iN PHOTOS: These 4x4 overlanders are pioneering their own route across southern B.C. | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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iN PHOTOS: These 4x4 overlanders are pioneering their own route across southern B.C.

This kind of backroad driving is not for the faint of heart.
Image Credit: Submitted/Mark Kouprie
June 22, 2021 - 7:00 AM

Heading into the back country in a high-powered, modified 4x4 truck is not everyone’s idea of an environmentally sustainable way to enjoy B.C.’s backcountry.

But, the growing popularity of what’s called “overlanding” has enticed a small but growing group of enthusiasts to head out in July in an effort to cross the province from Elko in the East Kootenays to Pemberton near the Pacific Ocean, mostly on unmaintained backroads.

"The overlanding scene is exploding in the last five years or so,” Mark Kouprie, a Cranbrook resident and one of the trip organizers, told “British Columbia doesn’t have an established off-road route across so this is something we’re kind of pioneering.”

These are not your typical big tired, high clearance trucks used by weekend warriors who go mud bogging and rock climbing in their trucks.

Image Credit: Submitted/Tim Evans

“They’re more about mucking about in the back country, rock crawling, getting out there and breaking their vehicles and trailering them back,” Kouprie said. “They typically like to look down on the overlanding community as not being quite as hard core.”

The overlanding trucks do generally have larger tires – 33 inches versus a stock 30 inches – have been lifted for better clearance and usually have “snorkels” in their engine compartments to keep the dust from clogging up their motors. The other major modification is the camping gear with many rooftop tents, stoves tied into the vehicles and fridges.

Image Credit: Submitted/Mark Kouprie

“We’re in it for the long haul and the exploration side of stuff,” Kouprie said. “The technical side of it is something we have to prepare for but it’s not something that we’re focusing on.”

Besides, a serious breakdown two days into a two-week journey not only slows others down as they tow the vehicle back to pavement but means the end of the vacation for the driver.

Part of the route research includes looking into the history of remote small towns and, while a key attraction to overlanding is rustic camping, they hope to stay in a couple of 100-year old hotels along the way as well as visiting hot springs and forestry lookouts for their panoramic views.

Image Credit: Submitted/Mark Kouprie

“Toying with the idea of traversing the province off the usual beaten paths enticed the three (organizers) to dive into our province’s history, with routes passing by some significant landmarks that aren’t on the tourist brochures, including Nahatlatch Lookout, the Lost Border Crossing and several ghost towns while soaking in legendary trails like Whipsaw,” Tim Evans, who is one of the organizers and a videographer, said in an email.

The Whipsaw Trail is a former Hudson’s Bay fur trading route that runs 100 km west out of Princeton and can take two days to navigate.

Evans won’t be driving his own truck on the trip, choosing instead to have the freedom to jump out, run ahead and shoot footage of the trip, something he’ll be able to do as this type of terrain often necessitates some pretty low speeds.

Image Credit: Submitted/Mark Kouprie

It’s certainly not a race. Participants travel together and help each out, clearing obstacles and finding ways through on often abandoned and washed out routes. Then they join together for a night of camping and cooking under the stars.

There are similar “back country discovery routes” in many of the western United States but nothing of the kind in B.C., Kouprie said.

Many such routes were started by back country motorcyclists but the territory these trucks will cover would be impassable for motorbikes weighed down with heavy gear.

There is an Alexander MacKenzie route from Quesnel to Anahim Lake but that’s a continuous 250 km 4x4 route following an old First Nations trail. It takes six days – an average of 42 km a day – and there are no services along the way so everything from fuel to food to repair kits has to be taken along.

Dan Ouellette, left, is one of the organizers, along with Mark Kouprie.
Dan Ouellette, left, is one of the organizers, along with Mark Kouprie.
Image Credit: Submitted/Tim Evans

The Trans-B.C. Trail will likely touch down in communities most days so the focus is getting through without damaging vehicles too much or having to retrace their steps.

“People usually take the paved route to go explore B.C.,” Evans wrote. “We wanted to do something different and overlanding was the answer. You can’t take your paint job too seriously and you have to be ready mentally for panel damage, but that’s off-roading, and after nearly two weeks in the bush, you bet there’ll be some panel damage and scratched paint, but there will also be loads of new, amazing memories and a route others can follow to explore Southern B.C.”

The hope is the route – which can’t be mapped out precisely until the trucks actually get there – will serve as a template for what could become B.C.’s first back country discovery route. They’re expecting to drop into the Okanagan Valley somewhere near Oliver and head west to the Whipsaw Trail and down into Coalmont.

The plan is to leave Elko, which is 30 km south of Fernie, on July 18 with the hope of reaching Pemberton, which is 90 kms north of Squamish, by July 30.

By highway, the trip is about 950 km but Kouprie estimates this trip could be closer to 2,000.

Image Credit: Submitted/Tim Evans

Kouprie is expecting at least five vehicles will attempt the trip but that number could double. A number of local enthusiasts plan to join the trip for a day or two along the way.

For more information or to contact Kouprie go to the Facebook group: B.C. Kootenay Overland/4x4.

Once the trip is over, Evans will post his videos on the YouTube Channel, thatcarguytim.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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