Off-Road Driving & Overlanding
When venturing off the beaten path on your overland journey, it is important to be prepared. This buying guide is designed to balance budget and quality. You do not need to immediately purchase the "best" of everything, as long as you have the minimum requirements for a safe and fun trip.
The Basics: Driving, Eating, and Sleeping
How much you pack and how involved you get for each category is entirely up to you and depends on your personal circumstances. Are you bringing small children or pets? Do you prefer hotels or camping? Do you cook or eat out? Where are you going?
Sleeping. There are many options for overlanding accommodations if you plan correctly. Hotels/motels, campgrounds, and discreet camping are all viable options. We'll focus mainly on camping in this guide. No matter what you decide, it's important to be prepared for emergencies. In the event of a breakdown or other event that causes you to be caught on the trail later than you planned or even overnight, you should be prepared with some basic gear.
Blankets or warm clothes: We always carry a couple of packable blankets
Link to camping guide
Eating. It may be possible to plan your trip with food stops in mind, eating at restaurants along the way. This might not work for a lot of trips simply because there is nothing around. Even if you plan for mostly restaurant stops, you should be prepared for unexpected issues - taking longer on a trail than planned, change of hours, etc. It's important to pack food and have a way to cook it. Will you be cooking over a fire? If so, do you have a way to make fire? Do you have firewood or know that you can get some where you will be camped? Is it legal to have a fire where you will be? Do you need any utensils, pans, knives, tinfoil? What will you cook? How will you cut it, season it, store it? A fridge or a cooler? Ice, dry ice, found snow? Cooking on a propane stove? A place to set it? Extra fuel canisters? A way to light it?
Here are some basics you should always have available:
Link to food guide
Driving. You definitely need a reliable and maintained vehicle, as well as a plan for breakdowns or unexpected occurrences. Other than that, check out the lists below.
The Bare Minimum
Solid front and rear recovery points – Lots of options here. Stock tow hitch, D-Ring receiver, bolt on tow hooks, etc. Check the weight ratings. Some of the receiver hitch shackles are only rated at 5,000lbs!
Amazon: Warn Receiver Hitch Shackle – $33
Fire extinguisher – Ideally you want a fire extinguisher with an ABC rating. A is for wood, paper, trash. B is for liquids. C is for electrical. In a vehicle you will encounter all three. I recommend not getting one of the these types of canisters. They work ok but they are hard to identify in a high stress, emergency situation, especially if someone else is trying to find it. People look for and easily notice traditional shaped and colored fire extinguishers. Keep in mind that a fire extinguisher in your vehicle will not save a full blown vehicle fire. If the fire is caught quickly enough it can buy time. If enough people are around you and everyone reacts quickly enough, it could save your truck. Remember, get out of the vehicle and make sure everyone is safe before trying to extinguish the fire to save property. Buying this locally usually is the cheapest since they are expensive to ship.
Home Depot: ABC, 2.5Lb – $20
Walmart: BC, 2LB – $20
Amazon: BC, 2.5Lb – $32
First-aid kit – A first aid kit will be used for minor injuries or to hold together major ones until help arrives or you reach a hospital. I don’t see the need for a huge med kit but other people may disagree. I am a big fan of the Adventure Medical kits. They are pretty complete and good quality. Again, you probably want something brightly colored and easily identified as a first aid kit. It might not be you that is looking through your truck trying to find it. Keep it accessible. You don’t need a kit with a stethoscope, airway kits, or other big stuff since you probably aren’t trained to use them anyway. If you are trained, then by all means, bring a full first responder kit. I find that bags are easier to store than hard plastic cases.
Amazon: Adventure Medical Ultralight And Watertight – $15
Basic tool kit – This will be hugely specific based on what you drive and how modified it is. All you need in the truck is something to get you off of the trails. I don’t see the point in keeping a set of $$ Snap-On tools in the truck where they will sit idle 99% of the year. Get a cheap socket set and leave it in the truck.
Socket for lug nuts (and locking key if equipped), breaker bar and small extension if necessary. Test equipment before burying it in the truck. Make sure you can actually take off a wheel with it. Make sure to have a jack to lift the vehicle up.
Screwdriver(s). #2 philips and flathead at the very least.
Common sockets and ratchet. Something like THIS kit. A small kit like this provides a lot of options for just $10 and it is compact and easy to store. Put a small piece of foam or padding on the inside of the lid to prevent rattling while driving.
Duct tape, WD-40, flashlight, zip-ties, side cutting pliers, any allen keys or other specific tools that your aftermarket equipment may require.
Snatch strap – A strap with loops on both ends that stretches. A ton of people use the Walmart $20 yellow straps. They do NOT stretch and they are about 10% as effective as a good strap not to mention being very hard on the vehicles and drivers. A good stretch strap is worth the extra! There is a lot of debate here about sizing. People will always say to go bigger. I do not agree. Get one that is properly sized to your vehicle. A Jeep TJ with a 4″ strap rated for 45,000lbs will not stretch enough to take advantage of the whole purpose of having a stretch strap. Look for a strap that is marked with 20% stretch (the 20% figure can vary, just get one close to that). A 2″ strap is fine for Jeeps and Most vehicles. Keep the strap in good condition, stored neatly, and away from water. Check for damage after and before each use. I have to admit that I buy a LOT of cheap products. Some are good, some are bad, most work just fine for what I need. A strap is something that I do not go cheap on. A 20′ vs a 30′ strap is also debated. They both have their merits. Most of New England is tight trails that might be hard to get 30′ of straight pull. A 20′ can provide more use in this situation. A 30′ strap can also be looped back to reduce it’s length to 15′ (but also reduce it’s stretch by increasing it’s load capacity). I use a 30′ strap.
Amazon: ARB 2 3/8″ x 30′ – $60
Amazon: Keeper 2″ x 30′ – $25
D-Rings, Bow Clevis, Shackle – You need something to hook the strap to. Make sure to get one sized properly for the weight of your vehicle and the hole that you intend to hook it through. Be sure to have two on hand at minimum, one for each end of the strap. It is also a good idea to have a spare in case one gets damaged or lost. Make sure to check the weight ratings.
Amazon: Smittybuilt 3/4″ D-Ring – $15
USCargo: 3/4″ Shackle – $6.99 + Shipping (cheaper than Amazon if you buy multiple. Also good deals on heavier ones.)
Cell phone with charger – Keep a GPS app on the phone and make sure your bill is paid. You are always a phone call away from help. Your cell phone can be loaded with useful apps as well, from Pandora/Spotify radio, first aid apps, off-road apps, or games to keep you entertained while waiting for a rescue. Keep a 12v charger in the vehicle so that you don’t have to worry about the battery dying half way through the day.
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