20 overlanding essentials: Gear and gadgets for the ultimate off-road camping adventure

Be prepared for the expected and unexpected with this roundup of must-have overlanding equipment

Photo: Sanna Boman

Overlanding is all about adventure—traversing to remote, undeveloped locations over rugged terrain that can put even the toughest vehicles to the test. And although its growing popularity might make it seem like just another way to enjoy the outdoors, overlanding isn’t for the faint of heart, and it most certainly isn’t for the unprepared. 

While having an off-road vehicle is the first step to any overlanding adventure, being equipped with gear to keep you safe, unstuck, and comfortable is essential for a successful expedition. Whether you’re new to overlanding or you’re in the market for some new equipment to add to your arsenal, these 20 items will help you take on your next overlanding trip like a pro.

Overlanding recovery gear

Getting stuck (or, more importantly, unstuck) is a natural part of overlanding. Rugged terrain, changing weather conditions, and flat tires are all things that can leave you stranded if you’re not prepared. Outfitting with the right recovery gear can help get you and your vehicle out of unforeseen circumstances throughout your journey. 

Tire deflator 

When you’re off-roading on sand or loose terrain, deflating your tires can be necessary for gaining traction. The ARB E-Z Deflator and Tire Seal Kit makes it simple to quickly deflate your tires to adapt to varying terrain conditions. Plus, this kit comes with everything you need to temporarily patch a punctured tire. 

Portable air compressor

While some overlanders will opt for an onboard air compressor, not everybody wants to make that investment or have a bulky compressor attached to their rig. For a more compact, cost-effective option, the heavy-duty GSPSCN portable compressor quickly inflates your tires and doesn’t take up a ton of storage space. 

Recovery jack

The ARB Recovery Jack is a solid option for overlanding due to its hydraulic design that makes lowering and lifting a vehicle both easy and safe. The hydraulic system allows the jack to operate in smooth, slow increments with the slightest amount of effort, so you’re not breaking a sweat manually cranking your jack in place.

Traction boards

When it comes to freeing your vehicle from sand, snow, and mud, traction boards are a must. The X-Bull Recovery Tracks are easy to stack and relatively inexpensive compared to other products on the market. They also come with a carrying case and mounting brackets for storage in or on your vehicle.

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Vehicle winch

A winch is essential, especially if you plan to go overlanding on your own. This is one of the few pieces of recovery gear that doesn’t require a second person to operate. The Smittybilt X2O Winch can operate with a remote or manually and it comes with all of the necessary cables that you need to hook it up to your vehicle.

Recovery shovel

While some overlanders use compact military entrenching tools (E-tools), others prefer longer handles that can provide better leverage for digging a vehicle out. The DMOS Delta Shovel combines both tools with its collapsible design and durable, spade-like construction. Extended, the shovel is 51 inches in length and collapses to 24 inches when folded for easy storage. 

Overlanding camping gear

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, setting up camp in a remote area can be a little different than pitching a tent at a campground. Packability and durability are two key components when it comes to overlanding camping equipment. These accessories should be strong enough to withstand the elements and compact enough to easily pack out when it’s time to head home.

Rooftop tent

If you’re not traveling in an off-road RV with sleeping space, then you’re most likely going to use a rooftop tent for your overlanding campsite. Tents like the Lost Canyon RT-S140 Rove Tent can be set up and collapsed in minutes. Its spacious design can sleep two people comfortably, and the rip-stop material protects you from the harshest elements. This tent also comes with a high-density foam mattress and an LED light strip for easy nighttime entry and exit.

Rooftop awning

Having an outdoor space where you can cook, eat, and take a break from the sun or rain is essential for any camping experience. The Tuff Stuff Roof Top Awning attaches to the side of your vehicle’s roof, where it can also be stored. Simply extend the awning out and lock the poles in place for use. Add on the Tuff Stuff Shelter Room for added privacy, protection, and an extra sleeping space.

Sleeping pad

Inflatable sleeping pads are an easy way to up your camping comfort without weighing down your rig. Unlike bulky, inflatable mattresses, sleeping pads have a more compact design, and self-inflating pads like the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D camping pad don’t even require extra equipment for inflation. This comfy, 4.5-inch thick pad weighs less than 5 pounds and can be easily packed away in the included carrying bag.

Portable camp stove

Hauling large cooking equipment isn’t ideal when you’re on an overlanding excursion. Compact cooking tops like the Camp Chef Everest Stove, make it easy to cook meals at your site without sacrificing space in your rig. This powerful two-burner stove has an easy, matchless ignition for fast cooking on the go.

Portable shower

Rinsing off after a long day of overlanding is probably a necessity, especially if you’re been busy getting yourself stuck and unstuck in the mud. The YAKIMA Roadshower 4G has a low-profile design that installs on your vehicle’s roof. You can pressurize your water with a hand or electric pump to clean everything from dirty dishes to mud-covered equipment. 

Related 6 foolproof tips for showering and staying clean on the road


If a portable fridge or freezer isn’t in your budget, then a durable cooler is the next best option. Today’s camping coolers have come a long way since their styrofoam beginnings. Coolers like the ones in Pelican’s Elite lineup offer durability, long-lasting ice retention, and come in a variety of sizes, depending on how much room you have in your rig. Plus, all Pelican coolers are backed with the brand’s lifetime guarantee. 

Overlanding safety gear

While adventure is the goal of overlanding, safety should be at the forefront of every overlanding expedition. From first aid kits and gas cans to water filtration systems, equipping your rig with the right safety equipment can prepare you for worst-case scenarios. 

Satellite beacon

In remote locations, a satellite communication system can be your only way to communicate with first responders in emergency situations. Devices like the Garmin InReach Satellite Communicator let you send text messages, share and track your location, and deploy SOS alerts to notify emergency response teams.

First aid kit

When overlanding, it’s important to pack more than just a few bandages and gauze in your first aid kit. Comprehensive packs like the MyMedic 10 Essentials Kit come with more than 110 items ranging from spare clothes and fire-starting supplies to standard first aid bandages and a headlamp. The carrying bag can also double as a floatation device in emergencies.

Portable power station

Although overlanding is all about getting away from it all, keeping your devices charged, especially for emergency purposes, is important. The Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer can help keep your cell phone, laptops, freezers, and other devices powered even in the most remote areas. This power station can be combined with the brand’s Explorer solar panels for the ultimate off-grid energy source. 

Paper road atlas

When you’re without connectivity or cell phone service, a paper atlas is always a safe backup plan. Navigating remote backcountry routes can be done with a paper map when other devices aren’t available. Maps like the National Geographic Road Atlas provide up-to-date roadway information, mileage markers, recreation areas, and even information on some of the most popular destinations throughout the U.S.

Fuel cans

Equipping your rig with extra fuel cans can be the difference between getting home and being stranded. Depending on the length of your trip, always have a few fuel cans to keep your vehicle gassed up for adventure. The Wavian Jerry Fuel Cans are popular among overlanders due to their leak-proof design and 20-liter fuel capacity. These cans also come with spout adapters to fit various gas tank sizes.

GPS navigation

For added off-road navigation, many overlanders equip their vehicles with some type of GPS device. The Garmin Overlander GPS is widely used for overlanding because of its specific off-road navigation features. This system provides downloadable maps and offline maps to use when you have no signal, and it helps you route your trail based on the size and weight of your vehicle. You can even see public land boundaries and topographic maps for more detailed navigation.

Water filtration

Even if you’ve packed enough clean water to last the duration of your trip, a water filtration system is still a must. These systems can help protect you from unexpected circumstances while overlanding. Systems like the Lifesaver Jerrycan Water Purifier are designed with military-grade standards to help eliminate bacteria, parasites, and other contaminants in even the dirtiest water sources. These pump-operated cans hold up to 5 gallons of water.

Fire extinguisher

While nobody wants to think about putting out a fire on an overlanding trip, the possibility is real—especially if you’re running a rig with multiple electrical mods or are off-roading in extremely dry conditions. Keeping an extinguisher like the Amerex B417T nearby will help protect you, your vehicle, and the land around you from fire damage. This kit comes with mounting brackets, but you can also use less permanent straps—like Quadratec’s Fire Extinguisher Holder—to secure the extinguisher in your vehicle. 

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