There are plenty of activities that you can try if you’re exploring your love for the outdoors. You may even have come across overlanding and camping as must-try activities. Often, people use camping and overlanding interchangeably. They do both involve spending time and sleeping outdoors. However, if we really want to be technical about it, there are differences between the two, particularly in their respective purposes, the amount of time spent outdoors, the special gear you need, and even the locations you travel to. Read on to explore the differences between overlanding vs. camping in detail.
What is Overlanding?
Overlanding is the perfect activity for the adventure-loving gearhead. If you love your truck or SUV and you love exploring, then overlanding is for you. Essentially, overlanding combines camping and off-roading. Overlanders drive on different terrains in search for secluded spots and little-known nature trails to set up camp.
However, overlanding is more than just car camping. It’s about exploring. You should expect to spend more time on the road in an overlanding expedition than you would on a camping trip. Overlanding does involve some wandering and you may get lost occasionally. Overlanders consider it as part of its fun and appeal. When overlanding, you try to cover as much ground as possible. So, it is unlikely that you will spend more than one night in the same place.
Because you will not be at a camping ground, you may not have access to amenities like running water, bathrooms, and electricity. Therefore, it helps to pack your own resources that can make your experience easier.
What is Camping?
Typically, the thought of camping evokes a more laid back activity. You might picture tents pitched around a campfire with an idyllic vista in the background. If you’d like to spend time relaxing and enjoying nature, then camping might be more your speed.
You can explore the area around your campsite during the day. You can even fish or hike. Then, you can spend your nights gathered around a campfire, roasting marshmallows and telling stories. If you don’t mind walking, you can hike to your campsite. However, most people prefer driving to camps with their cars with gear in tow.
Most camping grounds offer recreational activities you can participate in. You can go swimming, kayaking in the river, or play games with other campers. Camping grounds also have all the essential amenities like toilets and showers. Some even let you hook up you camper to get electricity and water.
What Are The Differences Between Camping and Overlanding?
So, what are the differences between camping and overlanding? Here are some of the finer points.
The purpose of an overlanding trip is to explore the outdoors and discover new sights while being self-sufficient in your vehicle. When they say, “It’s not about the destination, it’s the journey.” This pretty much applies to overlanding.
Camping is more about rest and recreation. It is often slow-paced because campers take time to reconnect with nature and enjoy the sites and experiences a location offers. They only leave after going through the activities on their itinerary.
Overlanding is about exploration and wandering. Overlanders typically plot a general location covering a wide area that they want to explore. So, it typically involves setting up camp every night in multiple locations throughout their trip.
In contrast, camping is all about the destination. The fun begins once you arrive at the camp. After settling in at the camping ground, you can arrange trips to the nearby areas. However, the campsite will remain as your “base” for the entirety of the trip.
Although overland campers do not stay in one place for long, their trips last longer because they cover more ground than the average camper. Some enthusiastic and passionate overlanders may spend up to one year exploring.
Outdoor camping trips have shorter durations because campers limit their exploratory activities to one location. There is only so much you can explore in one area. Therefore, trips can last from a single night, a weekend, or up to a couple of weeks, depending on the campers’ experience. Most trips end when the campers have had their fill of the outdoor sights and activities.
This is where overlanding and camping differ significantly. For camping, all you might need are your tent, sleeping bags, extra clothes, and basic provisions. Some of the more popular campsites have commercial facilities and amenities. You can always bring some cash or credit card so you can buy or rent the things you need from the camp shops.
Since you have to be self-reliant when overlanding, you’d need specialized gear. For starters, a four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle is necessary for an overland expedition, but not for camping. During an overland camping trip, you may encounter rocks, loose surfaces, mud, ice, and deep sand. These terrains are too rough to navigate if you’re using any other vehicle. A 4WD car also has low-range gearing, which comes in handy when driving through deep puddles.
You will often be on the road during an overlanding trip and mostly drive on lesser-known trails. Therefore, self-reliance is essential because help may not be near when you need it. Below are some essential overland camping gear:
Your 4×4 will be your home away from home when overlanding. Overland trips will take you through rough terrain. Therefore, there is a significant risk of mechanical failures while on the road. Specialty all-terrain tires are recommended. Tire failure is one of the common car problems in overlanding. So, ensure you have a full-size spare tire.
Carry extra fuel because you might drive for long distances before getting to a fueling station. Extra coolant may save you from a sticky situation if your overlanding trip is in a hot place. You also need vehicle recovery equipment, such as a shovel and an entrenching tool, to help free your vehicle if it gets stuck. Some more advanced gear for your vehicle include motorized winches, ladders, and rock lights.
Logistic Support Equipment
Logistic support equipment is any gear that helps you safely move from point A to B. Have remote communication tools like radios or a satellite phone to use in areas where you cannot access cellular service. Navigation items like paper maps, a compass, and GPS are also essential if you don’t want to get lost in a random trail.
Carry a bug-out bag with emergency food, water, a fire starter, and something you can use for shelter. If you have enough space in your vehicle, carry solar panels to charge your devices and battery.
Have a sleeping bag with a temperature rating of 20 degrees below the lowest temperature you expect to experience on your trip. If there is no living space in your vehicle, a rooftop or ground tent is essential for survival. You also need a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher.
Planning for an Overlanding Trip Vs. A Camping Trip
Having a successful and enjoyable overland expedition or camping trip requires some planning. However, you can get away with less preparation for a camping trip than on overland expeditions.
When going on an overland trip, you plan for survival.
First, you need to figure out the trail you want to take. While planning your route, you must account for different terrains, weather patterns, and the safety of different areas along the trail.
Unlike camping, you will visit several unfamiliar spots on an overlanding trip and may not know what to expect in such areas. Therefore, you must prepare for different scenarios. It helps to picture different challenges you might encounter during your trip and set measures to navigate each challenge.
For instance, can you survive if you get lost? Is your vehicle ready to weather the long trip? You need a lot of food and supplies for overland camping. You also need survival training before your trip.
Some overland skills you need include:
- Using a first aid kit
- Responding in a medical emergency
- Driving a 4WD vehicle
- Driving off-road
- Maintaining and repairing your vehicle
- Recovering your vehicle
Ensure that your vehicle is in tip-top shape. Your engine, shocks, gearbox, and brakes should be in optimal condition before the trip and fill up your fuel tank.
When going camping, you must first choose your destination. Write down a list of activities that you want to do. Check if these are possible or permitted. You may need licenses if you want to hunt or fish. Know what amenities are available. All of these will determine the type of gear that you need.
For example, some campsites have tents and cottages that they can rent out so you might not have to even bring a tent of your own, just a sleeping bag. Others have toilets and showers so you could just bring a basic hygiene kit.
Ensure your site is near all the activity sites in a camping ground to avoid moving around too much during the trip.
You should still know basic survival skills for a camping trip, such as first aid, pitching a tent, and starting a fire. But, you need less equipment and supplies than you would on an overlanding trip.
Ready to Explore the Outdoors?
Overlanding vs. camping trips primarily differ in their purpose, focus on the location, the gear required, and duration. While both are fun outdoor activities for nature lovers, an adventurous person will likely enjoy overlanding more.
If you are a first-timer venturing into the outdoors, it is best to start with camping, as it does not require too much preparation and risk. Camping will allow you to learn the basic skills you need to survive the outdoors.
If you are already a camping pro, and want to take the next challenge facing the outdoors with your 4×4, overland camping will be a welcome challenge. You will need much more preparation, but the experience is worth it.