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How to Start Overlanding With the Vehicle You Already Have

beginner overlanding
Fernando Puente

When it all boils down, overlanding is really just an off-road road trip, exploring places by a dirt road for days or weeks. Sometimes there can be very difficult trails that require specialized 4x4s but most of the time it’s not. Overlanding can get very expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. You may have most of the gear you need to start overlanding in your garage already.

Out in the middle of nowhere and off the grid, you need to be prepared for any bad situation you get yourself into. Some of the best overlanding gear is for camping and cooking but most of it is to fix your truck — or yourself — if something happens. Technically, you could overland without most of this. But when the mud hits the fan, you’re going to be very glad you had it.

DMOS Delta Shovel

DMOS Delta Shovel

A shovel is one of the most basic tools for overlanding. You could just take the spade from your garden shed but a super-strong option that packs down small will ensure you always have something when you get bogged down in mud or snow. The Delta Shovel from DMOS unfolds and extends into a full-size steel shovel that’s so strong you can jump on it on like a pogo stick. The sharp spade and comfortable D-shaped handle will make easy work of hardback, snow, sand or mud. An optional mount lets you lock the Delta onto a tire or roof rack for easy access.


One of the biggest problems while overlanding is getting stuck. If you have no gear to help yourself out then you can hope another person comes by or start walking. Soft dirt, sand, and snow can be like quicksand for a slow-moving truck. MaxTrax are super strong nylon boards with heavy lugs on each side. Instead of putting carpet under your tires for a bit of traction, these stiff traction boards are far better. Shovel out what you can, shove a MaxTrax under the front of each tire, and crawl out of most sticky situations.

Hi-Lift All-Cast Jack

For the situations that MaxTrax and a shovel can’t handle, a jack or winch might be required. High-centering is when the bottom of your truck is stuck on something. A jack can lift your truck off a boulder or lift a corner to fix something. The Hi-Lift jack is a jack on steroids. They come in multiple sizes starting around 42 inches. By throwing in straps and shackles like in the ARB Essentials Recovery Kit, the Hi-Lift turns into a come-along or winch as well.

Craftsman 102-Piece Mixed Tool Set

You never know what you’ll need to fix on the trail so a trusty toolset is invaluable. Something like the Crafstman 102-Piece Mixed Tool Set will have most of what you need for field repairs. Try to find out any specific tools that your truck would need. Spare parts like belts, hoses, and fluids will help get you back on the trail and not stuck in the middle of nowhere.

H3R Performance MX250R Fire Extinguisher

No one wants to use a fire extinguisher on your car but if you’re trapped inside and things are on fire, then you’d better have it close. Having something like the MX250R ABC fire extinguisher within arms reach can put your mind at ease. The ABC-rated extinguisher covers, wood, gasoline, and electric fires.

Yakima LoadWarrior Roof Rack

You need a way to carry all this gear and a roof basket is a good way to do it. The Yakima LoadWarrior is one of the best. The optional extension can increase the length from 44 inches up to 62 inches long. Other racks can mount right to the LoadWarriors crossbars so carrying a bike or kayak along with other gear is no problem.

Cam Can

A very easy problem to diagnose but hard to solve is running out of fuel. A buddy might be able to save your bacon if they’ve got extra fuel but otherwise, you’ll need to cover your own. A simple jerrycan is the easiest solution but they can be hard to pack. The Cam Can mounts anywhere on roof racks or tailgates.

Outer Limit Supply 6000 Series First Aid Kit

You likely won’t run into the mechanic in the middle of nowhere to fix your truck. There aren’t likely any doctors out there either. A solid first aid and trauma kit is definitely a requirement before setting out on any trips. Something like the Outer Limit Supply 6000 Series First Aid Kit will help keep everyone alive and kicking on the trail, or at least until Search and Rescue can get there. Don’t just buy a kit and hope for the best. Take a wilderness first aid course and actually know how to use it.

Maps and Gaia GPS Premium

Maps and Gaia GPS Premium

With all our technology these days, it’s hard not to rely on something with a screen. These can easily break or lose power. Always bring a compass and paper maps and know how to use them.

That said, a GPS like a Garmin Overlander with a big screen is so easy to use and navigate with. Gaia GPS is an app that works on any phone or tablet. The free app gets you top maps and tracking. The premium version gets a ton of different topographic, hiking, and fishing maps and lets you take them all offline.

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Garmin InReach Mini Satellite Messenger

If you need to call home or a doctor quickly, cell service isn’t going to be anywhere close overlanding. Satellite phones work everywhere but they’re expensive. The Garmin inReach Mini is the best in-between for communication with anyone via text or email and connects to your phone for easy typing.

Marmot Tungsten 3P Tent with Footprint

You’ve made it to camp for the night, safe and sound. Rooftop tents like the Tepui Low Pro 3 are awesome investments if you’re going to be outside a lot. However, they can run quite a bit more expensive than just a normal two- or three-person backpacking tent. If you are just getting started, something basic is all you need.

The Marmot Tungsten 3 is a lightweight, completely waterproof tent for backpacking. This means it doesn’t take up a lot of room in your car. Three poles set up quick at the end of a long day and two doors give your smelly tent mate their own access.

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

Headlamps and flashlights are a fact of life when backpacking or overlanding. As much as we try, we can’t see much outside after the sun goes down. All these lights require batteries but who likes carrying spare AAA batteries for everything? The Petzl Actik Core uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack which happens to be the same size as three AAAs. If the Core battery pack dies or stops working, just throw in AAAs. A tiny USB plug at the end of the battery lets you charge your car or any other battery pack.

Yeti Tundra 35 Cooler

Yeti Tundra 35 Cooler

Dehydrated foods are far better than the military rations the industry began with, but they’re still a far cry from a fresh steak. A good cooler lets you bring cold drinks and fresh food on short outings. The Yeti Tundra 35 is a grizzly-proof rotomolded cooler that can tuck inside any vehicle. The Tundra 35 can hold 21 cans of beer with ice. Of course, much larger versions are available, all the way up to the 259-can holding Tundra 350.

MSR Whisperlite International Stove

MSR Whisperlite International Stove

Any kind of hot food feels like a delicacy at the end of a long trip. The last thing you want to find out is you’ve run out of fuel for your stove. The MSR Whisperlite International is a liquid fuel stove. Along with using white gas, it also can burn kerosene or unleaded gasoline. The liquid fuel burns much better in cold temperatures compared to isobutane gas canisters. Throw on some bombproof Alpine 2 stainless steel pots from MSR and you’ve got yourself a gourmet camp kitchen.

Coleman 5-Gallon Water Carrier

Coleman 5 Gallon Water Carrier

Humans can’t go long without water so it’s important to have enough and to have backups. Water-carrying doesn’t have to get fancy though. The Coleman 5-Gallon Water Carrier might be enough to the trick. For more mobile water, the Osprey Duro 15 backpack is actually a small trail running backpack but has a 2.5-liter water bladder inside, perfect for carrying on those side trips or hanging off the back of a truck seat for quick hydration.

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