When I text someone about overlanding, my phone often auto-corrects “overlanding” to “overloading.” I don’t know if this is a commentary by a secret cabal that we shouldn’t be pushing gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or if it is just a cosmic joke played out at my expense because I use the word so often.
The point is, we as overlanders often push the limits with what we bring with us on trips. Do we really need the full hot-water shower setup, the slide out kitchen complete with a propane-powered oven, or the drip coffee maker?
My answer is, “probably not.” But if it makes your trip more enjoyable, and doesn’t weigh down your vehicle too much, then more power to you.
For those of you who just want the necessities, this is the article for you — read on!
‘What to Bring Overlanding’ Checklist
I’m not here to pass judgment on the type of vehicle you use to go overlanding. It is however important to understand that a two-wheel-drive car or an all-wheel-drive crossover SUV can’t typically handle the same types of terrain as a vehicle where you can engage a four-wheel-drive system. I’ve seen countless well-meaning people stuck in the backcountry in a two-wheel drive vehicle with no way out to know that you need to consider your choice of vehicle very carefully.
No matter what you drive, a reliable, well-maintained vehicle is the first thing you need to consider when planning your first overland trip.
Few things are as rewarding as overlanding, getting deep into the backcountry, and discovering new landscapes for days and weeks on end. Unfortunately, getting way out there means carrying enough fuel to get from point A to point B (and back) safely. Knowing how much fuel to bring with you and how to store it is something every overlander — regardless of experience — needs to consider. Check out my run-down on fuel storage options here.
Kitchen Supplies, Food, and Water
Water – Knowing exactly how much water to bring on a journey isn’t always easy — especially if you’re new to overland travel. I’ve been overlanding for more than a decade. In that time, I’ve adopted a good system for exactly how much water to bring for my journeys as well as tools to make toting large quantities of water on the trail easier. Read more about water and storing water here.
Cooler or Fridge – Do you need a powered fridge for overlanding? The answer is it depends how important is fresh food for you vs. freeze-dried or ready-to-eat? If the answer is fresh food, then a fridge is a must. You can learn more about the age-old question, cooler vs. fridge here.
Food – How do you like to eat when you’re on the road? Is it rib eye steaks with lemon pepper butter, fresh green beans, and charcoal pit baked potatoes – or are you more apt to eat a can of soup and a slice of bread? They type of food you prepare most often will guide your choices for what you use to cool your food. Read about how to overland without a refrigerator here.
Stove – How do you prepare your food. Do you like cooking over and open fire or cooking on a camp stove? Is heating water for a backpacker meal all you need? The answer to this question will help you decide what type of cooking gear to bring with you.
First Aid Kit
At some point, a comprehensive first aid kit is going to be a necessity for you on an overland journey, if not for someone in your party – it might be for someone else. Accidents happen all the time and having a first aid kit (and some training) to help administer a few life-saving techniques until first responders can arrive can make all the difference in the world. Check out a first aid kit we like here.
Vehicle Recovery Kit
The perfect recovery kit isn’t something that you can usually buy right off the shelf. A recovery kit is built up over many years of testing and use. You can try new pieces as your budget allows and sometimes they are a good fit for you and sometimes they aren’t. The good pieces end up in your kit and you can sell off the rest (or shove them on a shelf in your garage to collect dust for eternity.) Check out a round-up of solid recovery gear here.
Whether you go with a ground tent or spend the cash for a rooftop tent, you’ll want to make sure you have some sort of shelter when overlanding. Choosing a hard- or soft-shell tent requires some weighing of priorities and prices. Do you go with a less expensive soft-shell model or a more durable (and expensive) hard-shell model? Get a run down of rooftop tent types and prices here.
Bedding is also a huge consideration when overlanding – the addition of sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and pillows are bulky and take up a ton of space in your rig. You can usually store bedding in a rooftop tent, while you’d have to find space for bedding in your rig if you use a ground tent. Check out one of our favorite blankets here, or a whole list of sleeping gear here.
Navigation tools – both old school and new tech – are an important part of overland travel. Overlanding is always about the journey, but the journey isn’t much fun if you don’t know where you are going. A solid navigation setup uses electronic devices like GPS units and mobile devices with a backup of a compass and paper maps. Learn more about navigation tools here.
The clothing a traveler chooses to wear on an adventure is perhaps even more unique and individualistic than the vehicle he or she chooses to drive. Clothing and accessories should be selected based on the needs of the traveler and the environment that they are traveling in. Check out a quick list of some durable clothing we use for our travels here.
After a long day traversing backcountry trails, it is imperative to have a comfortable chair and a table to hold your end-of-day adult beverage. There are a wide variety of camp chairs available in the adventure travel marketplace, with a product to suit each priority, whether that is minimal weight, ease of setup, or comfort. Check out some of the best camp chairs on the market here.
Vehicle Tool Kit
If you aren’t a mechanic or even plan to be, you’ll still need a quality set of tools to get you through an overland journey. Ratchets, sockets, electrical supplies, hammers, tire irons, wrenches, and more are some of the items you must carry with you on a trip. Looking for a tool roll to put all of your tools in to keep them from flying all over your vehicle? Check out one of our favorite tool rolls here.
Remember that this list is just a starting point. Over the years and with a few solid trips under your belt, you’ll fine-tune this list, take out things you don’t need or don’t use and even add to it.
What you bring overlanding is entirely up to you, choose wisely though as every little bit you weigh down your vehicle means you’ll be spending money on upkeep in the future.
See you out on the trails!
AUTHOR: ANTHONY SICOLA
Anthony is the Director of Sales for Overland Expo and travels extensively with his wife Astrid and his dog Sir Digby in his 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser, nicknamed Hank the Tank. Follow his adventures on Instagram @overlandnomads
Header image: Jonathan and Roseann Hanson