Adopting the ‘adventure lifestyle’ used to mean being indoctrinated into an outdoorsy counterculture of sorts – the hardcore, off-grid wanderers. Over the past handful of years, however, the outdoors industry has swelled in popularity; brands that in the past were associated with hardcore climbers, hikers and campers are now offering more casual entry-level gear. Adventure gear has been democratized, thanks to a combination of technological advances, more accessible pricing and, likely, the Instagram-ability of our natural world (logos do look great on mountaintops).
That refocusing of energy tapped into a rich well of less-experienced people who have become interested in pursuing an active lifestyle. And there’s been a positive knock-on effect on other peripheral industries; chief among them, it seems, the automotive and motorcycle industries. The tally of overlanders and adventure vehicles saw a steady increase from 2017-2018, and 2019 is shaping up to be a crescendo.
Brands like Jeep, Land Rover, BMW Motorrad and KTM are off-roading industry stalwarts, but even they’re leaning hard on the active lifestyle angle, highlighting their products’ overlanding capabilities and in many cases even doubling down on them. The phenomenon only becomes more apparent when you look at manufacturers who previously had only dabbled in the culture and treated it as a fringe market – many are now creating entirely new model lines purely for the adventure-minded.
The Jeep Wrangler was always a hit in the off-roading community, but with the launch of the new Gladiator pickup truck comes the “Overlanding trim,” which boldly balances road-to-trail performance. KTM and BMW, traditionally the juggernauts of big adventure motorcycles, are bringing mid-sized and entry-level ADV bikes to market in order to cast a wider net over the off-road-curious. The Triumph Scrambler has been around for years as the go-to stylish off-road-lite motorcycle, but for 2019, the Scrambler 1200 dials its strengths up to the point where it now sits as the only liter-plus retro adventure bike with a considerable amount of tech bolted to it.
At its launch late last year, the Ford Ranger boasted a partnership with Yakima and a laundry list of optional extras like roof-top tents and roof racks for mountain bikes and kayaks. And, although the Bronco is marked as a 2020 model, it’ll hit the road and trail late next year as a direct competitor to the Jeep. In the other corner, Chevy partnered with American Expedition Vehicles to make the Silverado Bison AEV edition to take on the Ford F-150 Raptor and then some. Over in the purely recreational sector, Honda finally joined the sport SxS segment with the Africa Twin-engined Talon.
Excitement continues to build for all things adventure as more and more brands and manufacturers join the movement. We’ve already been spoiled for options when it comes to on-road/off-road worthy vehicles, but it looks like it’s all coming to a head in the coming year. 2018 built a pyre with announcement after announcement of adventure-minded vehicles. This year, as recent launches finally hit the dirt and even more are interoduced, is when we’ll see an explosion of accessible ways to explore the great outdoors. 2019 will be the year of the adventure vehicle.