Overlanding is the self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal. Typically, but not exclusively, accommodated by mechanized off-road capable transport (from bicycles to trucks) where the principal form of lodging is camping; often lasting for extended lengths of time (months to years) and spanning international boundaries. Historically, "'overlanding'"[1] is an Australian term to denote the driving of livestock over very long distances to open up new country or to take livestock to market far from grazing grounds. Between 1906 an 1910 Alfred Canning opened up the Canning Stock Route.[2]



While expedition is defined as a journey with a purpose, overlanding sees the journey as the purpose. With that criterion, overlanding most likely started before modern humans came onto the scene. Marco Polo's expedition along the Silk Road could be an early example in modern history, though he did have a defined purpose.

Overlanding in its most modern form with the use of mechanized transport began in the middle of the last century with the advent of commercially available four-wheel-drive trucks (Jeeps and Land Rovers). It is somewhat prescient that the founding company of the Jeep was Willys-Overland Motors. In 1949, with the Land Rover brand less than a year old, Colonel Leblanc drove his brand new 80-inch Series I Land Rover from Great Britain to Abyssinia.[3]

There followed many more private journeys, and with the colonization of the African interior, groups would set out from Europe with deepest Africa as the destination. To aid in these endeavors the Automobile Association of South Africa published a guide titled Trans-African Highways, A Route Book of the Main Trunk Roads in Africa.[4] The first edition appeared in 1949 and included sections on choice of vehicle, choice of starting time, petrol supplies, water, provisions, equipment, rule of the road, government officials and rest houses. The serious tone of this book gives some clue as to the magnitude of such a trip, and it was from these beginnings that overlanding developed in Europe and Africa.

In Australia overlanding was inspired to a large degree by Len Beadell who, in the 1940s and 1950s, constructed many of the roads that opened up the Australian Outback.[5] Those roads are still used today by Australian overlanders and still hold the names Len gave them; the Gunbarrel Highway, the Connie Sue Highway (named after his daughter), and the Anne Beadell Highway (named after his wife).

One of the most well documented overland journeys was by Horatio Nelson Jackson in 1903.[6] In the Americas overlanding was coming into its own in the 1950s as well. In 1954, Helen and Frank Schreider drove and sailed the length of the Americas from Circle on the Arctic Circle to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego in a sea-going ex-army jeep.[7]

Modern overlanding

Overlanding has increased in the past couple of decades, and is getting ever more popular in large part influenced by the Camel Trophy event run from 1980 to 2000 with routes crossing some intensely difficult terrain. In 2007, Overland Journal, an overlanding specific magazine, came onto the scene.[8] It is now quite common for groups of overlanders to organize meetings, and an annual meeting is held every Christmas at Ushuaia. Through the use of the Internet it is much easier to find the information required for extended overland trips in foreign lands and there are several internet forums where travelers can exchange information and tips as well as coordinate planning. While some commercially built overland capable vehicles are produced,[9][10] many overlanders consider the preparation of their vehicle a paramount part of the experience. Both South Africa and Australia have significant industries based on making accessories for overland travel.

Commercial overlanding

The late 1960s saw the advent of commercial overland travel. Companies started offering overland tours to groups in large, specially equipped trucks. Mostly in Africa, these journeys could last for months, and relied heavily on the participation of the paying passengers for food preparation, food purchasing and setting up camp. The ultimate of these adventures was always the 'trans', or the complete journey from Europe to Cape Town in South Africa. Commercial overlanding has since expanded to all the continents of the world save Antarctica.

See also

  • Overlander
  • Intercontinental motorcycle touring


  1. ^ Chisholm,, Alec H. (1963). = The Australian Encyclopaedia. Sydney: Halstead Press. 
  2. ^ Canning, Alfred Wernam (1860 - 1936) Retrieved on 26 February 2009
  3. ^ Slavin, K&J, with Mackie, GN and McDine, D (1994) [1981]. Land Rover The Unbeatable 4x4 (Fourth Edition ed.). Somerset, UK: Haynes Publishing. ISBN 0-85429-950-5. 
  4. ^ Trans-African Highways a Route Book of the Main Trunk Roads in Africa (Fourth Edition ed.). Johannesburg, South Africa: The Automobile Association of South Africa. 1958 [1949]. 
  5. ^ Beadell, Len (1971). Bush Bashers. Sydney, Australia: Lansdowne Publishing Pty Ltd. ISBN 1-86302-402-6. http://www.beadell.com.au/index.html. 
  6. ^ |url=http://www.overlandjourney.tv |
  7. ^ Schreider, Helen & Frank (1957). 20,000 Miles South. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 
  8. ^ Overland Journal - A quinterly publication dedicated to the overlanding community.
  9. ^ EarthRoamer - Manufacturer of fully outfitted overland expedition vehicles, based in Colorado USA.
  10. ^ Unicat - German based manufacturer of large fully outfitted overland trucks.

Further reading

External links

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