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Overlanding 101 | Overlanding for Beginners

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Short camping trips are BETTER than NONE! Don’t be intimidated by “epic” adventures.

#Overlanding is experiencing a boom. More and more people are embracing this variation of camping which includes unpaved roads and solitude in the backcountry. The recent advances in #rooftoptents and offroad-capable trailers have extended the range for explorers. What’s not to love? Unmatched scenery and access to the best hiking trails and fishing holes.

Many less experienced campers are overwhelmed with logistics and details. There is information overload thanks to articles, videos, and numerous Facebook group posts. Unfortunately, many novice campers are intimidated by trip reports from “epic” month-long tours of Mexico, Alaska, or Iceland!

The thoughts of a massive trip, especially compounded by off roading in the mountains or crossing remote rivers is paralyzing to many adventurers. Novice campers may simply put their dreams on hold. They compile an insurmountable list of "necessary" equipment and vehicle modifications. They don't have the confidence to strike out on their own and may feel inadequate joining more seasoned overlanders.

When intimidated, the natural response is to wait - and another season rolls by while you are watching videos of others experiencing The Great Out There.

Overlanding for Beginners Can Be Simple!

The solution is to embrace short, overnight outings that require less preparation, less equipment and have minimal consequences for any mistakes you make. This includes ONE NIGHT outings, which been dubbed Sub 24-hour Overnights.

Grant Peterson of Rivendell Cycle Works is credited for naming this type of mini adventure. As a small business owner, he looks forward to squeezing in dozens of S24O’s. He can’t get away for weeks at a time, but he can leave after lunch and return the following morning, having enjoyed the change of scenery and the chance to unplug from the daily routine. S24O’s are now popular for many outdoor pursuits including bikepacking, canoe camping, AND overlanding.

Grant also admits - even though he is an experienced bike tourist - to having forgotten everything from adequate food to matches, his sleeping pad and tent poles on a few Sub 24-hour Overnights. But the goal is experience, not perfection or a personal-best in speed or distance or duration. You will learn from your mistakes, and few S24O’s will put the camper in life-threatening situations.

Overlanding for beginners starts with the basics. Over time you refine and build skills. A S24O is the perfect way to fine-tune your packing list, vehicle preparation, and campsite skills. You get to plan a few meals and snacks for the outing. You practice setting up your shelter and sleep system. You gain invaluable experience in route planning and navigation. You might also learn how to handle minor mishaps or sudden weather changes without the urgency of being hundreds of miles from home.

I am retired, and though I have YEARS of camping and off road experience, I also enjoy S24O’s. I still have a full calendar that makes week-long trips difficult to schedule. I enjoy the option to drop everything and take advantage of forecasted great weather for an overnight trip. I am blessed to live close to state and national forests with waterfalls, hiking trails, and numerous, small carry-in lakes.

As an avid fisherman, I can promise you that the best bites are after the rest of the anglers go home and the waves and noise disappear, then before the next shift arrives in the morning. I have also found that nothing improves your fitness like successive hikes or paddles. Nothing improves your camping skills like being solely responsible for your meals, comfort, and work/leisure schedule.

There is no mileage qualification for an S24O. Once you leave home, you can often experience amazing solitude within an hour or two. And solitude isn’t a necessity if you are a novice. Practicing your camping skills from a “base camp” in a local county campground is a great place to start. There is no penalty for choosing a campsite with access to water and an outhouse. The point is that you can begin where you are comfortable – but you lose the excuse not to start!

Successive Sub 24-hour Overnights are the perfect way to test and refine your camping equipment and campsite set-up procedures. It would be a mistake to start a week-long expedition without the necessary skills and confidence. It’s much better to practice on an a few overnight trips to learn what works and what needs to be changed. Don’t like your cook kit or stove? Dissatisfied with your bug dope or sleeping pad? Change it on your next S24O two weeks later. Always wanted to try time-lapse photography? Interested in learning winter camping skills? Here’s your low-risk opportunity.

More importantly, you will learn what you DON’T need! The sure way to ruin your enjoyment of #overlanding is to drag along TOO much stuff. Make lists and refine your clothing, cooking, sleeping, and shelter requirements. Better to encounter a problem on an S24O than two days into a week-long wilderness ordeal.

Two final points that favor S24O’s for overlanding. First, motorized camping that includes rural and/or remote destinations is experiencing a resurgence among those who have grown tired of self-propelled travel. In an hour you can access secluded camping locations that would take several days to reach by #bikepacking and weeks by #backpacking. Likewise, overlanding is embraced by many who want to "graduate" beyond the overcrowded RV parks.

My choice for solo overlanding adventures is my Nissan Frontier pickup and a rooftop tent. Many "campers" would never be satisfied with this rig that does not have running water, a water heater, or a shower. But the S24O is perfect for fine-tuning your minimalist mindset. My compact rig easily navigates overground forest roads where camper trailers seldom are seen.

Second, S24O’s are not limited to solo adventures. My rig is perfect for my wife and I and the short-term commitment is much easier to sell. All we need is a favorable forecast for the next day - and we're gone! Sub 24-hour Overnights are ideal when you meet-up with friends who have a range of camping and driving skills. When you don't have far to go, you have a much looser schedule. When you are only planning one night at a time, you can form impromptu groups that might not be compatible or efficient on a two-week excursion.

Sub 24-hour Overnights may be the perfect option to introduce your spouse or children or friends to overlanding and camping. No one should be over-extended. Everyone has the opportunity to learn something, whether a bushcraft skill, a new recipe, or the names of local plants and wildlife.

You don’t need to travel for days to rack up new sights, sounds, sunrises, and sunsets. The First Rule for successfully introducing the outdoors to a novice is to end the outing while it is still fun! Keep them coming back for more.

Whether you are new to overlanding or you're an experienced adventurer, consider all the advantages of adding a few Sub 24-hour Overnights to your calendar. Invite a friend or drop everything and enjoy a spontaneous solo getaway. More day’s exploring and more night’s camping are always a good thing! Every S24O will add to your memories. Every hour in The Great Out There will add LIFE to your days.

Overlanding for Beginners


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