There is nothing quite like heading out in a 4x4 on a trip that's more about the journey than the destination. Days are spent wandering through remote backcountry, while nights pass camping under the stars.
Overlanding also requires participants to be independent and self-reliant while in the field, which starts with having a . But you need a lot more than a great 4x4. Overlanders generally set out with a host of other gear designed to keep them safe and comfortable while exploring far off the grid.
Part of the joy of an overlanding journey is leaving cell phones, email, text, and instant messaging behind, especially because most good trips take you to places where there is no cell coverage or internet services anyway. This can be problematic should an emergency arise. Some people prefer to carry a satellite phone with them, but sat phones can be expensive and often require a monthly service plan too—not an ideal solution for those of us who use one on rare occasions.
A is a worthy alternative. This small device allows friends and family back home to follow your progress on an online map and see where you are at any given time. It also gives you the ability to send pre-selected text messages and, if things get really bad, even call for assistance by pushing an "SOS" button. The device costs just $149 and service plans start at $50/year.
While it is tough to beat good old-fashioned maps for finding your way around in the wilderness, they aren't always easy to come by these days, nor are they updated as often as we'd like. That's why a dedicated GPS system is a recommended piece of gear for any overlander, and the is a model made specifically with off-roaders in mind. The device features a 7-inch touchscreen, ruggedized construction, multiple methods for mounting in your vehicle, and an extensive database of off-road trails. The GPS device even has access to crowdsourced tracks downloaded from the Internet, giving you the ability to share your own routes and view those other people have used. That's a lot of features for $650.
Since overlanders typically camp out most nights, a good shelter is a must. The best tents for this are rooftop models, which are designed to connect to the top of a vehicle. They are usually very comfortable and spacious, easy to set up and take down, and have built-in mattresses too. Additionally, many campers appreciate the sense of safety and security they get by sleeping off the ground. makes some of the best rooftop shelters built specifically for overlanding, with prices varying based on size and type of vehicle.
For backpackers, weight is all-important; you don't want to carry anything you don't need. But it's less of a concern for overlanders who are hauling everything by vehicle, and carrying a more full-featured stove allows them to enjoy better meals while on their adventures. , for instance, gives backcountry gourmets the ability to link multiple stoves and power them from a single canister of fuel. This makes it easy to prepare complete meals with a variety of courses. The stoves are capable of putting out as much as 20,000 BTUs of power, have a push-button ignition system for easy starting, heat up quickly, burn fuel efficiently, and are built to survive in rugged environments. The Spire camp stoves come in two models: the standard version for $100, and the upgraded LX edition, which offers more precision temperature control, for $150.
While it's easy to carry large jugs of potable water with you on an overland expedition, it is not unusual to use up all that water more quickly than you think. That's why you'll need a method of purifying more water while still in the field, and is a great option for accomplishing that task. Not only is the Guardian fast—filtering up to 2.5 liters per minute—it is also capable of removing 99.99 percent of all harmful elements found in water, including bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. The Guardian will even filter out particulates such as sediment and silt, making the water look and taste better as result. This is the only portable filtration system that is self-cleaning, too. It's a bargain at $350.
Portable electric generators let you bring a considerable amount of power into the backcountry. This is especially handy for recharging electronic devices, powering camp lighting systems, or even running a portable refrigerator, all without creating any noise or giving off noxious fumes. The from EnerPlex is idea for these kinds of expeditions because it offers 1231 watt-hours of juice, comes with a variety of outlets built right in, and weighs just 42 pounds, about half the weight of the competition. On top of that, the device can be recharged using , which has been built for use in the field as well. Portable power doesn't come cheap though. The Generatr will set you back $1400, while the solar panel is an additional $400.
Traveling by 4x4 does afford overlanders some luxuries they wouldn't have on a backcountry trip, but it is still important to keep all of your gear well organized and easy to access at all times. To help with this, Tepui also makes a line of . These packs, which come in a variety of sizes, are both tough and versatile We're especially fond of the , which offers 120 liters ($180) of storage in a water-, heat-, and abrasion-resistant bag that comes equipped with a set of wheels to help make moving it about a breeze, even when fully loaded.
There aren't many gas stations in the remote areas overlanders like to frequent, so it is usually necessary to bring extra fuel along with you. Jerry cans are the preferred method for safely and securely carrying gasoline, but they aren't all created equal. A company called makes the best Jerry cans on the market, with models that are EPA and CARB-approved. The 20-liter version costs $80 and includes three handles, a spill-proof pouring system that makes it a breeze to refuel your vehicle and get back on the trail as quickly as possible. Don't expect great gas mileage while driving off-road, so be sure to bring enough fuel to see you through the entire trip, a little extra to spare.
Lets face it: Traveling in the backcountry brings some inherent dangers along with it, and it is not unusual for someone to take ill or injure themselves while on an expedition. It's important to always carry a fully stocked first aid kit, as you may find yourself treating more wounds, both big and small, than you first imagined.
Not just any old first aid kit will do. The is a bit pricey at $555, but it comes with just about everything you need to treat common ailments and injuries, as well as handle the first six hours of a major medical emergency. It is compact enough to fit in a backpack, and can even be safely taken on a plane when traveling.
One of the best tools you can take with you on an overland trip is a shovel. Perfect for everything from excavating tires, extinguishing campfires, and digging a hole for the latrine, you'll find a surprising number of uses for these tools. Of course, you'll want one that is lightweight and easy to stow, but is still plenty durable and functional too. shovel not only meets that description quite nicely, but also comes with a pick and serrated blade, bringing extra features that overlanders can appreciate. The shovel folds down to just 9.25 inches in length when closed, weighs a mere 37 ounces, and is made of tough forged steel. Priced at $118, it just might be the most important item you bring with you into the backcountry.