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Overland Trip Planning: Know Before You Go

Overland Trip Planning: Know Before You Go


Get ready to start planning your next overland adventure! The Overland Trip Planner and guide will help make sure you are prepared to hit the road with everything you need for successful exploration.

What might feel like an overwhelming process at first can be simplified when placed into a single organized plan. Read on to learn more! And check out the PDF trip planner download at the end of this article to help you get started.

The Basics

The first step is to get the lay of the land for your trip. Here are starting points:

    1. Trip duration
    2. How many miles round trip
    3. Elevation change expected
    4. Terrain types expected
    5. Weather forecast
    6. Farthest distance traveled between gas stations
    7. Current state of trail/roads and what are latest reports?
    8. How many travelers?

The Groundwork

Think about your route, and where the road will be taking you. Find a map, download GPS files or checkout a resource book specialized in the area you’re heading to. US Forest Service Stations are one of the best resources to get local maps of the area (often for free).

Weather Forecast

Check the weather reports often as your departure date nears. The next task is to research the historical highs/lows/precipitation for the region you’re traveling. This is crucial to calibrate what type of clothing and gear is needed, especially if heading into more extreme climates and elevations.

Sleeping & Shelter

Whether you run a Rooftop Tent, sleep in your vehicle or you’re packing a quick set up ground tent, make sure to check your shelter options and sleeping gear before heading out. Are all parts present and accounted for? Are the materials and fabrics dry and in one piece? The first night on the trail is not the time to realize there’s a leak in your sleeping pad.


The recommended amount is 1.5-2 gallons (6-8 liters) 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. There’s no harm carrying more than you think you need.


How to shop and plan meals for the road less traveled is topic of its own. Meal planning and preparation are strongly informed by personal preference. (We’re looking at you, trail foodies.) Here’s a method that is tried and true for those starting out:

Dry Goods + Fresh Foods = Simple

Build out a simple dry goods container of essential items like spices, hot sauces, olive oil/vinegar and canned ingredients like diced tomatoes, black beans, dry pasta and pasta sauce. Think basic items that can be added to fresh ingredients to make a more well rounded meal.

When you have these meal building blocks set, you can integrate fresh foods and meats into the mix without having to carry additional perishables. A simple cooler can go a long way keeping food fresh if you minimize opening and closing the lid. For those wanting more space and control, consider investing in a fridge. Companies like Dometic offer a wide variety of mobile fridge options and sizes.  

And for those evenings when you pull into camp after dark, a few MREs in your dry goods case can make life easier.

Vehicle Preparation & Maintenance

First things first – Keep your vehicle on a 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 millimeter of their life.

In the weeks leading up to your departure date, pay close attention to any rattles, vibrations and hums that catch your attention. If your vehicle is about to hit a major mileage milestone (100K, 200K, 250K, etc), make sure it goes through a proper tune-up and maintenance check.

There is no shame if you do not have mechanical experience with your vehicle. Trip preparation is a great opportunity to get to know more about what’s under the hood and learn the basics of repairs and maintenance. A little research and a few questions can go a long way.

Connect Locally

Go online and find overlanders who have traveled down the same route you’re planning and get their advice. 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 searches, but it also helps to create friendships online and in the real world.

Overland Bound Members can head to the Resource Map to connect with other members in the area. Reach out to someone local so you can ask specific questions about trail conditions, access updates or what local destinations are a must.

Double Check Your Final Check

Create and maintain a checklist for the very last stage of packing. Get a visual on the items in each category and check them off as you pack.

  • Food Water & Kitchen
  • Shelter & Clothing
  • Camp Basics
  • Vehicle Recovery & Tools
  • GPS Comms & Electronics
  • First Aid & Emergency

Learn As You Go

Remember, each trip is the opportunity to innovate and build on the experiences of the last one.

A few years back we developed our own checklist based on our travels down the road. Over time it has expanded it into 3 sections: Pre-Adventure, Adventure and Post Adventure.

Overland Trip Planning

It is now a 4 page system that takes you through the process, and as you stack the pages together, you’ve created a seamless planner that moves from one adventure into the next without stopping. 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:

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You must be logged in to see the download button above.

*Use the registration widget on the right sidebar on this page to register. Outfit & Explore!



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.