A vehicle-dependent expedition has a purpose beyond the journey itself. Given the fact that little of the world is unexplored, expeditions have become more fractal (See fractal exploration, Overland Journal, Fall 2008), and the expectations for what constitutes an expedition have relaxed from the days of Shackleton and Hillary. However, there are several criteria that can aid in defining an undertaking as an expedition, and make use of the term more credible. This is easily accomplished by defining a few goals along the trip that serve a greater purpose beyond our own enjoyment of the adventure. Traveling El Camino Del Diablo for a long weekend may feel like an expedition (it did to me the first time I crossed it), but it is really just a very remote overland route. However, cross the El Camino del Diablo with a group of biologists, and assist them in counting antelope in June, for a month - that is an expedition!
1. Primary purpose: Exploration in support of geographic, scientific or humanitarian endeavors.
2. Duration: Typically several weeks to many years.
3. Logistics: Detailed planning is required for environmental, geographic and geopolitical contingencies.
4. Route Finding: Navigation can be highly complicated, and many areas may have no mapping detail available, requiring extensive research and/or support from the local population.
5. Camping: Accommodations will range from remote camping to hostels due to weather conditions, security concerns or duration of travel. There also may be limited camping available, requiring use of local accommodations, hostels, military and church grounds, etc.
6. International Borders: Often includes crossing of multiple international borders.
7. Risk: Moderate to severe risk to personnel and equipment due to security issues or the extreme remoteness and difficulty of the journey.
Jonathan Hanson (Executive Editor, Overland Journal. Elected Fellow, Explorers Club) has contributed addition criteria. An expedition should comprise one of the following, two or more preferred.
1. A journey with a higher purpose—undertaken, for example, to increase scientific knowledge, promote conservation, or render humanitarian aid.
2. A journey that includes a significant risk factor, whether due to remoteness, environmental factors, or terrorist/military/criminal activity, for example.
3. A journey of exploration to an unknown or little-known area. Essentially a higher purpose as in number one.
4. A journey by difficult means—bicycling rather than driving; sea kayaking rather than sailing, for example. Not to be confused with stunts, although there may be gray area in many cases. Using a particular means of transportation simply because it's more difficult taints the effort. The choice of more primitive transport needs to enhance the journey in some way. Traveling by bicycle, for example, is quieter and uses far less fossil fuel. Recreating a historical journey with a reproduction of the original transport would be honorable, certainly, as Pete Goss just did with a replica 1850s sailboat.
Sahara Empty Quarter - Exploring undocumented areas of the Saraha, aiding with the collection of dust samples for scientific research.
Quest Connect - Don and Kim Greene have traveled the world, documenting its wonders for school children in a series of lesson plans.
Ends of the Earth- Expeditions West travels to the furthest vehicle accessible points of six continents.
Vermont Expedition Society - While they did not cross international borders, or even , the society researched and explored an ancient road system of backcountry right-of-ways through Vermont. This effort documented one of the few available backcountry exploration routes in the NE. Their adventure had a purpose, and gave to future generations of NE explorers.
Forgotten Continent Expedition- Doug and Stephanie Hackney explore and document South America for over a year, and provide detailed reviews and documentation of locations visited. In addition, Doug uses his skills with a camera to provide families with some of the only printed portraits they will ever have.