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Overland Trip Planning: What do you NEED to Check?

Overland Trip Planning: What do you NEED to Check?


Overland trip planning is challenging. Did you leave the iron on? It’s not that you don’t know what to bring, it’s that you might not bring it anyway. There is so much to remember, you need a list.

Michael is more likely to grab a pair of sandals, jump in the truck and start driving, but he is also more likely to be 300 miles off course, back-tracking, and setting up camp at night. Ask him, he won’t deny it.

It’s a puzzle. An equation that needs to be reverse engineered. A chance for me to micromanage inanimate objects, and when you finally put the peddle down on the road to adventure, your mind is on what’s to come, not what you forgot!  

To put it shortly, it gives me joy.

Each trip completed presents a new opportunity to improve for the next trip. It’s an ongoing and evolving challenge, and after years of adventuring out and about, I have come up with a fairly straightforward method to help us prepare for the trail.

The Basics

Let’s start at the top.

Overland Trip PlanningOverland Trip Planning

Where are you going?

Route Notes

Start thinking about your route, and where the road will be taking you. Get a map. Download GPS files. Check google maps. We also find that Forest Service Stations are one of the best resources to get local maps of the area often FOR FREE. You paid for it, so use this resource if you can. In addition, start calculating how many tanks of gas will get you where you want to go, and if you’re going offroad, how much additional fuel you need to carry to be safe.

Must Sees Dos & Stops

Do your research and start conversations. Find overlanders who have traveled down the same route you’re planning and see what their advice is. If you are an Overland Bound Member, go to our Member Map and see what other OB Members are in the area so you know who to call for backup! We also have a “Check In/Out” thread in the forums where you can tell people when you are leaving, where you are going, and when you will be back!

As you do more and more research over multiple trips, start to cultivate the websites and communities/forums you trust to give the best insight and advice. Not only does this help prevent ‘analysis paralysis’ and endless google search rabbit holes, but it also helps to create friendships online and in the real world.

We use a combination of the Overland Bound Forums, Overland Bound Member Map, Google Earth, and trails.com.

Overland Trip Planning

What’s the weather?

I check the weather on a regular basis leading up to the trip, and then research the historical highs/lows/precipitation/snow for the region we’re traveling. This is crucial to start calibrating what type of clothing and gear we’ll be needing, especially if we’re headed into snow or low temperature climates. (We’re from the SF Bay Area. Cold weather prep and gear isn’t our normal.)

I use the weather app on my iPhone and add locations into its tracking log. Not only does this give me on-demand weather reports, it leaves behind a lovely trail of destinations gone by.

How many people?

This shapes the conversation around water, provisions and where people will rest their heads at night.


The recommended amount is 2 gallons per person per day. This may seem like a lot, but consider this is the water you will be cooking with, and more importantly, water is a non-negotiable resource when you’re headed off-road. This rule of thumb has been tested by us in Baja, which is hot and arid. Moreover, there’s no harm carrying more than you think you need.


Back in Fall 2012, we went off-road camping with our new neighbors. We clicked instantly and when we said we were going off-road for the weekend, they jumped at the chance to come along. They said they would buy all the food for the trip, and I didn’t think to brief them about it.

In the back of my head I said, “What’s the worst that will happen? It’s not like they’ll go to Trader Joe’s and drop $400.”

Guess what happened? (I’m sure you can.)

They did just that. An entire trunk full of food.

I always have a meal plan for each day and an estimated budget, and I am always thinking of storage efficiency.


Michael and I have our sleep set up dialed in when it’s just us on the trail.

Add more bodies to the mix and it changes our game. Accommodations for additional sleeping bags (aka space) is needed, which pushes the conversation back to efficiency with dry goods and gear.

We are always configuring and reconfiguring our rig to fine tune our preparation game. It’s constantly evolving.

Overland Trip PlanningVehicle Preparation

Keep your rig on a structured maintenance schedule. Don’t miss oil changes, tire rotations, alignment checks and brake inspections. Don’t wait until the last minute for that overdue oil change only to find out your brake pads are within a centimeter of their life.


Develop a relationship with a local mechanic you trust. When we go on extended trips, I get an appointment with our guys at Topshop in Lafayette, CA. They know our rig, and I know that I all I have to say is we’re going off-road for an extended amount of time, and Ryan is always, “Gotcha. We’ll give her the treatment.”

In the weeks leading up to your departure date, start to pay attention to any rattles, vibrations and hums that catch your attention. We drive a 96 FZJ80 with about 200K miles on it, so we’re a bit more cautious than we would be for a newer rig. We addressed the pesky heater hose; however, we know we’re not far away from a head gasket or busted hose conversation. On that note, lift up the hood and give your hoses a twist. Are they brittle?

Know your pre-trip checklist and spare part checklist, and run them in the days leading up to going out like a drill!

Overland Trip Planning
This is not one of our finer moments in packing.

The Double Check-Check

Create and maintain a checklist to be used at the very last stage of packing. Know exactly which kits you are relying on (first aid, tools, fuel/fire, kitchen, dry goods, etc.) and check them off as they are filled up and finalized just prior to departure.

This is your final chance to find the missing holes in your preparation. Michael and I lovingly refer to this as our ‘Stupid Check’. (Michael’s kids lovingly remind us that we aren’t supposed to use the word ‘stupid’, but when you’re 10 miles down the trail and you realize the propane canisters for the skottle are sitting on the kitchen table at home, you indeed feel stupid.)

Overlanding Budget

I keep a high level overview on budget. It’s a ballpark figure, not a hard line. I want to make sure we’re staying within a reasonable spending zone. I’ll factor in gas, food, parking/entry/tolls (or fees needed to be paid in cash so we have it ready), additional equipment needs and upgrade/maintenance.

It’s easy to rack up the costs. Provided that you have a clear picture of the trip and its needs, you’ll keep your spending in alignment for the scope of the adventure.

Be Flexible

The best trips Michael and I have taken always involve us thinking we know exactly where we want to go, and then having our community and friends point us in a better direction. Adventure is not knowing what is around the corner, and a very important part of overlanding.

Learn As You Go

I’ll keep saying this because it is one of the most satisfying aspects of overlanding… Each new trip is the opportunity to innovate and build on the experiences of the last one.

A few years back I started to design my own checklist based on our travels down the road. Over time I have expanded it into 3 sections: Pre-Adventure, Adventure and Post Adventure.

Overland Trip Planning

It is now a 4 page system that takes us through our process, and as we stack the pages together, we’ve created a seamless planner that moves from one adventure into the next without breaking our train of thought. This planning checklist works in conjunction with the Ultimate Overland Checklist.

We’re offering this planner as a PDF file for free! You can open up the file and download to your computer below. You must be registered on this site to see the link. 

Overland Bound Trip Planner PDF for Registered Users*:


Download Here:
You don't have permission to access this content

You must me logged on to see the download button above! I hope this article is helpful for those who are new to overlanding, and a good refresher for our experienced members.

Hope to see you on the trail!

Outfit & Explore!

*To register on this site, just use the registration widget on the right sidebar on this page. This will create a user account for this site, and our forums, and unlock cool free content. Thank you! 



Co-Founder and Lead Editor of Overland Bound. Can often be found behind the camera during trips.

Adventure seeker. Dog wrangler. Writer. Partner in crime to Michael.  Lover of nature and all things outdoors. Here's to forging down new trails, connecting with others, and the unapologetic pursuit happiness! #outfitandexplore


  1. This article is very helpful and very informative especially for newbies like myself. this will be a great way to plan out our trip to Zion after the new year.
    thank you corrie

  2. Nice. Our trip for 2017  this spring is all planned out and we are already beginning to plan for our 2018 trip. A friend asked about what we were talking about the other night, our next vacation? That's 4 months away!   I replied, it is a never ending process. It continues until the day we leave and begins again about 2 weeks after we arrive home.   I'm in the middle of making reservations now, awakening at 12:00 am mountain time, ( 2:00 am here ), hitting buttons, filling in info, and getting our permits.  And our rig? unless I'm under the hood, it's ready to roll at any given moment…

  3. Haven’t been that organized in the past, but you have inspired me. I’m going to add a list of emergency contacts in the area of travel. Also a designated check in/out contact. Thanks!

  4. I'm a fly by the seat of my pants kind of guy, but I live and work with a bunch of planners (bah humbug). I've had to learn to make some adjustments to the way I prefer to do things vs the way I need to do things. The most helpful thing in this collection of documents is the post-trip evaluation of how things worked.

    I use Evernote to do the whole "What Worked?" "What Didn't" evaluation. Between trips, I try to move the what didn't over into the what worked before the next trip. Sometimes it takes a little while to get it figured out, but it is a super helpful tool for improving your experiences.

  5. i think i am.

    Very strange! I don't see any issues with your account. When you go to the article are you logged on here in the page sidebar?

    If so, do you see this in the article?

    If you are logged in and do not see this, what are you seeing?

    Thank you!


  6. Logged in but no access, this is what I am seeing

    Download Here:

    You don’t have permission to access this content
    You must me logged on to see the download button above! I hope this article is helpful for those who are new to overlanding, and a good refresher for our experienced members.
    Hope to see you on the trail!
    Outfit & Explore!
    *To register on this site, just use the registration widget on the right sidebar on this page. This will create a user account for this site, and our forums, and unlock cool free content. Thank you!
    The thread view count is 89

  7. Hi @Michael I think I might be in the same boat as @Ingvarhh

    I'm logged in and can see myself logged in on the side bar (See image profile).

    Now when I read the article and get to the section for the PDF I'm presented with the message stating I do not have permission to access the content (See image permissions).

    Ooooh. I think I might have an answer. Gonna check something.

  8. Saw this first a few days ago on Instagram and Facebook, and I got the PDF this morning, and printed out 15 copies.

    Going to put it in a binder I keep in my rig that has a few pics of my roof top tent when opened up.

    I keep that as sometimes people will ask me how many skis I can back in my ski case, and I have to explain to them it is not a ski case, but a roof top tent 🙂

    Thanks for putting up the file!

  9. @Corrie — GREAT article and I really LOVE checklists and such. The other checklist you guys did was great too and I would suggest printing them, taking them to Kinko's or such and laminating them. I have several checklists laminated and keep a set of dry erase pens that I can write on the laminate and reuse the checklists over and over. There may be a time – more important or longer trip – that you can print a set and use them but laminating a set has been a great help to me!!

    Wheel safe & happy!!

  10. Most excellent. Thank you. We have already started initial chatting and planning for our 2018 trek north to Inuvik (and hopefully to Tuk if the road is finished) and this will certainly help with out long range planning.

  11. Great forms!!! Lol, I have to say that I really need these…I do. But, unfortunately, I'm a "fly by the seat of my pants" type of guy. I am so… spontaneous. I have been so ill prepared for so many adventures that they actually qualify as "misadventures". But, I have to say…I have some of the best stories!!!

  12. Micheal & Corrie, I’m trying to download the pdf and it says I need to login but I’m logged in. Please check my profile to see if there is a problem. Mahalo Glenn sends…

  13. These forms are a great idea. You should consider trying to partner with company Field Notes or Rite-in-the-Rain to produce a nicely bound version people could buy. It would make an awesome gift for some fellow overlanders. Just a thought, but you should do it!

  14. Hi Michael and Corrie

    I not able download the forms. I'm logged in but won't let me download. It says to login to get the forms.

    Corrie submitted an Article on the main site!

    Overland Trip Planning: What do you NEED to Check?

    Overland trip planning is challenging. Did you…

    Continue reading the Original Blog Post.

    Hi Michael and Corrie

    I not able download the forms. I'm logged in but won't let me download. It says to login to get the forms.

  15. Wow! That was an amazing article! Thank you so much Corrie, You and Michael NEVER cease to amaze me how Fun, AND safe, you can make this way of life. I am a single Dad, trying to keep life exciting (but safe) for my three kids. Articles (and PDF’s) like this allow me to relax and actually enjoy the journey with them! I can’t thank you guys enough!

  16. It is our pleasure! Thanks for reading!


    Let me add something usually not mentioned I. Many posts regarding what to take,  a spare set of keys for the rig, vehicle and trailer if so equipped,  for some reason they do get lost, dropped in the water, lake, or lost in a campsite.  Been here done this. DUH!

    Sent from my iPad using OB Talk

  17. I’ve got the same issue as the others who don’t have access to the file. I’m logged in – I’ve logged out and back in – still no access to the file – any help is appreciated. Gary

  18. Hi, great article, but even though I’m logged in, I don’t see the download button.
    All I see is:

    Download Here:

    You don’t have permission to access this content
    You must me logged on to see the download button above!

  19. Great article! I tend towards Michaels side of things…. jump in the rig and yell “Roadtrip!’ is my normal pre trip planning faze….. :O
    Checklist will make the likelyhood of returning from said trip much higher 🙂

  20. I’ve been camping since I was a kid… When in high school or college, my dad would call me and ask–‘what are ya doing for the weekend? Nothing? Great, pick you up at 5’–and we’d find some place to park/camp. There’s something great about the impromptu weekend trip–traveling light, enjoying what’s around you. With that said however, going overland requires a lot more prep–thanks so much for the checklist!

  21. great check list. reminds me of my pre mission checks I conduct for my soldiers. my old first sergeant used to say ” don’t expect what you don’t inspect”.

  22. Thanks for the article.  Already printed out several sets of the lists as these will be handy.  Hopefully heading to the UP of Michigan this spring.   I will post how well the lists work and some pics of the trip.