Overlanding requires a level of independence, preparation, and knowledge that would make some luxury campers cringe.
While it is a great way to avoid crowds and challenge your backcountry skills, it also means you will need to be able to handle emergencies and other unexpected situations on your own.
That is the primary reason why overland campers carry more rescue, recovery, and emergency medical supplies than your average camper.
It also underscores the need for a rugged vehicle with four-wheel drive and plenty of ground clearance for this type of adventure.
Overlanding is more about the trials and tribulations that occur between campsites than it is about the campsites themselves.
Self-reliance is the ultimate goal, which is why we have compiled this comprehensive list of overlanding gear to help you be ready for anything the road might throw at you.
We hope you find it useful when you are preparing your rig for your next overland journey!
What Is Overlanding?
Overlanding is a method of camping in which the journey is prioritized over the destination.
While it has been popular internationally for years, it is still picking up steam here in the United States.
Typically, overlanding is done in some sort of mechanized vehicle (like a truck camper or motorcycle towing a small camper) and the goal is to be completely self-reliant.
Overland adventures often cross international borders and can last anywhere from a few weeks to multiple years.
How Do You Prepare For Overlanding?
The purpose of this article is, of course, to give you a comprehensive list of the equipment that many overlanders use to be self-reliant in remote locations.
But being truly prepared for extended overland adventures requires more than just going out and buying the right gear.
You need to know how to use your gear and be prepared for the unexpected.
From a medical standpoint, many overland travelers invest in a Wilderness First Responder Course from an accredited entity like the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
This is honestly one of the best investments you could make in being prepared to handle injuries and illnesses when overlanding.
Aside from that, learning how to use your other gear and tinker with your setup for maximum efficiency is largely a matter of practice.
Start with local overland adventures in familiar territory to get your feet wet before attempting extended journeys (especially if you have plans to cross international borders!).
Must-Have Overlanding Gear
If you are preparing for any type of off-road camping trip, check your preparations by using our complete list of overlanding essentials.
Top 10 Must-Have You Really Need to Go Overlanding
The gear that you use when you are doing this type of adventuring has very specific uses. But these are the top 10 selections that every overland camper should have.
While part of the reason folks get into overland travel is to disconnect from the mainstream, keeping some of your precious electronics charged can sometimes be a matter of survival.
Or, it can simply be a matter of keeping your portable speaker charged so you can enjoy your favorite tunes when you post up in a campsite.
Because overlanders often seek more remote journeys, water becomes a highly sought-after commodity.
That’s why it can be a good idea to stock up when you do find a reliable source.
Ultimately, the amount of water you carry will depend on how far off-the-grid you plan to go, for how long you plan to go, and how many people you are traveling with.
As all of these factors increase, you may consider adding more than just a single water storage container to your setup.
In some cases, you may need to filter water from the only source that you can find for miles.
If you aren’t sure how far the next water source will be, you are better off filtering slightly questionable water than having no water at all.
There are many different water filtration systems out there, but we recommend finding one with a relatively large capacity.
This will enable you to filter larger quantities so that you can go longer intervals between fill-ups.
In addition to one of these systems, you may also consider adding iodine tablets to your rig for emergency water filtration.
Because water is such a precious resource when you are doing this type of camping, there is no reason to waste it to put out a fire at the end of the night.
Instead, grab one of these spade shovels and throw some dirt on it. Of course, that is far from the only use you will find for one of these shovels.
From digging your own makeshift fire pit to helping you get your tires unstuck in deep sand, you won’t regret tossing one of these compact overland shovels into your truck.
This kind of adventure travel will often take you on backroads where gas stations become few and far between.
That is why you’ll need to plan your trips meticulously and it is always helpful to have several extra gallons of fuel on hand in case of emergency.
You also never know when unexpected global events can compromise the fuel supply in the area where you are traveling.
Most of us don’t think about it in our daily lives, but gasoline can quickly become scarce if supply lines are unexpectedly compromised.
So one of these spare fuel cans can even be a good idea if you aren’t traveling in super remote locations.
6. Rooftop Tent (or Ground Tent)
Sleeping on the ground, in a truck camper, or on the roof are probably the three most common methods that overlanders use.
The rooftop tent has grown incredibly in popularity in recent years, but it isn’t always the best option if you have a lot of other gear that you need to store on your roof.
In that case, you may have to go with a more traditional ground tent.
But if you do have crossbars that can handle a rooftop tent, you are guaranteed some sweet morning views from your elevated vantage point.
7. Propane Camp Stove (and Propane Bottles)
You may not be into cooking four-course meals when you are doing this type of camping, but hot dogs and dehydrated camping meals can get old quickly.
Plus, cooking healthy and delicious camping meals can be really important to your physical and mental health on extended overland trips.
That’s why we recommend grabbing a propane camp stove with a minimum two burners.
Many people get away with the single-burner stoves as well, but we like the added flexibility and cooking variety that comes with having an extra burner.
Offline navigation is the overlander’s bread and butter. You will need to get used to not having service if you need to look something up in the blink of an eye.
But with a GPS that is equipped with offline maps, you will be able to download the maps for where you are traveling before you lose service.
This will go a long way towards a sense of security and comfort with your route choice when you are exploring remote areas.
Speaking of those remote areas, many of them don’t have a road construction crew coming through every few months to patch every pothole (or re-pave entirely!).
Dirt roads are also the prefereed path of choice for most overlanders, which means you should probably have a four-wheel-drive vehicle with a proper set of offroad tires.
Imagine something breaking down on your vehicle when you are miles away from the nearest place with cellular service.
You better (at the very least) have a basic set of tools on you that you can use to perform your own repairs.
Of course, some things simply can’t be repaired in the field. But there is a lot that you can do.
Overlanding Medical and Emergency Supplies
In many cases, the remote nature of overland exploration means extended rescue times if you get into trouble.
So here are some emergency and medical supplies that will help you handle emergencies until help arrives.
From small cuts and scrapes to major breaks and open wounds, you will need the supplies on hand to patch everything yourself.
I am personally a huge fan of My Medic’s line of first aid kits because they are designed for first responders and are stored in super durable bags with customizable MOLLE straps.
All it takes is an ill-timed spark and the right combination of fuel for an unexpected fire to start.
Overlanders typically don’t have an abundant supply of water to put a fire out, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t want to waste it.
So that’s why many will carry a fire extinguisher with a mounting bracket designed specifically for vehicles.
This one can’t simply be bought on the open market, but if you follow our original suggestion of becoming a Wilderness First Responder, you will also become certified to administer a shot from an Epi-Pen.
From there, you can actually obtain your own pen and keep it in your first aid kit in case of an emergency.
Allergic reactions are no laughing matter when you are several hours away from the nearest medical facility.
Aside from administering a Benadryl, an Epi-Pen is really the best way to save someone from a severe allergic reaction in the backcountry.
This one inspires memories of Tom Hanks’ character from the movie Castaway.
While we sincerely hope that you never have to pull a tooth on an overlanding adventure, doing so can save someone a lot of pain and help to prevent more serious oral hygiene issues if the need becomes dire.
Where I grew up, these were mainly used by backcountry skiers and snowboarders traversing avalanche-prone mountain faces.
In case of an emergency, you can activate the beacon to transmit an emergency distress signal.
In many cases, this signal could be your only means of communicating with the outside world.
6. Bug Out Bag
You can either purchase a fully-stocked bug out bag or create your own. But the idea here is to have something to grab quickly if you need to ditch your vehicle for any reason.
Again, we hope you never have to use it, but overlanding is about being as prepared as possible for anything the journey might throw at you.
You never know when circumstances could prohibit you from cooking a full meal on your camp stove.
In those scenarios, dehydrated meals can be a savior as long as you can boil water.
Honestly, I even dig into my emergency meal supply on particularly rainy evenings sometimes.
Instead of trying to cook on my camp stove in the rain, I can quickly boil water, add it to a dehydrated meal pouch, and then climb into the bed of my truck until the rain subsides.
Overlanding Cooking and Cleaning Essentials
Your camping setup will largely dictate whether or not you’ll need each and every piece of overlanding cooking gear we’ve included on our list.
It’s just the simplest way to start a fire. And when you are overlanding, there is a lot that you need to conserve your energy for.
Working too hard to start a fire when we have modern technology at our disposal is silly.
Plus, igniters on camp stoves and other propane-powered appliances tend to malfunction. So grab yourself a large pack of lighters before your overland trip.
2. Fire Starter
Sick of dealing with wet wood when you desperately need a campfire to warm up or dry your gear out?
Grab a pack of these eco-friendly firestarter bundles to help you get things going in all conditions.
This is hands-down my favorite camp cooking investment. As a solo overlander, I usually just make and enjoy my meals directly out of my cast iron skillet because it means less dishes and helps me save water.
If you are overlanding with a larger group, you might also consider a cast iron skillet set that will give you a little more cooking flexibility.
You might already have the utensils you need to cook when you are camping.
But are they compact and durable enough to handle the open road? If you’re not sure about that, this kit comes with everything you need to cook complete meals in the backcountry.
Cleaning up after meals without one of these basins usually means you end up with a mud puddle in the middle of your camp.
So that’s why I put my basin under my water container for a mud-free dishwashing experience.
The added benefit of these basins is that you can capture your water and repurpose it.
Even if you just wind up dumping your dirty dish water on the fire at the end of the night, it is better than using fresh water or risking the dangers of improper fire management.
Simple and, yet, highly effective. From washing dishes to scrubbing down other outdoor recreation gear, a multi-pack of sponges won’t go to waste in your overland camping arsenal.
Let’s do our part to minimize our impact on the environment while we are driving all over its beautiful, varied terrain.
We know that there’s often nowhere to put dirty dishwater after meals than on the ground or in the shrubs.
So grab some biodegradeable soap to minimize your impact on the places you dump that dirty water.
8. Pan Scraper
Better yet, save that much-needed water by using a scraper to clean off most of the food residue after your meals (we won’t judge you if you lick your plate and utensils clean either!).
These scrapers are also great for cleaning cast iron cookware instead of wearing out your sponges.
If you have all the utensils to cook healthy and hearty camping meals, you will also need the utensils to enjoy them when you are finished cooking.
If you are a solo traveler, you might enjoy a single, multi-purpose utensil like this one from Morsel. Otherwise, check out the full kit for multiple people.
10. Camp Spice Kit
There is no reason that cooking in camp should result in bland meals. But we know you probably don’t have the space in your rig for a full spice rack.
So go ahead and grab a spice kit that is specifically made for camping.
Overlanding Storage Solutions
Staying organized is critical when you are traveling in a smaller vehicle for extended periods.
So these storage supplies will help you avoid clutter and maximize the use of space in your rig.
Also, keep in mind that you have complete freedom over how you organize your overland rig.
Therefore, some of these storage options may make more sense for your specific vehicle than others.
If you have a lot of extra gear that needs to be kept in a watertight area (but you don’t have space inside your vehicle) check out one of these rooftop cargo carriers.
They come in many shapes and sizes and can sometimes be compatible with other roof-mounted accessories.
2. Roof Basket
If you already have waterproof totes or the gear you want to store on top of your vehicle can be exposed to the elements, a roof basket might make more sense for your setup.
Again, there are many sizes and shapes available, but you will definitely need to check crossbar compatibility for this accessory.
It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you want to carry, a hitch-mounted rack is the best way to do it.
This allows you to transport multiple bikes without increasing the height of your vehicle (think about those unexpected low bridges on your route).
If you have a truck, the best choice for overlanding is a swing-away rack that you won’t bash your shins into (or have to remove completely) every time you want to go into your truck bed.
If you don’t have a bike (or you choose that rack-mounted bike trays are your preferred method of transport), mounting a cargo tray in your vehicle’s hitch will give you added storage space and it will also keep the bed of your truck less cluttered if you sleep back there.
For a superior truck bed storage solution, check out the options from DECKED.
Their best solutions create drawers in your truck bed with a sleeping platform on top.
Plus, many of them can be locked to provide more secure gear storage when you are traveling in unfamiliar locations.
If you have the budget to seriously consider a drawer system from DECKED, don’t jump for one until you at least check out what BEDSLIDE has going on.
Their slides mount in the back of your truck and completely pull out for way easier access to all of your gear and some pretty cool overland cooking setup customization options.
Overlanders tend to put themselves in some pretty harsh environments sometimes.
When there isn’t a tree in sight, you will be glad you can open the awning on the side of your roof rack and enjoy some much-needed shade.
8. Camp Shower
The best portable camping showers for overlanding are arguably those that permanently attach to your roof rack.
That way, the sun can heat the water while you are meandering down that rocky road.
But there are lots of options out there and a model with a built-in heater might make more sense for traveling in colder regions.
Getting to your destinations safely is sometimes the hardest thing about overland travel. From high-tech to traditional, check out these overlanding navigation essentials.
1. Paper Maps
Paper maps are the tried and true method of backcountry navigation.
Paired with a compass (more on that later), paper maps are way more reliable than even the best electronic navigation devices out there. You’ll just need to be sure that your maps are up-to-date!
2. Road Atlas
A road atlas is just a more compiled version of the paper maps idea.
Getting an updated version is also important in this realm, but they are available on a country-by-country or even regional basis.
Plus, you will be able to mark your route as you go for reminiscing later on.
Get one that’s waterproof and can handle a beating. Also, if you aren’t familiar with the basic skills of orienteering (moss doesn’t always grow only on the north side of trees), we suggest taking an orienteering course or doing some studying online.
4. Phone Apps with Offline Maps
There are a variety of phone apps out there these days that will allow you to download maps for offline use.
Many satellite communicators these days also double as handheld GPS units.
So you may be able to get away with using one of these instead of a more traditional GPS unit.
The major factor here, however, is that you can make an emergency call if your regular cellphone doesn’t have service.
Two-way radios are also a great way to communicate when you are overlanding. They are especially useful when traveling in groups.
Instead of having to stop, get out, and walk back down the road to discuss your route strategy, you can simply pick up your radio and have fun with your partner’s call sign.
These radios are also a great way to tune into emergency alerts and up-to-date weather information when your other devices don’t have a connection.
I personally prefer to do most of my driving during the daylight, but that isn’t always possible.
When you are approaching a remote campsite in the dark, one of these light bars will provide the extra illumination you need to feel comfortable with your route choice and avoid unseen hazards.
Best Overland Recovery Gear and Devices
Getting stuck is almost a rite of passage when you are new to overland adventures. But these gear selections will help you recover your vehicle and get back on the road.
From deep sand to soft snow, you will be hard-pressed to find a scenario in which recovery boards won’t help you out.
These boards can be placed in front of or behind your tires to provide extra traction when you are stuck spinning your wheels.
You very well may end up helping others with your winch more than you wind up pulling yourself out of a hairy situation.
But when you are traveling in an overlanding group, it is really reassuring to know that someone has a winch in case you really get stuck.
Just make sure that the winch you choose is rated for the weight of your vehicle (plus all of the gear you load into it!).
Even the best winches don’t work all that well if you don’t have chains or straps and the right shackles to secure them.
That’s why a quality winch accessory kit should always be stored in your rig when and if you need to recover your vehicle or someone else’s.
Driving on sandy beaches, for example, is one scenario in which letting some of the air out of your tires can be very helpful.
It will allow each tire to cover a larger surface area and minimize your risk of getting stuck.
Once you let the air out of your tires, however, you will need a way to replace it without having to drive for miles to the closest gas station.
That’s why many overland adventurers will store a high-output air compressor in their rig.
And the added bonus is that compressed air can be great for blowing dust and dirt out of truck beds, tents, and other camping gear.
6. Hi-Lift Jack
You may only use it in the most demanding of vehicle recovery situations, but you’ll definitely be glad you have it when those moments arise.
The best models out there can be used for everything from a simple tire change to a really technical winch setup.
I’ve heard stories of overlanders having to cut back large sections of overgrown roadway in order to continue their journey.
Even if you only use it to split firewood in camp, however, a quality steel hatchet is a worth inclusion on this list.
Overlanding Sleeping Essentials
No matter how much you love driving and exploring, eventually you will probably need to pull over for a little rest.
So it pays to pack a few lightweight sleeping essentials in your overland rig.
1. Sleeping Pad
Inflatable sleeping pads seem like a good idea up front. Actually, they are the most compact option when it comes to the amount of storage space they require.
But they do come with the risk of popping or slowly leaking throughout the night. That’s why many overlanders actually opt for a fold-up foam pad instead.
2. Sleeping Bag
The best sleeping bags for overland camping should be compact but rated to handle the coldest temperatures you will encounter.
That means that you may be a little hot when you are using it during the summer months, so you may also consider investing in a sleeping bag liner.
You have to have a place to rest your head at the end of the night. And going with an inflatable pillow will save you space so that you have plenty of room for the rest of your overlanding gear!
If I’m being completely honest, overland camping isn’t for everyone. It definitely isn’t as easy and luxurious as any modern glamping accommodations.
It can also require a little more patience and a lot more preparation than camping in one of the best class B RVs for full-time living.
That said, if you truly believe that the journey is more important than the destination, there is so much to experience out there.
And overlanding can open your eyes to personal insights and a level of independence that you just can’t get with other forms of camping.
Whether your overland journey is going to last multiple years or just a few weeks, self-reliance is the goal.
So we hope that this comprehensive list of overlanding gear will help you stock up for your next adventure!