Let me open with a definition of car camping. To many, car camping and Overlanding may seem like the same thing, but to us, there is a difference. We would define car camping as pulling into an organized campground, checking in, paying a fee, setting up camp and connecting to electricity. These events are followed by scouting the area for the water supply, washrooms, showers, beach and playground to make sure they are where the handy campground map says they are.
It’s pretty much like checking into a three-star hotel. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a fantastic family experience and one that we should all endeavour to do more often.
Let me contrast this with our vision of Overlanding. Total self-reliance on your skills and your gear. No organized campgrounds. No bookings and fees. Limited, or no access, to fresh, running water. No electricity that you don’t provide or generate for yourself, no camp store and no shower facilities. Just us, our vehicle and the great outdoors. Reminds me of my early adventuring days where a camping trip involved a week in the Algonquin interior with nothing but a canoe, and whatever camping gear, food and supplies you could carry in your pack.
The other distinction I feel exists between Overlanding and car camping is car camping involves heading to a destination and camping for a few days (or longer). The destination is the objective. The journey is necessary to achieve the objective.
What Makes Overlanding Different?
With Overlanding, the journey is the objective. The camping is the necessity to facilitate the objective. It’s a constant voyage of exploration, generally (although not required) venturing into areas much less travelled. While I do believe one could completely enjoy Overlanding on asphalt, I believe the true adventure lies after the pavement ends, and more likely after the road itself ceases to exist.
This type of adventure brings its own set of challenges. A properly-equipped Overland vehicle is key, as is good gear. Fuel, water and food supplies have to be properly planned. There is no camp store to stock up on short supplies and the nearest gas station is several days away. Water can be filtered, assuming you’re journeying in a place that has lots of fresh, flowing water, but hot showers are more complicated. Medical help is not close and cellphone communication will be unreliable at best. All these things add complexity, but the rewards are worth it.
It’s a True Test of Self-Reliance
It’s nothing more than total self-reliance on your knowledge, your skills and your gear. That’s where the adventure lies. The destination is irrelevant. This may seem too much for some people, especially in today’s so-called progressive society, where (at the risk of getting political) the system conditions and expects us to avoid self-reliance. Instead, we’re to count on the grace of the all-powerful State to care for us and provide for our needs. Look across history, has that model ever worked?
Our family has enjoyed car camping for many years. It’s given our young family a taste of the outdoors. Now that the kids are older, and their parents hopefully wiser, it time to pack up the gear, lock up the house and head out. This time, instead of turning right to our favourite campground, we’ll turn left and head out past where the road ends.
We’ll see you on the trails!