Overlanding, where you rely on yourself throughout your travels, and where the journey itself is more important than the destination, is becoming an increasingly popular pastime for those bitten by the wanderlust bug. While the free-spirited ideology of Overlanding may make you want to just get in your car and go, there are several essentials you’ll need to take along with you when you start your journey.
While overlanding gear has various essentials and equipment, you’ll need the basics – a sturdy vehicle with 4×4 capabilities and off-road rated tires, safety equipment, shelter, and food and water equipment to maximize your trek into the wild.
This guide will provide you with a complete list of the 25 essentials everyone should have with them when embarking on the wonderful journey known as Overlanding.
The Basics: Overlanding Vehicle Equipment
Every Overlanding journey needs to begin with a sturdy vehicle that can not only traverse all types of terrain but also support all of the equipment and shelter you’ll need to make the most of your journey.
You’ll also need some basic equipment for your vehicle, to allow yourself to be prepared for the unexpected in case of an emergency.
Here are the most important items to consider when starting to plan your Overlanding trip.
A vehicle with 4-wheel drive is absolutely essential when considering an Overlanding trip. Today, most passenger vehicles have two-wheel drive enabled, meaning that the engine will apply torque to only two wheels at a time. When four-wheel drive is enabled, all four wheels of the vehicle will have torque applied to them, making it easier to travel over tough, uneven terrain. These vehicles are becoming increasingly popular throughout the US.
Four-wheel drive vehicles are made for off-road travel and will allow you to travel into the backcountry where paved roads can be few and far between. 4×4 vehicles are often larger than standard passenger vehicles, which will allow you the necessary storage space to carry all of the gear you’ll need throughout your trip, without cramping you.
When selecting a 4×4 vehicle, take into consideration the storage capacity and flat roof of the Jeep Wrangler, which will easily tow all your gear and make pitching your roof-tent a breeze, or the powerful Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport, which will make traveling over any terrain seem like a walk in the park. Toyota 4Runners (pictured above) are another popular option due to the combination of their storage capacity and off-road capability.
If your goal is to travel through the wilderness in areas where asphalt paved roads may be few and far between, you’re going to want to invest in some off-road tires that will allow you to go the distance without fear of getting stuck in the mud or popping one on an unassuming rock.
Off-road tires differ from standard, on-road tires, primarily because of the size and depth of their tread. The tread on an off-road tire is wider than that of a traditional on-road tire, which allows it to sink deep into loose dirt, mud, or sand to maintain traction. The tread is also deeper than that of its on-road counterpart, which allows looser material like mud and sand to fill the void and help with traction.
One of the most popular Overlanding tires is the BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 (amazon aff link). Their popularity stems from their proven durability over time and consistently recommended by their loyal users and overland “influencers”. There’s no doubting their toughness and performance overall regardless of the terrain you’re tackling.
The type of off-road tire you need for Overlanding will be based on your vehicle’s requirements, so consulting your local mechanic or tire dealer is the best way to understand what type of tire is best for you.
When planning an Overland trip, you’ll likely be out on the road for multiple days or weeks at a time, sometimes in areas where fuel is less readily available. You’ll want to consider taking a couple of fuel storage vessels with you so you can gas up in the open country without worry.
This jerry can (amazon aff link) by Wavian is EPA compliant, made of military-grade steel, and legal for sale across all of North America.
It’s lightweight, sleek design makes it a great choice for fuel storage, especially when real estate in your Overlanding vehicle may be scarce. Each container can hold up to 5.3 gallons of gas, so packing at least 2 to 3 spare cans should be sufficient, depending on the length of your trip.
Jumpstart Kit or Spare Battery
We’ve all been there, you’re camped out for the night, relaxing under the stars, and you’ve left your vehicle lights on for whatever reason. Without the right equipment, you’re now stuck without a charged battery and in a bind trying to get to a mechanic shop or calling for a tow out to your remote location.
Because many Overlanding destinations may not be near enough to a mechanic or in an area where cell coverage is insufficient, having the means to recharge your vehicle’s battery or swap it out for a spare is going to be extremely important. After all, one of the main pillars of Overlanding is self-reliant travel.
To ensure you’re safe on the road, you’ll want to pack a jumpstart kit and a spare battery. The Tacklife T8 800A jump start kit (amazon aff link) not only can jump-start your vehicle up to 30 times before it requires a charge, but it also acts as a USB charging port, portable flashlight, and more. This multi-tool is an absolute must-have while on the road.
Much like off-road grade tires, the spare battery you purchase is specific to your vehicle. Consulting a mechanic or auto parts store is your best bet for selecting the correct battery size. You can also take a look at your current battery and purchase a second one, just to be sure.
Tire Repair Kit or Spare Tires
When you’re traversing all types of terrain, even with off-road tires, you’re bound to get a flat. Carrying a tire repair kit and at least one spare tire will allow you to fix your flat and carry on with your journey without having to involve a mechanic.
This Tooluxe Universal Tire Repair Kit (amazon aff link) is a great option for any Overlander and comes with everything you’ll need to fix a flat, wrapped up in a neat travel case. It won’t take up too much room in your vehicle at just 12 x 8 inches (30.5 x 20.3 cm).
There is much debate about how many tires you should plan on having as spares while on your Overlanding trip, but the general consensus for most terrain is one tire. Having too many spares will take up too much room, leaving less room for the other essentials you’ll need for your trip.
Much like the automotive basics, you’ll need to carry several items meant to keep you safe while you’re out trekking the wilderness on your Overlanding journey. Below should be considered the “must-have” safety equipment for your trip.
There are lots of remote areas of the world you can see while Overlanding, and many will not have cell service adequate enough to allow you to contact authorities in the event of an emergency. In comes the Garmin inReach Mini GPS Satellite Communicator (amazon aff link).
This lightweight yet powerful communication and GPS device allows you to send two-way text messages via the global Iridium satellite network. Also, it has a built-in SOS button allowing you to send a signal to emergency services with your coordinates, without having to type out a message for help. This feature can be crucial in the event of an emergency.
You will need to subscribe to a satellite service plan to use these features, and plans start around $59 for the year.
A navigation system is another important element to cross country travel. It can be cumbersome (not to mention dangerous) to rely on a map and compass system while on the road. Traditional maps are also not updated as frequently as a digital GPS system is, and may not have as many of the off-road trails you’re looking to hit.
The Magellan eXplorist TRX7 (amazon aff link) is an absolute gem for off-road travel. It comes pre-loaded with 44,000 off-road trails right out of the box, and it can view off-road trails uploaded by other Overlanders like yourself. It’s also got a huge touch screen (7 inches/ 17.8 cm) and a durable case, which makes it perfect for traversing backwoods trails.
First Aid Kit
You need to be prepared for anything while in the wild, and that includes potential injuries. Having a first aid kit should be considered mandatory on your list of gear when packing for your Overlanding excursion.
The Monoki First Aid Survival Kit (amazon aff link) has everything you’ll need to stay safe on your adventure – from tactical tools like pliers, a knife, and a fire starter, to emergency blankets, wound dressings, and CPR masks – all packed into an 8×5 inch (20.3 x 12.7 cm) case.
Water Filtration System
Water is a basic human necessity, and humans cannot survive more than approximately four days without it. With that being said, it’s unrealistic to carry the amount of water you’ll need when embarking on your Overlanding trip. It will take up a lot of space, be heavy, and you may even underestimate the amount you’ll need, which can be dangerous.
A water filtration system is an excellent way to ensure you can collect water from almost any source, without the threat of nasty, harmful bacterias. The Guardian Water Treatment System (amazon aff link) by MSR is a fantastic option for on the go water filtration. It’s fast – filtering up to 2.5 liters per minute. It’s powerful – filtering up to 99% of water-based pathogens and bacteria. It’s efficient – utilizing a self-cleaning protocol to keep you healthy and safe without any hassle.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to list here. When your vehicle’s battery is drained and you’re left without a light source, you’ll be thankful you packed a flashlight in case of emergencies.
The Anker Rechargeable Bolder LC90 LED Flashlight (amazon aff link) is a great piece of equipment to have in your safety kit. It’s rechargeable, waterproof, comes with a run time of up to 6 hours, and can span the length of two football fields, making it an excellent choice while out in the backcountry.
An axe is something that every Overlander should bring with them on their journey. From cutting firewood to hacking through the brush on the trail, an ax is a handy tool that should not be overlooked.
The Schrade SCAXE2 11.8in Stainless Steel Small Axe (amazon aff link) will fit in perfectly with the rest of your gear and give you the power you need to cut through whatever brush or firewood you may come across. It comes equipped with a rubber grip, so you won’t have to worry about it slipping through your hands as you use it.
A fire extinguisher is an absolute must from a safety standpoint while traveling. Be sure to choose an extinguisher rated for wood, trash and paper, flammable liquids, and electrical equipment, just to be on the safe side.
The Amerex B417 (amazon aff link) is a popular choice among overlanders due to it being rechargeable and available attachments that make it capable of being mounted in almost any rig.
Another real possibility when embarking on an Overlanding excursion is getting stuck. Since Overlanding is all about the journey, the last thing you want to do is be brought to a standstill because you can’t get your vehicle out of a mud pit.
ARB offers several popular recovery kit options for each level of need. The ARB RK12 ARB Weekender Recovery Kit (amazon aff link) is a great option for an Overlander who just needs the absolutely necessary items. It includes:
- (1) Vehicle recovery strap
- (2) Galvanized shackles
- (1) Pair of leather gloves
- (1) Coated cotton canvas recovery bag
Recovery gear is not something you want to cheap out on. If you are on a budget, make sure you allocate enough for reliable recovery and safety gear. These Overlanding essentials will ensure you’re prepared for any situation and can get you out of a jam in all types of terrain.
Traction boards are a must-have when traveling in areas with loose terrain and can get you out of otherwise sticky situations. If you do get stuck, placing a traction board underneath your tire will allow it something denser to grab onto, allowing more traction.
The MAXSA 20333 Escaper Buddy Traction Mats (amazon aff link) are a great choice when packing for an Overlanding trip. These lightweight, polypropylene plastic mats come in a set of two and are designed to help tires from spinning out in mud, sand, ice, and snow. They measure 48 inches (1.22 meters) long and 14.5 inches (36.8 cm) wide, which will take up some crucial space in your vehicle, but trust me, it’s worth it.
A shovel is one of the most underrated tools you’ll bring with you on an Overlanding adventure. This multifunction tool can be used for anything from digging yourself out from snow or sand to extinguishing a campfire.
The SOG Folding Shovel (amazon aff link) is a sturdy yet lightweight option that folds up for easy storage. It’s made of forged steel, which won’t break when put under pressure, and when folded, it sits at only 10 inches (25.4 cm) closed, making it a great choice for stowing with the rest of your gear.
A jack is an absolute necessity if you’re going to be taking a multi-week or even a multi-day trek into the woods. Without a jack, it will be almost impossible to change a flat, rendering that spare tire you packed just a very large, heavy paperweight.
While you do have the option of using the factory jack that comes with your 4×4 vehicle, it may be difficult to use if you aren’t on a flat, sturdy surface. The Torin TRA8485 Ratcheting Off-Road Utility Farm Jack (amazon aff link) is a Hi Jack built for off-roading, boasting features like a lift range of 5.12 to 40 inches (13 to 102 cm), vertical and horizontal lifting capabilities, and a wide base for stability.
When traversing loose ground like sand or mud, fully inflated tires will push further into the ground, rather than traveling over it, which can result in you getting stuck. To increase the length of the tire’s footprint, you’ll need to let some of that air out of your tire.
A tire deflator is a quick, easy way to temporarily let the air out of your tires so you can get out of any terrain you may find yourself stuck in. The JACO RapidFlow Tire Deflator (amazon aff link) comes with a built-in gauge, allowing you to instantly check the pounds per square inch (PSI) of your tires. This will come in handy, so you know how much air you need to put back into your tires once you’re out of harm’s way.
Portable Air Compressor
When you need to be able to control your tires’ air pressure during an Overlanding trip, a portable air compressor is the yin to the tire deflator’s yang – you will need to rely on both to accurately control your tires’ pressure.
Portable air compressors can have many uses on a long term journey, like blowing up a mattress or inflatable kayak. Still, its main purpose is for reinflating tires after you’ve deflated them for loose ground travel.
The Viair 40047 400P-RV Automatic Portable Air Compressor Kit (amazon aff link) comes with everything you need to inflate your tires. It has a max PSI of 150, can run off your vehicle’s battery (so there is no need for a portable generator), and even comes with a carrying case to keep everything organized.
You’re going to need sufficient shelter if you’re going on a long Overlanding trip where sleeping outdoors is commonplace. You’ll also need to pack warm blankets or a sleeping bag to thwart off any potential chances of hypothermia should temperatures drop at night.
Tent – Rooftop or Ground
The most common tents used in Overlanding excursions can be set up on the roof or bed of your vehicle. These tents are easy to set up and break down and are usually designed to clip on to the top of your roof rack or truck bed. Some even come with built-in mattresses for added comfort! There are hardshell or softshell options, depending on your preference.
The Tepui Ruggedized Series Kukenam 3 (amazon aff link) roof tent is made up of 360g dual stitched fabric for enhanced durability, comes with a built-in mattress (and anti-condensation pad!) and has a heavy-duty aluminum base for added support.
Personally, I prefer ground tents. My current tent at the time of writing this is a Gazelle 22272 T4 Pop-Up Tent (amazon aff link). It comes pre assembled and sets up in a couple minutes (max). You simply take it out of the bag, pop out the sides and roof by pulling on a tab, and you’re good to go. It has features like pockets, a hook to hang a lantern in the center, and a removeable floor as well. If rooftop tents aren’t your thing, I highly recommend a Gazelle.
There is nothing worse than suffering through a freezing cold night on the trail because you don’t have the proper gear to keep you warm. Not only is it inconvenient, but it’s also dangerous. Because of the threat of hypothermia and exposure while camping, warming materials like blankets and sleeping bags become more of a safety necessity than a comfort item.
Choose a sleeping bag that is rated for the season (or seasons) you’ll be traveling in. A general rule of thumb is to select a bag that can accommodate the following temperatures: 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1.1 Celsius) or higher in the summer, 15-30 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.4 to -1.1 Celsius) for Spring – Fall, and 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.4 Celsius) or lower for the winter.
The Klymit KSB 20°F (amazon aff link) is perfect for these requirements and gives you some breathing room for weather fluctuations as well.
Because you’ll be on the road for multiple days (or weeks) at a time, you’ll want to be sure you pack the proper supplies to store and prepare food and water while on your Overlanding trip.
Cook Top & Propane Tank
You’ll want to be able to have a way of cooking hot meals or coffee while you’re out in the wilderness after a long day on the trails. A cooktop is a more reliable option for a portable fire pit and can be set up more quickly.
The Coleman Even-Temp Propane Stove (amazon aff link) is a compact 3-burner stove that can fit two 12-inch (30.5 cm) or three 8-inch (20.3 cm) pots. Powered by propane, it can run for up to 45 minutes on high with one 16.4 ounce propane cylinder.
Food storage is an important part of packing for a long-distance trip. You will want to be sure that you have enough food to last you the entire length of your trip, and you’ll also want to ensure that it won’t spoil as you travel along.
Having a heavy-duty cooler like the OtterBox Venture 45 Cooler (amazon aff link) allows you to store fresh food without worrying about it going bad before you can enjoy it. I currently own this cooler and the OtterBox 30qt Softside Trooper. It has a 45-quart capacity, making it roomy enough to fit all your favorite perishable foods or drinks. This OtterBox cooler has also been proven to keep ice-cold for up to 7-8 days.
Trust me, I have watched hours of cooler reviews and tests on YouTube before purchasing, the OtterBox Venture will not disappoint. It also comes in 25qt and 65qt versions if you need more or less space.
Even if you’re now equipped with a heavy-duty water filtration system, you’ll still want to be prepared to carry enough water with you to last a couple of days if you don’t come across another readily available water source.
The Reliance Products Jumbo-Tainer 7 Gallon Jerry Can Style Rigid Water Container (amazon aff link) will provide you with ample space for your water and won’t take up immense amounts of room in your cargo area. It also has an attachable spout making it easy to fill up water bottles or anything else you need.
Cast Iron Skillet
A cast-iron skillet is one of the most versatile tools you can have in your Overlanding kitchen kit. It can withstand temperatures of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit (482 degrees Celsius), so you can use it over an open flame or on a cooktop with ease. Cast Iron cooking vessels are also almost indestructible, so you won’t have to worry about it being damaged in transit.
The Texsport Cast Iron Skillet (amazon aff link) is the perfect option for you to saute, sear or bake almost anything you can imagine while out on the trail.
Heat Resistant Gloves
One of the best things about cast iron skillets is their ability to retain heat – it’s what makes them such a great cooking tool. However, if you’re cooking on an open flame, you’ll want to have some fire-resistant gloves to prevent you from getting burned when you remove the skillet from the fire.
The RAPICCA BBQ Gloves (amazon aff link) can withstand heat up to 932 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius), which is perfect for any kind of camp cooking.
Utensils and Tableware
You don’t want to be eating the trail meals you just prepared in your piping hot cast iron skillet with your bare hands, so you’ll want to bring along some utensils and tableware to help you enjoy your meals without burning yourself.
The GSI Outdoors Cascadian 1-Person Table Set (amazon aff link) has everything you need to enjoy your meals on the go. It comes with one cup, one plate, one bowl, and a 3-piece utensil set including a knife, fork, and spoon. If you’re Overlanding alone, there is no need to carry around more tableware than you need, making this one person set perfect.
Overlanding Gear – Our Final Thoughts
There are many things you need when packing for an Overlanding trip. However, there are five main categories you should consider:
- Vehicle Equipment – You’ll need a vehicle with 4×4 capabilities, off-roading tires, appropriate fuel storage, a jumpstart kit, a spare battery, and a tire repair kit.
- Safety Equipment – You’ll need a communication device for emergency contact, a navigation system designed for off-roading, a first aid kit, a flashlight, an ax, and a fire extinguisher.
- Recovery Equipment – You’ll need traction boards, a shovel, a hi-lift jack, a tire deflator with a PSI gauge, and a portable air compressor – preferably one that does not require a generator.
- Shelter – You’ll need a roof tent and a sleeping bag rated for the season you’ll be traveling in.
- Food/Water Essentials – Food and water storage, propane tanks, and cooking utensils are all necessary components of your campsite kitchen.
At the end of the day, everyone packs for Overlanding and camping differently. If you cover the essentials we discussed, you will be good to go. That’s what makes Overlanding with others so fun. No two rigs are the same.