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What Do You Really Need To Start Overlanding?

If you missed my article, "How To Start Overlanding", you might make a note to go back and look it over as it might help fill in some of the blanks. If you already have a good idea of what overlanding is, or aren't interested at all and just want to jump in anyway, then read on for what you will need to get yourself started!


As I mentioned in my article, "How To Start Overlanding", I point out the importance of a vehicle to overlanding. With so many choices, how do you pick the right vehicle to start your overlanding dreams? There is a lot to be considered when picking your vehicle and it all needs to

It needs to not only haul all your gear, yourself, and anyone else along for the ride but above all, it needs to be able to do so without suffering catastrophic failure. We're talking about reliability. There are plenty of picks out there but there are some that are obviously better than others. Nothing is worse than having to hike your way out of wilderness to find a tow because you picked the wrong vehicle. Following reliability, you need something that checks all the boxes. Must haul gear, people, maybe a trailer, can get you where you're going, and whatever else you can think of. Of course, it's hard to know exactly what vehicle you are going to need until you know what gear and equipment it is you are going to carry.

Here are some considerations you should make when looking for your next overlanding vehicle:

  • Reliability

    • Is it prone to failure of common parts? No vehicle is immune to part failures. Common part failures, headlights, fuses, brakes, etc, are easier to replace on the road and don't necessarily need to end a trip prematurely as long as you can find the parts in a store near you.

    • Is it prone to failure of less common parts? This requires a lot more consideration. Some vehicles almost always have parts on store shelves while others might need a special order for almost any part. Chances are, if you see the car on the road all over, there should most likely be parts available all over as well.

    • Can it hold up to "severe duty" for extended periods of time? Back in the day, car, trucks, and SUVs were more or less overbuilt because it wasn't as exact of a science back then and regulations not as restrictive. Nowadays, tighter fuel economy restrictions mean components are just what they need to be, no more. Integral components of the power train (engine and transmission) and drive train (transfer case, differentials, and axles) won't be as overbuilt and could be prone to early failure from severe duty use for extended periods of time.

  • Capability

    • Can it carry people? If you're traveling with family, you can probably seat them all in your vehicle if you want. If you're traveling with friends, chances are they are overlanders too and want to take their own rig. Whatever you view your future needs, make sure you have the seating available!

    • Can it handle loads? With the addition of people, yourself included, you will need to be able to haul the necessary gear for each person as well. This can take up space but most importantly, it adds weight. You won't want to

    • Can it tow a trailer? A trailer is a big investment. It takes up space, adds lots of dead weight to your load, some with a high price, but can also be quite invaluable as well! After getting the right vehicle, you might not be as ready to get the trailer but it could be in your future so consider that in your choice of vehicles.

    • Can it handle well on road as well as off road? Let's face it, vehicles spend the majority of their time on boring old pavement. You probably wouldn't enjoy the handling of an off-road ready rig on the everyday road nor would you prefer a pavement only vehicle in the off-road environment. If you have the time, money, and space, you can set yourself up with the appropriate suspension setups for both otherwise, you might just have to make a few compromises and find a good all around setup that can feel comfortable on the road for long durations as well as hold up on the brutal off-road trails.



This can be broken down into two categories: gear for your own needs, the most basic of which are food, clothing, and shelter, and gear for your vehicle needs, a toolset, spare parts, and recovery equipment to name a few. If you've gone camping before, you probably have your personal needs figured out already so let's focus on the needs of your vehicle as that's what likely brought you here in the first place, am I right?

  • Spares

    • What are the things you will possibly need and want to have? Light bulbs, fuses, backup battery or battery jumper (not just jumper cables unless you have the backup battery) are all things you should consider taking along with you. A blown fuse or dead battery can really spoil the trip when out in the middle of nowhere! Wait... Did we remember extra fuel? Yeah, you might consider bring a jerry can of fuel on the most extended of remote trips. Just in case!

  • Recovery Let me start by saying it here, your needs will vary. Sure, it's incredibly awesome seeing an overlander's rig built out with the 12,000 lb winch, hi-lift jack, and bright orange traction pads, but unless you're going off-road into the really hairy wilderness, all you're doing is carrying a bunch of dead weight. That said, consider these things for when you do get into the rough stuff!

    • Traction Pads Maybe start with traction pads as they can double as a vehicle leveling system when making camp for the night. Traction pads leverage themselves between the vehicle and the ground providing traction to the vehicle and wedging themselves against or into the ground so you can drive out.

    • Hi-lift Jack Traction pads are great but they can't do it all. If you need something more than that, for instance you are high-centered on something, consider a hi-lift jack. Their height will allow for you to easily pick up your vehicle high enough to stack rocks under the wheels so you can free yourself. As a bonus, with chains or cables, you can use your hi-lift jack as a winch, albeit a manual winch. It is a great arm workout as well!

    • Winch You really shouldn't run out and buy the winch first. In most cases, there is something lighter and less expensive that can do the job just as well or even better. However, when all else fails, or you see yourself hanging off the side of a mountain, you should get yourself a winch. They will drain your battery if you aren't careful and require on-going maintenance of the steel cable which is why you shouldn't go pick one up unless you plan to use it regularly. That and the steep cost of the winch and mounting needs.

    • Tow Ropes Yes, I said tow ropes and not tow straps. They may be more expensive but tow ropes will outlast straps many times over. Don't believe me? Check out YouTube as there is plenty of evidence of tow strap failure to be seen and even a few good head to head comparisons of straps to ropes.


What Else?

You're pretty confident in your vehicle, have everything you need to cover your own needs as well as those of your vehicle, so what else could you possibly need? How about communications and navigation? If you are heading out into the wilderness, chances are you won't have cell service. No cell service means no data and no data means, whether you use Google Maps, Apple, or something else, you should have some other form of navigation.

  • Communications You should consider bringing along some form of common use radio like a CB radio or HAM radio. Especially if travelling in a group, radios make it easy to maintain vehicle to vehicle communication without having to wait for a signal and dial the phone. Of course, there is the limiting factor of range with these devices however, you could reach an person in the area who would be able to relay messages or come to your aid should you need it. If you can spare the expense, you could invest in a satellite phone or inReach® enable device. These devices, although trending on the expensive side, do not have the limits of common use radios but come with other limitations as well due to the use of satellites.

  • Navigation Companies like Garmin and Tomtom make handheld, mountable navigation devices that you can load with maps before heading out. These devices rely on these loaded maps rather than pulling from the internet meaning they will work way out in the middle of nowhere as long as you have the battery power. Make sure you pick a device that allows for routing on road as well as off road especially if you intend to head off road on your trips. Of course, there really isn't anything wrong with a good old fashion paper map!


If you were at all concerned about getting started with overlanding and the cost of all the equipment you see on overlander vehicles, my hope is that I've given you enough to think about and not be overwhelmed. Start off small and as your overland trips present with greater challenges, start to scale up on your equipment. You most definitely do not need everything all at once and for that matter, I didn't start with everything all at once. Just focus on finding a trip that suits your skill and equipped status then build up from there!

Happy Trails!

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