If you love travel and the outdoors, it might be time to try an overland crossing. This method of slow travel, where you carry everything you need to survive in your vehicle, seeks a more enriching experience by focusing on enjoying the journey rather than simply moving to reach a destination.

Overlanding elevates a humble road trip to a new level of adventure, so it’s easy to make the leap from one to the other.

Overlanding is about the journey, not the destination

“At its core, overland is simply vehicle-dependent solo travel,” explains Sonia Staples, co-founder, with her husband Nekota, of Staples InTentsa company designed to teach newcomers, and especially people of color, how to get started in land and camping.

The couple, who have traveled to multiple continents, explain that this type of travel is more of a mindset than a specific activity. In practice, it is a deliberate and leisurely wandering from place to place where you learn as much as you can about new places and their customs.

[Related: The best way to pack your car for any road trip]

Drought often requires you to carry everything you need to survive in your vehicle, as it usually involves more camping than hotels and more camp stove cooking than restaurants. But the goal is an enriching trip, so you don’t mind stopping along the way to drink with the locals, eat new foods, and explore the national parks. Remember that culture is a key element of overland travel, so be sure to visit museums and learn about local customs and values, as well as the people you meet along the way.

The term “landing” may conjure up visions of technical equipment and over-the-top vehicles, but it certainly doesn’t have to. In fact, all you need to get started is a mode of transportation.

Vehicles required

Although overland trekking is more of a travel philosophy than a specific activity, you will need one thing: a vehicle. For Staples, it’s a Toyota Land Cruiser named DOT, for Sonya’s grandmother, but also an acronym for Deep Overland Transport. But almost any vehicle will do, Nekota says—it could be a four-wheel-drive SUV, a motorcycle or even a bicycle. Anything that takes you from place to place and carries all the necessary items to keep you going.

“The vehicle is the end of the means,” says Nekota.

Unlike off-roading, you don’t need a highly specialized vehicle to traverse the land: just a set of wheels that function as your home, kitchen and base of operations so you can enjoy the great outdoors.

Overhead equipment

Since drought often means eschewing hotels in favor of campsites, often without electricity, water or Wi-Fi, you’ll need a few things to support yourself, stay safe and make your trip comfortable. However, your setup can be as simple or complex as you like.

“Overlanding gets a bad rap because people think you need a whole bunch of specialized equipment,” Sonia says. But really, beyond the basics, the focus should be on what makes you comfortable, she explains.

If you already own camping gear, then you probably have everything you need to start landing. The basics, according to Nekota and Sonia, include a shelter, a sleeping system, a kitchen setup and a bathroom set. But what each includes is up to you.

Shelter can be a traditional tent, a rooftop tent or a hammock. It could even be a platform in the back of your van with a mattress thrown on top. In the meantime, your sleep system should include a sleeping pad or mattress, a sleeping bag, and a pillow. But if you have a mattress, you can choose sheets instead.

A kitchen should consist of essentials such as a compact stove, a pot, a pan or two, durable cutlery and a bucket for washing up. If you want to go big, some vehicle builds may even have a kitchen unit that pulls out of the hatchback like a drawer.

As for the bathroom, you can DIY bucket toilet, toilet seat and garbage bag, get an expensive composting toilet, or even use a closable plastic jug for, ahem, liquid waste. Wag bags designed for camping are another inexpensive option. Portable heated showers are also available to keep you clean on the road, or you can simply use wet wipes. Whatever you do, just make sure you follow the Leave No Trace principles.

Safety first

When disembarking, make sure you always have safety essentials on board, including a well-stocked first aid kit. Also carry rescue gear – pack traction boards and a grab rope and learn how to use them in case your vehicle gets stuck in mud, snow or ice when driving on back roads or off main thoroughfares.

Don’t forget refillable jugs for those days when you won’t have access to running water, and a cooler to keep perishables cold. Plenty of food to sustain you while camping away from civilization for days on end is also a must.

If you have laptops, cell phones, cameras, or GPS devices, you’ll need to charge them on the road or at camp. A power station and portable solar panels can be useful so you don’t accidentally drain your car battery.

Find your campsite and a way to get there

Once you’re packed and on your way, it’s time to find a place to pitch your tent for the night. Fortunately, apps like iOverlander (for iOS and Android) and Campendium (for iOS and Android) can help you find scattered campsites (many on public land) and even developed campsites if you’re desperate. Just type in where you’re headed and the apps will provide GPS coordinates, directions, photos and reviews.

[Related: Smart tips for travelers looking for a sustainable getaway]

As for route finding, you can use apps like Google Maps (e.g iOS and Android) and Gaia (for iOS and Android) to map your journey, find back roads and get directions. Both offer the option to download maps for offline use, which is useful when you’re off the grid. But they’re no substitute for the good old paper map you should always carry with you in case technology lets you down.

Educate yourself

The Staple’s number one tip for getting into overlanding: Network and educate yourself, as you’ll likely be exploring off-grid and off-service, where preparedness and the ability to support yourself is key. You can do this by attending an alien event or expo, joining a local group of like-minded people on Meetup or Facebook, and taking courses in map reading, self-recovery, or even bushcraft.

Then all that’s left is to hit the road with an open mind, a sense of adventure and an appetite for meaningful cultural exchange.

Overlanding is a relaxed blend of camping and road tripping. Here’s how to get started.

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