The off-roader and the overland traveler are often thought to be the same, but there are important distinctions. An off-roader uses his vehicle, usually highly modified and not his daily driver, for recreational purposes and perhaps the odd holiday, where he will venture into the realm of the overlander for a brief time.
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The overlander’s objective is adventure travel over vastly changing terrain while testing his own courage and resourcefulness, and the vehicle’s endurance and reliability, all while maintaining some degree of comfort, usually over an extended period of time. Not all overlanders like to drive far from the beaten track and many will never exploit the off road capabilities of their vehicles.
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There are a few important differences between overlanding and off-roading:
1. The vehicles are built-out and designed to accommodate specific purposes.
Overland vehicles are typically set-up not only for travel but also for living in from anywhere from a long weekend to years on the road, including equipment for camping, cooking, and other adventure needs and supplies. So, while it can be important that your overland rig (Jeep Wrangler/Jeep Gladiator) has 4WD and is capable of handling some rugged terrain, due to their general set-up, overland vehicles are not best-suited specifically for extreme off-roading, four-wheeling, or rock-crawling.
Likewise, serious rock-crawlers do not have a tent on their roof for the same weight and balance considerations. Extreme off-roading and rock-crawling vehicles are modified with special equipment and features to handle moderate to difficult terrain, but pared down in terms of what amenities they are carrying (typically very few to none).
2. What type of experience are you looking for?
While off-roading and its extreme variants are more focused on the technical aspects of driving/traveling over challenging varied terrain, the overlanding experience is focused more on the journey and exploration. As you will quickly find traveling through Colorado and the surrounding states, you do not need to do any form of off-roading to have an amazing adventure in the mountains, desert, or beyond. While dirt and gravel backroads are certainly an element to overland travel, they don’t need to be technical to enjoy your time off the beaten path.
Source: Overland Discovery