Like most 4WD owners, I have always enjoyed a sense of adventure and a real desire to get out and about as often and as far away as I can in my Landrover Defender. Sometimes in order to experience unique and adventurous excursions you have to take your vehicle a bit further afield and this requires a bit more confidence and knowledge. Unfortunately you don’t always get this from reading a book or watching a documentary. I have been fortunate enough to have negotiated green lanes, rainforests, deserts, beaches, mountain ranges and glaciers in my standard Land Rover Defender 90.During its relatively short life by Land Rover standards, I have been lucky enough to have taken my short wheel base over the volcanic ranges and glaciers of Iceland and through the deserts, rainforests, and the remote outback on that big dusty rock, Australia.
Like most people who buy a 4WD for the first time, we all have big plans for what we are going to do with it and where we want to take it.In my opinion the first thing we should all look at doing is joining a 4WD club and surround yourself with people who will over time give you the confidence to learn more about your vehicle and in turn will help you be better prepared to take your pride and joy further into the unknown. Personally I would not have done a fraction of the things I have experienced in my Land Rover had I not been a member of a 4WD club.
Sydney Land Rover Owners Club
The first club that I joined was in Australia, after shipping my vehicle to Sydney, I immediately made some enquiries and it was not long before I signed up with the Sydney Land Rover Owners Club. After meeting some of the members I was given plenty of expert knowledge about four wheel driving in Australia , pre trip preparation and the potential dangers of heading out into remote locations in the Australian Outback.
The first bit of advice received when going bush was to always carry plenty of water, a second spare wheel, fit a radio for communication and to carry recovery equipment. Other accessories added over time included a roof top tent, awning, fridge freezer and shower.I knew Australia was a big country, but I didn’t realise that you had to drive nearly 1000 km from Sydney before you reached the red dirt. Over time both myself and the Land Rover got pretty used to having to drive long distances before reaching our preferred remote destination. And thanks to the members of the Sydney Land Rover Owners club, I got to learn loads and experience some awesome places with confidence.
So why join a 4WD club? Well the simple answer is why not? With so many benefits it really is a no brainer. Some examples include being able to hang out with like minded people and sharing your passion for the lifestyle, making new friends, going on adventures and learning new skills and of course the benefit of getting access to restricted tracks.
It’s not just beneficial from the perspective of shortening your learning curve should you be a newcomer to the 4WD world but also many 4WD clubs do some great work in their local communities all over the world and this is often forgotten. Let’s have a look at some clubs from the northern and southern hemisphere and compare some of their activities and the great work that they do in their local communities. Having joined the Sydney branch a number of years ago,I was immediately very impressed with how this club was structured and the variety of activities that took place all year round. The Sydney based NSW Land Rover Owners Club (LROC) was established in 1966 and since its inception the club has promoted responsible four wheel driving as a legitimate recreational and family activity. Some of the monthly activities include weekend and extended trips that cater for both novices and experienced Four Wheel Drivers. Other activities include monthly club meetings,regular 4WD trips of varying duration,access to areas otherwise closed to the public and 4WD’s, access to the The LROC News – monthly magazine, access to the book and video library,training Courses including Driver Training, GPS navigation, and so on.
One of the cool things about this Land Rover club is that you don’t have to be a Land Rover fanatic to be part of it,in fact they have lifelong members who don’t even own a 4WD, so they have a very open policy.This club has many members with historic vehicles from original 1948 series 1 to Range Rovers. Trips are organised to cater specifically for historic vehicles as well as technical days for those who want to do their own spannering. There is a wealth of knowledge within the club covering every model and aspect of rebuilding older vehicles . Rebuilding engines, gearboxes, differentials, fixing electrics, welding firewalls, paint spraying – there are members who would be considered to be a experts.The club also look after their environment by organising events where they tidy up pristine locations and maintaining tracks, my first impression after joining this club was how environmentally aware and focused members were,they really do care.
The Bulgarian Land Rover club
The Bulgarian Land Rover club was founded informally in 2005 and was simply called ‘’Land Rover Enthusiasts Bulgaria’’, and in 2018 it was re-registered as the Land Rover Club Bulgaria. The organization started as a group of enthusiasts who had initiated activities for preserving tourist infrastructure in some of the most picturesque places in Bulgaria.
The club also now takes care of a number of military monuments and several picnic areas that have benches and tables in the western and central part of the Stara Planina. The club also actively supports municipalities during times of natural disasters and emergency situations.
This club also focuses on uniting people who share their interest in preserving tourist destinations and who want to adhere to the Leave no Trace principles. All of its members share technical advice and make efforts to establish contacts with other enthusiasts and clubs both from and outside of Bulgaria.
The club recently had the opportunity to test the new Land Rover Defender.Having spoken to Kiril LLiev from 4×4 Camping he said that ‘’overall they were very impressed with its capabilities,the new Defender had a good play with some of the older vehicles owned by members of the club.
Land Rover Owners Club Belgium
Having spoken to Henk ter Mors from the Land Rover Owners Club Belgium, he highlighted that the Belgium Land Rover Owners Club (LROCB) was founded in 1992 and now has approximately 200 members. Henk also highlighted that the club organises at least one club activity per month. Examples include group members venturing on trips to tackle the tracks in the neighbouring France, Germany and the Netherlands. The club also arranges longer trips to Poland and Romania (8-10 days) where they put their Land Rovers to the test as they tackle much more challenging tracks. That’s one of the advantages of living on mainland Europe, being able to explore neighbouring countries and having access to thousands of kilometers of green lanes.
One of the main club highlights in recent years included mobilising a whopping eight hundred vehicles in a sand quarry in Wavre. In 2017 the club also celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Chateau de Chérimont aka Sclayn wan area in Belgium, an area that offers some top class 4WD tracks.
One of the main events in the clubs 2018 calendar was in Oostduinkerke which is approximately 50 miles from Calais, this event fitted in well with the 70th anniversary of Land Rover and incorporated the club bringing together hundreds of vehicles on the beach.
Socal Overland, California
Massive, wide open spaces, a love of large vehicles and an abundance of cheap fuel makes the US a natural incubator for a growing Overlanding community. One of the better known clubs is Socal Overland, a group who are active in not only enjoying their hobby but who also are working to protect the valuable natural wilderness on their doorstep in Southern California.
Socal Overland was started by 3 friends John, Adam and Matt, who had enjoyed Overlanding as parents, introducing their kids to the open deserts, vast forests and imposing mountains of the region. They made the decision to ‘take the lead’ and help others bring their families out on Overland trips, with the goal of educating them on how to travel on dirt safely while avoiding any damage to the surrounding areas.
They run 2 – 4 day trips on which typically 24 to 30 rigs take part and they split them into groups of 7-10 rigs, each of which has a seasoned guide on the trail. The groups are divided up for safety, then all meet together at camp for the evening. John estimates that 60% to 70% of the participants are couples or families. “We also host larger camp events where we host free classes such as first aid, recovery, and land navigation. Those camp trips can host up to 150 rigs with over half being families” according to John.
One of the focuses of the club is to teach kids to ‘leave no trace’ as well as providing instruction on First Aid as well as how to use emergency communication equipment.
Colorado Land Cruisers, Colorado
Colorado has a thriving Overland community, which tends to overlap a little with the more technical off road groups. The clubs in this region are generally families and typically the membership ranges in the 40 to 50 years age group. The clubs in the region vary in size, though some of the larger ones such as Grand Mesa Jeep Club and Mile Hi Jeep Club, for example, have over 100 dues paying members.These clubs typically schedule one or two big events per year where a full week will be spent on the trails. However, most outings are single day or one night camping trips.
In Colorado, Jeep vehicles are most prevalent among the clubs and on the 4×4 roads, especially the Wrangler TJ and Wrangler JK models. Toyota is likely the second most popular brand, with Tacomas, 4Runners, etc. There are some clubs that are brand-specific (for example, one must drive a Jeep) but a number of clubs are open to all brands.
Colorado Jeep Girls, Colorado
Notable exception-we have one member club named “Colorado Jeep Girls” which is comprised of women only, sorry boys. They are relatively new (3 years old) but they are growing rapidly and are very active with monthly tech/maintenance workshops, monthly trail ride outings, and contributions to stewardship projects such as rubbish cleanups, erosion mitigation, etc.
In our next issue of the magazine, we will dive into what these clubs are doing to protect and preserve their environments and we will also take a look at some of the legislative efforts underway to work with land managers.
So for those of you who are new to the 4WD touring and camping scene, we highly recommend joining a 4WD club in your area, its just a great way to reduce the learning curve and by being part of club it will give you the skills and confidence to get out there and enjoy the great outdoors safely. Stay tuned for the follow up article in issue 17 and happy touring.