Pete’s Pick: What is Overlanding?

What is overlanding?

I had heard the term before and thought I had a pretty good idea of what it meant (and entailed) but it wasn’t until Jason Specht approached me recently that I truly came to understand — and experience — overlanding.

Overlanding is often described as self-reliant adventure travel via tricked-out off-road vehicle. Think glamping but inside your car; think mandatory four-wheel drive; think travel to beautiful remote locations; think “oh man I better not get stuck because no tow truck in the world can get me out of here.”

Overlanding is truly about finding and taking the road less traveled.

Jason’s day job is at Member One FCU, but his passion is overlanding. He started Mountain State Overland which was initially a YouTube series that documents adventure travel and storytelling that promote responsible lifestyles throughout Appalachia. For every mile MSO travels they donate a tree to Trees for the Future (#1mile1tree).

Team MSO has amassed a significant social media following, with plenty of people asking him to offer guided overlanding trips. So I was more than ecstatic when Jason called and asked if I wanted to join the inaugural trip this spring. Follow MSO on Instagram and Twitter at @MSoverland.

The trip was three nights and three days of overland travel from the Alleghany Highlands of Virginia through southern West Virginia and back. There were six vehicles making the trek and the Roanoke Outside Toyota Tacoma was the only stock vehicle. (Stock refers to a vehicle as it comes off the car dealership lot with no modifications such as lifts, better tires, better suspension, etc.) Having never done a trip like this I asked Jason if our truck was up for the task, and he said absolutely. In fact, he wanted to show that overlanding isn’t all about decked out four-wheel drive trucks with wenches and lift kits. But with that said, there were some awesome rigs on this trip that really got me thinking.

The overlanding route

Our adventure began at Merry Go Round Farm in the Alleghany Highlands. Located on the picturesque Potts Creek, the farm was the perfect launching point for the adventure. We were the last to arrive and rolled right into the campsite where we were immediately handed a burger and skottle fries. After a briefing on the next day’s itinerary we sat around the campfire and listened to storyteller Jacob Wright, proprietor of Merry Go Round and childhood friend of Jason. (Side note: Jacob has one of the most beautiful farms around. It’s a working farm, but also a wedding/event venue.)

After a quick breakfast, we headed out for our first full day of overlanding which took us across the Virginia/West Virginia border up and over several mountain ranges, across a few small streams, through Watoga State Park, and along roads used to service a windmill farm. The majority of our time was spent on old National Forest Service roads and old logging roads. We moved a little slower than anticipated so an impromptu campsite was made which turned out to be pretty idyllic. After a dinner of Australian lamb chops, Basmati rice, and broccoli we go to try out a new product from Yakima and lounge in our ENO hammocks.

Roanoke Outside has a partnership with Yakima, which is best known for roof racks to carry your outdoor toys (bikes, kayaks, skis). Yakima has taken notice of the growing popularity of overlanding and this past spring came out with two new products for the overland lifestyle – the Yakima Slim Shady and the Yakima Skyrise Tent. The Skyrise Tent is so popular that Yakima was unable to get us one in time for this trip — I have since used it and it is all it’s cracked up to be — but they were able to send us a Slim Shady, which is a great addition to any roof rack.

Day 2 took us down to the New River Gorge and then along some ATV trails in the coalfield area of southern West Virginia. I grew up in West Virginia but had never been in this part of the state before. I was immediately struck by the stark contrast between natural beauty and abject poverty. The experience is one I wouldn’t trade and could provide some discussion around a campfire.

The next morning, we headed into town for some biscuits and gravy before parting ways.

All in all, we covered close to 400 miles over the course of two and half days, saw some incredibly beautiful parts of this amazing country, learned some camping hacks, and made new friendships.

Bottom line: If you get the opportunity to go overlanding, GO!

Visit for a list of upcoming overland trips.