DIRT ORCAS BEGINNERS GUIDE TO OVERLAND TRAVEL
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 2/24/17
So you want to dip your toes into overland travel or adventure motorcycling? You might find that there is actually so much information out there that it can be tough to know where to begin your search.
There is an abundance of information on everything from the best overland vehicles, to the most desired overland trips and destinations, right down to the details of how many nights Charlie and Ewan shared a tent on Long Way Round.
If you are looking for answers, you have probably realized that asking google will likely route you to a forum thread. Forums contain a wealth of information and cannot be dismissed as a useful resource. However, the downside to any forum is that it can be difficult to navigate because they are hard to search and there is sooo much information on them, it can be difficult to find a definitive answer or you can even find conflicting answers to your questions. Forums are very important so I do not want to discount them. www.advrider.com has more information than the Library of Congress, but for the purposes of this article, we are going to stick to websites that offer a more cohesive organized approach.
I have created this guide of my favorite resources to help organize a rational starting place if you are getting into overland travel or adventure motorcycling. I also think it is prudent to point out the two main areas of your starting point – Your vehicle and your actual trip plan – so I have broken the suggested links into those two categories for simplicity.
Lets Start with your Trip.
You already have the idea in your head that you want to take an extended trip with a car you plan on living in or on a motorcycle you plan on camping with.
1) Choosing a destination. Pick a place you want to visit or a friend you want to see. Google it and get a sense of the general path you want to take.
2) Once you have a general idea about the direction you will be travelling you can start building you overland or off-road route. If you do not want to painstakingly map out each turn you can start to look at pre-made overland maps and GPS routes other people have already done. Search for overland trip reports for others who have done similar things and get a sense for what you will be in for.
3) Additionally, maybe you just want to take a beautiful drive on an existing route. I suggest checking out the Back Country Discovery Routes Series from Touratech and Butler Maps – www.ridebdr.com People want to take great rides and these guys have done a great deal of the leg work to help you hit the highlights of a respective area. The GPS files are free to download to you phone, but their excellent paper maps offer additional features, like marked campgrounds and gas stops, that were really helpful in deciding how to plan each day. They also indicate difficult sections and seasonal changes that you will want to be aware of and how to avoid them if necessary.
4) You can also just go out and see what happens. Many people love to meticulously plan, map, and dial in each restaurant coordinate and camp spot. Others find that takes the adventure out of it. Do what works for you. I do both.
6) Figure out how remote you like to be. Visiting popular places has its benefit. Our National Park System is amazing and worthy of your time, but they can also be congested and not very private. Something like Hip Camp might fall in the middle. Offering private space but a little more organized and close to civilization. If you like to be really away from it all, consider back country camping and a little more self-sufficiency.
Now Lets Talk About Your Vehicle
1) If you are looking a prospective vehicles a great way to find out what you like is Instagram. You can search #hashtags for #overland or #adventuremotorcycling to see pictures of people’s rides and then dig a little deeper to learn about how they set them up and modify them for the vigor’s of overlanding. Instagram is also a great way to connect with community and learn about overland events and groups in your area.
2) If you have already purchased a vehicle and want to modify it for living and overland travel, you can search for specific forums and articles about your vehicle and you will lively come across something like this fine site :)
3) Building for your trip and for your budget. This is an essential part of your own personal imprint on your overland experience. It is also the time when people’s approach to overlanding and adventure motorcycling reflects their own personal style and agenda. If you are handy, you might opt for a less expensive vehicle with duct tape grade modifications. If you prefer to travel with a cell phone and a credit card as your tool kit, then you might opt for a more expensive vehicle, with all the plush extras you can find.
My advice here is simple. The point of all overlanding is, at the end of the day, to actually do the trip. If you just bought a 100 Series Land Cruiser and you have a $2500 budget remaining, consider not making any improvements and just lay the seats down and throw a mattress and a cooler in the back and head out to Mexico for a few weeks. The alternative of course is using your $2500 on a rooftop tent and upgraded suspension. Both are really cool to have, but if you have no budget remaining to go anywhere, what good are the upgrades doing you in your driveway? Spread the cost out to create the vehicle you want out over time and make sure you do actually hit the road every so often. Being on the road is also the best way to figure out what you personally need and what you don’t. Ask anybody who couldn’t wait to get a rooftop tent for their SUV, only to find out what a huge pain in the ass it was to lift Fido in and out of the tent all the time.
4) You can’t take a Camry into the bush for very long. You’ll need a vehicle that can withstand a pounding day in and day out. You want to able to exist from it. So considerations for shelter, food and water, some way to generate power is nice. Start with essentials and then start to work towards comfort and luxury.