Why New Social Distancing Habits Will Make Overlanding Even More Popular

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Due to the changes in society inflicted by the Coronavirus pandemic, those wishing to continue to travel have to adapt. The amenities we previously relied on for vacations and adventures are no longer available or are limited and uncertain.

COVID-19 is a global problem that has airlines, hotels, and other travel-related businesses shut down or operating at reduced capacity. 

Some airlines have cut their capacity by as much as 40%. It will be years before the industry resumes normal operations.

Most hotels are only keeping a skeleton crew on hand to assist first responders and other essential guests. 

Because of this, travel is having to take on a new image. We have to find new ways to explore our planet.

This is where Overlanding steps in.

overlanding and covid 19

Vacationing After The Pandemic

Holidaying at popular theme parks and crowded beaches no longer has the same appeal. Travelers will want destinations with smaller crowds, fewer people to bump into or perhaps destinations free of people altogether. 

Activities involving fewer or no people are not just for the introverted; it is becoming the new norm.

It is as if vacations like camping and backpacking were made for a post-COVID-19 society. 

However, to really get away from the crowds, and experience outdoors on a more intimate level, there is Overlanding: a fusion of camping and off-roading, adventure and escapism, and the ultimate vacation in this new post-COVID world.

overlanding in Mongolia

Overlanding: The Perfect Post-Pandemic Vacation

More profound and more complex than car-camping or four-wheeling, overlanding is described as adventure travel to remote locations, sometimes taking weeks or months to reach the final destination.

The whole concept behind overlanding is to include in your multi-day, week or month trip, two or more of the following: under or lightly explored regions, remote locations,  unique culture, or scenery, or self-reliance in unfamiliar places. 

The international overlanding community is growing, spanning countries and continents.

The advent of the internet has given the overlanding community the opportunity to connect with fellow adventurers.

People are now able to share information, tips, and experiences.

What route to take?

What skills do you need?

What experiences will you encounter?

These are all questions discussed in forums and rated on overlanding sites.

overlanding toyota hilux mongolia

Overlanding After COVID-19

From handwashing to social outings, COVID-19 has made people reevaluate even the smallest actions in their everyday lives.

Even with all the tragedy and hardships surrounding the pandemic, certain areas of life can change for the better if people take the time to stop and appreciate nature and solitude. 

Since the pandemic took hold, and various restrictions were imposed on travel, peoples appreciation of the freedom the outdoors provides has come into focus.

Locked up and locked down, we yearned to be able to make a great escape back to nature, but instead, were stuck with local parks (at best!).

As we step into this new world, there is a general sense that people will try to be conscious of not taking those freedoms for granted, in a COVID free future.

Crowded vacations at the beach or theme park  seem a thing of the past,  while remote, independent travel  looks like the future.

It gives you the ability to fully immerse yourself in your natural surroundings. 

It is about exploration rather than translocation/objectification/transportation/overpopulation, in fact, your final destination may be in a completely different country to your original plan.

But that’s okay, actually, that’s better than okay. 

Best Books On Overlanding

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Overlanding can sometimes be seen as spiritual in nature; away from people and familiar cultures, you can experience life in a way that opens your eyes to something new.

This  is the beauty of Overlanding.

It’s also a method of exploration that will allow you to travel the world while adhering to new social distancing measures.

You travel in your own protective bubble (your 4×4!) and pick a spot to chill as far away from the next person as you like (i.e. more than 6 feet!).

When official restrictions are lifted, new habits will have been formed and some folk will prefer to continue to avoid the crowds.

While an element of Overlanding includes camping, it’s so much more than that. 

With the roads clearer than ever, it’s the perfect time to take up this next adventure.

Utilize your free time to not just get to an inspirational destination, but also to smell each and every rose along the way.

A lot of attributes of overlanding already complies with the new way people might behave in the future.

Let’s look at the reasons as to why overlanding will become even more popular in the near future:

overlanders in the gobi desert

Overlanders Are Independent

With so many flight cancellations and uncertainty regarding the second wave of COVID-19 infections, the ability to travel independently and avoid reliance on airlines or other forms of public transport has huge advantages.

The idea that you just have to prepare your own vehicle and start driving will be very appealing when compared to the uncertainty of the procedures and inconvenience you may face trying to get a flight from A to B.

flexible destination for overlanders

The Destination Can Be Flexible

The destination does not actually matter. It’s been said before, but we can say it again. The main goal in Overlanding is the journey itself, not the destination.

It’s about experiencing all the moments along the way, and if part way through the journey, you decide to take another road, then you can. That road may change your final destination, who knows?

You may however have a specific place in mind as a destination. it can be changed any time, depending on the circumstances around that area and whether or not there are new travel restrictions in place.

Just simply choose another destination, no problem at all.

Reaching far out places is easy with overlanding vehicles. 

expedition truck for overlanding

What About The Vehicle?

Pretty much any 4×4 utility vehicle can be used for overlanding.

This is good news for those who live in areas that are restricting vehicle dealer operations because of the Coronavirus.

However, those who can, may want to consider choosing a dedicated Overlanding vehicle that can carry the necessary amount of equipment and people that will be traveling with you.

Of course, Jeeps are a very popular option.

A Wrangler can handle very rough terrains, but they don’t have sufficient storage space in their original form, with the exception of the new Gladiator. You’ll definitely want to get a roof rack, and often even a trailer.

Toyota also has some great, affordable options. Their 4Runner can handle a lot of stress. The FJ-cruiser and Land Cruiser can also get you where you need to be.

Land Rover doesn’t need to be introduced to anyone interested in off-road driving or touring. Their legendary Defender is a frequent sight on the beautiful African savanna and beyond.

Don’t overlook trucks as great options too. They have tons of room and pick up power. Pretty much any of your basic makes and models with 4-wheel-drive will suffice for overlanding. Having said that, you can start overlanding with just about any motorized vehicle.

overlanding with friends

Overlanding With Friends And Family

Overland trips are usually organized with friends and family, with no-one else involved. That means one can travel with people whom they are seeing on a regular basis, so not adding any extra risks of contracting or spreading the virus.

The only necessary contact with people would be when purchasing supplies such as food or gas, but this can be done with appropriate precautions such as keeping your physical distance, wearing gloves, and wearing a protective mask.

independent overlanders self sustained

Overlanders Are Self-Sustained For An Extended Period Of Time

People who are already practicing this lifestyle are usually well prepared and planning days or even several weeks in advance.

Overlanding vehicles are usually equipped with 12-volt fridges or good quality coolers, as well as other food storage compartments, making them able to carry food for an extended period of time.

Gas stoves or camping grills give the ability to make delicious food in remote places where isolation only adds to the pleasure.

Solar panels can just prolong any stay with efficient setups providing power almost indefinitely.

Now let’s have a look at overlanding a little bit more closely.

best overland gear on FJ40 toyota land cruiser

What Gear Do I Need To Go Overlanding?

There is a wide range of options you can choose from to begin your Overlanding journey.

Things can get very expensive very quickly, and we know money can be tight during these times. Just be sure to plan your budget ahead of time!

What Basic Or Emergency Gear Do I Need for Overlanding?

Since you’ll be traveling to remote areas, it’s important to be prepared for every emergency. It also never hurts to be stocked up on these items for a COVID-related disaster. Here are a few things you’ll want to consider bringing along:

  • Extra Gas Tanks or Jerry Cans
  • Vehicle Repair Kit (Tools and Spare Parts)
  • Vehicle Recovery Gear
  • Roadside Emergency Kit
  • Emergency Water/Food Supply
  • Extensive First Aid Kit
  • Quality Navigation System
  • Satellite Phone
  • Car Battery Charger
  • Solar Powered Outlets for Charging Electronics

Of course, this is just a starter list. Depending on your destination, you may want to pack additional emergency gear.

For example, if there is dangerous wildlife in the area, you’ll need the means to protect yourself.

When it comes to your first aid kit, research your intended areas of travel to get an idea of a specific kit you may be thankful you packed.

For example, you may consider including a venom extraction kit for snake bites or a splint for rocky areas where injuries are common.

besic gear for overlanding

What Camping Gear Do I Need For Overlanding?

Camping is a very versatile activity. There are many ways that you can achieve your goal of living in a remote area for weeks to months.

A lot of people who Overland choose a standard, tent camping method. 

Here are the basics you’ll want to shop for:

Overlanding Gear

If you really want to invest in a quality Overlanding experience, a vehicle camping system, a roof-top tent may be the way to go. These typically attach to a truck bed or a 4X4 vehicle’s roof. They can vary in composition, including fabric and metal components.

A traditional roof-top tent made out of canvas is relatively lightweight and affordable. It will keep you off the ground, where you’re typically going to be better protected from the elements and surrounding animals.

A hard-shelled roof-top tent offers superior protection with an easy and quick set-up. However, it is more expensive and uses a bit more real estate on your roof rack.

There are other options that mix the hard shell and the canvas tents’ structure, with more solutions coming to the market almost every day.

Apart from the sleeping quarters, you might also want to invest into a 12-volt fridge/freezer, that will make you able to truly drive to the furthest corners of the great outdoors.

how do I start overlanding

How Do I Start Overlanding?

If you’re not that keen on taking a flight to yet another bland holiday resort this year (maybe you won’t be able to anyway) you might be contemplating the idea of an overlanding trip to the Rockies, or Alaska or any one of the countless wilderness areas on offer here.

However like with any new activity, you may want to start out with a smaller Overlanding adventure first. Try simply taking a weekend to explore an untouched area within your own state.

You don’t need to go out and purchase a 4X4 to start, many of us are being careful with our budgets these days and it’s not necessary to make an extravagant purchase (just yet!), as previously mentioned almost any vehicle will do.

Borrowing your uncles Mustang might not be advisable but your Mum’s …….could work!

If you choose to start out using a standard vehicle, there are a few additional supplies that you will need.

Make sure you have all the basics for if and when you run into car trouble. A basic car emergency kit is a good place to start. You’ll also want to make sure you have recovery gear, such as traction pads in case your vehicle gets stuck in a mud/sand trap. 

Double-check that your spare tyre and all accompanying equipment is in order.

Most likely, you’ll also need a roof rack to carry a lot of your additional gear. A filled 5-gallon jerry can will help you in a pinch, or give you peace of mind and allow you to push the boundaries of where you’re willing to go.

These are just the additional supplies you’ll need if you’re off-roading in a standard vehicle. You’ll still need to remember to pack all of the items we mentioned in the above section.

What are Some Popular Locations For Overlanding

If you’re just starting out, even in normal times, you might not want to invest a ton of money into your first overlanding adventure. 

That’s ok! There are plenty of affordable locations that will provide you with a beautiful journey, and we’ve compiled a list.

For more experienced adventurers, we’ve also included a list of some gorgeous international locations.

Beginners, these are great for adding to your bucket list! (Just keep in mind that some of these countries may still have their borders closed to protect their citizens from the spread of COVID-19.)

how to start overlanding

Affordable Locations For Overlanding

The below overlanding adventure locations are inside the continental United States.

You might look into planning your next adventure to somewhere on this list:

  • Moab, Utah
  • The Mojave Road, California
  • Rubicon Trail, California
  • Black Bear Pass, Colorado
  • The Continental Divide
  • The Pan American Highway (the US part)
  • Dalton Highway in Alaska

For Europeans options may be a bit more limited, due to the potential border closures, but if the EU opens their internal borders, these are some areas to consider:

  • Southern Spain
  • French and Italian Alps
  • Greece
  • Romania
  • Scandinavia
  • Scotland
  • Sicily

People living in South Africa and Australia are among the luckiest overlanders, with an incredible amount of options to choose from, just in their backyard.

silk road overlanding

International Locations For Overlanding

Let’s not forget that the current situation may be restricting us from planning international trips, but if you want to expand your horizons, there’s nothing like traveling abroad.

Crossing borders is a huge part of overlanding. Getting to know another country’s history and landscape through this amazing way of travel is enlightening, invigorating and so much more!

Is Overlanding For You?

With COVID-19 creating a lull in business, you’ve never been freer to explore the world. You’re sure to find a journey out there that’s just waiting to be taken!

Take a look at our Infographic explaining what overlanding is:

infographic explaining what overlanding is
Photo of author
Ferenc Elekes has been a devout Overlanding enthusiast for many years. During that time, Ferenc has explored 75 countries on six continents, with overland travel involved in 40 countries on three continents. From his trusty 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado with a roof-top tent, he’s blogged about experiences that can only be found in the remotest regions on Earth. Along the way, he's gained in-depth knowledge of the novel challenges overlanders encounter and practical ways to meet them. On his website, he shares informed opinions about everything from the best overland gear to how to get a vehicle unstuck. Ferenc has also written for Ih8mud, the Expedition Portal, the Overland Journal, and he is often invited as a guest to outdoors-related podcasts.
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2 thoughts on “Why New Social Distancing Habits Will Make Overlanding Even More Popular”

  1. All nice and well. Except right now thousands of overlanders are stuck some place they didn’t plan to spend much time at. We have friends in Chilean Patagonia whose only activity every day is to clear snow of their solar panels to keep their batteries alive; they’re in the same place since March, unable to move.
    On our blog we collected stories from others stuck in similar situations or who had to give up.
    We are nearing the latter conclusion. In the last 10 days we manoeuvred ourselves into a dead end without knowing: our Schengen time in Greece had expired (and was extended until borders opened), so we drove into Albania. Within this week Bulgaria, Croatia and Hungary changed their rules and blocked travellers coming from Balkan countries.
    All the new limitations make us think that it might be time to give up overlanding after years and years full-time on the road. It’s sad because we have so many more countries on our list to visit… Right now our money is running out without any visible options to continue.

    • Thank you for your comment. I had a look at your article and sad to see how many overlanders are in trouble. That’s the case for millions of people around the world in different scenarios, as we all know, some in very-very bad situations.
      Our article did not want to paint a rosy picture that overlanders are now free to travel and all is well, it’s simply analyzing the effects of new habits due to the pandemic.
      Some habits are here to stay even in the world after the pandemic and one effect could be that travelers will be looking for vacations with smaller crowds, perhaps destinations with no people at all. That’s why overlanding can be even more popular in the future.
      We were actually quite lucky to have been caught by the situation between two trips, when we were at home.


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