These Overlanding Tools Make For Happier Trails

Explore vast, remote landscapes in a self-sufficient vehicle, all you need are some skills — and the right tools. Check out this overlanding gear to keep rolling.

Camping in a remote corner of the Arizona desert, WAY off the beaten track; photos by Bryon Dorr

Overlanding is all about unsupported vehicular adventure travel, where the journey is the primary goal. It often times requires crossing international borders and trekking to remote destinations for extended periods of time.

All of these factors play into the gear choices you make and the tools you should have. This overview will help you select key pieces of gear and other necessities for an overland excursion.

Van life is the good life, especially when exploring Alaska.

Overland Vehicle

Your choice of vehicle will greatly affect what you can, can’t, and should bring with you.

Traveling in a huge Unimog with custom composite camper on the back, you won’t need to worry about things like a bed to sleep in or how to keep groceries refrigerated. But you must consider roadway height restrictions, bridge weight restrictions, and safe parking places.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you decide travel by motorcycle, you very much need to figure out where you’re going to lay your head each night and how to transport food. But things like Hi-Lift jacks, winches, or roadway vehicle restrictions will barely cross your mind.

Let’s break it down according to some of the most important aspects of overland travel.

A Place To Lie Down

Keeping your mind and body in peak shape with good rest should be a top priority on your travels. The more acute your senses, the more you’ll be able to avoid danger and appreciate the experience.

A moto, a tent and a trail, can’t ask for much more. Solo camping in Newfoundland.

A few choices for overland sleeping:

RTT: A roof-top-tent is a go-to staple for many overland travelers. It gets you out of the mud, away from the animals, and can offer incredible morning views.

A Car-Top Tent Changed The Way I Camp
A Car-Top Tent Changed The Way I Camp

Rooftop tents, which sit on your car or truck, are part tent camping, part RV camping, and totally awesome. Read more…

Swag: An Australian-style Swag is basically a really spacious, burly, comfortable bivy sack. They come in a wide range of styles, but usually offer up a super comfy mattress, and set up and break down incredibly quickly.

Ground Tent: The traditional ground tent comes in nearly infinite configurations and constructions, but offers up a great versatile place to get out of the elements and stretch out.

Interior Bed: Some vehicles offer up plenty of room inside to have a bed inside. This can be anything from a simple platform in the back of an SUV or pickup, all the way to a luxury mattress in a custom overland camper.

Off-Pavement Necessities

Most overland travelers want to get off the beaten path and explore seldom-visited corners of the planet. In order to do that successfully it is important to have a few pieces of gear that will ensure you get there… and back again.

Sometimes things just don’t go to plan. If you have the tools, knowledge and/or help you can make short work of big issues in remote locations.

Tires: One of the most important aspects of an overland vehicle is where the rubber meets the road. AT, or “all terrain,” tires are the right option to handle a wide variety of terra-firma you might experience on your adventures. Carry a full-size spare, as a donut isn’t going to cut it when you find yourself in the boonies with a flat.

Tools: A proper toolkit and service manual will go a long way in helping you fix issues as they arise. Even if you don’t know how to fix the problem, having the right tools for your specific vehicle will allow someone who is more mechanically inclined to help you get back on the road-less-traveled quickly.

Traction Boards: No matter if you have 2WD or 4WD, a good set of traction boards will go a long way to keeping you moving. They also get you unstuck quickly and efficiently if you do get in too deep.

Maxtrax are the original and best lightweight traction boards out there. They aren’t cheap ($300), but they are sure to pay for themselves many times over, as they continually keep you rolling down the road.

Recovery Strap: You should always carry a kinetic recovery strap in your vehicle. It will not only allow you to get out of tough situations, it can also earn you karma points when you help others out of sticky situations. Be sure that your vehicle has solid recovery points, as they will greatly improve the utility of the strap and minimize damage when doing recoveries. Remember to have a few bow or soft shackles handy to use along with the strap.

Bonus: Here are a few off road recovery items that you might want to consider: tire repair kit, Hi-Lift jack, winch, extra fuel containers, and air compressor.


One key to having a successful overland adventure is to have a general idea of where you are, if not where you’re going. It can be fun to go out and explore, but when you get low on fuel, food, and/or water, it’s necessary to quickly and easily find the resources you need.

A smartphone is an invaluable tool for navigation and so much more.

Google: Google Maps and Google Earth are both amazing free resources for finding your way. These also help discover remote routes and campsites, generally orienting you to new parts of the world. You can use it offline if you plan ahead. This app offers highly detailed maps, jam-packed with useful information. It’s free and designed for offline use. The key is to download the maps you might need before setting off.

GPS Unit: Handheld and vehicle-based GPS units have come a long way. They work great for remote travel because they don’t require cell networks or wifi. Load a handheld unit with topo maps, or you can even use it for hiking and other sports. I like the Garmin Montana.


In today’s modern world the information you need is usually just a few clicks away, but you’ll save a ton of time if you know where to look. The following are a few quality resources for the global overland traveler.

The famous Blue Rag Track in SE Australia’s High Country is worth the effort. A solid resource for all things overland. It’s especially useful for figuring out all the paperwork necessary to travel in various countries around the world. Great online forum that is extremely active, and offers the most up-to-date information on gear and the places you expect to travel.

iOverlander App: Great app that finds places to stay in countries all over the world.


Mainstream media portrayal of danger in foreign travel is often overblown. But it is always important to identify your own risk tolerances and have general safety plans. Things do happen, whether on remote foreign travels or on your daily commute.

International Medevac Insurance: Getting hurt in a remote corner of the world sucks. Paying an insane medevac bill to get the proper care sucks even more. Medevac insurance is pretty inexpensive. If things go bad it will help you get the best medical care available.

Satellite Communication Device: Communication from anywhere in the world is one of the biggest safety advantages technology has given us. Sat phones have come way down in price, but airtime is still quite pricy. I’m a big fan of the Delorme inReach, as it offers two-way communication at an amazing value.

Get Out There And Do It

Sure we could also talk about coolers, fridges, stoves, camp furniture and so much more. But the reality is that you probably already know the basics from your camping experience. Don’t forget to pack a little local currency and get some amazing street food along the way.

Remote beaches in Baja offer up some of the best kiteboarding spots on the planet.

Now get in whatever vehicle you have and go adventure! Overland travel is all about the journey, the people, and the amazing places along the way. The “stuff” is secondary, but helpful. Be prepared, but don’t worry; just go.

Happy travels!

Bryon Dorr

Bryon Dorr caught the outdoor adventure addiction through whitewater kayaking, and worldwide adventures to remote places ensued. He crafted his own professional path as a photographer, journalist, and marketing consultant in the automotive and outdoor industries, while full-time overland traveling for nearly 8 years. You’ll usually find him out exploring by 4x4, adventure motorcycle, or sports car while seeking out opportunities to ski, mountain bike, and kayak. Bryon now has a home base in Portland, OR, and runs our sister site