Top 5 Lessons Learned as a Beginner Overlander
This “overlanding” thing captured me hook, line, and sinker. I have been at it for a little over a year and a half now and have learned a LOT of things along the way. Here are the top 5 lessons I’ve learned that I think everyone should know.
1. Overlanding is different for everyone and I had to learn this lesson through a painful but fun trip with my Dad. See, for my Dad, overlanding involves a little bit of driving and a lot of hanging out around camp. Well, that aint what I like and the two of us bump heads on this when we take trips together. The enjoyable part for me is being in the Jeep from dawn to just before dark. I like to travel and see as much as I can along the way where my Dad wants to enjoy the peace of camp.
All of this is to say that overlanding is what you want it to be. My Dad isn’t wrong in his idea of what overlanding is, he just likes something different and that is fine. When it comes to taking trips together, I just have to keep his preferences in mind. This takes us to point #2 and possibly the most important point on this list.
2. Point two is that whatever your definition of overlanding is, GET OUT AND DO IT! Those who know me know that I am a planner. I spend HOURS planning everything I can about my life and that includes my passion for overlanding. I plan every trip way further than I need to and sometimes I hesitate to go on a particular trip if I still have some planning to do. What I should do is just leave and figure it out along the way. Staying home dreaming about overlanding or buying new things for your rig that you never use because you never leave, is not going to get you to see the countryside as thunderstorms roll through the distance valley or see the sun coming up through the trees as you pick your way down a foggy trail in a National Forest or even find yourself seeing a piece of history on the Natchez Trace. Those experiences are gained from getting out and doing it.
3. This takes me to point 3 and one that I seriously struggled with. DON’T GET SUCKED INTO BUYING EVERY “COOL” OR “MUST-HAVE” ITEM! When I started this journey, I thought I needed an expedition trailer with solar panels everywhere, the worlds greatest fold-out kitchen, 3 12v fridges for each person in the car, a plate and drawer system to perfectly organize everything I own, a super clever system that converts a jeep to a mobile home able to support a third world country, etc. The truth is that none of this is required and you have to get into the habit of acknowledging that these systems are for SOME people and if you fit into that category, ROCK ON! If not, say “cool” and find what fits YOUR needs.
I’ll tell you quickly that I fell into the trap of NEEDING to be prepared for every situation. I HAD to have things to be prepared for everything. While this isn’t entirely bad, what I found out is that I was carrying WAY too much weight and was actually causing issues preventing me from going places I could go if I cut the weight down. How this should work is like this; I go on a trip and say, “you know, if I had a bag that I could put trash and dirty clothes in that was outside the Jeep, I could better use the limited space I have on the inside.” So, I got a Trasharoo and it made a HUGE difference in every way I thought it would and more. Don’t buy anything because someone else has one or it looks cool, get one because it adds something to your ability to get out and adventure since that is the ultimate goal!
4. The next lesson is related to number 3 in that just because you think you NEED a certain vehicle, pump the brakes! I specifically bought a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon for overlanding but you can take part in overlanding in many ways and it depends on YOUR definition as to what vehicle you need. You can overland on a bicycle or an Earth Roamer but that decision is based on what your goals are. I had a Dodge Ram that would make me cry if it got a little dirt on it and that was not going to work for my overlanding goals. I wanted a New-ish vehicle that I could use hard and not worry about scratching the paint. To me, a Jeep is a tool for overlanding and I use it accordingly. …thank God for the warranty.
The point is that you need to get out and explore and if you ever get to a point where you are able to make a vehicle change and it makes sense to provide you better options for your specific overlanding goals, GO FOR IT! Don’t buy a new Jeep or a new Toyota because you think you need that to get around. Get what you need to get to enhance your capabilities while attempting to be a responsible adult.
5. The last lesson I learned (and am still learning) is to assess whatever situation I am in and make an informed decision about pressing forward and turning around. This could be during several situations. For instance, there may be a muddy section or water crossing of the trail and I need to decide whether or not to push through it or turn around. What I have learned is that there are key pieces of information that help make the final decision. Pieces of information like whether or not the area around the water looks like other people have driven around or through it. Maybe I get out and see how deep it is or maybe I creep through the water ready to stop and reverse back out. I could look at whether or not the path leading up to the ware appears to be solid or all rutted out and soft. I also look at whether there is something to winch off of should I need to make that happen. In all of the Go/No-Go decision points, gathering all facts really helps make an informed decision. Experience helps you learn what facts you need to gain before making an informed decision.
Make an informed decision and assess the validity of your decision after the fact to add experience to your future decisions.
Those are the top 5 things I have learned in the last year and a half-ish of overlanding. What have you learned that you think everyone could benefit from?