What is Overlanding
If you enjoy the outdoors, you may have heard the term Overlanding thrown around now and then. But what is it, and more importantly, how do you get into it?
The Low Down
Overlanding is what happens when camping, off-roading, and going off-grid get mushed together in a blender to create the ultimate adventure. So in short, badass car camping. The long answer is Overlanding is leaving your home behind, and going out in a vehicle outfitted for potentially long-term travel, generally with a remote destination in mind. It's a journey of self-reliance, determination, exploration, and adventure. Whereas camping and off-roading are focused on the destination and overcoming hardship respectively, Overlanding is about enjoying the ride and experiencing nature in multiple locations. While some of the more dedicated overlanders have fully decked out rigs and go off-grid for months, Overlanding can also be you, your van, and a relaxing weekend trip in the woods.
What Do You Need to Overland?
Gear greatly varies on your budget, space, and needs, but I've put together some necessities you should have on hand and then some extra additions you can throw in your vehicle to make your trip more enjoyable.
Because without these, you're probably putting yourself at risk (unless you're a survival expert. In which case, please continue doing your thing and consider sharing some tips with us!)
While water may seem like something obvious, many people don't plan enough for their whole trip. If you're Overlanding for a weekend, it's easy to throw a couple gallons in a corner and call it good. However, if you're planning a weeks-long excursion, that's a lot of water! One person alone can drink anywhere from one quart to over a gallon daily. And a single gallon of water weighs just over eight pounds, so in addition to the space all that water will need to store, the weight will quickly add up as well. So while it's necessary to carry a few gallons of water in your vehicle, you need to plan how you'll get water for the rest of your trip.
There are two ways you can go about acquiring water on your trip. The first is refilling your jugs whenever you hit civilization, whether passing through or making a dedicated trip. The second is by filtering and purifying water in nature. There are various portable water filters, such as Lifestraws, you can throw in your vehicle and use whenever you find a body of water. No matter how you get your water, plan for your trip so you'll never run out.
Before heading out, you need to know where your food is coming from for the entirety of your trip (whether that be from a lake or a package) and pack emergency rations in addition to anything you plan to eat. It's vital to include emergency food in case you leave your intended meals behind, an emergency occurs, or you didn't bring enough food to cover everyone in the group.
Recommended Emergency Rations
- Canned foods
- Dehydrated meals
- Energy bars
- Granola bars
- Snickers bars (cause you're not you when you’re hungry)
- Trail mix
- Any other shelf-stable foods you’d like
First Aid Kit
While Overlanding is all about exploring the great outdoors, a dream trip can quickly become a nightmare when someone is injured. However, with the right tools, you can clean up minor injuries with no problem and keep seriously wounded patients stable until they can reach the next echelon of care.
- Antiseptic wipes
- Blister strips
- Cold pack
- Hand sanitizer
- Ibuprofen and other over the counter medications
- Iodine (doubles for water purification)
- Liquid skin
- Saline wash
- Triangular bandage
- Triple antibiotic ointment
- Chest seals
- CPR shield
- Emergency pressure bandage
- NPA tubes
- EMT shears
- Space blanket
Sleeping under the stars is breathtaking, especially if you live somewhere with heavy light pollution. However, a storm could blow in faster than a speeding bullet. If you don't have adequate shelter, you'll end up sleeping in your passenger seat (which is not comfortable). If you're sleeping in a tent, ensure you have a rain cover for it. The same goes for a hammock. If you plan on just knocking out in a sleeping bag, still pack a small tent just in case the weather takes a turn.
Whether exploring the desert or frozen tundra, you must insulate yourself from the elements. Keeping a stash of jackets, hats, and other gear will keep you prepared for whatever nature throws at you.
Tools & Gear
This section will have two main focuses - general tools and recovery gear. Both are important for making sure your trip goes smoothly.
General tools are the gear you need to camp effectively while Overlanding.
- Bear spray (works on other predators too)
- Fire equipment - lighter, matches, tinder, etc
- Insect repellent
- Mess kit
- Trash bags
Recovery gear is the stuff that will drag your vehicle out of whatever mess you've gotten it stuck in. Whether that means there's a tree in the way, or you drove yourself into a ditch (it's more common than you'd think). Here's what you'll need:
- Ax or saw
- Tire puncture repair kit
- Recovery boards (for tire traction)
- Recovery strap
- Winch (crucial if alone)
If you're planning on going somewhere remote, you need a communication device that will be able to call for help if your cell signal fails. For example, you can use HAM/GMRS radios or a satellite communicator.
Every vehicle has its own needs. So be sure to know how your car operates and carry the extra fuel and fluids it needs.
This is where we get more into glamping territory. Camp chairs, rooftop tents, camp stoves and fridges, portable batteries, portable showers, or projectors can level up your experience.
Overlanding 101 - What You Need to Know
While going out and buying all the newest and greatest Overlanding isn't necessary, there are some things you need to know before you head out.
Preparation is Key
Before leaving your house, you need to have done your research on the areas you're planning to visit and prepare accordingly. For example, you wouldn't take your winter gear on a jungle safari. Furthermore, you should double-check your supplies before rolling out. Just because you have emergency rations doesn't mean you should put yourself in a position where you need them.
Remember, preparation will keep you safe. Regret won't.
Always Stay Alert
Keep your eyes open and focus on what's ahead. This is especially true while driving the back roads. You don't want to take a turn too quickly and flip your vehicle.
A big part of Overlanding is off-roading. Before tearing through the dirt, do your research and ensure your rig can handle the terrain and whatever obstacles you may come across. Make sure you know each trail's risks and ensure it is within your capabilities.
Staying Safe While Overlanding
If you aren't careful (or your luck sucks), your trip may not be all fun and games.
You never know what will happen, and many natural disasters can occur with little to no warning. Depending on where you're going, you could be at risk for mudslides, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Once again, research the areas you're visiting, learn about possible risks, and take the necessary precautions.
From creepy crawlies to perplexing/perturbing predators, nature is full of life that may pose a threat. For bugs, a good bug spray, keeping your eyes peeled, and closing your tent up tightly should keep you from any unsavory confrontations. For predators and other large animals (like a moose), give them a wide berth and avoid appearing as a threat. Do not approach! As tempting as it is to get a close encounter with a predator, it's a great way to get a one-way ticket to the hospital. If it appears hostile and approaches you, use bear spray! It will work on most animals, including but not limited to bears, cougars, bobcats, moose, elk, goats, and even aggressive dogs.
When you journey to far-off places, you're placing yourself at risk in various ways. For example, if your car breaks down or you get lost, you may want to have a survival kit tucked away.
This point should be obvious, but just in case you need a refresher since it's been 20 years since you took your driver's test, here's how to keep safe while driving!
- Don't drink and drive - this should be obvious, but people still do it
- Don't drive drowsy - it's surprisingly easy to fall asleep while driving (thank heavens for rumble strips). Avoid the risk altogether by pulling over and taking a nap. Your life is more important than making good time
- Keep your eyes on the road - finding out if your team won the championship can wait
- Follow general driving guidelines - they're there for a reason
Tell Someone Where You’re Going
This is especially true if you're Overlanding alone. Tell someone where you're going (even better if they have a full itinerary), how long you'll be gone, and have them call emergency services if you don't check in by a particular time. Then, if you do get stranded or injured, you can count on help arriving. This isn't limited to just Overlanding. It's an excellent practice for any outdoor sport, from hiking to hunting.
Use Your Brain
If something seems like it might be a dumb idea, it probably is! Avoid getting a Darwin award in the future by thinking through your actions. If you truly have to drift across that giant sheet of ice, at least make sure you have a friend on standby just in case of emergency (and another to film it cause whether it works or not, that'll make a cool clip).
Tips & Tricks
- If you can use one item for multiple purposes, pack it! The more space you save, the better
- Organization is key. Not only will you be able to find everything, but every second counts during an emergency
- Leave no trace, and don't be that guy! Litter and trail degradation leads to the trails and campsites you love being shut down
- Know how to use all your equipment before you leave
So long as you're safe and prepared, Overlanding can be a life-changing experience for you and your friends. If you don't already have a quality first aid kit, you should check out the MyFAK, one of our best kits for all your Overland adventures!
Great informative article,
Look forward to doing more research in overlanding!! It can also be applied to highway road trips across country!!
My Medic replied:
Hey George, glad this helped you learn about overlanding!
Please write about Bikepacking /MTBPacking and same for Kayak/Rafting as these are my activities and push the overlanding envelope even further
My Medic replied:
Hey Bill, I’ll add these to my list of topics to write about! Best – Allison