Overlanding responsibly means being safe, courteous, and leaving as small a footprint as possible
As overlanders, hikers, backpackers, fisher(wo)men, surfers, mountain bikers, and general outdoor enthusiasts, we believe taking care of one's playground is critical. We understand the irony of renting four-wheel drive vehicles and simultaneously touting conservation efforts. However, we do not feel that these are mutually exclusive. By helping people get outside and experience nature we hope they will gain a greater appreciation for the wilderness that surrounds us and be more committed to protecting it.
Read on for tips on how to stay safe, travel prepared and leave as little of an impact on the natural environment as you can. After all, we love getting outside because of the natural beauty, peace and quiet and lack of human footprint, so let's protect where we play.
Being prepared and traveling when conditions are appropriate means you are more far more likely to make your journey safely and lessen your impact on the environment, by avoiding tearing up trails unnecessarily, mechanical failures that result in releasing automotive fluids into the environment, or having to camp where you shouldn't.
Always check road and weather conditions prior to taking off on any trip, especially if you will be going into the backcountry. Also check for other hazardous conditions such as fire, floods, mudslides, etc.
Make sure you have the appropriate gear to get you where you need to go, and get you out of a sticky situation. Some basic recovery and safety gear to consider brining if you're going off the beaten path: jack, tow straps, shovel, air compressor, tire repair kit, emergency beacon, and maybe a good 'ol fashioned paper map.
Before going off the grid, make sure to fill up on gas, water, and food. You should have at least one gallon of water per person per day on board and enough gas to get you where you're going and back, and then some.
Always tell someone where you're planning on going, and provided them with a detailed itinerary and check-in often, especially if your plans change. We recommend a Spot or other remote location device if going out of service area for more than a day or two.
Part of what we love about the outdoors is the solitude. Dispersed camping provides a primitive experience of camping away from developed campgrounds and other campers. Usually this type of camping means there are no: toilets, picnic tables, trash cans, potable water, or fire grates. There are extra responsibilities and skills necessary for dispersed camping. It's your responsibility to know these before you go.
Know the Rules
Only camp on land where dispersed camping is allowed and obey all posted signs. The types of public land that generally have the best options for dispersed camping in Oregon include:
There are some good apps that work offline that will provide you the boundaries of these lands at your fingertips. They can be really handy if you're not sure exactly where you want to camp or if you're traveling in an area you are unfamiliar with. Some of our favorites include: US public lands and OnX. Don't forget your Gazetteer!
If you're looking for some alternatives to standard campgrounds, some other options include camping on unique private land. Check out hipcamp (like AirBNB for camping), and harvest hosts (a network of wineries and farmlands that invite self contained campers to visit and stay over night)
Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a national nonprofit organization that protects the outdoors through educating and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. We strongly encourage all outdoor enthusiasts to follow Leave No Trace Seven Principles:
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance.
- Never feed animals.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
These are a selection from the Leave No Trace Seven Principles © 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org
Tread Lightly is another great nonprofit organization that promotes responsible recreation through education. They advocate that you travel responsibly and stay on the trail, respect the rights of people around you, avoid sensitive areas, and do your part by modeling good behavior. Some tips for overlanding responsibly from Tread Lightly include:
- Deflate the air in your tires when leaving a maintained road. This not only increases the vehicle’s capability, it reduces environmental impact by reducing unnecessary wheel spin.
- Drive over, not around obstacles to avoid widening the trail.
- Straddle ruts, gullies and washouts even if they are wider than your vehicle.
- Cross streams only at designated fording points.
As a company, Wonderland Expeditions is a member of Leave No Trace, 1% For The Planet and The Conservation Alliance, where we donate a portion of our annual profits to help further environmental protection work. We encourage others to give back any way they can. Whether it be donating to a good cause, volunteering, or simply picking up after others when in the outdoors. There are a number of ways to give back, and no act is too small.