Overlanding vs. Camping — What’s the difference?

One of the most common questions I get from people who know I like camping. I’ll attempt to answer the question!

What is overlanding and how is it different from camping?

Let’s get to the bottom of this.


To me, overlanding is exploring remote lands with your vehicle and using it as your primary camp setup when it’s time to eat, rest, and relax. This means being self-sufficient and not relying on a campground for amenities like water, shade, bathrooms, and electricity. The idea is to drive and explore, setup a small camp to eat and sleep, then wake up and go explore more lands.

Meal prep, water, and sleeping out of our truck

You might end up at the same place the following night if the area was ideal, but typically you’re on the move. Many overlanders like Roof Top Tents because the setup is quick and you can store blankets, pillows, and the mattress within the enclosed setup. I’ve yet to try a RTT since I usually sleep in the bed of the truck for short quick stays

A good overland trip will consist of mostly dirt roads where it’s not easy to access. You’d want a capable off-road vehicle, like my truck, equipped with all-terrain tires and plenty of supplies and food/water to survive the duration of the trip away from civilization. Recovery gear such as a snatch strap, traction boards, an air compressor, and shackles can go a long way in getting yourself out of a bad situation. Bring tools to do basic repairs and always prepare for the worst-case scenario. Just about all of your must-have camping gear will be along for the ride! Don’t forget to take along a friend in their own vehicle so you can help each other out.

>> Must-Read: Check out my favorite camping gear check-list!


camp relax
Camping = settling in one spot and relaxing

Camping on the other hand, is more of a time to relax and explore one specific area. We usually go on camping trips rather than overland trips because it’s easier for a family to get to a location and stay put for a few days. This style of camping is also referred to as car camping (truck camping in our case), although pop-up trailers and camper trailers are pretty much doing the same thing. Sure, we can get up and drive off on day trips or go for long hikes in the area but we’d leave behind a camping footprint to return to such as a tent and a few items that show this spot is taken.

Our favorite version of camping is on public lands away from campgrounds and crowds, but it’s not always so easy. We often end up in a campground with the hopes of having a big secluded spot without view of our neighbors.

What’s more fun? Camping or Overlanding?

I wish I can go on more overland trips. With a family of four it’s not ideal to go often, and when I do I bring my 6-year old. The thrill of driving off-road all day, looking for beautiful places that most people can’t get to is a great feeling. Finally finding that perfect spot to pull over and start a fire for the night soothes your soul, until shit hits the fan and something goes wrong.

Overlanding is loaded with random challenges that usually make for a great adventure. Just don’t get caught up in the commercial hype that “overlanding” is currently seeing. As my friends over at The Underlanders @theunderlanders gently mock: “to boldy go where others have probably gone before”. Don’t be so serious, overlanders.

Of course a camping trip can be a lot of fun too. It’s perfect if you want some quality family time with plenty of relaxation. Cheap fun and a great way to enjoy the outdoors. Camping takes less preparation and less of the “plan for the worse” scenarios. I’d say 95% of our trips are camping trips instead of overlanding, although my vehicle is prepared for both.

You really can’t go wrong either way!

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