Last Updated March, 2018: This post has been updated with new picks for 2018. Prices and links have also been updated.
“It’s not about the destination, but rather the journey” — or something like that — is the age-old maxim. If that’s true, and if you’re a gearhead, really there’s no more satisfying way to journey than via expedition-ready overland rig. And as manufacturers continue to offer up off-road-ready vehicles straight from the factory, the call of the overland trip grows louder, and adventure arrives more easily.
If you’re ready to answer the call, there are a few things you should put on your shopping list. Aside from your basic camping gear, survival tools and your standard vehicle maintenance essentials, you’ll want an array of gear that will keep you high and dry (in a good way) and your truck or SUV from getting stranded. The list quickly becomes expensive, but it’s better to invest now than be stuck later.
Rhino-Rack Base Tent 2500
“Home is where you park it” — a timeless adage that Rhino-Rack Base Tent 2500 takes seriously. The Base Tent 2500 can be used as a free-standing tent or in conjunction with the Sunseeker 2500 Awning to create a full-on ‘back porch’ setup off the side of your overlander. There are four doors for easy access, plus the tent acts as a thermal barrier from the sun when it’s hot and has a PVC waterproof floor for when the weather gets wet.
The value of a good winch is immeasurable, and WARN has been making some of the finest recreational off-road winches since 1959. The M8000 has become a mainstay in the off-road community for decades for its value, effectiveness and simplicity. WARN suggests you pick a winch with 1.5 times the pulling capacity as your vehicle’s GVWR, so while the M8000 is great for smaller off-roaders like the Jeep Wrangler or Nissan Xterra, if you’re driving something a bit more burly you should consider jumping up in capacity.
WARN Medium Duty Winch Accessory Kit
Your winch won’t do you much good if you don’t have the right accessories. This kit from WARN comes with everything you need: D-shackles, a tree protector, a 30-foot tow strap, a snatch block, gloves and a heavyweight bag with room for more winching accessories you amass over the years.
BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2
The BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 makes for one hell of a winter tire, but its off-road accolades are not to be forgotten. The BFG All-Terrain tire was the original all-terrain tire and has remained a favorite since its debut in late ’70s. The latest generation combines both on-road manners and off-road capability with a sturdy sidewall construction and long-lasting tread.
ARB ARB505 E-Z Deflator
It’s likely you’ll encounter rock or sand at some points on your overland excursions. For maximum traction you’ll want to let out air from your tires. This deflator from ARB will remove the valve core from the tire for quick deflation.
ARB CKMA12 Air Compressor
Because you won’t want to run on deflated tires for the entirety of your journey, you’ll want to add an air compressor to your shopping list as well. This unit (also from ARB) is light, compact and can be easily installed under the hood of your truck or SUV.
H3R Performance HG250R
Though rare, vehicle fires do happen, and be they caused by fuel or electronics, you want to be covered for both. H3R makes some of the best extinguishers for vehicles of all types and are rated for “Class B” (liquids) and “Class C” fires (electrical).
ARB Deluxe Bull Bar
A bull bar is not just a menacing aesthetic enhancement (let’s face it, that’s a big part of the draw), but it also makes for a mounting point for any extra lights or winch you want to add to your rig. But a well-built bull bar will also help protect your truck — you do not want to hit a deer or tree and deal with the resulting damage. Once again, off-road powerhouse ARB comes in with a solid accessory that is available for a variety of popular overland vehicle choices.
KC Pro-Sport Gravity LED
If you need to tackle terrain at night, you’ll want as much visibility as you can get. KC has long been a go-to for off-roaders in need of a little more light, and their LED option should not disappoint — they’ll give you the extra visibility you need to see upcoming obstacles without drawing much power from your vehicle.
Hi-Lift XT-485 Jack
We’ll let Expedition Portal explain at great length why the Hi-Lift Jack is one of the most important pieces of equipment to have on an overland trip, but it boils down to this: in addition to being used as a jack, it can be used as a heavy-duty clamp, as well as a “come-along” for winching your vehicle out of trouble in case your winch is out of commission.
There’s an old trick that you can use some old carpet or your car’s floor mats to get unstuck in the snow and ice. The MaxTrax uses the same principle of temporary traction but is more durable in case you get stuck in something more harrowing than a little snow and ice.
Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade
Lightweight, compact and sturdy, this folding survival shovel from Gerber is ideal for digging your way out of sticky situations without taking up too much room in your truck or SUV.
Wavian NATO Jerry Fuel Can
A good jerry can (or two) is a necessity for increasing your range out in the middle of nowhere. This modern take on the classic metal jerry can retains the solid build quality of the original but is also EPA and CARB compliant.
Husqvarna Curved Handle Hatchet
Aside from basic fire-building duties at camp, a good hatchet will be useful for clearing any fallen trees and excessive vines on the trail. This option from Husqvarna is compact, lightweight and is made from hand-forged steel and a hickory handle. In a pinch, the flat side of the head can be used as a hammer.
Magellan eXplorist TRX7
Magellan has been in the GPS game for 30 years, but the TRX7 is the brand’s first foray into hardcore 4×4 navigation. It comes preloaded with maps, over 44,000 off-road trails from National Parks and public lands as well as other points of interest. In addition, it allows you to record your own trails and data (which Magellan also uses to improve its maps) and see ratings of trails from other explorers, who can log information like incline difficulties and the depths of water crossings.
Midland MXT115 2-Way Radio
Getting to the campsite is only half the adventure. Hiking, mountain biking and kayaking all await once you get there, but when you leave your base camp, it’s always a good idea to have a line of communication open. The Midland Midland MXT115 2-Way Radio keeps a line open with the walkies you brought and even has NOAA weather channels with alert and weather scan to keep you informed and ready.
McMurdo Fast Find 220
While it’s a good idea to have your overland rig outfitted with a HAM Radio, as a backup or last resort, a personal locator beacon (PLB) is a no-brainer. While it lacks the messaging service of higher-cost PLB devices, the McMurdo Fast Find is simple, and will alert a search-and-rescue team via COSPAS-SARSAT of your location within minutes of activating.