RV ownership jumped pretty significantly during the COVID pandemic. So did the number of casual RV owners and campers deciding to try overlanding. Many of them learned the hard way that RVing and overlanding are the same thing. Overlanding requires a level of self-sufficiency that goes above and beyond owning an RV.
I am neither an RV owner nor an overlander myself. But as a writer who has covered both topics extensively, I can tell you this much: if self-sufficiency isn’t your thing, neither is overlanding. Stick with RVing. There is no shame in that.
Experienced overlanders like to say that their travels are about the journey rather than the destination. It is not so much about getting to a particular place. It’s about exploring different environments on your way to that place. When it’s done right, overlanding involves both on- and off-road travel.
When things go off-road, an unmodified RV isn’t going to cut it. RVs are made to facilitate a more comfortable camping experience. They are not designed to traverse rocky mountain roads, climb steep hills, or make their way through swiftly moving water.
Speaking of steep hills and swift water, a major attraction of the overlanding experience is camping out in the middle of nowhere. Overlanders rely on specialized rigs that allow them to set up virtually anywhere they can park. They don’t need electricity or running water. They do not need public showers, swimming pools, or RV park amenities.
Genuine overlanders are truly self-sufficient. All they need is some basic camping gear, a handful of Rollercam cam straps, some flashlights, some basic hand tools, and enough food to last until they emerge from the wilderness.
RV owners can count on spending their nights comfortably sleeping in climate-controlled environments where weather, insects, and critters are kept at bay. But for overlanders, accommodations will vary. Some sleep in their rigs; some sleep in tents; some sleep under the stars.
Unusual accommodation does not necessarily mean an uncomfortable experience. Take those overlanders with a penchant for rooftop tents. A rooftop tent can be permanently affixed to the top of a rig or held in place with ratchet straps. Either way, the roof provides a foundation for comfortable bedding and shelter from the weather and indigenous species.
The self-sufficiency required by overlanding even extends as far as maintenance and repairs. When you’re out in the middle of nowhere, you can forget about calling a mechanic. You must fix your broken-down rig by yourself.
A fully self-sufficient overlander knows his way around an engine. He knows how to replace broken belts and tires. He knows how to repair that rip in his tent – at least well enough to hold until he gets home. He isn’t even frightened by warning lights on the dashboard.
Self-sufficiency is one of the key markers of genuine overlanding. But it’s more than that. Self-sufficiency opens the door to making overlanding a lifestyle rather than just a hobby. It is vastly different from RVing. That doesn’t mean overlanding is better; it’s just different.
Maybe you have been thinking of trying it. Go for it. Just remember that a true overlanding experience requires a degree of self-sufficiency. If self-sufficiency is not something you’re into, you are probably not going to like overlanding. But if you are into depending only on yourself, you might discover that there is no better way to spend your free time than getting out there and taking a journey.