Your redneck cousin might say, “Hold my beer and watch this, y’all.” Your grandpa might have called it “car camping.” Whatever you call it, more and more Americans are becoming “overlanders.” This fast-growing hobby fuses road trips, off-roading, car camping, and other outdoor adventures.

By Erin Masercola

Not so many years ago, “overlanding” meant months-long, border-crossing treks in remote areas where travel is a challenge. It can still mean that. (Check out the stories in Overland Journal to get a feel for this kind of overlanding.)

But increasingly, “overlanding” can mean any vehicular journey where getting there is part of the adventure. “Overlanding” can mean weekend or vacation road trips closer to home, said a panel of experts at Overland Experience, a four-day event presented by Overland Expo and SEMA earlier this month. (We were at SEMA covering stories for our sister site Tread.)

One panelist even referred to “accidental overlanders.” These people aren’t necessarily vehicle enthusiasts. They wouldn’t be caught dead at a car show. Rather, they’re outdoor adventurers who’ve gotten into off-roading because it gets them to places where they want to hike, bike, kayak, fish, hunt, ski or camp. They’ve outfitted their overland vehicles with gear because they want to be able to park and camp for a few days in remote areas.

New To the Outdoor Market

Many people who are discovering camping and overlanding markets are relatively new to outdoor hobbies. Millennials, for example, are fueling the growth of camping, overlanding, and the experience economy in general. Many folks in this generation did not camp as children.

Chart household wealth by generation


Another lucrative outdoor market? Semi-retired or retired Baby Boomers — a generation that has half total U.S. wealth and spends $120 billion annually on travel experiences. While their own parents may have RV’d to the same trailer park in Florida every year when they retired, the Boomers are healthier, wealthier, and craving myriad outdoor adventures. Overlanding appeals to Boomers who spent hours on planes and or holed up in Hiltons during their working lives. This group is especially eager to reinvigorate their tired, workaday lives with new kinds of travel as they head into their free, far-flung retirements.

Panelists at Overland Experience reported that their Baby Boomer customers spend freely on their overlanding gear. Retailers and service providers are looking for new ways to attract and appeal to the burgeoning overlanding market. Overlanders are seeking gear such as a 4WD vehicle, aftermarket modifications to the vehicle like suspension systems and roof racks, and all the tools they need to live out of their vehicle for days, weeks, or even months at a time.

2010-2012 RAM Cummins 2500/3500

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What Knives Does an Overlander Need?

If you were recommending outdoor knives to a new camper or overlander without much outdoor experience, what would you steer them towards? Here are some ideas we found around the web.

Multi-tools: Overlanders like to travel light, said Overland Experience panelist Simon Thomas. (He should know. He and his wife, Lisa, have spent the last 16 years traveling the world on motorcycles.)


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Folding knives: “because you never know if you need to cut a length of rope or slice up some fresh fruit while on the trail.”

Bushcraft knives: for when things get a little dicey during your outdoor adventure.


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But Knives Illustrated readers are the real experts. Which knives do you recommend for overlanders and why? Let us know in the comments section.


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