Taking a traditional vacation isn’t an option these days, but that doesn’t stop adventurous types like Clay and Rachelle Croft, founders of Expedition Overland. Expedition Overland is a team of adventure travellers that share documentary-style videos of their experiences while exploring some of the world’s most remote places and inspiring others to go on their own adventures. Since the pandemic shut down international travel, the Crofts decided it was time to tackle their own neck of the woods—Montana—with their three sons while they had the chance. While exploring, the Crofts created SOLO: The Croft Family Montana Adventure, a four-part original YouTube series showcasing family-friendly overland travel through Montana.
“With both of us growing up in Montana, we wanted to take time last summer to travel and explore this awesome state with our three boys,” Rachelle said. “We usually spend our time traveling around the world or different states, so it was a great time to dive into the history and beauty Montana has to offer.”
Overlanding Rule #1 for the Croft family: Don’t die. — Photo courtesy Rachelle Croft
As you might expect, Expedition Overland is all about overlanding, which is vehicle-based (on-road and off-road) adventure travel with a focus on self-reliance, resilience, and enjoyment of the journey. In other words, overlanding is moreso about the journey itself than the actual destination.
“For this trip, we didn't know where we would camp at night and it was a ton of fun to discover roads we had never been on and choose campsites we never knew were there,” said Rachelle. “As overlanders, we are self-sustained as we carry our own food, water, and fuel to last us weeks out on the road or off the beaten path.”
What to bring on an overlanding expedition
In order to conquer the outdoors—as opposed to ending up in a ditch in the middle of nowhere—you’ll need to acquire the right gear for the journey.
“Be prepared enough that if you don't see someone on the road for a few days, you will be ok and able to get yourself out of a bad situation,” Rachelle said.
The Expedition Overland Solo Series is a reality-based travel show that is now in its tenth season. The series follows overlanders and their outfitted vehicles, chronicling their experiences and mishaps, along with personal insights into their struggles and successes. — Photo courtesy Rachelle Croft
For their Montana expedition, the Crofts opted to use their AEV Prospector built in the Ram 3500 platform. They replaced the bed of the truck with a PCOR 4x4 tray bed from Patriot Campers and put a Four Wheel Camper Hawk on it. They hauled a Patriot Camper TH610 trailer with an Eezi-Awn rooftop tent, full galley system, and carried their Polaris General 1000.
“Some people like to go super light with ground tents, while others like the rooftop tent option as it gets you off the ground,” said Rachelle. “Some like campers and some people sleep in their cars.”
For whichever vehicle you decide to take overlanding, Rachelle recommends starting with a great set of tires and a recovery kit (tow strap, Maxtrax, snatch strap, shovel and medical kit.) She also suggested picking up a fridge so you don’t need to find ice for your cooler.
SOLO: A Croft family story
When it comes to their YouTube series, SOLO: The Croft Family Montana Adventure, the Crofts achieve what they set out to do: showcase the beauty of the Big Sky State while chronicling the ups and downs of life on (or off) the road with their family. The videos do an excellent job of telling the Croft’s story while offering useful information and stunning scenery. The production and editing are on point too. It seems the Crofts are as adept with high-tech gadgetry as they are scaling craggy mountains.
As you might expect, overlanding with three boys (Cyrus (15), Ryder (12) and Eli (10)) can come with its share of challenges. Fortunately, the Crofts have come up with some proactive steps to make the journey a little less bumpy.
“Have a lot of grace and patience with each other,” Rachelle said. “We tried very hard to be in camp by five so that we were not rushing, starving, or trying to find a place in the dark. We listened to audio books to help pass the time on long days in the truck.”
One of Rachelle’s most memorable ATVing adventures happened with her son during an overlanding trip while crossing backcountry roads and creeks. “It's so much fun to feel the wind, smell the trees, and share that experience with our kids,” she said. “Both of us had smiles we couldn't wipe off our faces.” — Photo courtesy Rachelle Croft
Rather than doing all the work themselves, Clay and Rachelle give their boys their own jobs to do around camp in order to build their confidence and teach them responsibility.
“They learn teamwork, how to appreciate small tasks, and how to take care of the outdoors,” said Rachelle. “They, like us, need to connect with nature and let their imaginations run wild instead of being entertained. We see them grow in their confidence when they learn how to put away their own tent, start their own fires, and learn simple navigation and survival skills. Sitting around a campfire does wonders for their communication as they learn to converse, tell stories of their adventures, and listen to others share theirs.
“They also see firsthand what happens to their public lands and campsites when others don't take care of them. They then never want to add to that problem, but instead, want to help keep it cleaner than we found it.”
While recording their YouTube series, SOLO: The Croft Family Montana Adventure, the Crofts learned basic survival skills, life lessons, and a lot about each other. — Photo courtesy Rachelle Croft
When it comes to planning out the route on an overlanding expedition, Rachelle recommends involving everyone in the group.
“Get out a map with your kids and let everyone have input on things they want to do and see,” she said. “Then, everyone has a hand in planning your route, not just one person. Once you have a few places you want to check out, you can start making a route from there and everyone has had a say in your trip.”
Now that the Croft family has paved the way, it’s time for you to pack up your gear and head out on the road—and then off-road—for an overland adventure of your own.
“We hope through our episodes that others are inspired to explore, experience, and learn new things,” said Rachelle. “You will make memories and your family will thank you for years to come.”