Expedition Wire focuses on overland travel and vehicle-based adventure. So what on Earth does backpacking gear have to do with adventure vehicles? Plenty.
In the worst-case scenario, a mechanical failure might transform your overland adventure into an impromptu backpacking trek. Or on the lighter, less-ominous side, a lot of backpacking gear is equally at home in the back of a Land Rover as it is in the middle of the Pacific Crest Trail.
And, perhaps the best reason to pick up some backpacking gadgets and gear is there are some amazing places a 4×4 cannot venture.
Here is a list of the backpacking items we approve for overland adventures.
Backpacking meals, the prepackaged variety, are a great way to ensure you always have food in your adventure vehicle. They are also an excellent hedge should you find yourself without ice or a fridge-freezer.
Most taste pretty good, almost all are better than military MRE’s, and every last one surpasses the taste of spoiled food.
We also use backpacking meals like those from Backpacker’s Pantry or Mountain House in our emergency preparedness kit (for earthquakes, wildfires, and storms… not zombies and anarchy-related stuff).
They are kind of expensive, but buying in bulk or in cans online will make the price a little easier to swallow.
We love camping and backpacking gadgets, and one of the best things about overlanding is not having to leave them behind. Bring them along on a vehicle-supported trip to familiarize yourself, and make sure they work, before hitting the trails with a pack and hiking boots.
A Backpacking Stove
Backpacking stoves are also great for getting into overlanding. They’re also great when you’re traveling in a small group (1-3 people). These stoves are affordable, and they take up hardly any room… even in the smallest vehicles. For use in multiple applications we think the MSR Dragonfly is a great option if weight isn’t a primary concern.
A Backpacking Tent
The best backpacking tents often make great overlanding tents. They may not be as roomy as a safari tent or as cool as a roof top tent, but they are much less expensive and have a minimal impact on your vehicle. Plus you can use them while bikepacking, backpacking, kayaking, rafting, etc. You get the idea. They’re versatile. Look for a lightweight tent with enough space to sit up inside. Slightly larger than an ultralight model, but not so large that you’ll regret owning it after lugging it around on a weekend trip. The REI Half Dome is probably the most ubiquitous lightweight tent (just under 5 lbs and $200). But, for a few more dollars and a few less pounds we would lean toward tents from Big Agnes or Nemo.
An Ultralight Tent (or Tarp)
If your adventures involve a bicycle, motorcycle, or minimal weight in your pack an ultralight setup might be the way to go. When it comes to using them in a traditional expedition vehicle like a Land Cruiser or Land Rover they might not be the most comfortable option. However, if you want something small that you can keep stashed in your vehicle at all times; an ultralight tent is hard to beat. Be forewarned, an ultralight backpacking tent comes with a significant cost. They’re small, expensive, and don’t offer as much protection as heavier lightweight tents. If cost is a concern look into tarps and/or hammocks. Our go-to tent is the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL-2 it’s roomy but weighs in at a rather unobtrusive 2 pounds 12 oz. Our preferred hammocks are ENO, and Kelty makes some pretty good tarps.
Utensils, Cups, and Cookware
If you are just getting into overlanding and think you might try other activities like backpacking, bikepacking, sea kayaking, etc. You might want to consider passing on the heavier duty items, like those classic blue enamel cups, in favor of something that works well in a backpack or pannier. Like most pieces of gear price increases drastically as weight drops, but ounces turn into pounds. Pounds turn into pain. For backpacking and bikepacking duty we turn to Snow Peak, but if money is tight turn to plastic. It’s not as light or as strong as Snow Peak’s titanium products, but there are great options constructed from plastic. We use products from GSI Outdoors, and think that they provide a great value.