 1996 Mercedes G-Wagon

“I’ve circumnavigated the world three times and crossed all seven continents in an overland vehicle, and one of the things I tell people is that the world is far safer, and people far more welcoming, than you’d imagine.”

The Correspondent

(Courtesy Wes Siler)

Wes SilerOutside contributing editor

His rig: 1999 Land Rover Discovery 1

“Don’t invest too much money or time in your vehicle. Just go do rad stuff. You’ll learn what you need along the way. Making do is part of the fun.”

The Newbie

(Courtesy Maggie McDermut)

Maggie McDermut, University of Colorado, Boulder student 

Her rig: 1986 Toyota Land Cruiser BJ70

“A lot of people see these super built-up rides and think that’s what overlanding is. They don’t realize that you can start small and go from there.”

From Outside Magazine, September 2017 Lead illustration: Graham Murdoch

When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small commission. We do not accept money for editorial gear reviews. Read more about our policy.