Overlanding… your car is your campsite


Published in the summer PRG 2019 edition,

By Keith Turner
The Family Car Guy

The foothills and surrounding mountains offer families endless exploration opportunities to get out of town and enjoy nature. Now, thanks to the booming trend called Overlanding, more families are enjoying our wonderful wilds without the hassle of setting up and taking down burdensome camping gear at each and every stop. Using their personal, well-equipped, four-wheel-drive vehicle as base camp, an Overlanding family has all it needs – tent, sun shade, kitchen and even plug-in fridge/freezers – right there on four wheels.

Overlanding, or “pop-up camping,” combines the adventures of off-roading with camping, hunting, and fishing in a self-supported adventure vehicle, exploring remote locations and cultures. The Overlanding trend has grown in a fervent popularity over the past decade, as four-wheel-drive shops stock up with the most unique items available to satisfy their wilderness warrior customers.

With a healthy economy providing more disposable income and access to credit, Overlanding is clearly gaining traction across the nation. According to a survey at the 2017 Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, Ariz., nearly 60 percent of attendees reported an individual annual income over $80,000 and almost 30 percent said their income is over $150,000. The trend is not slowing down, with the 2018 Expo reporting 14,000 visitors browsing 365 exhibitors showing off their tricked-out overlanding rigs.

“We always called it off-roading and camping” said Jim Oostdyk, president of OK Auto, 4WD & Tire (OK4WD) in the rural town of Stewartsville, New Jersey. “It’s basically being able to live out of your vehicle. The thing I love most about having a four-wheel-drive is that you can go anywhere and get away from people. Camping is something that I always wanted to do with my family, so we certainly embraced overlanding when it became something bigger.”

Combining his desire to travel with a need to research overlanding products, Oostdyk was able to discover a world full of ideas for products to bring into his New Jersey shop. Whenever possible, he would take his three children – now in their 20s – around the world on charitable mission work, traveling to remote areas like Haiti, Africa, Mexico, and Peru. These trips helped him realize that in most areas, overlanding is not just a trend, but a way of life.  “I’ve been to some pretty remote places and found that everybody needs a four-wheel-drive, no matter where you go,” he said. “Even in the poorest countries, there are four-wheel-drives because people need transportation, they need to get through roads that are washed out, or whatever. You get to see how people utilize them and you get ideas and say hey, we can use that here.”

The overlanding product range spans everything from small items like camp stoves, tables, and portable fridge/freezers, to pop-up tents with pressurized showers and comfortable beds, all designed to fit neatly onto the back or roof of a 4WD rig and be taken on the trail. Fully-outfitted rigs can range in retail price from $10,000 to well over a million dollars for a hard-shell, luxury SUV.

OverlandingHighlighted overland items include:

Car-top tents

Elevate your camping experience with a tent that is light, strong, and attached to your vehicle’s roof. The Yakima SkyRise rooftop tent is easy to install and set-up. Anywhere you can park is your campsite. 

Sun/rain shelter awnings

The Rhino-Rack Batwing Awning spreads out from your vehicle to offer 270 degrees of sun and rain protection.

Bike racks

For added fun and mobility, there are a multitude of bike racks that are lightweight, self-locking, and can swing out for full access to the rear of the vehicle with bikes still attached. 

Portable Refrigerator/freezers

Forget having to haul and replenish ice to barely keep things cool – ARB Fridge Freezers plug into your car and offer temperature ranges of 50 degrees down to zero. Imagine having ice cream on day three of your summer wilderness adventure! 

Keith Turner is a professional auto reviewer for families. He can be reached at carguy@hotmail.com, his websites thefamilycar.com and greenfamilycar.com, Twitter: @KTcarguy or on YouTube at The Family Car Channel.

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