Back in the day before the advent of high-spec 4x4s and SUVs bakkies and station wagons were marketed as commercial vehicles and the industry did not consider the segment to be a growing one. Then people started to travel and the segment saw unprecedented growth with the introduction of double cabs and more luxurious station wagons. This spawned new industries such as fitment centres and specialist outfitters.
I was recently at a function where some youngsters cornered me to chat about overlanding as they were keen to embrace the lifestyle and incorporate it into their hiking, photographic and birding activities. But they wanted to know more.
The simple explanation is that overlanding is vehicle-based travel which takes you off the beaten track. It can be largely self-reliant as well. The destination is important but the journey is the main goal.
It’s almost like backpacking with a 4×4. It’s about the journey and the experience. As long as you have a thirst for adventure, basic knowledge and equipment you can do it!
That being said you need a mechanically sound vehicle and dependent on your destination you may need an extra spare tyre and even a trailer,roof-top tent or caravan.
Then you need a proper insurance policy.
Routes can vary and the weather can influence your trip. Given that exploration is the prime purpose and with the cost of a new vehicle no one was interested in 4×4 challenges.
But, do your homework as the terrain varies and certain routes can be extremely challenging. And they require teamwork so do not go solo.
Length varies, close to major towns you have typical day trails but other remote routes can take a few days.
As with any activity, planning is important, do not hesitate to ask questions, there are numerous forums and you can get great advice on social media.
Then attend basic, advanced and recovery courses and possibly go on a guided tour to get some”in-field” experience.
Remember you will experience diverse terrain, washboards on gravel, rocks, sand, water and even mud. Then you will need to understand your vehicle in terms of its capabilities relevant to its critical angles.
Overlanding is an adventure, it takes you to remote places where you can enjoy the scenery and solitude. It’s good for the soul and your family will enjoy it.
There are good mapping systems available from “Tracks for Africa “ a locally based company that also shares information from fellow adventurers. You can do a good deal of pre-trip planning on your computer.
And remember to always stay on established roads. It is important not to leave a trace of your passing.
Then we got to the vehicles, which is critical to any trip. So what did we need to look at? Firstly look at your intentions in terms of routes, remember your vehicle is your home base and it enables you to traverse diverse terrain.
That being said do you want a four-wheel drive vehicle which is very capable or do you want an all-wheel drive which offers high spec and good capability? It’s good enough for many trails but won’t take on the extremely tough stuff.
Then consider your equipment, are you going to camp or move around between tented camps and chalets? This will have bearing on the amount of storage space you need. Then you may need a roof rack and jerry cans as well as a water tank. And don’t exceed your payload and towing capacity.
Lastly look at other accessories that may enhance performance like tyres, shock absorbers and even a replacement bumper. But check the availability of approved accessories with your dealer and manufacturer. Start with the basics, look to the forums and upgrade wisely – enjoy the experience!