Home Boot Camp Top 14 Essential Overland Gear List
Top 14 Essential Overland Gear List

Top 14 Essential Overland Gear List


Written by Graeme Bell
Photos by Luisa Bell

Your grandfather probably used to travel overland. He had a pick-up truck, a military surplus tent, table, chair and water bottles, a pile of wood and a few six packs. He threw your mom or dad in the passenger seat, a good dog, a few fishing rods and his simple, robust gear in the back and headed out to explore. Maybe he drove down to Baja, maybe he explored Nevada, or Arizona, or the Appalachian mountains or maybe he was Australian and explored the outback, or maybe he was like my Grandad who fought tyranny in North Africa and grew to love and respect the desert. The old timers did a lot with little and we can learn from them.

What is essential for one may not be essential for all. We each have our own style of travel and specific needs. You might have to accommodate children or pets or both. You may seek adventure on technical 4×4 trails, or might be equally happy driving simple trails through national parks or across continents. Ultimately, overlanding as vehicle dependant travel opens the world to us and our gear reflects our style. But, we could probably agree that much of the following gear is essential. And Remember – Often less is more, and gear which performs multiple tasks is best.

#1 - A Competent Vehicle

Well, that’s kinda obvious. The vehicle itself should reflect your needs and style of travel. Invest in the vehicle which makes you smile and gets you where you want to go. A base vehicle should be equipped with a set of tires and suspension suited to the terrain you intend to travel, arrangements for sleeping (RTT, ground tent, in vehicle) and the ability to store supplies and relevant gear as suggested below.

#2 - First Aid Kit

We hardly ever touch our medical bag and the most common ailments we have are cuts, bruises and insect bites. In fact we have two first aid kits – one which contains every day product such as band aids, headache pills, sun block, insect repellent, anti bacterial cream and hand sanitizer. The other kit contains bandages, a neck brace, malaria treatment, sterile needles, super glue and an Epi-Pen. Both kits are kept close at hand.

#3 - Fire Extinguisher & Fire Blanket

Like the medical kits, you hope to never use these but simply cannot leave home without them.

When building the camper interior we chose a Snomaster fridge

#4 - A Fridge or Cooler Box

We have used Engel and Waeco fridges in the past, actually we had both installed in the vehicle at the same time, but have replaced both with one large, modern Snomaster fridge. As a hungry family of four we need a lot of food, we enjoy meat on the grill, a cold beverage and French cheese. For weekends away a Yeti cooler is as good as a fridge and requires no power to run. Of course, your dad and grandad used to travel with just an old cooler and a thermos, those were the good old days but, I promise, they would have travelled with a fridge if they could.

#5 - Tools

A decent compact tool kit and a workshop manual in the right hands can solve most common mechanical issues. Of course maintenance is better than repair but when your wheel bearings fail on a trail or isolated road you want to be able to get yourself running again. A socket set, set of spanners, decent hammer, crow bar and special tools specific to your vehicle are indispensable.

Tools are heavy though, so choose carefully when packing your overland tool box (this is another article on it’s own). Never leave home without a roll of duct tape and a bottle jack. Bogert Manufacturing provides some excellent bottle jacks and accessories.

Essentail Overland Gear
Better to carry vehicle specific tools than have to improvise on the road - Bolivia
Essential Overland Gear
Injector seal replacement, in camp - Turkey

#6 - Spare Parts

Which mechanical failures could stop your vehicle dead in its tracks? A basic spares box should contain fan belts, relays, fuses, a set of wheel bearings, a fuel pump and various lubricants. We have an ECU in our Defender and with ECU’s come sensors and we have to carry spares. Service parts such as air, fuel and oil filters are essential for even short journeys.

Unfortunately, the spare part you often need is the one part you are not carrying but the world has changed; you can get almost anything delivered almost anywhere. A breakdown is also an opportunity for adventure, it all depends on your mindset.

And please, use only the best spare parts which you can afford as a faulty or poorly manufactured spare part is the definition of false economy. We use only Bearmach spare parts for our Defender and they have never let us down. (Full disclosure, we are Bearmach brand ambassadors and they have helped us out with critical spares in South America, the USA, the UK, Turkey and Morocco.)

Essential Overland Gear
The 33's chewed wheel bearings until I replaced all the bearings with Timken

#7 - Recovery Gear

Jumper cables, a shovel and a tow strap are the basics. For the 4×4 guys a kinetic strap, a 9000lb winch and recovery points on the vehicle are essential. Also, a good set of sand ladders can be incredibly useful, we have stainless steel sand ladders which double as a drop down table. (But I will admit I have a crush on a pair of black or orange MaxTrax.)

A high lift jack is controversial, loved by some and hated by others. An air compressor is incredibly useful if you intend to take on the rough stuff and when not pumping up tires (or an air mattress {hate those!}) you can use the air to clean camera lenses or to encourage a stubborn campfire.

#8 - Extra Fuel and Water Tanks

Get out there, survive, thrive and return. Running out of fuel and water can under certain circumstances be worse than running out of food. But, practice restraint – we have a German friend who installed extra fuel tanks with a capacity of 150 gallons and no, he was not overlanding on Mars. An extra 20 gallons is usually sufficient and a couple of jerry cans can give you extra range and peace of mind.  

Essential Overland Gear
Filling the Lifesaver jerrycan from a mountain stream, Morocco

#9 - Table and Chairs

Well, chairs mostly. A table is useful but not essential; the tailgate of your pick up is a great place to prepare food. In Morocco we invested in a large ground mat which is practical in the desert or on the beach and as we will be driving through West Africa we intend to spend a lot of time living on sand. We sit crossed leg like the Bedouin and relax under the stars while grilling goat and a few sweet potatoes.

And buy the best chair you can afford! As a large creature, I break camping chairs and went through a good few before I got my paws on an Oztent chair which can support 300 lbs and has lasted four years.

Essential Overland Gear
Melvill and Moon chair, Kermit Chair table and three amigos

#10 - Ten Pairs of Underpants and Comfortable Bedding

Laundry is a nuisance. A pair of shorts or trousers can be worn for a week as long as you have a clean pair of underpants daily. Yeah, your clothing won’t smell great but usually the only people smelling you are your passengers and they smell as bad as you do. Keep your clothing to a minimum and pack some cold weather gear in case you are hit by inclement weather. Comfortable bedding makes those long nights a pleasure. We use down duvets.

#11 - A BBQ and Gas Stove

The BBQ should be large enough to cook a meal for you and your crew; a stand alone, off the ground BBQ will allow you to make a small campfire almost anywhere and doubles as a fire pit. Sometimes we make a ground fire and shovel the coals into the BBQ for cooking.

A gas stove is the day to day cooker, for making the morning breakfast, tea and coffee and the night time stew. Buy the cooker before you choose the pots and pans and be sure that they fit each other. A Coleman cooker is legendary but fiddly to light and the emissions are potentially fatal if the cooker is used in doors.

Essential Overland Gear
Coleman stove, after many years we chose to revert to a standard gas fueled cooker

#12 - Outdoor Tools

A shovel is essential. A Leatherman is indispensable. A good axe and a bow saw can provide all the fire wood you need and a machete is great for chopping branches, clearing overgrown trails and defending against threats real or imagined. (Yes, I know many Americans travel with at least a 9mm. We would if we could, but have never needed to be armed with a gun.) 

#13 - GPS and Navigation Apps

Grandad used a paper map which he bought from the gas station, but grandad also told great stories of getting lost up in the mountains after he “misplaced” his map and had to survive on trout and peanut butter for a week. I prefer old school paper maps to a temperamental GPS but there is no good reason why you can’t have both, plus navigation apps help you to find those trails, campsites, back-roads, secret spots and short cuts.

Essential Overland Gear
On the road we rely on Navigation apps and have not used a GPS since 2013

#14 - Water Filters and Solar Panels

Essential Overland Gear
Sunset BBQ, Oregon, USA

Self sufficiency is the goal. Generating your own electricity will give you the freedom to roam further afield and keep the fridge cool. Pro tip: turn the fridge off every night before you go to sleep. The insulation will keep the fridge cool and you will save battery power. We love being able to filter water from streams and rivers. Staying hydrated is absolutely essential while out and about.

Honorable Mentions

Power adapters for international travel, podcasts for the long driving days, wet wipes for obvious reasons, sun block, a good hat, a willing partner, a shemagh (to stay warm and dampened to keep you cool), a flask for tea and coffee, a broad necked one litre pee bottle, a Tetford toilet, a good book and a simple, lightweight awning.

And Last But Not Least...

A Good Sense of Humor and a Spirit of AdventureThe correct mind set is everything, and it is free. Overlanding is supposed to be challenging but fun. Don’t take it too seriously, but be serious about your journey.

I am sure many of you will have a few items to add to the list. Please comment below! Learning from others is an important part of the process and I can only speak from our experience.

Corrie Co-Founder, Marketing and Editor @ Overland Bound. Often found behind the camera, keyboard or steering wheel. (But not all at once.)


  1. Always keep in mind how much weight we put on our rigs. I know we would like to have all amenities that we have at home but remember not to have all of them is part of over landing and adventure. 17420

  2. It’s nice to read an article that doesn’t espouse the latest and most expensive item possible. They obviously realize that sometime the simplest is the best. We’ve been using our simple Coleman stove for many years (We always use it outdoors) and couldn’t be happier…

  3. You left out “communication equipment”. Fortunately, for those of us who are Ham Radio operators, this is a common item. For those who aren’t, then a satellite phone is and investment and worth the peace of mind. If you’re out “in-the-middle-of-nowhere” often, then taking the time to obtain a Ham Radio license is worth the effort. However, as with any “emergency communications mode”, using ham radio equipment during a bona fide emergency isn’t illegal, but may be frowned upon. Stay safe.

  4. I guess it depends on where you are overlanding. In North America I’d have a much different list. I never carry spare parts, except a tire, or fuel. I plan my excursions within the range of my vehicle, and in 45 years I have only had 1 break down, an alternator failed but I drove over 100 miles before the battery died. On the vehicle break down thing, I carry a VISA Card and I have AAA Membership.

    So number 1, yes a reliable vehicle with adequate range. Always well maintained.

    Number 2 for me is REFRIGERATION. I hate stocking, restocking ice so I have a 12V Cooltron Cooler, $10.00 in a garage sale. It holds 42 degrees forever.

    Number 3, FOOD. Instant where possible. I’m not a cook and hate kitchens so most of my food is cold. Meats, Breads, Cheeze. Yogurt & Granola. Mac&Cheese, Beans. And a fresh salad every time I pass a grocery store. Some beer, mix, whiskey, OF, Milk. …….. 2L of Water.

    Number 4, …. My “stove” is a JetBoil Flash. Thats it. No guests for dinner. I hate cooking.

    Number 5, Tools, just the basics. 3/8 Socket Set & Wrenches. A selection of screwdrivers. A few Pliers, a Vise Grips, a Prybar, Body Hammer. Tree Pruners and a Saw. Since my Trailer is wooden, I carry some Deck Screws, a 12V Drill/Driver and a Saw. Plus a few Ratchet Straps. I pack tools which will help after hitting a deer or ??, not parts which might never be needed. And my Jeep has a winch plus all the required recovery gear.

    Number 6, A tiny First Aid Kit, Bandaids, Surgical Tape, Tweezers, Scissors. I include Toiletries with this, Soap, Clean Cloth, Towel. AND include my Cell Phone here. I never carry it, it rides in the glove box and is only for emergencies, Just like the VISA and AAA.

    Number 7, Maps. I only use paper, no GPS or any other E-Devices. Pen & Paper, Some reading material.

    Number 8, HeadLight, FlashLight, and a few mounted LEDS on the trailer.

    Number 9, A Chair, sometimes a Lounging Chair too.

    Finally, the Trailer. A hardwall TearDrop with a Double Bed and 3 Expedition Bags to layer as needed. Pretty simple Bins for clothing. Outside rear “Kitchen”. And storage for the Jeep Doors.

    And thats it. I read some of these MUST HAVE lists and think of Saturday Night Live. Apocalypse NOW. It is like guys are planning a trip to the moon.