What equipment do you need for your overland trip?
When venturing off the beaten path on your overland journey, it is important to be prepared. Here is a list of recommended overland equipment broken down by importance. This buying guide is designed to be budget oriented while providing quality equipment. You could certainly spend a lot more and there is plenty of better quality equipment out there but I believe everything on this list is worth the price and won’t let you down.
Everyone always asks me what to pack and what to bring. The question is very much up for debate and each person and each trip will have a different load out. There are really only three things you need to worry about.
Once you have those three things, you are ready to go. How much you pack and how involved you get for each category is entirely up to you. Most lists you will find, including the one here, are focused mostly on the last category. This is because it is the most complicated category. We eat and sleep every day so it doesn’t take a whole lot of thought. We don’t often pack up and head out in to the woods unsupported so it is important to think and plan a little more for the driving aspect.
Sleeping is pretty simple. Think about how you will sleep during the night. Will you throw up a tent? If so, you might need a tarp under it. What if it rains? Do you have a rainfly? Will you be warm enough? A good sleeping bag with a sleeping pad or an air mattress and blankets? Will you sleep in the vehicle? Do you fit? Is it comfortable? Will you need a sleeping bag or blankets? A foam mattress or a camping pad? A pillow or balled up sweatshirt? Once you answer the questions and run through your routine in your head, the answers should come easily. Make sure you are comfortable. A poor nights sleep can make a great trip miserable. You will be too tired and worn out to be enthusiastic about stopping for photos. You wont want to hike into the good spots, and in very bad cases, you could find yourself making bad and dangerous decisions because you are too sleep deprived.
Eating is next up. A simple way around the whole eating thing is to plan your trip with food stops in mind. Just stop and eat at restaurants. This might not work for a lot of trips simply because there is nothing around. In those cases, it is 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?
Driving is pretty much listed below. You need some way to navigate; GPS or maps (or both!). You need a reliable and maintained vehicle. Other than that, check out the lists below and figure out what you may need.
Stage 1 Equipment (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.
Winch – Supporting Equipment
All too often we see people out on the trails that have a winch but not the required equipment to operate it. Be prepared to spend some money on making your winch more than a bumper decoration.
Gloves – Leather gloves for holding and running winch line! These don’t have to be expensive or nice gloves. Just make sure they are leather and a decent thickness. Steel cable often develops knicks or strand breaks. You never want to let a steel cable slide through your bare hand! Always use gloves when handling steel cable (not to mention that it is COLD to hold in the winter and often muddy and wet in the summer).
Amazon: CAT basic leather work gloves – $14
Amazon: Insulated – $12
Amazon: Mechanics style gloves – $13
Tree Saver – Necessity! Remember that good recovery strap that you bought above with the fancy 20% stretch? It is not suitable for use with a winch! You need a strap to go around a tree that won’t stretch. This strap serves a couple of purposes. The first is to not damage the tree by spreading the load out. A cable will dig into the tree and damage it. We need to be kind to nature. A properly used tree saver will not damage a tree at all. The second reason is that hooking a winch line back to itself is very bad for the cable. It will kink and bend it and hugely increase the chance of failure. A tree saver is a tree saver. Expensive ones are nice but I can’t really see the point in spending the money on them. A 6′ strap will work in most occasions but a 10′ strap is better for our area. We have a lot of large trees. Make sure you get a tree saver rated for double your winches capacity. This ensures proper strength during the use of a snatch block.
Amazon: 16,500lb, 10′ sling – $16
Amazon: ARB 26,500lb, 10′ strap – $40
Snatch Block – You need to have at least one snatch block with a winch. Two is nice. A snatch block enables you to double your winches pulling power by bringing the winch line back to your vehicle. You can also use the snatch block to change direction of a pull. Get one rated to double your winches capacity. A snatch block with a built in grease port will last longer.
Amazon: Smittybuilt 16,500lb – $30
Winch Line Damper – When pulling cable you need to have a winch line damper in case the winch line snaps when under tension. There are several products made specifically for this but many are low quality and they all serve a single purpose. With limited space and resources you can get away with using a floor mat as a line damper. While not ideal for the job, it will work. The downsides are that it will get muddy and possibly damaged. A winch line damper from a company like ARB is made to handle the task and do so with a quick setup time and minimal effort. It locks onto the line and you don’t have to worry about it. Some cheaper winch line dampers, like Rugged Ridge, are not up to the task of more than a few uses. The material is very thin and the stitching is often unraveling straight out of the box. Do yourself a favor and read the reviews for any winch line damper before purchasing.
Amazon: ARB Winch Damper – $43
Stage 2 Equipment (Essentials)
Hi-Lift Jack– You need a way to lift the vehicle to get a tire off. A stock jack won’t cut it on a lifted vehicle. They barely work on a stock vehicle. Hi-Lift jacks are incredibly useful but also incredibly dangerous. The best thing to have with your Hi-Lift jack is proper training and experience. Watch videos online and use it in the driveway before going on a trip. This is a shopping guide and list so I won’t cover usage here but PLEASE make sure you know how to be safe when using a Hi-Lift. There are many things that common sense isn’t enough for when using one. Make sure to have a properly sized Hi-Lift. A 48″ jack will barely be of any use on a truck with 44″ tires. Keep a Hi-Lift Jack repair kit with it. They are small and cheap insurance in case a pin or spring breaks. Keep the jack lubed and stored properly.
Local Vendor: Hi-Lift Jack – $70-100. The best place to get a Hi-Lift is at a local offroad shop like Archie’s Offroad or Steve’s Jeep Country. Shipping is killer.
Hi-Lift 60″ Cast/Steel Jack – $77
Amazon: Fix It Kit – $23
CB Radio – A CB should almost be mandatory. You need to be able to hear people on the trails and it really changes the entire feel of an event. There are hundreds of options to go with. You need a radio, a coax cable, and an antenna and mount. I’ll suggest the Cobra 75WXST for it’s compact size, good features, and fair price. A Firestik 4′ antenna works well in New England. Get an 18′ cable and 4′ antenna for best results. Get a spring for the antenna mount to prevent damage to the antenna. The Midland 75-822 is also a good option at about $74.
Amazon: Cobra 75WXST – $93
Amazon: 18′ Coax – $8
Amazon: 4′ Firestik Antenna – $21
Amazon: Antenna Spring – $12
Amazon: Stud Mount – $8
Compressor – You need to air down tires for Tread Lightly practices and for performance. After the run is over you need to get air back in those tires. There are lots of compressor setups but a good start is a SuperFlow MV-50. Used by almost everyone at some point, they are a great compressor for the price.
Amazon: SuperFlow MV-50 – $60
Tire Plug Kit – Often times you can repair a hole in a tire in a matter of minutes without even dismounting the tire. It can even be used in an emergency to patch up a sidewall tear to get you off of the trail. Small and inexpensive, there is no reason you should be without a tire plug kit. I’ve had one for years and although I’ve never used it on my wheeling rig, it has had plenty of use on my other vehicles. The cheap ones are very fragile and might not do the job on a tough offroad tire. Get a decent quality kit with metal tools. I like the ones that come in a case because they are easy to store and access, not to mention they are usually a little higher quality than those in a blister pack. I own the kit listed below and at this point it is several years old and has done about 30 plugs for myself, friends, and family. It still works as good as new.
Amazon: Tire Plug Kit – $15
Shovel – Especially for winter wheeling a good shovel is an amazing tool to have. The military surplus tri-fold shovels (entrenching tool) are a good tool but sometimes hard to find for a reasonable price. They fold up into a nice compact package and are heavy duty enough for occasional use offroad. Most shovels of this nature these days are Chinese made and garbage that will bend or break on the first use. Keep an eye out in local surplus stores for the military ones. Gerber makes a nice one but it is a little pricey.
TheKeyToSurvival: Mil Surplus Tri Fold Shovel – $40
Amazon: Gerber E-Tool – $65
Automatic Tire Deflators – Airing down tires by hand takes forever. In the cold it is miserable with the freezing cold air blowing across your wet hands. Save time and energy and free yourself up for talking or reviewing maps before a run.
eBay: Automatic Deflators – $27
eBay: Manual Deflators – $15
Flashlight – If you get trapped in the woods at night you will appreciate having a small flashlight to find firewood, go to the bathroom, or scan for monsters lurking just outside of your vehicle. A flashlight is also helpful for working underneath a vehicle or trying to look into the dark spots in an engine bay. It can also be used to signal other people if you are lost or broken down. A cheap LED flashlight is good on battery life and put out enough light to use. A 50 lumen, LED flashlight will run for about 10-12 hours depending on battery type and put out a good amount of light for around $10. A multi-mode flashlight with different selectable output lumens will provide more versatility but it will come at a cost. Keep in mind that your flashlight can be too bright, just as it can be too dim. You want a flashlight suited for the conditions you will use it. A bright flashlight will wash out your night vision and it will be hard to use for up-close lighting, like cooking or working on something in the dark.
Amazon: LED Multi-mode flashlight – $13
Hand Saw – Hand saws are fantastic for clearing limbs or branches in the trail. They can even be used to cut up smaller downed trees. Most are inexpensive and impressively fast. They fold up small and weigh very little. A hand saw is a great addition to your kit. Some people carry bow saws or chain saws, and although these work well for their intended purpose, I think a folding hand saw is the best match for keeping in a truck. Silky saws are highly recommended, as are Corona and ARS. Some of the cheaper saws will not cut as well and will be prone to bending blades. As with any tool, take some time to read about how to use it and practice a little bit before tossing it in the truck. That practice will pay off when you have to use it in a hurry some day.
Amazon: Silky Saw Pocketboy – $24
Stage 3 Equipment (Prepared)
Chainsaw – Probably best found locally, a chainsaw is a very important addition to the vehicle supply kit. Trees have a tendency to fall down and block trails. A chainsaw can make quick work of clearing a path. I grew up around my step-dad’s tree service and after seeing hundreds of chainsaws coming and going, I would recommend a Stihl. Husqvarna would probably be my second choice these days. Whichever brand you choose, make sure that it will start before packing it in the truck and heading out for a run. With today’s garbage ethanol gas the carbs in any small engine get gummed up quickly when sitting.
Multimeter – I am always amazed at how few of these I see on the trails. Any electrical issue is pretty much a guessing game unless you can put a meter on it. Meters are dirt cheap these days, small, lightweight, and easy to use. There is no excuse not have one in your vehicle tool bag. You don’t need anything fancy for trail use although a backlight and strap make things a lot easier under the truck or twisted up under the dash.
Sears: Craftsman Multimeter – $20
Amazon: Cheap Multimeter – $8
Jumper Cables – Jumper cables are going to be most useful to have in a daily driven vehicle but they can help offroad as well. Usually if you can start your rig in the morning to get to the trail ride, you won’t have a problem during the day. You wouldn’t head out to the trails knowing that you had a failing battery, right? When you head offroad you should always be with another vehicle. Typically it is your alternator that will fail and jumper cables won’t help a lot in that situation. Just swap batteries with the other vehicle until you can get off the trail. I really recommend getting 6 gauge or larger jumper cables. 10 gauge are going to be flimsy and the resistance will be so much that they could be ineffective in a lot of situations. I like using peterson plugs on the truck and having a jumper cable that plugs into it. This limits the usefulness of the cables in some ways but will be effective for jumping to or from your truck. Powerpoles also make it easier to connect to the other vehicle as you don’t have to worry about the other end of the cables flopping around and shorting out.
Harbor Freight: 16ft, 6ga Jumper Cables – $18 + shipping
PowerWerx: Anderson Powerpoles – $10 + Ship
Personal Supporting Equipment
Spare Clothes – There is nothing worse than having wet socks for an entire day. This can be uncomfortable in the summer and downright dangerous in the winter. Always have a spare change of clothes in your vehicle. I personally keep a backpack with a spare set of pants, t-shirt, sweatshirt, two pairs of socks, and a pair of underwear. If I end up having to wade through some water or lie on my back fixing a drive shaft in the snow, I can change my clothes and be warm and happy again. I also always pack more socks than I will need. Having wet feet is a good way to ruin a day, not to mention nasty smelling shoes when you have to sleep in your small, enclosed, vehicle. There have been nights where my shoes have lived on top of the back tire while I slept inside.
Water – Have enough water on you for your trip or have a plan to get more. Spare gallons of water can be used in an emergency to refill a radiator after a coolant hose bursts or used to wash off a cut. It is pretty simple – without water, you can not survive. A longer trip will need more water and it may not be practical to carry it all with you. Have a backup supply and use a sterilizing pen, filter, or some other means to create clean water as you go.
Food – Keep a small stash of snacks in the vehicle. Some protein bars will go a long way in bridging gaps in your meals if situations come up and you are unable to eat your planned meal. Some nuts, dried fruit, trail mix, and other foods of this nature are good to have.
Fire – A way to make fire is important. Also remember the old saying, “One is none, two is one”. Have a backup method available in case the first plan fails or your equipment breaks. The importance of a fire is pretty obvious and it can be used to cook food, warm up, dry out wet clothing, thaw an engine block, keep bugs away, provide light, or signal for help in a worst case scenario. Make sure you have a way to start fire and that you know how to use it. A lighter or small butane torch works well. If you are traveling in an area where there is no material to build a fire with, make sure you have something with you. There are long burning survival candles that you can buy or even a small fire-log can work well for a few minutes of heat.
Wool Blanket – Wool retains it’s R-value even when wet. This means that it will still insulate you and keep you warm in the rain or after an unplanned dip in some water.
Pocket Knife – There are an almost infinite number of uses for a good pocket knife. Cutting cords, ropes, or zipties, opening packages of food, pulling out a splinter, etc, etc. There are tons of knives out there that range from $5 to several hundred. I personally received a SOG Flash knife as a gift about 10 years ago and have been using it ever since. I like to have a half serrated blade and the SOG knife has that option.
Amazon: SOG Flash II – $42