Overlanding gear checklist

The most important overlanding gear and accessories for your next adventure

Keywords: Overlanding gear, overlanding accessories, overlanding equipment

A key part of overlanding is the idea of self-sufficiency. You should be able to take care of yourself even when things go sideways in the middle of nowhere. That's why it's so important to make sure you have the right overlanding gear before setting off on any major expedition.

Some of these items are things you might consider "VEDC" (vehicle everyday carry), the kinds of things you keep in your glove box or in the back of your vehicle at all times. Other items might be more of an overlanding kit that you grab before heading out to hit the road. I won't try to tell you how you should organize your overlanding gear. That's a personal decision you'll have to make for yourself, since you're the one who'll have to find it when you need it.

If you don't have all these items handy, don't feel like you have to buy everything before you can go out. Overlanding is a generally safe activity, so it's unlikely the disaster will befall you your first few times out. You should think of this as a mental checklist to ask yourself "Will I need this, or can I get by without it for now?" (I probably only have half of these in my kit, but the ones I chose will certainly be different than yours.)

Also, remember you may not be the only person in the vehicle, so be sure to bring along extra items where appropriate.

I put this list together based on a hypothetical scenario where we broke down in the desert at least 20 miles from any cell phone reception and had to spend the night and then walk far enough we could call for help.

Vehicle equipment

If you're planning on vehicle-based exploration, you definitely need to take the right vehicle equipment along on your overland journey. Here are some key recommendations.

  • Toolkit
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire jack
  • Hi-lift jack
  • Tire iron
  • Tire gauge
  • Spare tire
  • Tire repair kit
  • Paper maps
  • Portable air compressor
  • Gas can
  • Compact jump starter
  • Road flares
  • Wheel chock
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Warning signs
  • Tow strap
  • Tire air down tool
  • OBDII Scanner
  • Battery checker
  • Ice scraper
  • Tire chains
  • Traction pads

Survival gear

You never know when you're going to get stuck, or how long you'll have to stay there. Being prepared to take care of yourself no matter what happens will definitely help in an emergency, and will give you peace of mind and confidence along your journey.

  • Sunscreen
  • Fixed knife
  • Paracord
  • Cash & coins
  • Backpack
  • Chapstick w sunscreen
  • Ham radio
  • Matches
  • Orienteering compass
  • Tarp
  • Headlamp
  • Bug spray
  • Hand warmers
  • Shovel
  • Poncho
  • Hatchet
  • Kindling
  • Lantern
  • Flare gun
  • Emergency blankets
  • Fire starter
  • Glow sticks
  • Emergency saw
  • Wilderness survival handbook
  • Pieces of wood/lumber
  • Candles
  • Dust masks
  • Weather radio

General utility equipment

Some things are just plain useful. No matter where you're going or what you're doing, there's a good chance you'll find a Macgyver-esque use for these items.

  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Multi-tool
  • Folding chair
  • Paracord / rope
  • Phone charger
  • Pocket knife
  • Umbrella
  • Backup battery
  • Duct tape
  • Wet wipes
  • Pens
  • Notebook
  • Work gloves
  • Garbage bags
  • Bungees
  • WD-40
  • Paper towels
  • Ziploc bags
  • Wool blanket
  • Sharpie
  • Toilet paper
  • Twine
  • Shears
  • Tape measure
  • Tote bags
  • USB drive
  • Crowbar

Food & drink

  • Water
  • More water
  • Still more water
  • Water filtration device
  • Electrolyte packets
  • Gum
  • Planned meals
  • Cooking supplies
  • Utensils
  • Snacks
  • Bullion cubes
  • Emergency rations

Entertainment

Maybe it's for entertainment around the campfire. Maybe it's to keep you going crazy while you await rescue. Either way, it's smart to keep a few items around for entertainment purposes.

  • Deck of cards
  • Paperback book
  • Journal
  • Rubik's cube
  • Whatever else you like

Clothing

If your clothes get unexpected messy or soaked (which happens more often than you think it might), you'll be glad you packed some extra clothing to keep you warm, dry, and clean.

  • Jeans/pants
  • Shorts
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Shoes
  • T-shirt
  • Jacket
  • Hat

First aid

Beware of store-bought first-aid kits, because they often don't amount to much more than a box full of bandages. Make sure you know what you're getting.

Instead of listing everything here, we'll defer to this excellent First Aid Checklist put together by REI based on a list in the book Medicine for the Outdoors by Dr. Paul S. Auerbach.

Knowledge is the most powerful item in your first-aid kit, so it would be wise to spend some time refreshing yourself on basic first-aid skills and maybe even taking a wilderness first responder course before undertaking any major expedition.

Be prepared!

Over time you'll develop your own overlanding gear checklist, but I hope this helps you get started. Again, you don't necessarily need everything on this list, but you should at least think through it and make sure you have your needs covered. Safe adventuring!

James from Journey West

James from Journey West

James is no stranger to road trips, having grown up in a family prone to making epic cross-country voyages. Despite having lived in Arizona for almost three decades, though, he feels like he's barely seen it. With his interest in overlanding rekindled by the purchase of an 2008 4Runner, he's now setting out to really explore the American West. You can reach him at journeywestco@gmail.com