The Overlanding Bible, and Revelations Therein
One book stands as the definite guide to wheeled wanderlust. It has answers to questions you didn’t even know existed.
Zach Bowman has sold everything he owns, slapped a camper to his high-mileage 2003 Dodge Ram and has taken his family on the road. His clan numbers three, counting wife, Beth, and their infant daughter. They are touring America, working and discovering, and are sending The Drive periodic dispatches from the road.
It happened the other night. I finally got excited about what we’re doing. It sounds insane, I know, but I’ve spent the last three months in various shades of panic, jumping from one immediate question to the next as we put a bow on our life in Tennessee and prepare for a year on the road. I hadn’t given myself time to think about the next 12 months. About what we’ll see, where we’ll go. Then I got something in the mail.
Tom Sheppard and Jonathan Hanson’s Vehicle-Dependent Expedition Guide is a biblical tome. Spend any time crawling the various websites and forums dedicated to overland builds and you’ll find a pile of references to this book. Ponying up $75 for a used paperback made me wince, right up until I cracked it open. The 608-page guide covers everything. Personal kit. Cookware. Shelter. Paperwork. Communications. One page shows, in detail, the specs and conversion rates from an oil barrel to a jerry can. Another compares heat the retention of different thermos brands, by the hour, over the course of a day. Hell, it even delves into the strand structure of synthetic fabric types for specific climates. And all that’s before it gets to vehicle selection. It is, in a word, exhaustive.
But the book’s brilliance is that it makes the information flexible. Everything here is just as applicable to someone in a Defender 90 taking the hard way though Iran as an idiot in an ancient Dodge pickup and his more meager ambitions. Credit the author. Sheppard has made going places he shouldn’t his life work, logging over 100,000 miles off-road in some the world’s least hospitable regions. To put it simply, he knows his shit.
I do not. While I’m no rookie off-road, I’ve never done anything more extensive than an overnight camping run, and never further from civilization than a long walk through the woods. I needed someone to point me in the right direction. Get me straight on all the unknowns banging around my head before we set off in February.
So I read. Made notes. Highlighted. Drew out a punch list. I didn’t put that book down from the moment it arrived until I looked up to find that everyone else in the house was long to bed. And as horrifying as it was to watch my to-dos swell with each page, I felt the excitement rise in my chest. Flipping through the gorgeous photos and clear technical answers to unmanageable questions gave me the first hint that this is the right idea. That we aren’t alone in our need to wander. I want to go, now more than ever.
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