Tired of hiking all your gear into the high country, camping with minimal provisions and equipment, and sleeping on the ground? Join the growing craze of “overlanding,” using a high-end 4×4 vehicle that can both get you there and carry creature comforts for your hunt.
The burgeoning craze lets you get out in rough country in style with all the creature comforts of home in a rig that can get you off the beaten track and, more importantly, back. According to Overlandjournal.com, overlanding is “self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal and the principal form of lodging is camping.” While this has made it a burgeoning poster child of the camping market, it’s also catching on for hunters in places like Northwest Colorado, where terrain can be tough to access.
“It offers a way to get out into rough terrain while still being comfortable,” says Pat Drake, owner of rental company Colorado Overlander in Glenwood Springs. “And we rent a lot of them to hunters. That’s our busiest rental period regardless, but hunters really like them. They use it to serve as their basecamp for bow or rifle hunting.”
Last year, Drake says he rented his overlanding rigs out to four different groups, and all four were successful.
One took the roving basecamp to the Flat Tops, another rented one for two weeks during archery season on the Roan Rlateau, and another took one during second rifle season onto Grand Mesa.
This year they have an even bigger group of friends coming back. To brace for the demand, Drake added a 200 Heritage Series Land Cruiser to his fleet, joining a quiver of Tacomas, Tundras and 4 Runners.
All the rigs are decked out to the hilt, complete with high-clearance fourwheel-drive, ample storage, refrigerator/freezer systems, kitchen galleys, awnings and chairs, dual battery systems, ground tarps for the harvest, and more. For sleeping, they come with Roof Top Tents (RTT), a few even having room to sleep four; two in an RTT over the cab and two in another over the rear. “One of our rigs has both a king- and queen-size bed,” says Drake. “They’re pretty comfortable and are super quick to set up and break down at camp.
“We trick them out for hunting—it’s all part of the process,” he adds. “It makes it so a group of hunters can have just one vehicle and make it work perfectly.”
The rigs also come with complete recovery gear, including Max Tracks, recovery tread boards that go under the tires if you get stuck; shackles and recovery tow straps; ARB’s new hydraulic jacks; and onboard tire inflating/deflating kits.
“We’re seeing more and more rentals for hunters every year,” says Drake. “Last year was a definite uptick, even during the pandemic, and we’re expecting a lot more hunters using them this season.”
Many hunters, he adds, fly out to places like Grand Junction, where his company will meet them at the airport with their tricked-out rig ready to go. With a five-day or longer rental, he adds, they’ll deliver the rig for free to airports in Grand Junction, Eagle, Aspen, Vail or Steamboat, and pick it up afterwards. All hunters have to do is disembark and drive away.
As for seasons, he says the rigs are pretty good “up through third season, but then it can get a little snowy with some roads not accessible.”
Drake, who grew up hunting outside of Glenwood Springs and Carbondale with his father, uses one himself every year for his hunting trips, last year going with his brother and taking a bull in Unit 43 outside of Carbondale. “We used it to get up into some pretty rough terrain and camped there for a few days,” he says. “It was great. Then we were able to pack out the whole animal in the back with the ground tarp.”
This interest in overlanding, for regular camping as well as hunting, has fueled several other overlanding start-ups as well, including the husband-and-wife team of Eric and Camila Collier, who founded Overland Discovery in the Front Range in 2017. They, too, are also seeing an uptick in rentals to hunters. “People are using them to camp more and more,” says Eric. “And hunting’s perfect for them.”
INSIDE A TRICKED-OUT RIG
For an inside peek at a camper with the red carpet for hunting, we went inside the rig of longtime Routt County hunter Cedar Beauregard.
“My overland vehicle is a 1973 Rancho El Rae 8-foot camper on my Dodge truck. I’ve completely redone the mechanical parts and replaced the icebox with a three-way refrigerator. I also installed a wall-mounted marine propane heater. I like its layout and light weight of just 1,200 pounds, making it a good choice when navigating uneven terrain, and how short and compact it is. At only 7 feet wide, I can fit onto narrow two-track roads if needed. It’s also only 8 feet long. It was originally designed to fit into a long bed truck, but I placed it in my short bed for its short wheelbase, increasing maneuverability, departure angle and center clearance.
The truck is a 2008 Dodge 2500 with a turbo Cummins Diesel. The motor has ridiculous power. I usually feel sorry for my tires and drive train when I hit the throttle. But it’s great for short trips over Rabbit Ears Pass. In the future, I want to replace the bed of the truck with a custom flatbed, which will allow me to utilize the unused storage on the bed sides for tools and camping gear.”
Want more information on overlanding? Overland Journal, published five time per year, has 175,000 e-newsletter subscribers and more than 200,000 Instagram followers. And its fans are eager to share what they know with other like-minded overlanders — from vernacular like RTT’s (Roof Top Tent) and tread width to GPS coordinates of places they’ve explored.
There are also websites, Facebook groups, blogs, chatrooms and more all dedicated to the craze, many with first-person accounts, GPS coordinates and even gear reviews. Info: www.overlandjournal.com
Join the overland tribe and you’ll also have a built-in social network.
Consider “Mike” (so popular he keeps his last name anonymous), who runs his Last Line of Defense overlanding blog (llod.us) out of Evergreen, Colo. His YouTube channel has amassed more than 300,000 subscribers, with more than 27 million views. “I’ve been into backpacking, hunting and the outdoors forever, and I’ve been off-roading ever since I got my driver’s license,” he says.
“Overlanding was a natural progression of all this. It’s just a great way to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life. There’s also a sense of accomplishment that comes with it — you understand how to be self-reliant and make it out to a remote destination knowing that everything you need is packed away in your vehicle.”