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Must-Have Overlanding Gear

For the best overlanding adventure, you’ll need a great vehicle, a good rig, and some key overlanding gear to make roughing it a little less rugged.

Off the Beaten Path

2021 Ford Bronco - ford.com
2021 Ford Bronco - ford.com

Overlanding, yours and my latest automotive obsession, combines adventurous off-roading with camping. Typically, overlanding consists of taking a reliable 4WD vehicle and lots of camping gear out on a multiday excursion into the wilderness. Though these journeys are often taken along established trails, those trials can be pretty rough going. As a result, you’ll need to be prepared for contingencies like getting stuck or vehicle breakdown. But, since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, choosing a reliable vehicle and outfitting it with appropriate overlanding gear can make all the difference in the world. Below we’ll discuss must-have overlanding essentials to make your next trek one to remember.

Rig Essentials

2021 Toyota Land Cruiser - toyota.com
2021 Toyota Land Cruiser - toyota.com

The foundation of any overlanding adventure is your vehicle. It’ll be important to choose a vehicle that’s both reliable and capable. Here’s a few of our recommendations. Finding something you’re mechanically familiar with can also be a great asset.

A bone stock Land Cruiser is a pretty good start, but you’ll want to also consider some dedicated overlanding modifications.

Roof Rack – Perhaps the most basic of overlanding equipment, a roof rack will vastly increase the amount of gear you can haul with you. Items like gas and water tend to take up a lot of space by themselves, to say nothing of food, clothing, and camping gear.

Light Bars – Headlights are fine for the street but out on the trails you’ll likely want more illumination. There’s a wide assortment of lights and locations to mount them, from modest bars below the grille to articulating spotlights atop the vehicle cab.

2021 Subaru Forester - subaru.com
2021 Subaru Forester - subaru.com

Bash/Skid Plates – It’s important when tackling rocky terrain to have some protection for the delicate under-bits on your vehicle. Steel skid plates mean you can take on the rough stuff with confidence.

Roof Tents – Perhaps the most recognizable manifestation of the overlanding craze is the roof-top tent. The benefits are obvious. Besides the ease of set up, as most take only minutes to unfold, the elevated sleeping location can keep you away from the cold ground on cool nights and up where there’s some breeze on hot ones. Many roof top tents also come with canopies for extra shade and even shower blinds.

2021 Ford Raptor - media.ford.com
2021 Ford Raptor - media.ford.com

Storage Systems – These can get pretty elaborate, but at their most basic, storage systems are just a series of boxes and storage lockers that can be bolted on or otherwise secured in the bed of your truck or in the back of your SUV. Some of the most convenient feature bins that slide out from the back of your vehicle for easy access. On the more expensive side you can get systems that include built-in kitchen complete with propane stove and sink.

Off-Road Tires – If you’re going overlanding, you’re going to need the right tires for the job. In addition to food, water, and gas, proper off-road tires are next on the list of overlanding non-negotiables. Make sure to get a fifth tire for your spare.

Emergency Overlanding Gear

First Aid Kit - redcross.org
First Aid Kit - redcross.org

First-Aid Kit and Training – Since you’ll be many miles from the nearest medical treatment facility, you’ll need a well-stocked first-aid kit. On top of that we recommend at least some training in first aid and CPR.

Ample Food and Water – In addition to food for meals, make sure to pack some non-perishable snack items to fuel those long days on the trail. Granola, jerky, nuts, and dried fruit are all great options. Depending on the weather you’ll need anywhere from ¾ to two gallons of water per person per day.

Personal Locator Beacon - cabelas.com
Personal Locator Beacon - cabelas.com

Warm Clothes and Bedding – Remember the deserts of the West still get chilly at night. Make sure to pack accordingly.

Fire Extinguisher – When it comes to fire extinguishers, it’s always best to have one and not need it than need one and not have it. A 2-3lbs. one that is ABC rated is recommended.

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Personal Locator Beacon – In a real wilderness emergency you’ll need to call for help, even if you’re out of cell range. A personal locator beacon can alert authorities if you’re in distress and help them pinpoint your location.

Recovery & Repair Overlanding Gear

Portable tool kit - amazon.com
Portable tool kit - amazon.com

Tools – Even the best maintained vehicle can encounter problems. That’s doubly true when it comes to the taxing conditions of an overlanding trip. This is why it’s important to bring along a set of tools. A set of wrenches and sockets, screw drivers, a hammer, and WD-40 are a good start. You’ll also want a shovel (a small folding one to save space), an ax, safety glasses, and gloves.

Jack – You can take your pick whether you’re comfortable with the factory jack versus something more serious like a hi-lift jack, an exhaust/inflatable jack, or an off-road floor jack. We recommend at least a hi-lift or exhaust jack as the factory jack will prove both challenging and inadequate while a floor jack would probably prove too cumbersome.

Portable air compressor - amazon.com
Portable air compressor - amazon.com

Air compressor – There are lots of portable air compressors on the market. Not only are they highly recommended if you’re going overlanding, but they’re also a smart item to have on hand in your vehicle’s emergency kit regardless of the road you’re taking.

Tire Repair Kit – This should include a deflator, tape, zip ties, epoxy, a tire gauge, and patches.

Traction Mat/Board – Sure, you can try to use a floor mat, but these dedicated traction mats offer you a much better chance of getting unstuck. Highly recommended.

Winch rope kit - amazon.com
Winch rope kit - amazon.com

Tow Rigging – To get unstuck you may need a tow. Make sure to include a tow strap and/or a snatch roap and d-rings (two at least).

Winch – Not every overland rig needs a winch, but for those going it alone, it can be the difference between a day trying to get unstuck in the blazing sun and a day rolling down the trail.

Camping Gear

Trasharoo - overlander.com
Trasharoo - overlander.com

Exterior Trash Bag – It’s often repeated in the overlanding community that what your carry in you should carry out. A large exterior trash bag like the Trasheroo can hang off the back of your spare tire and provide more than enough room for all your refuse.

Portable Loo – Just like your garbage, solid waste should be properly disposed of. A portable loo and wipes and/or toilet paper are a must.

Battery Powered Generator - outdoorex.com
Battery Powered Generator - outdoorex.com

Tailgate Table – A great option for making food prep easy is the tailgate mounted table. Most of these are designed to be mounted on a side hinging rear hatch.

Battery Powered Generator – Not only are these useful for keeping all your stuff charged or as a power source for things like your minifridge or hot water heater, these portable generators can be clutch when you need to charge your vehicle’s dead battery.

Other Important Overlanding Gear

Propane stove - amazon.com
Propane stove - amazon.com
  • At least two ways to start a fire.
  • A propane stove and propane fuel.
  • Collapsible bowls and buckets.
  • Microfiber towels and biodegradable soap.
  • Phone mount for GPS/phone to follow the trails.

Cool Non-Essentials

Portable hot water heater - amazon.com
Portable hot water heater - amazon.com

Window Screens – Like the screen on your porch door, you can find magnetic screens like the one’s made by Skeeter Beater for your vehicle to keep the bugs out.

Portable Hot Water Heater – Yes, they make small portable hot water heaters. There’s nothing like a hot shower after a dusty day on the trails.

Portable Minifridge – The old cooler and bag of ice are a little outmoded for the 21st Century. These portable minifridges can hold up to a week’s food for four people.

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Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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