What Exactly is Overlanding? Is it car camping? Off-roading? And what is a skottle? Ask a handful of people what it means and you're not likely to hear the same answer twice.

Yet one thing is for certain: Overlanding, however you define it, is growing faster than just about any other segment in the outdoor market.

To help unravel the mystry of overland-ese, we've broken it down to its essential components:

Recovery: Overlanders intentionally choose primitive roads, the more remote and untraveled the better. As a result, they often need to extricate their woefully stuck vehicles from sandy river beds and mud pits.  This timely process is called “recovery.” Unlike off-roaders who enjoy conquering obstacles with horsepower, torque, and over-sized tires, overlanders prefer using an elaborate and highly ritualized system of winches, ropes, and shackles, which they call “recovery gear.” Overlanders love recovery gear so much that they often strap it to the outside of their vehicle, presumably to more easily marvel at its splendor.

vehicle recovery

Camping: When overlanding, never use the word “camp” as a verb, as in “I’m going camping” or “I like to camp.” Using "camp" in this manner suggests campgrounds and picnic tables and other amenities that overlanders avoid.  The word “camp,” if used at all, should always be used as a noun, as in “We will break camp at dawn” or “This sandy spit next to that crocodile-infested river will make an excellent basecamp.”  

Roof Rack: When overlanding, nothing is more sacred than a roof rack. As with ancient tribes who used decorative headdresses to showcase their prowess, experience, and place in the tribal hierarchy, overlanders use roof racks to demonstrate their packing virtuosity and their ready-for-anything spirit. 

roof rack on land rover

Roof Top Tent: Overlanders have long found these compact, elevated sleeping compartments particularly advantageous when traveling in places where nocturnal carnivores and creepy crawlers lurk at ground level.  Since roof-loving overlanders care little about aero-dynamics and even less about cost, the pricey and high-profile roof top tent has for decades been the signature accessory of overlanding.

roof top tent

Jerrycan: Nothing speaks to the eccentric, international spirit of overlanding like a just-in-case supplementary supply of fuel attached to the outside of a vehicle in a steel can originally designed by a German named Vinzenz Grünvogel.


Skottle: Originating in South Africa, the skottle is a large wok-like disc traditionally used straight over a fire for cooking. TemboTusk, a popular overland gear company, sells a modernized skottle that adds the convenience of gas canister. The skottle is one of many signature accessories that subtly separate overlanders from traditional Coleman-loving campers. And, like everything else overlanders use, it can be disassembled and packed away (most likely in a box on the roof).



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