Overlanding is increasing in popularity in the United States, and it’s easy to see why. This form of travel can take you to remote places where you can camp and explore to your heart’s content. Using an off-road capable vehicle to see and explore the country is sure to provide you with a whole new level of adventure.
With overlanding, the journey is the goal, but what gear do you need to have a successful overlanding trip? This article will explore essential gear and explain why you need it on your next overlanding trip. If you are ready to prepare for the adventure of a lifetime, keep reading…
The top 12 overlanding gear essentials you’ll need:
1. First-Aid Kit
Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it, but having a first-aid kit on hand is essential for overlanding safely.
Mechanical issues can ruin an overlanding trip, and being cold and hungry can be uncomfortable. However, not having the ability to care for yourself or another injured person is dangerous and reckless.
Your first-aid kit should address the types of care you may need when you are out in the wilderness, miles from help. First, you should have plenty of bandages, Neosporin, ice packs, chapstick, and moleskin on hand for the cuts and scrapes you may get just from being out and about. You should also have wound care supplies and ointments.
Your first-aid kit should also have medicines for headaches and stomach aches. If you’re planning on overlanding in various altitudes, make sure you have extra headache medicine to combat altitude sickness!
The Red Cross recommends the following items for first-aid kits:
- Absorbent compress dressings
- Adhesive cloth tape
- Antibiotic ointment packets
- Antiseptic wipe packets
- Breathing barrier
- Cold Compress
- Non-latex gloves
- Hydrocortisone ointment packets
- Sterile gauze pads
As long as you have these items, you should be able to tend to any minor wounds or issues that may arise.
2. Fire Extinguisher and a Fire Blanket
Another thing that you should always have with you on an overlanding trip, but that you’ll hopefully never use, is a fire extinguisher.
An untamed flame can completely engulf your campsite and your vehicle if it gets out of hand, so having a fire extinguisher can put your mind at ease.
Your offroading vehicle will most likely have highly combustible items like fuel tanks and spare oil, so fire protection is not something to be taken lightly. You should invest in a fire extinguisher that is compatible with gas, oil, grease, and wood fires because all are possible when you’re offroading.
Fire blankets are great for smothering pan fires or wrapping around someone should their clothes catch on fire.
3. Tool Kit
Having a proper tool kit is crucial when you’re overlanding because you could be miles from help should something go wrong. Make sure you research the make and model of your vehicle since you may need some specific tools to repair it.
Here are some tools that your tool kit should always have:
- Electrical wire
- Wire cutters
- Combo screwdriver handle and a variety of screwdriver tips
- Hand drill
- Grease gun
- Work gloves
- Jumper cables
- Recovery straps
- Socket set
- Tire repair kit
- Electrical tape
That may seem like a lot, but when it comes to overlanding, you are better safe than sorry.
4. Water Filter and Water Jug
Humans can only live three days without water, so having enough water is a matter of life or death if you’re in the backcountry.
You should keep an extra water supply in a water jug that you should only use in emergencies. If you deplete this resource at all, make sure you refill it as soon as you can.
Having a water filter or water purification tablets is essential for any hiking and camping you do because if you find a water source, you can filter it and ensure that it is safe for drinking.
5. Portable Stove
If you’re planning on overlanding for an extended period and you want to eat a cooked meal instead of surviving on chips, nuts, and snacks, a camping stove can be a game-changer for you.
Camping stoves can be portable, lightweight, and user-friendly, so you can store them easily and set them up speedily after a long day of hiking, driving, or exploring.
With a camping stove, you can make eggs, cinnamon rolls, oatmeal, hot dogs, baked potatoes, quesadillas, pizza, casseroles, and more, which is better than just Pop-Tarts and potato chips!
6. Camping Gear
This may be a no-brainer, but you’ll need a camping kit so you have a comfortable place to sleep at the end of the day!
One mistake that many overlanding beginners make is under packing when it comes to their camping gear. Think twice if you find yourself trying to pare down your sleeping materials. You won’t have a good time if you’re wet, cold, and uncomfortable.
You’ll need the following:
- Sleeping bag
- Tent stakes
- Stake puller
Alternatively, you can sleep inside your car if you have a larger vehicle. However, you may want to take a break from being cooped up in your car all the time, so having a camping kit in your vehicle as a backup isn’t a bad idea. Another very popular option is to get a lightweight rooftop tent. You could even opt for an offroad capable trailer if the terrain you prefer to travel over is not too extreme.
7. Off-Roading Jack
The fun of overlanding can end almost immediately if you have a tire puncture or a mechanical breakdown. Off-roading vehicles are often large and heavy and making these repairs difficult. However, an offroading jack can make this process easier.
Offroading jacks lift the chassis of vehicles, so if you’ve bottomed out on a large rock or tree stump or popped a tire, you can fix the issue.
8. LED Lights and Flashlights
If you’re driving in an area that doesn’t have street lights, which is probably the case when you’re overlanding, you’ll need gear that helps you see where you’re going so you can avoid hazards and animals. Off-road lighting is vehicle-specific, so make sure you do some research so you get the right lights for your car.
In addition, flashlights are crucial for navigating campsites once the sun goes down, and they allow you to move around your camp at night.
When you get stuck, a shovel is the best tool you can have to help yourself out. You can get a portable or folding shovel, but if you want an extra sturdy, full-size shovel, you can strap it to the outside of your vehicle for better access and more room in your car.
When you’re driving in the backcountry, you can get stuck in snow, mud, or sand, so having a shovel is crucial, as it can be the backbone of your vehicle recovery.
10. Gas Can
Running out of gas miles away from the nearest town isn’t an ideal situation, so to avoid getting stuck in the middle of nowhere, bring along some spare gas. A five-gallon can should suffice without taking up too much space.
Having extra gas in your car helps you avoid paying for an expensive tow and the stress of running out of fuel.
11. Spare Vehicle Parts
The last thing you want is to be exploring the backcountry and have your vehicle fall apart because you have an old or broken part in the car. Likewise, if you crash the vehicle or if the terrain gets so rough that a piece falls off, you need to be prepared to fix it up.
You should always have spare parts for your engine in your vehicle when you go on an overlanding trip.
Here are some essential parts you should have with you:
- Fan belts
- Wheel bearings
- Fuel pump
- Brake fluid
- Transmission fluid
- Fuel and air filters
- Spare tire
These parts should be enough to fix your car, at least to the point where you can get it to the closest mechanic.
12. Air Up/Down Tires Kit
Driving on a beach or in an extra soft area can be difficult, but deflating your tires can help. When you’re traveling on soft, tractionless terrain, using a deflating kit will help you keep moving forward.
So, always keep the option available if you get stuck in sand or mud. On that same note, once you reach terrain that is not as soft, you’ll want to be able to inflate your tires a bit as needed. A quality air compressor that can pull double duty is ideal.
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David is an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.