Intro to Overland Etiquette & Decorum

Over the years I have attended multiple overland themed events in a variety of locations across the spectrum of sizes. People often ask me what it’s like to go to a large event like Overland Expo and how it differs than a smaller regional rally. I’ve decided the time has come to pen my thoughts and address the top ten things overlooked when it comes to etiquette and decorum at an overland event.

#10 – Not sending vendors Thank You notes

Big events like Overland Expo do not happen without the hard work and dedication of 100’s of vendors. Even if you don’t buy anything from them you should, out of respect, send each of them a Thank You note for helping make the event possible.

#9 – Not offering to clean your friend’s Skottle

A big draw of overland events is the close knit familial feel that is embodied throughout the overland community. Often times people will graciously share their food with you. However it’s in very poor taste to not offer to clean your friend’s Skottle after they just cooked you a hot meal.

#8 – Not turning your HAM radio off during meals

Nothing kills the vibe of a good movie or a quiet dinner in a nice restaurant than an errant cell phone call. The same applies when you’re at an overland event. However it doesn’t just apply to cellphones, it also applies to HAM radios. There is nothing worse than sitting down for a hot steaming Mountain House meal in a bag and having to listen to someone’s HAM radio squawking away. Do everyone a favor and put your radios on vibrate mode during meals.

#7 – Don’t crowd the Port-o-Potties

When you have to go, you have to go. We all understand that. However everyone’s trying to “get their business done” (if you know what I mean) in the same limited number of locations. The absolute worst thing you can do is be one of those people that crowds the doors of a Port-o-Potty. Do you part and keep your distance and wait you turn just like everyone else.

#6 – Look at the person, not the camera

Eye contact is extremely important. That said, it’s not uncommon to see people walking around an overland event with one type of camera or another. Always make sure to make eye contact with the person, not the camera. It’s not only rude but uncouth to ignore the person at the expense of focusing on the device.

#5 – Replace your divots

It’s bound to happen. An errant swing of an axe while chopping wood. Your vehicle sits too long. Your tent stakes weren’t put in far enough. You dug into someone else’s cat hole. Or your overly elaborate REI campsite in a box was just too much to handle. Regardless of how or why the divot got there, make sure to replace it before you move on to the next overland themed event.

#4 – Don’t just be on time, be early!

Overland themed events are chock full of great activities throughout the day. It’s very important to not only be on time for things like classes, trail rides, or patch swapping, but you should put forth the effort to be early. As my mother always said, if you’re on time you’re already late!

#3 – Proper event attire

It’s often difficult to know how to dress for an overland themed event. When is it appropriate to show up in overland casual wear? Is a formal brown tie required for happy hour, or just at dinner? Can you wear a white shemagh after Labor Day? Is a Summer South African dinner jacket appropriate for an Arizona spring? The sad part is being over dressed can be as bad as being under dressed. That’s why it’s always a good idea to ask the host of the event at the time of registration what the expected attire will be.

#2 – Clean your vehicle

Overland themed events become temporary homes for many full time adventure travelers. Even if it’s just for a few days, the event venue becomes their primary residence. As such the expectation is that you wash your vehicle thoroughly before arrival. You would walk into someone’s house with dirty shoes? So why would you drive into someone’s event with dirty tires?

#1 – Bring your instructors a beer

In the world of academia it’s tradition that students bring their favorite teachers an apple before class. In the overland event world a beer is the appropriate token of affection. Even if you don’t drink yourself, it’s still acceptable, and encouraged, that you bring a beer for your instructor.


I hope these ten tips on overland event etiquette and decorum go a long way into making your next visit to an overland themed event a pleasureful one.

For further reading on the subject, please purchase the official ECOA Guide to Overland Etiquette and Decorum here, or you can click here for the podcast episode.