Overlanding in the Northeast, US: The Ultimate Guide


Overlanding – the art of getting off the grid but having the comfort and convenience to enjoy your journey regardless of the timespan. Over the past years, Overlanding has gained popularity, with masses recognizing it as more than an off-road hike. Nowadays, the hobby is more accessible, and more people just can’t wait to explore hidden trails, more sites, and more destinations.

Overlanding in the Northeast can be quite an adventure. The region is home to many natural resources, beautiful Appalachian mountains, the Appalachian Trail, the longest trail in the world, and more than 2000 miles of valleys, hills, and rivers. It is no wonder that Overlanders like exploring the North.

But given that Overlanding takes quite a unique approach to off-roading, which then invites a lot of early planning (regardless of skill level and experience), in this guide we have included everything you need to know, for a fun adventure when Overlanding in the Northeast. Read on to find out.

How to Plan an Overlanding Adventure in the Northeast

There are several things you need to consider to pull off a road-ready and safe expedition into any region of the backcountry. As such, we will start with the basics, including; what you need for your overlanding rig, what you should pack, and need to know to make your trip a success. Let’s start with:

Best Trails to Use When Overlanding in the Northeast

Since the Northeast is home to 11 countries, it offers quite a range of natural resources, hike trails, mountains, parks, rivers, valleys, and a landscape that provides the best getaway for an overlander.

The following includes some of the best hike trails, you may want to use during your Overlanding trip:

Blue Trail Connecticut

This is a 4.1-mile blue-blazed trail that starts at the Park’s Wolf den Campground and continues all the way crossing the flat table rock, Indian chair, and wolf den. It passes through the wooded hillsides in Mashamoquet Brook State ParkOpens in a new tab., delivering iconic features, and scenic views.

Aside from the meadows littered with wildflowers, this blue trail takes you to the Wolf den, a cave haunted by a rich wolf history.

Hanging Rocktail Rhode Island

This is the perfect destination, especially if you are overlanding with kids or a group of family members.

Holderness gives you the Squam Lakes Natural science centerOpens in a new tab. where children can begin the day by learning and exploring much about black bears, mountain lions, bald eagles, and any other animal in New Hampshire mountain.

Ahead of this science center is the Old Birthie path, which then takes you to the summit of the west Rattlesnake mountain in just about 1.8 miles. 

You will find a few Overlanders seated at the rock outcrops admiring the breathtaking New Hampshire lakes region. Following a 0.8 miles ridge trail to the east will set you up for more scenic views, including the East Rattlesnake mountains.

Arethusa Falls Trail New Hampshire

Found in Crawford Notch state park, the breathtaking Arethusa Falls trail is yet another favorite path among hikers.

It brings forth a challenge that involves negotiating roots, rocks, and steep spots to reach the beautiful waterfall cascading 160ft down a granite wall.

In addition to the vibrant colors of the trees surrounding the waterfall, if you move up to the base, you can enjoy a cool-mist, especially in summer.

If you take a detour along the 0.5 mile Bennis Brook Trail, you find the multi-tiered coliseum falls, which are much smaller waterfalls but equally breathtaking as the Arethusa Falls. There are about ten falls in Crawford State Park, so get ready to explore.

Appalachian Trails

With over 2000 miles at your disposal, the Appalachian trails stand as the longest footpath in the world that you could ever hike on. The trail is open all year round.

However, you may find it more experiential to embark on this hike in the late spring or early fall – especially during morning hours.

You can go up and back to the top of the Appalachian mountain, where you can get to see the loop that passes through the forest.Opens in a new tab. You may need 5 to 7 months to complete the Appalachian Trail, covering over 14 countries up to the East coast.

What to Pack When You Go Overlanding in the Northeast

Packing as an overlander is different from packing as a mere traveler or tourist. While as a traveler, you might sometimes pack things you do not need, packing for Overlanding requires minimalism and being intentional. 

Always think of it as backpacking but with a car. That said, always start with the essentials then move up to the additional gear that you might need. A common packing list for an overlander might include (although not limited) to the following items:

Rooftop Tent

Having a tent on the roof goes beyond comfort and the ease to camp in unconventional locations. Overlanders prefer a rooftop tent because it’s one way of creating more room in your vehicle, meaning more space for other gear.

Unlike camping on the ground, which exposes you to bugs and animals, a rooftop tent is more secure against animals, creepy crawlies, and less accessible to people. 

Some of the important things to keep in mind when choosing a rooftop tent include:

  • Rack compatibility – check to see if the rack of your vehicle is compatible with a rooftop tent. 
  • Tent weight – rooftop tents are heavy. This means they will impact the weight you feel when you exert power, speed, or acceleration. Therefore it is important to consider the weight, especially if your car is smaller and has less power. 
  • Static weight capacity – confirm whether the static weight capacity on your car and the rack will hold your rooftop tent’s weight, including everyone in it, together with their sleeping gear. 

If you are having trouble finding a roof rack that can work with a rooftop tent, check out Thule, Yakima, and Rhino rack. These are some of the few recommended roof racks.

Otherwise, you could also opt for a truck bed tent or a ground tent. Ultimately your choice will come down to preference, functionality, and compatibility.

Clothes

A compact duffel bag will fit your clothes and everything else you may want to include just fine. For the most part, pack comfortable and semi-casual clothes. Cotton doesn’t crease, and it is breathable. Thus it is suitable for hot days. Fleece is the ideal fabric for when it’s cold.

Despite how out of style these can be considered, zip-off clothes are also versatile as they can be turned to shorts or trousers depending on the weather conditions.

Consider how you are going to store dirty clothes. A convenient way would be to separate your duffle bag using plastic bags—one side for clean clothes and the other for dirty clothes.

Lastly, do not forget to include socks, multiple changes of underwear, pants, shorts, shirts, a rain jacket, a wide brim hat, scarves, gloves, beachwear, sleepwear, and comfortable shoes.

The quantity will obviously depend on the timespan you plan to spend on your trip.

Food

Canned food and snacks should form a huge part of the food supply you plan on carrying. While canned foods are convenient and don’t perish easily, snacks are important for providing energy between meals.

Other kinds of food to pack include fruits like bananas and apples which do not require refrigeration, vegetables, eggs, trail mix, whole foods, and frozen fried foods.

Essentially what you include in your food packing list will come down to what you feel comfortable making while you’re on the road.

Gas

Your vehicle needs fuel to continue functioning. Therefore have a gallon or two of the emergency reserve.

Burner Stove and Utensils

Have a propane stove, propane tanks, plates, bowls, cups, reusable cutlery, a sponge and dish soap, and a bucket for washing dishes. Foldable bowls and buckets are ideal for an Overlanding trip since they won’t take up much storage.

Toiletries

Have personal toiletries, including tissues, paper towels, hand wipes, hand sanitizer, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, or any moisturizer. Have bug spray or citronella candles, and sunscreen.

Cooler for Food Storage

A cooler is effective since it will help keep your food from spoiling. All you need is a few bags of ice, and you’re good to hit the road all set. However, the longer the trip, the more likely you are to run out of ice. This may affect the duration at which the perishable food will last.

If you are going to spend 5-7 days in the Northeast, invest in a cooler that keeps ice cold anywhere from 7-10 days.

If you are a seasoned Overlander, installing an electric cooler or fridge will be more efficient over time. Just remember to bring a portable source of power such as a solar panel or any other power station or at the minimum, a battery jump pack.

Tool Kit

If you plan on spending more than a week on your trip, it is wise to have a tool kit. Random nuts, bolts, zip ties, and a jack to change your tires are essentials you should never lack in your toolkit.

If you are a beginner, take the time to familiarise yourself with the different items in your tool kit. As long as you know how to perform basic maintenance, you will never find yourself stranded in an undisclosed location, wondering how you can change your tire or unstuck your vehicle.

First Aid Kit for Safety

Just as you should familiarise yourself with items in your toolkit, take time to know how to use everything in your first aid kit.

Have medicine that can help with cuts, poison ivy, stings, headaches, and allergy.

Extra Items

Have a spare tire, spare batteries, flashlight, fire extinguisher, headlamps, snatch rope, topography maps, books, inflatable mattress, folding -portable chairs, sleeping bag, air pad, air compressor, navigation apps, and recovery equipment.

Since it’s impossible to exhaust the gear you may need, it is advisable to always note down any other essentials you may discover while on your trip, then incorporate them as part of your gear for the next Overlanding trip.

Choose the Right Vehicle

In most cases, a suitable vehicle might be the one you own. When Overlanding, you need a vehicle capable of handling rugged, less traveled, and offbeat tracks.

On-road and off-road capabilities are also quite different, meaning a vehicle that might suit you on road might not be suitable offroad.

By this virtue, your Overlanding rig should be a four-wheel drive, have good torque for faster acceleration, have decent ground clearance, the right tires, and just as important the cargo capacity.

Four-Wheel Drive – 4WD

To most, it might be obvious why a four-wheel drive is preferred for Overlanding over a two-wheel drive but not to all. A 4WD is not only easy to navigate when traversing rugged terrains, but it also features a drivetrain that allows each wheel to gain its own traction.

The AWD also has this feature. The difference is that it doesn’t offer locking differentials as the 4×4 does except on the Toyota’s 4Runner, which has a center-locking differential.

A differential-lock system allows torque/power to be distributed equally across both axles. This becomes important since your tires grip better, spin lessOpens in a new tab., which guarantees more stability of the Overlanding vehicle, regardless of the terrain.

The two-wheel-drive simply can’t distribute power to all four wheels. As a result, it becomes harder to navigate in muddy, rocky, wet, or sandy landscapes. This makes AWD suitable for light off-roading while the 4WD becomes the better option for hardcore Overlanding in the Northeast.

Good Torque Rating

Torque will determine how well your vehicle will be able to accelerate and pick up the initial speed. Since Overlanding vehicles are usually larger and heavier, torque becomes important as it optimizes your car’s grip and stability.

For example, a vehicle with a decent torque can get out of a ditch, climb steep slopes, move steadily on slippery slopes and move on larger rocks than one with low torque.

In line with a decent torque is the right suspension. Suspension enhances the friction between the tires of your vehicle and the road, giving you steering stability. Considering that Overlanding is no smooth ride, you don’t want to wander around just because your vehicle couldn’t handle a bump along the trail.

Good suspension also lessens the bounce inside the rig. 

Decent Ground Clearance

Ground clearance refers to how high a vehicle sits off the ground or road. For overlanders, a higher ground clearance means less wear and tear to the vehicle’s undercarriage and easier driving over rugged terrain.

An alternative to protect the undercarriage of your vehicle against rocks, branches, and other impact objects would be to use skid plates or a lift kit.

Usually, off-roading vehicles come with skid plates. However, using a lift kit would require added expense considering the price of lifting a vehicle is subject to the model and make of your Overlanding vehicle.

As such, always check the vehicles manual to see if the specifications of your rig are adequate.

Type of Tires

Fortunately, tires can be changed whenever it’s necessary. Nonetheless, the experience you get during your trip can be greatly determined by the type of tires on your vehicle. Tires while overlanding do not only serve as the major link between your vehicle and the road, but they are key for safe driving. 

Also, tires provide braking and accelerationOpens in a new tab. grip while acting as the shock absorber for vibrations from the road.

For this reason, suitable off-road tires are usually thicker, tough to puncture, and have more traction than normal tires. In case you buy a vehicle with off-road tires, have them inspected to confirm if they can handle different terrains.

Cargo Capacity

A vehicle that offers plenty of interior cargo room and external rack systems would be the ideal choice for an overlander.

The cargo capacity will determine the number of people you can travel with, and how long you can stay on the road, and the activities you will indulge in. Similarly, cargo capacity influences what you will pack for your gear.

For instance, while some vehicles can fit a family of four, essentials like clothing, food, toiletries, utensils, water, chairs, a long bed sleeping space, others can fit additionals, including a kitchen cabinet and other gears like kayaks and mountain bikes. 

The key is to make sure your vehicle can accommodate all the essentials you need and still have room to fit in gear that helps you partake in different activities while you’re off the grid.

Keep in mind, the higher the number of people tagging along in your journey, the more the gear you will need and other essentials as covered in the next section.

Time to Plan Your Trip

The joy of Overlanding is that with each journey, you learn something new. That said, it is always wise to document your trip from the initial stage until you reach your destination.

Important things to note down include your packing strategy, keeping a checklist for before, during, and after your trip, experiences encountered, and any changes you would like to implement in your future trips.

Study the different aspects of the location you’re heading to. These include weather patterns, drive route, trails, terrains, permits, permit fees, park fees, availability of a gas station, and any likelihood of encountering wild animals.

The secret to a successful Overlanding trip is preparation, and you can never do too much of it. Now go out there and plan your Northeast overlanding trip!

Featured Photo Credit: The Northeast Adventure CompanyOpens in a new tab. – Check them out!

Jeremy Hoxie

Born and raised in beautiful Northern Michigan, I've have spent two decades enjoying everything the outdoors has to offer. When not working on RigForge, I spend my time Overlanding and tackling off-road trails while sharing my experiences and testing gear along the way. My current rig is a 2013 Jeep JKU Moab.

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