As is the case with any adventure; there are a number of overland essentials you’ll need before you embark on your first, or next, adventure. Whether you’re exploring local Forest Service roads, motorcycle camping, or racing the Rebelle Rally there are a few things you’ll need before embarking on your first overland adventure. Here are items we believe are truly overland essentials…
We know… safety gear is much less exciting than installing that awesome ARB bumper, Sliders, or offroad lights. But, skipping things like water, a fire extinguisher, or medical supplies is just plain foolish.
The first overland essential we recommend picking up is absolutely necessary for all outdoor adventurers. In fact we recommend keeping one in every vehicle you own as well as one or two in your house. A first aid kit and and a little know how go a long way when something goes wrong.
- Education. Take a first aid class or two, and then take some more. The best medical kit is completely useless if you don’t know how to use it.
- The Red Cross offers basic first aid, CPR, and AED training in countless locations across the country.
- REI provides wilderness medicine courses.
- Among the more comprehensive courses, those offered by the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute and Mountain Rescue Association stand out as leaders in wilderness medicine education.
- First Aid Kit. There are myriad options when it comes to first aid kits. You can assemble your own. Buy something over the counter. Or supplement an over the counter kit with items that suit your needs. Building your own is typically more cost effective, but if you choose to buy a kit make sure it’s a high-quality product. We highly recommend those sold by ITS Tactical . A good thing to add to your kit is a first aid handbook or guide like this one from the MRA.
- Food and Water. Some sources recommend a minimum of two quarts of water – per person per day. Others recommend bringing along at least a gallon per person per day. Either way, the bottom line is, make sure you always have water in your vehicle. It’s not just an overland essential… dehydration will kill you in a relatively short period of time. Beyond having water, make sure you have a method for purifying water should you run out (we like Katadyn’s Hiker Models). While slightly less critical than hydration, food is also very important. Especially when morale is dwindling. Try to keep a snack or two in your vehicle at all times. Look for items that are healthy but are not too sensitive to temperature swings. Clif Bars are a great option, nuts are calorie dense, and dried fruit keeps pretty well. For a quick energy boost, that keeps well in a console, we like energy gels.
- Sleeping Bags, Warm Clothes, and a Rain Jacket.
- Fire Extinguisher. All vehicles should have a fire extinguisher. Make sure it’s greater than 2 pounds and ABC rated (FYI A=[Wood, Trash, Paper] B=[Flammable Liquids] C=[Electrical Equipment]).
Tools and Recovery Gear
Some basic mechanical know how and a few common tool can go a long way when your vehicle is bogged down or broken. We highly recommend purchasing the following overland essentials to get you back in motion.
- Basic Hand Tools. A basic tool kit will get you out of trouble in the majority of situations. The kit you choose depends heavily on your vehicle of choice, available space/capacity, and your skill level. Tool rolls are easy to stow, add very little weight, and they keep your tools nicely organized.
- Air Compressor. A Versatile and necessary addition to your kit. Both quality and price varies greatly, but most are better than nothing. We recommend vehicle mounted or portable ARB compressors.
- Tow Strap and Snatch Strap. A tow strap is pretty self explanatory. It’s great on gravel roads and tarmac. However, if you’re bogged there are few things that work as well as a Snatch Strap. Look for high quality examples though. A cheap snatch strap can be very dangerous. We’re partial to ARB and Bubba Rope snatch straps.
- Safety Glasses.
- Shovel. Bring a shovel along whenever your trip takes you off pavement or when snow is in the forecast. Collapsable models are great for small jobs or when space is limited. However, large shovels are much better once the excavation begins.
- Jumper Cables, Second Battery or a Self Contained Jump Starter.
- Option 1…Factory jack; probably not the best option considering that you’ll be changing the tire on vehicle that is more-than-likely a) off road and b) modified with somewhat larger tires. But, with a little ingenuity they work well and already have a home in your vehicle.
- Option 2… Hi Lift jack. These are classic off road accessories with myriad other uses and an incredible range. They can be a bit dangerous so read the instructions carefully, they are also somewhat difficult to use on a stock vehicle due to the lack of jacking points.
- Option 3… Exhaust jack. Basically a large, durable, balloon that’s inflated using a vehicle’s exhaust or an air compressor. The seem to be a relatively safe option and work well in mud and sand. There are a handful of competitors in this category, but the Bushranger X-Jack is the one that you’ll typically find online or in your local 4×4 store.
- Option 4… Offroad “Floor” Jack. When it comes to safety, speed, and ease of use this type of jack trumps pretty much every other. That’s why it’s the style used by offroad race team in events like the Baja 1000. The downside is that they’re bulky. Even the light weight ones are heavy. And, if you don’t have a ton of space for more gear; this jack is definitely not for you. However, if you’ve ever performed a tire rotation in camp on a truck with 37’s… you’ll quickly wish that you have one of these instead of that OEM spare tire jack.
Spares, Temporary Repairs, and Lashing
You never know how valuable something cheap and simple can be until you’re hours away from civilization. A small fuse, a strip of tape, or a simple tire repair kit might be the key to getting your vehicle back to town.
- Lashing, binding, sealing and taping. Everyone loves Duct Tape for its versatility, but you may also want to include a few other options as well. Hose clamps, cargo straps, zip ties, electrical tape, epoxy, rope and para cord (aka 550 cord) are all great things to bring along on your next adventure.
- Spares. A spare tire in the same size as the other four, fuses, engine oil are the basics. However, what you should include will vary depending on the make/model, vintage, mileage, and mechanical condition of your vehicle.
- Tire Repair Kit. There are a number of similar kits available, but the ARB Speedy Seal Tire Repair Kit is the most ubiquitous.
Navigation & Communication
Learning basic navigation, map reading, and signaling skills are an absolute must. Familiarize yourself with your electronics before leaving home and make sure you always have a physical backup.
- A Map and Magnetic Compass. Don’t rely on electronics alone. Get an actual, physical, touchable, foldable topographical map and learn to use it. The USGS website and National Geographic are excellent resources. Find a quality compass and learn to use it. Baseplate models like those offered by Silva are outstanding. Silva’s baseplate line includes the Ranger and Explorer series, any model in the series is an excellent option.
- Signaling Device. Mirrors, lights and bright colors are excellent ways to get noticed.
- GPS/Smart phone and Spare Batteries/Charger. Are these truly overland essentials? By today’s standards, yes. Just make sure you have a backup you can use when the electronics fail or batteries die.
These are just the basics… in other words, overland essentials. There are many other pieces of gear you can add depending on when and where you’re traveling; or what you may encounter. one last thought…if you’re stuck waiting for a part, fuel, etc. a deck of cards will help pass the time. A Kindle (or similar e-reader) is also a great way to keep yourself entertained without adding too much weight to your vehicle.
More Overlanding Guides, Skills & Resources.
Handheld Radios – Skip the CB, check out our page on choosing the right communication tool.
Basic Gear – Things you’ll want and need beyond the items that will keep you safe and out of trouble.
Camp and Kitchen – Gear to improve meal prep, sleep, and time spent in the overland campsite.
Choosing a Vehicle – Information on popular adventure vehicles