If you love adventures and traveling off the beaten path, Overlanding is likely to catch your attention. While this can be a fantastic way to explore a different country and distant cultures, traveling in remote areas and relying on a vehicle will always imply a certain risk level. But should you be worried about your upcoming expedition, and is overlanding dangerous?
Overlanding can be dangerous as it implies risks related to traveling in remote areas, crossing international borders, and relying on vehicles. Even with the proper preparation, experience, equipment and common sense there is no way to completely avoid the many dangers that will present themselves.
If your next expedition is coming up, you will want to be as prepared as possible. Find out what are the dangers to look out for and how to prevent/prepare for them below.
Common Overlanding Dangers
The dangers associated with Overlanding depend on the type of journey you are planning. However, below you can find some of the most common risks you might run into when Overlanding:
- Traffic and road accidents – you will be driving through unfamiliar or challenging roads most of the time, and a traffic accident is potentially the most significant risk for overlanders.
- Valuables or vehicle theft – They are not as common as you would think. But the likelihood of a robbery or robbery increases if your vehicle looks luxurious and you are traveling through a country with considerable social and economic gaps.
- Vehicle breakdown or failure. – since your vehicle will be running most of the time, the likelihood of breakdowns increases.
- Off-Road accidents – once you are off the paved road, you will be dealing with off-road scenarios. These will increase the chances of getting stuck or experiencing problems with your vehicle.
- Remoteness and wildlife – the main goal of Overlanding is to be closer to nature and discover remote areas. However, this can bring several risks, such as no cell reception, difficult paths, and wild animals.
- Nature and natural disasters – depending on where you are traveling, you might have to deal with extreme heat, extreme cold, or natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.).
- Diseases and illnesses – traveling to other countries might increase the chance of getting in contact with rare diseases. The healthcare system in these countries might also be lacking. Vaccinations, insurance, and emergency plans are all must-haves for Overlanders.
- Crime and corruption – in some areas, terrorism, episode of terrorism, and attacks are not so infrequent. You might consider avoiding these areas.
Types of Overlanding and Associated Risks
While Overlanding is not inherently dangerous, it does involve some risks. When in an Overlanding expedition, you will be on several-week-long adventures, traveling through remote areas, and crossing international borders.
When you compare this kind of activity to a comfortable daily life in your hometown, it is not difficult to see how Overlanding can be more dangerous. At the same time, if you have been traveling in remote areas before, Overlanding won’t involve many more risks than you might have already experienced.
Additionally, the level of risk in Overlanding expeditions correlates to the type of journey you are planning. Indeed, you might decide on a short weekend away just a few kilometers away from your hometown. While this trip still allows you to experience the excitement of Overlanding, you won’t be running significant risks.
Of course, if you plan for a year-long, cross-continent expedition, your journey might be more dangerous.
However, your experience and practice can also change what you see as a risky or dangerous situation and how you respond to it. So, it is recommendable to start with shorter, safer trips before planning more extended expeditions.
Solo Overlanding Precautions
The dangers seen above are undoubtedly the most common ones you will have to deal with while on the road. However, some other, more specific risks might also manifest themselves, depending on what country you are traveling in. While you can’t foresee everything that will happen on your journey, some precautions can help you be as safe as you can be.
You can find out more about some precautions to take when Overlanding in the video below:
Some more safety tips include:
- Share your plans – let someone know where your plans are and keep them updated on your steps. If something goes wrong, they will learn how to act and where to point the rescue teams. But make sure you have a clear safety buffer, so lateness is not misinterpreted as an emergency.
- Plan ahead – once you know where you are going, explore the road conditions and seasonal characteristics to have a clear idea of what you will be facing on your journey. Getting ready for your trip includes having the necessary vaccinations and insurance.
- Implement a dynamic risk assessment – no matter how much planning you do, there will always be situations that you had not foreseen. Your judgment is what will keep you safe in unexpected circumstances. So, implement the S.T.O.P. (Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan) system to assess a new situation and understand whether you are expert and prepared enough to take on the risk.
Lastly, sometimes, you might have to decide to turn back. And, you should not be afraid or ashamed to decide so. When Overlanding, situations and circumstances might change fast. You might face an insuperable obstacle, or the road ahead of you is more challenging than foreseen. It all comes down to your judgment!
Overlanding Vehicle Safety Tips
When Overlanding, your vehicle is your best friend. You will be relying on your truck and use it as the primary source of shelter and transportation. However, your car is also your greatest asset and the place where to keep your valuables. Therefore, protecting it is crucial.
Some of the main tips to keep your vehicle safe include:
- Keep your valuables and possessions out of sight. Sometimes, you will need to leave your truck parked while you go out exploring. Make sure you use blinds and cover to prevent people from seeing what’s inside the car.
- Adapt to the surroundings – while utilizing a camo cover will make your vehicle stand out in an urban setting, it can help you remain hidden in wild or more remote areas.
- Add locks – not all countries will require the same level of security. However, in some cases, you should consider installing extra manual internal locks to discourage thieves.
- Create decoys – thieves will have no more than a few seconds to secure some of your valuables. It is crucial that you keep these locked and hidden in a secure location inside the vehicle. Leave a wallet with fake money and cards in the glove compartment, potentially the first place to be checked.
- Park in a safe location – where you park can make all the difference. Make sure it is a secure location.
- Have a plan B – store the copies of important documents and passwords on a secure cloud account (including your visa and insurance documents).
The World’s Most Dangerous Road
Not all Overlanding routes are equally risky or dangerous. Indeed, you might decide to stick to a one-week long journey within your own country and not have much to worry about. However, if you are an expert overlander with plenty of years of experience on the road, you might attempt more challenging routes.
Among the most dangerous ones is the Death Road, also called The North Yungas Road, The Coroico Road, or the Camino de las Yungas. This stretch represented the only connection between Coroico and La Paz until 2006.
This unpaved road running at the edge of a cliff and notorious for its lush vegetation was Bolivia’s most trafficked roads. At the time, it was not uncommon to see trucks, busses, and all sorts of vehicles speeding along the slippery road.
However, since 2006, a new, modern, and paved highway has been opened to connect the two cities. So, the Death Road is today seeing only a small fraction of the traffic it was subjected to. Because of this, it has become an excellent adventure for expert Overlanders.
Overlanding is not an intrinsically-dangerous activity. Indeed, you might decide to spend a weekend Overlanding in a location not far from home and see limited issues. However, if you plan for more extended expeditions, you might have to deal with breakdowns, traffic, accidents, and the risks associated with crossing international borders. Preparation and experience can help you deal with most of these situations.
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Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.