Hear the rumble as torque-busting engines roar to life. Feel the earth shake as thick-lugged, off-road tires grip the dirt and mud. Watch in awe as machines straight out of “Mad Max: Fury Road” thunder by, setting off on yet another adventure.
Have you been transported to some post-apocalyptic wasteland ruled by road warriors?
No, you’re at the Midwest Overlanding & Off-Road Expo (MOORE Expo) in Springfield, Missouri. With 90+ off-road and adventure travel exhibitors and close to 5,000 overlanding enthusiasts in attendance, it might be easy to get the two confused.
“It’s an awesome event,” said expo coordinator and avid overlander Chris Holloway. “Great people, incredible vehicles, exciting new gear. The overlanding community has really taken over.”
So, you might be asking yourself, “What, exactly, IS overlanding?” Good question….
“Overlanding is the concept of being self-sufficient, in your vehicle, off-grid,” said Holloway. “It’s the freedom to go where you want, when you want, with the added adventure of wondering ‘Where am I going to end up tonight?’ When you’re self-sufficient, the opportunities are endless.”
Think of overlanding as a newer take on car camping, one that’s proved intriguing indeed for more adventurous outdoorsmen and women.
Overlanding by definition is a vehicle-driven pastime (pardon the pun). These off-road machines are geared up and kitted out to handle the toughest terrain. Four-wheel drive is a must, along with mud tires and heightened ground clearance. Rescue winches and tow cables are common, as getting stuck or stranded is not an option when off-grid. Engine snorkels are typical as well, allowing the engine to “breathe” during stream crossings.
“Some spend the money and go for the ‘new’ — the latest and greatest — whether it’s vehicles, gear, or gadgets,” said Holloway. “Some are DIYers and fixer-uppers, always tinkering with their rigs. You get both ends of the spectrum and everything in between.”
In other words, you don’t have to break the bank to get into overlanding; you can start with something affordable and build from there.
What do people find appealing about the sport? (Activity?) (Hobby?)
“For most, it’s the freedom to pull out a map and make their own way,” Holloway said. “I tell people to find their destination and then pick the squiggliest line to get there.
“It’s very different than driving on a highway, hammering out miles to make good time,” he continued. “You definitely see more — wildlife, bridges and water crossings, farms and countryside — things you’d miss if you took the highway. Most times, taking the ‘long way’ actually feels shorter because it’s so much more interesting.”
In fact, you could say that overlanding proves the adage, “The journey is the adventure.”
“There’s definitely something cool about setting out on a trip, or even better, designing a new route, and knowing it’s all up to you,” said Holloway. “We pull up to our destination, get camp set up, chop wood, get a fire going. Before you know it, it feels like home, wherever you happen to be.
“It can be a little intimidating at first, but once you’ve developed some skills and gotten comfortable with your gear, the world is your oyster,” he added.
Speaking of intimidating, how exactly does one get into overlanding?
“I grew up camping with friends from my neighborhood,” Holloway recalled. “I got a Jeep and started off-roading. The off-road park was three hours away, so I started thinking about how I could be self-sufficient and camp as opposed to making the drive home every time.”
Overnight camping evolved into multi-day trips. He found himself scouring maps for gravel roads and new routes off the beaten path, adding jerry cans and a rooftop tent to his vehicle. He was hooked, and the rest is history.
What about others who are curious? Where should someone interested look to get involved?
“Don’t be shy! Check out the Facebook groups and come to an event,” Holloway said. “[These] forums are a great place to ask questions and get advice.”
Facebook groups such as SMS Overland (Show-Me State Overland, MO-specific, 1.3K+ members) and Natural State Overland (Midwest region, 8K+ members) share tips, routes, and meet-up ideas.
As for events, Holloway has expanded his MOORE Expo operation to include a new regional event called the Big Iron Overland Rally, which is scheduled for May 14 to 16 at the Big Brutus mine shovel landmark in West Mineral, Kansas (see bigironoverlandrally.com).
There’s also the Rendezvous in the Ozarks Rally on October 14 to 16, hosted by Natural State Overland in Ozark, Arkansas (see naturalstateoverland.org).
“Events are great places to meet people and start forming overlanding relationships,” Holloway said. “We offer classes to develop basic skills, like GPS systems, trauma care, and off-road rescue. Classes provide opportunities to meet some people newer to overlanding as well as those that have been doing it for years.”
Author: Nick Tilley is a regular contributor to Terrain Magazine.