Whether you travel by adventure bike, 4x4, or SUV – this Overlanding gear checklist is a great way to prepare for what you may encounter on the road.
Overlanding is a complicated beast. It’s astutely defined by our pals at Overland Journal as self-reliant adventure travel to remote destinations where the journey is the primary goal. MotorTrend notes that the characteristics of overlanding often include but are not limited to adventure, survival, and discovery. Add to it that these self-reliant, remote journeys often span a week or more and are subject to the meteorological whims of Mother Nature, and yeah, “complicated beast” is about right.
In this article we’re making overlanding a little less complex, at least in terms of packing and prepping, by sharing five essential items to add to your overlanding gear checklist. These items might save you or someone you encounter a lot of trouble in the wild. Whether you’re getting ready for your first overlanding weekend or you’re mapping a global expedition, don’t pull out of the driveway without these pieces of gear.
5 Essentials for Your Overlanding Emergency Gear Kit
1. Overlanding Communication Device
Communication devices are a crucial piece of equipment for Overlanding.
When communication fails, our calculated plans and idealized expectations for the adventure go with it. Suddenly, it's your pre-departure preparation that will either make or break your journey. Something as simple as a walkie-talkie, a CB Radio, satellite phone, or a beacon is what separates a minor inconvenience from a complete disaster.
Walkie Talkies for Overlanding with a Team / Party
When communicating between rigs, one of the most frequently used tools of communication is a simple walkie-talkie. Whether you're warning your group of upcoming traffic, examining roads en-route, informing others of an obstacle on the route, arguing over directions, notifying others of a stop, or discussing an issue with a vehicle, having a reliable way to communicate without cell service is always a good idea.
A PTT (Push To Talk) such as a walkie-talkie is easy to use for reporting rig-to-rig or to others in the vicinity. Most walkie-talkies use AAA or AA batteries that are universal and easy to find just about anywhere you stop to resupply. There are some drawbacks, however. Namely, the range isn't very far, so walkie-talkies should only be used for quick communications and never in place of an emergency transmitter.
CB Radio for Distance
Want to get as far away from everyone as possible? We don't blame you. There are obvious dangers for Overlanding solo, but in our opinion, the rewards far outweigh the risks. Should the worst happen, communicating with friends, families, or local authorities should be at the top of your list. We’re talking the very top – like before getting gas. Something like a CB radio uses wave signals via land-based towers, and you can get great coverage depending on the type of terrain you are in. Furthermore, with a CB, you are not limited to talking only to the other people in your caravan but other CB users all over the road as well. This could come in handy if you find yourself in need of some assistance when in the range of other CB users because they all have identical transmission power/range potential at 4 watts.
In the end, the goal is to own gear that can help you get help ASAP no matter where you are. CB's are relatively inexpensive, reliable, and relatively easy to install for your overland adventure. Here’s a top CB radio option for overlanders.
There are Two Popular Types of CB's:
A vehicle-mounted CB radio will offer more excellent range due to the use of a vehicle-mounted antenna. In addition, out of all the communication options stated in this blog, this radio provides the most long-lasting power because it's charging by car/vehicle battery.
Need to leave your vehicle? A handheld CB radio will give you the capability to take your communication device with you. Of course, you can still use it in your rig, but if you're heading out on a hike or need to abandon your vehicle for any reason during your journey, you can pop it out of its mount and hit the road. They don't last as long as your mounted CB, but they work with external chargers if you want to extend its battery life.
2. Physical Map and GPS for Overlanding
Proper navigation is necessary whether you’re down a remote forest road or deep in the desert.
For finding your way there and back safely, there's no more sturdy and enduring steersmen than a GPS. And you can't just use any old GPS for Overlanding and off-roading because they usually have a road map already loaded of the country you acquired it in. A handheld GPS device will contain all the critical information about elevation, forest roads, and rivers. You'll want one that features essential information for off-road exploration and that gives you the ability to view maps when you've gone offline.
Why can't you just use your smartphone? You can, but even though we now have the technology to download detailed area maps onto our phones, to rely solely on your phone isn't a safe idea. So, when you get out there, deep in the backcountry, disconnected from your computer, wifi, and cell service - you need to have the maps downloaded onto a device that's made for the roads you're exploring.
Always take a physical map and compass. We can't tell you how many times out on the road that we've lost service, battery, etc., and needed to pull out the trusty map and compass. Have you ever heard of "death by GPS"? Yeah . . . you'll want to learn how to plot a course in case your electronics turn against you.
3. Medical Kit for Overlanding Emergencies
The truth is, getting hurt while Overlanding isn't uncommon. So while it's usually a scrape or cut here or there, it's best to be prepared for the worst.
It's easy to get distracted by all the other exciting equipment we need to bring for a successful overland trip, but the most important things aren't about the vehicle at all. Rather, they’re about you – your know-how, your preparedness, and your safety. So whether you make it yourself or buy a comprehensive medical kit, you need to have one when Overlanding.
So how do you make your overlanding medical kit on your own?
First, research. There is a ton of information specific to the length and type of trip you'll be on, so you can easily find what kit suits you best. Gloves, gauze, butterfly band-aids, alcohol prep pads, regular band-aids, tourniquets, and wraps are an excellent place to start. Check out this article by Expedition Overland for a full rundown of overlanding medical kit supplies to pack. Also, it's recommended that you complete basic First Aid training before you go, if possible.
Overlanding first aid kits
A pre-packed med kit is a great way to start if you're not experienced with medical equipment or you simply prefer convenience. It's super easy to find compact options, with durability for any conditions you might find yourself. If you're hiking through the backcountry or ripping through a new overlanding route, having a comprehensive first aid kit will provide you with the safety and comfort you need.
4. A Heavy-Duty Multi-tool
Overlanding gear has to be both essential (minimizing unnecessary space and weight) and rugged enough for big-truck, big-wilderness kind of problems.
You can pack a tote with a shovel, axe, hammer, knife, and saw. That’s one option. If you’re looking to hit the aforementioned sweet spot of essential and rugged, that’s where the COMBAR™ Pro Titanium comes in. This tool is an overlander’s excalibur. It uses cutting-edge technology to combine the essential functions of a spade, hammer, axe, saw, and knife into one compact and bulletproof tool. This mission-specific gear is designed to solve myriad problems that the road can throw at you. That’s why it’s a must-pack item.
When folded, the COMBAR™ Pro takes up less space than your water bottle. Its compact size makes it easy to strap to your truck, motorbike, ATV, or backpack. This combination of space efficiency and utility lead the pros at Expedition Portal to say, "I have found it useful enough to take a permanent place in my vehicle, performing overlanding duties in spades."
5. Overlanding Go-Bag
If you need to abandon your vehicle or get out quick, you grab your go-bag.
This is the bag you should keep in your vehicle or on your bike in case of an emergency. Having a fully stocked go-bag could be a lifesaver. What’s in it? We have a comprehensive go-bag packing list in a previous article that you can reference.
Our 5 essentials for Overlanding (Summarized)
Overlanding reminds us that life, for better or for worse, is often larger than what we can control. It’s full of disasters, pain, growth, interrupted by interludes of unmatched natural beauty. Overlanding disrupts the illusion that everything is perfect but provides us with a contrast that you can only find when you take a risk and forego the easy road to adventure. It’s a complicated beast, which is why you can never be too prepared when heading off-grid. So make sure your packing checklist includes the five overlanding gear essentials mentioned above.
What other must-pack items do you take overlanding? Let us know your essentials in the comments below, and be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date on everything we have going on at Aclim8.