It was not but two to three years ago that overlanding was a niche market served by people that were raised in that environment and either owned an old Toyota Land Cruiser or any solid axle variant of Land Rover’s product line.
Then, American Expedition Vehicle’s Jeep conversions really started taking off as highlights to auto shows, publications and SEMA. Photography-based Instagram saw the handful of established adventure-themed Instagram pages explode violently in size creating flagship media brands and causing other pages to pop up wanting a piece of the pie.Suddenly, the people who previously identified as off-roaders were changing their titles to overlanders. Everyone who drives off the beaten path and camps is quickly an overlander and the term has become diluted. But is that a bad thing? Many would say it is, and recently there have been opinion pieces floating around other publications describing the masses as posers and wannabes, jumping on the band wagon because it is the cool thing right now. While that may be true to an extent, I do not see how it could be a bad thing at all.
Last year it was discovered that the outdoor industry is almost a half-trillion-dollar business market, and overlanding falls square in the middle of it. Current socio-economic trends like cheap gas, and millennial’s finally clawing their way out of crippling educational debt has created a whole new interest in vehicle-based adventure. This powerful transition of money into the market has not gone unnoticed by vehicle manufacturers either, with Jeep investing hundreds of millions into their flagship Wrangler, and Ford reviving the Ranger and Bronco names with promises of bullseyes painted on the Wranglers back.
Suddenly in the span of just a few years, we are at a golden-age of off-road vehicles and outfitters like Patagonia and NorthFace that are selling durable-use products again as the market shifts away from disposable back towards repairable.
To me, these points are indicators of a wonderful growth in a market that many of us hold dear, and while that might mean more BS to wade through and crowds from time to time, it also means that the best quality equipment of a capitalist market is available to you to enjoy and maximize your experience. And let’s face it, a lot of these people are only “doing it for the ‘Gram”, and the best places to travel to and through, will not experience a change.
Hopefully now, with this massive influx of money into the outdoors market, governing bodies will take OHV travel seriously and know that closure is not management.