What is the Difference between Camping and Overlanding

Adventures Camping tourism and tent and car next to the lake. Landscape outdoor in morning, Serbia.

Many outdoor adventure seekers enjoy camping and go frequently. However, they have recently heard of overlanding, which has been rising in popularity in the U.S. in recent years. However, what is the differences between camping and overlanding?

Camping is different than overlanding because it does not require a vehicle and the main focus is the destination, not the journey. Overlanding is often more expensive than camping and takes longer. However, people do similar activities while camping and overlanding.

Although camping and overlanding are similar, they have fundamental differences. We will talk about these differences below.

Camping Overview

Camping is a beloved pastime for many nature-lovers. It allows them to get away from their normal day-to-day life and technology. While camping, people can fully enjoy nature and what the world has to offer them. For most people, camping is quite relaxing, which is why so many people go camping while on vacation.

Camping is defined by Britannica as a “recreational activity in which participants take up temporary residence in the outdoors, usually using tents or specially designed or adapted vehicles for shelter.”

Camping is quite versatile, as you can bring supplies to suit all campers. You can go “glamping” otherwise known as fancy camping, or rough it and bring almost no supplies. From RVs, campers, and tents, you can have a shelter that seems like home or allows you to feel and hear the nature around you.

Camping can be done almost anywhere. Those who want to experience nature to the fullest often camp in remote locations, while many others choose to set up camp in campsites that give them the benefits of the modern world (like plumbing and running water). Many kids camp in their backyard with friends and family during the summer.

Camping can be done any time of the year as long as you have the right supplies. However, most people choose to go camping during the spring or summer, when it is warm outside.

Some campers choose to stay at their campsite during the day, but that is now what often happens. Oftentimes, people go hiking, swimming, rock climbing, biking, and more while on a camping trip. However, they always return to the same campsite, unless they have traveled a long way and have chosen a new campground or location to stay at.

travel, trekking and hiking concept – cute couple drinking tea or coffee near green tent in autumn forest

Supplies Needed for Camping

Although the supplies that you bring will vary depending on what you want to bring, where you are going, and the activities you plan on doing, here is a basic supplies list for camping that will help you gather your supplies.

  • Tent
  • Firestarter kit
  • Food
  • Trash bag(s)
  • Cups/Plates/Silverware
  • Sleeping bag
  • Blankets
  • Sleeping pad/Air mattress (optional)
  • Bug repellent
  • Bear spray
  • Knife/Pocket knife
  • Water filter
  • Safety whistle
  • First aid kit
  • Friend(s)
  • Water jug
  • Extra clothing
  • Jacket/Warm clothing
  • Sunscreen
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries for the flashlight
  • Hygiene supplies
  • Towel
  • Supplies for activities (rock climbing gear, hiking gear, etc.)
  • A place to camp for the night
  • Camping chairs
  • Rope
  • Lanterns
  • Tarp(s)
  • Axe
  • Hammer/Rubber mallet
  • Campfire roasting forks
  • Sunglasses
  • Cards/Games

Never go camping alone, as it can be very dangerous to do so. If you are using your phone or another device as a GPS, bring a portable charger that can be recharged by putting new batteries into it. If you bring an RV or a camper, you will not need to bring a tent.

An air mattress or sleeping pad is optional, but it will make sleeping in a tent much more comfortable. If you bring an air mattress with you, you will want to bring an air pump with fresh batteries.

Overlanding Overview

Beautiful aerial view of off road vehicle moving near solidified black lava flows around slopes of Mount Batur in Bali, Indonesia

Overlanding has been gaining popularity in the U.S. in recent years, but it is not a new concept. When overlanding, you travel a long distance in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. Overlanding is typically done over a large stretch of land, which is how it got its name.

Overlanders often focus on the journey they are taking rather than their destination. People often do activities like biking, swimming, rock climbing, hiking, fishing, and more while on an overlanding trip. People who go overlanding are called overlanders, especially those that do it often.

Overlanding trips typically involve a scenic strip of land that is away from civilization for most of the trip. Overlanders mainly focus on the journey they are taking rather than their destination. (Source)

Overlanding often involves going off-road, which is why the main thing that you need while overlanding is a car that has 4-wheel-drive. The most popular vehicles to bring overlanding are a Jeep, SUV, and a truck. You likely won’t encounter another car on your overlanding trip until you get back on a freeway or go to a nearby town. Oftentimes, people go overlanding near a national park or large stretch of land.

Overlanding is relaxing, but it involves a lot of driving. You will see plenty of beautiful sights, but you may not be able to fully enjoy them because they will pass you by quickly depending on how fast you are driving. Many people don’t drive extremely quickly while overlanding because they aren’t on paved roads, but others do.

It takes time to plan an overlanding trip because you have to plan your route, where you will stop for more supplies, what activities you want to do, and where you will stop each night. However, overlanding trips often last for 1-2 weeks. Some overlanders go on trips as long as a month, although I would not recommend going on such a long trip if you are just now entering the overlanding scene. (Source)

Unfortunately, overlanding is quite expensive. You need to have a relatively large vehicle capable of 4-wheel-drive so it can fit all of your supplies and can get over the terrain you want to cross. You will also be going on a long trip and may not be able to restock your supplies often, which means you need to be prepared and have a lot of essential items stocked. Because overlanding involves a car, you need to make sure it is in good repair, pay for parking sometimes, and purchase emergency repair supplies. (Source)

However, once you have all of your supplies and have some experience overlanding, your trip can cost between $20 and $100 per person per day. This may seem like a lot, but since you will be traveling a long distance, it will not seem so expensive once you reach your final destination or have time to fully appreciate your surroundings. (Source)

Supplies Needed for Overlanding

When you go on an overlanding trip, you will need a lot of supplies. Here is a list that included most of the supplies that you will need.

  • Tent
  • Gas containers (filled)
  • Tire repair kit
  • Non-perishable food
  • Hygiene supplies
  • Traction board/Winch kit
  • Shovel
  • Sunscreen
  • First aid kit (extensive)
  • Friend(s)
  • Carjack
  • GPS
  • Portable air compressor
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Extra batteries for flashlight/headlamp
  • Water storage
  • Water filter
  • Car jump-start kit
  • Toilet paper
  • Blankets
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping pad/Air mattress
  • A communication device that doesn’t require cell phone reception
  • Supplies for activities (rock climbing gear, hiking gear, etc.)
  • Firestarter kit
  • Firewood
  • Cups/Plates/Silverware
  • Knife/pocket knife
  • Rope
  • Camping chair
  • Extra clothing/warm clothing

If you don’t want to sleep in a tent and want to sleep in your car, you can do so. You can even get an air mattress for your ar so you can sleep comfortably in it. However, the amount of space in your car will be extremely limited because of all the supplies you will have to bring with you, so you and your air mattress may not fit well.

If you want to stay close to your car while overlanding or don’t want to take up too much space, you can get a rooftop tent. However, a regular tent will work just fine for your overlanding trip.

You will need to bring a car jump-start kit rather than jumper cables because you likely won’t encounter another car while overlanding, so there is no point in you bringing jumper cables on your trip. They will be useless, even if your car’s battery dies. However, the last thing you want to happen is your car dies while you are in the middle of nowhere, and you have no way to jump-start it.

An extensive first aid kit is essential for your overlanding trip. Get one that doesn’t just have supplies for scratches or cuts. Instead, get one that has the supplies you will need if you break your arm or leg or get another serious injury.

You likely won’t have access to cell reception on your overlanding trip, so you need to bring a device with you that allows you to reach help without the use of cell phone reception. (Source)

Never go overlanding alone, even if you are an experienced overlander. You never know what will happen and if or when you will need help.

Differences Between Camping and Overlanding

Beautiful aerial scenery of off road vehicle moving through dried meadow with mountain background

Although camping and overlanding involve being out in nature, away from civilization and normal lives, there are differences between these two popular pastimes. The first difference between the two is the purpose of the trip. Campers focus on arriving at their destination and what activities they can do while at that location. Meanwhile, overlanders focus on the journey rather than the destination.

Overlanding trips often take longer than camping trips, especially because of how much distance overlanders want to travel. Overlanders stop in one place for the night and move on in the morning. Campers pick a campsite and often stay there or in the area until their camping trip is over. Camping trips also typically only last for 1-3 days or nights, not weeks like overlanding trips do.

When camping, you don’t really need a vehicle unless you want to go to another location to participate in an activity. Overlanding is extremely reliant on the vehicle, which is one of the reasons why you need to carefully consider what vehicle you own before deciding to go overlanding.

Overlanding is much more expensive than camping. When you first purchase camping gear, you can spend upwards of $500 on supplies, but then you have those supplies for years to come. When gathering supplies like food and water for your camping trip, you will only spend about $50-$100, depending on how long the trip will be and how many people are coming on the trip. Even your campsite will only be $10-$50 per night.

However, an overlanding trip costs about $20-$100 per person per day. Your main cost will likely be gas during the trip, but you have to purchase a lot of supplies before your trip, which adds to the overall cost.

Overlanders are quite isolated, even if they bring a friend or two with them, as they often travel in wilderness areas.

When you go overlanding, you won’t have access to indoor plumbing or showers like you may have when you go camping, although the amenities vary by the campsite. You won’t even have access to a port-a-potty, which campsites will have if they don’t have indoor plumbing. You will be completely reliant on your supplies, which means if you forget something, you are out of luck.

Overlanders and campers participate in outdoor activities like fishing, rock climbing, biking, hunting, swimming, and more while on an overlanding or camping trip. Although they are sometimes put in the same category, they are very different.

Can I Go Camping While Overlanding?

happy young friends group enjoying picnic party and camping

You can go camping while on an overlanding trip. In fact, most people sleep in a tent overnight while on an overlanding trip, which is one of the reasons why they are often put in the same category.

However, overlanders never stay in the same spot for more than one night, and they often camp in wilderness areas. They don’t go to campsites and don’t plan to do so, as that may hinder the amount of land they can travel over during their trip. They also don’t want to stop their journey temporarily and want to enjoy all that nature has to offer them. (Source)

Overall, you can go camping while overlanding, and the two activities have similarities, but camping and overlanding are quite different in fundamental ways that make them more different than similar.

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