As this is the “back to school” time of the year for most families, I think it’s the right time to talk about overlanding benefits and how bivouacs can affect kids in a positive way.
by Emeline, contributing writer and Off-Track Family founder
We have been overlanding with our Land Rover Defender camper and our children for more than 10 years now. Our daughter is almost 13 years old and our son is 10 years old, and they still enjoy climbing in our 4wd to head out anywhere. If you didn’t read my first article on family overlanding, it might make sense to read that before continuing.
Whether it is more of an off-road session or simply exploring a beautiful region, finding a nice place to stay overnight, lighting up a campfire, preparing a nice meal, enjoying time together, and heading to bed inside of the car – they still like it a lot!
Overlanding might be one of the reasons why our kids still like to explore with their parents and spend time outdoors enjoying nature. At a time when people are talking about kids with nature deficit disorder, getting kids to enjoy the outdoors is an important accomplishment.
How can this be possible during this time when you know most children or teens love spending time watching TV, playing video games, or spending way too much time on their cell phones watching or doing TikTok dances?
Of course, overlanding couldn’t be the one and only reason for this, but as the topic of this post is overlanding, I won’t dwell on the other reasons. So please let me know in the comment section what kind of prepper activity helps your children grow up to become a better person.
Overland Benefits for Children
This one is the most obvious! But, of course, only if you do let your child be part of the game.
Kids are capable of a lot and if you include them as a capable person it will be beneficial to the entire family. They will feel useful and learn at the same time, and you will be proud of them as you watch them evolve and become more independent.
It’s a good point to include them in the overlanding decisions such as where to stop for the night, or in the overlanding work such as helping to set up the camp.
Of course, depending on their age, the chores will be different. Toddlers are always happy to help, even if it’s simply passing out utensils and prepping food for cooking, or even unwrapping the sleeping bags. Young children can help to get wood for a fire and watch how to set up the fire. Older ones can do almost anything you can do if you teach them right and if you trust them.
Those are just a few examples. Over time, the more often you go overlanding with your children the more you will trust them to help you in those necessary chores. That also means they gain more independence, which carries over to other life situations.
Listening and Learning Skills
Overlanding isn’t exactly a relaxing vacation. It’s more on the hectic side. Many adventures don’t go as planned. This is why keeping the children aware of what’s happening and explaining how you’re going to face the challenging situation ahead will offer them listening and learning skills.
This applies to any field of overlanding adventure: the preparation of the 4WD vehicle, navigating the road trip, getting out of a bad off-roading situation, and helping to find a solution.
Any type of overlanding situation is there to give our children these listening and learning skills. They listen to know what’s going on and they learn to operate quickly and to improvise.
Teamwork and Hard Work
Going out there exploring as a family means going out there and exploring as a team.
Nothing is done by sitting on our butts. If we want things to get done, every family member has to give a hand. This is how kids learn how to work as a team and that hard work always pays off.
Teamwork for setting up the camp is done way faster, and there is less stress if the entire family is playing the game. No more arguments because one isn’t helping. Parents and kids will enjoy the process and the satisfaction when everything is done.
Appreciation for the Simple Life
When we go out with our Land Rover Defender we tend to live simply. This is because we find it way more convenient, but also because of our 4WD set-up. We don’t have much space to take all our belongings. We have to learn to take only what’s necessary.
What’s important for us when overlanding is to be able to keep our vehicle going in case of a breakdown or if we’re stuck while off-road. So, we put a priority on carrying useful tools, spare parts, and essential gear. This means less storage space for loads of clothing or too much crap food, for example.
There is a strict minimum for personal items! This applies to all family members, so we don’t allow our children to take too many toys or stuffed animals. They don’t complain about it when outside as there’s a lot to do when stopping for an overnight bivouac.
Appreciation for Nature
On top of that, we enjoy staying outside in nature. Overlanding as a family, with only a 4WD vehicle and no trailer, our camper set-up is designed for a family of four. This means no possibility to hang around inside of the vehicle when the camp is set up for our night bivouac.
Kids like to be outside and enjoying family time around a fire, admiring nature’s beauty, seeing wild animals afar, checking the sky for shooting stars, or experimenting changing weather and having to quickly put up our new awning.
And yes, children can spend quality time outside without a cell phone or electronic game. There’s so much to do and see while overlanding and stopping overnight for a bivouac.
Basic Outdoor Living Skills
Overlanding as we do, with no inside room and minimal lifestyle gear, our outdoor living skills have evolved in a good way. Having a husband with those basic skills helped a lot to pass on the knowledge with all the necessary safety tips.
The basic outdoor living skills they learn include:
- preparing a fire pit with or without stones
- being able to light a fire and keep it going even in harsh winter conditions
- building a shelter
- learning some edible plants and mushrooms
- identifying animals and insects
This is when you let your child do something the way she/he wants. That way they will learn by her/himself that maybe it was best to follow instructions or intuition.
This is more for older children and teenagers. They will experience some situations where they might fail, and we learn through failure. So, leaving some space for our older children to fail and help them get back on track without getting too much in the way is a great way for them to self-educate.
This is a huge bonus for children and teenagers. If you let them experience overlanding as a family adventure during which each person is important and has a place, over time they will gain some self-confidence. Overlanding is an adventure, after all.
Not all families are overlanding but still experience outdoor living. They may get it through weekend camping trips or on a longer vacation. So, if you take kids out of their comfort zone and accompany them in this never-ending learning adventure, it will be very beneficial to their development toward adulthood. They will discover they are capable, and will become happy to share with their friends some of their skills.
Overlanding Benefits for Kids Wrap Up
Overlanding as a family is a great experience! Overlanding and outdoor bivouacs can develop children’s abilities to learn new skills.
Some might think it can be stressful to go out there with children, but it’s a really elevating experience in the long run. We are able to watch our kids grow up and can now see how overlanding for more than 10 years with them did affect them in a really good way.
Including them in the experience and asking them to help in every overlanding activity, adapting this to their age, and teaching them the right things in the right order absolutely brings them more self-confidence, independence, and more listening and learning skills. It proves to them the importance of teamwork and hard work, and that living simply & simply enjoying nature can bring happiness, and, of course, those basic outdoor living skills are the basics to enjoy good times outdoors.
Help your kids grow up: take them out of their comfort zone and spend family time outdoors with them!
What are the outdoor skills you like to share with your kids?