Overlanding 101: Exploring British Columbia in a 4x4 Jeep

Jeep Wrangler parked near mountain lake.

Kraig Becker

As the adventure travel market has continued to expand and mature in recent years, we've seen an influx of travelers looking for new opportunities and experiences. Many have sought out so-called "soft adventures," which offer exhilarating experiences by day, mixed with fine food, good wine, and cozy accommodations at night. Others have gone the opposite direction, looking for new ways to travel independently, off the grid, and at their own pace.

An increasing number of those who fall in the latter category have turned to overlanding as an option, preferring to independently explore a destination by motor vehicle rather than join a large group tour. But as alluring as overlanding can be, it is also a bit intimidating and overwhelming to newcomers. So much so that they often don't even know where to start. Fortunately, there are companies like Hastings Overland, which can take all of the hassle out of such a journey, while providing the tools you need to enjoy an overlanding experience, even if it's your very first time.

What is Overlanding?

While overlanding as a style of travel has now spread across the globe, its origins are usually traced back to Australia. In fact, the term "overlanding" was first used by ranchers in that country to describe driving livestock over long distances. In time, that same term became synonymous with driving through the Outback, which remains largely wild and untamed to this day.

As mentioned, overlanding is a style of travel that typically involves using motorized vehicles, such as 4x4 trucks or SUVs, as a mode of transportation. Overlanders often put a high emphasis on being self-reliant throughout their journey, meaning they carry all of the supplies and gear they need with them when setting out. Those journeys often takes place in remote environments where roads are often at a premium and towns are few and far between.

Typically, an overlanding excursion is more about the journey itself, and less about the destination, allowing travelers to find alternate routes, change up their schedules, and move at their own pace. Pouring over maps and carefully selecting routes is a common practice amongst overlanders, who are often searching for out of the way places to not only drive, but also set up camp each night.

Overlanding 101 with Hastings

Based in Vancouver, Canada, Hastings Overland is an adventure travel company that specializes in facilitating opportunities for travelers to experience overlanding first hand. Founded back in 2017, the company operates a fleet of ten 4x4 Jeep Wrangler Rubicons that can be rented for use in backcountry excursions. Both extremely fun to drive and incredibly capable off-road, those jeeps are beginner-friendly, but have plenty of options to keep veteran drivers happy too.

Each of the Wranglers are also equipped with rooftop tents, a portable kitchen for preparing meals, and a refrigerated cooler for keeping your food and beverages cold throughout the trip. The vehicle also comes with an awning preinstalled to help keep the sun or rain at bay, and travelers will find camp chairs, a portable dining table, two-burner stove, and a variety of other equipment stored inside as well. In other words, the Jeep comes with everything you need to be self-sufficient on your overlanding adventure, with a few surprise amenities to help make the experience that much better.

Choose Your Own Adventure

One of the most appealing aspects of overlanding is the ability for travelers to choose where they want to go, how they want to get there, and when they want to arrive. In most cases, that means selecting a beginning and ending point, then setting out to link up those two locations, while using off-the-beaten path routes to get there. That includes remote jeep roads, seldom-used fire trails, or potentially going completely off-road altogether.

When booking a trip with Hastings Overland, the process remains the same, although company founder Max Webster and his partner Cory Koesdibyo are on hand to help as needed. Some Hastings clients arrive already knowing where they want to go and how they want to get there, while others are looking for some assistance and direction. Fortunately, the company can provide a completely custom built itinerary, complete with suggestions for places to camp, points of interest to visit while en route, and navigational directions to help travelers find their way.

Although born and raised in the Vancouver area, both Webster and Koesdibyo have expanded their knowledge to encompass ever-growing segments of British Columbia. As a result, they can now help clients craft the perfect overlanding journey to meet their needs, mixing in stunning locations that are a short distance from the city or suggestions on where to go in other parts of the province as well. Whether you want to explore the coast of the Pacific Northwest, drive through the Canadian Rockies, or get lost in the Kootneys, Max and Cory can help.

British Columbia is the Perfect Overlanding Playground

Since Hastings is headquartered in Vancouver, all of their adventures begin and end there, but where travelers go after picking up their Jeep is entirely up to them. Some will head south, crossing the border into the U.S. to explore the states of Washington and Oregon. But most will head out of the city to see what British Columbia has to offer. And oh, does it have plenty to offer.

Whether you're looking for mountains with pristine alpine lakes, dense forests filled with lush trees, or an epic coastline with miles of towering cliffs and endless ocean, you can find it in BC. This is an outdoor playground that seems custom built for adventure travelers, providing opportunities to not only hike and camp, but mountain bike, climb, paddle, and –– depending on when you go –– ski, snowboard, and snowshoe too.

It also happens to feature more than its fair share of breathtaking drives too, including a particularly stunning route from Vancouver to Whistler that mixes in mountains, coastline, and remote towns along the way. Alternatively, travelers can simply hop on the Trans-Canada Highway and make the journey from Revelstoke to Golden, which provides a compelling blend of both history and scenery all in one go. Or, take the drive up the Frasier River Canyon for what is likely to be amongst the most scenic drive for any traveler.

Of course, overlanding is also about getting off the beaten path and leaving the well-traveled roads behind. To assist in that endeavor, the Hastings Overland staff provides travelers with with books filled with detailed maps that allow them to find opportunities to drive along remote trails and off-roading routes as well. It doesn't take long after leaving the city to realize that GPS can be unreliable and cell service is nonexistent, making these maps extremely useful while to in the wild.

Setting Up Camp

In addition to traveling when and where you want, overlanding also has a rich tradition fo camping in the wilderness while on a journey. Typically, that means after spending a day of driving, overlanders will find a suitable campsite for the night and make themselves comfortable. Usually that means setting up a tent, starting a campfire, and cooking dinner too. Hastings has gone to great length to preserve that aspect of the overland experience, while making it easier than ever for newcomers to this type of travel.

As mentioned, the Jeep Wranglers come equipped with rooftop tents. This eliminates the need to set up a tent on the ground and creates a more comfortable living space all at the same time. With its integrated foam mattress, space for three adults, and fast set-up and take-down time, the rooftop tent is about as comfortable of a wilderness camping experience that you can imagine, short of driving a large RV into the backcountry. Climbing in and out of the rooftop tent can be a bit awkward at first, but most campers adapt quickly and soon find themselves enjoying the experience immensely.

The refrigerated cooler, gas-powered camp stove, and camping furniture all help to elevate the experience even further. Having cold beverages and fresh food –– including fruits, vegetables, and meats –– makes for a much more enjoyable outing. Add in the ability to make fairly sophisticated meals, a table to gather round, and comfortable chairs to lounge in, and some travelers may not ever want to go home.

Catching the Overlanding Bug

A trip to British Columbia with Hastings Overland is the perfect way to get a sense of what this type of travel is all about. Clients get as much freedom or direction as they want and the company provides all of the tools they need to be self-sufficient in the field. Detailed travel plans can be created with the help of the Hastings staff, but they can also be easily ignored once the trip is underway. That's what overlanding is all about and once you've had a taste of it, there is a good chance you'll want to experience more. You might even come home and invest in an overlanding vehicle of your own. It is not uncommon for travelers to catch the bug and want to continue exploring the world in this fashion.

Hastings Overland Expands to Southern California

Since this article was originally published, Hastings has opened a new office in San Diego, California, bringing its same services and offerings to the U.S. for the first time. The company now offers suggested trips to places like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and a number of other locations that are within easy reach of Southern California.

Other Overlanding Travel Companies

While Hastings Overland offers a complete and unique package for travelers visiting British Columbia, there are other overlanding companies around the world to consider when visiting remote places. Here are a few to consider:

Dragoman: If there is a company that truly specializes in overland tours, it's Dragoman. The company offers long-distance journeys throughout the Americas, Africa, and Asia, making it one of the leading outfitters in the field.

Oasis Overland Tours: `With options for travel in Africa, Central and South Asia, and South America, Oasis Overland Tours is a good option for those looking to take part in a guides overland experience.

African Trails: Based out of the U.K., African Trails offers overland excursions across much of Africa, including an option to spend 41 weeks driving from London to Cape Town, then north again back to Cairo.

Across South America: As its name implies, Across South America leads major overlanding journeys through Peru, Chile, Argentina, and beyond.

Bushlore: Much like Hastings Overland, Bushlore rents vehicles to travelers, allowing them to explore at their own pace. These well-equipped vehicles, complete with rooftop tent, are available in South Africa and can be driven in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and beyond.

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