Your First Overlanding Setup
Sleeping Right, Eating Well, And Staying Safe
Wikipedia defines overlanding as “self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal.” We like to think of it as car camping that never ends. In this article, we’ll go over everything from sleeping and camp kitchens, to the items that will set your rig up for overlanding success.
And you’re going to need a larger vehicle if you don’t already own one. Not only can trucks and SUVs hold more supplies, they also come with more clearance for off-roading, and the ability to equip components like rooftop tents, sun and rain awnings, and a hitch for hauling a trailer or additional gear.
Got a vehicle that’s not a sedan? Great! Let’s dive into everything else.
If you’re just getting into overlanding, your current tent setup and sleep system will work just fine, but we recommend getting a rooftop tent if you’re serious about fully embracing the lifestyle. Rooftop tents like the Thule x Tepui Ruggedized Kukenam 3 are designed to attach to the roof of your vehicle and fold up or down from there.
Rooftop tents are easy to set up and take down, keep your camp footprint small, and are more spacious and durable than most traditional tents. Plus they offer a great birds-eye view and keep you away from pesky ground nuisances like rocks under your tent and insects crawling in.
Your usual sleep system will work fine inside the rooftop tent, but why not take advantage of creature comforts by upping your sleeping pad game? If you’re away from home for more than a few nights, your back will thank you.
We recommend something extra cush, like the Stoic Double Cloud Camp Bed LUX. It’s big enough for two and comfy enough to rival your bed at home. Dress it with sheets, layer on some adventure-ready blankets (you can’t go wrong with a Rumpl), or grab a double-wide sleeping bag like the Stoic Groundwork Double or NEMO Equipment Inc. Jazz Duo.
In addition to the tent, you can go one step further by adding sun and rain shelters to create a true home away from home.
As for the rest of your backcountry living room, tables and chairs are probably already on your checklist. But have you considered a couch? Or a camp chair that knows how to lounge? You can sit two on the Kelty Low Loveseat Camp Chair, or lean way back in the Stoic Balsam Zero Gravity Chair, which even comes with a pillow.
Your Camp Kitchen
With more storage space and longer excursions, it’s definitely time to swap the Jetboil for a grill. Leave no meal off-limits with the Camp Chef Outdoor Camp Oven, or smoke all your meats with a Traeger Tailgater 20 Grill. You can even go full pizza kitchen with the Ooni Fyra Wood Pellet Pizza Oven.
Make sure your kitchen is stocked with pots and pans, plenty of utensils, and dishes. Now’s your chance to add chopsticks, wine glasses, and other luxuries you don’t usually bring car camping. And definitely don’t forget about your caffeine needs—why not go for a tea kettle or French press?
Make sure to store your food properly between meals. Sure, you’ve got your trusty bear canister, but we can do better. The ROAM Adventure Co 52L Rugged Case holds more food, and you can make it stranger-proof in addition to bear-proof. While you’re at it, grab our Stoic Quick Fold Pantry to organize supplies, and—if you’re connected to a personal power grid—upgrade your cooler to the Dometic CFX3 75 Dual Zone Powered Cooler.
Want to bring the kitchen sink? You can—we’re serious. The Stoic Portable Camp Kitchen Island comes with a bag and hose for managing gray water, as well as storage for clean dishes and a mesh drying rack.
When you’re done with dinner, you’ll probably have some waste left over, which is where the Kelty Trash Pack comes in. Attach it to your spare tire to keep trash (and smells) quarantined.
Sooner or later you will also have to think about human waste. Recreate your very own backcountry bathroom with the NEMO Equipment Inc. Heliopolis Outhouse and Cleanwaste Portable Toilet. But in case things get rugged, pack a shovel, like the S.O.L Survive Outdoors Longer Packable Field Shovel, and make sure to research your campsites ahead of time. Some places require that you pack it out. In these cases, make sure you pack the Metolius WAG Bag Kit in.
Don’t Leave These Behind
Everything we’ve discussed feels pretty straightforward–you’re camping, but with the luxury dialed up a notch. But overlanding takes you to far-off places where cell service is minimal—and so are the people, and potential rescue. Here are a few key pieces of gear you shouldn’t leave home without.
If the cell service is spotty where you are and there’s an emergency, you’ll be glad you packed the ZOLEO Satellite Communicator. It comes with a dedicated SOS button and can send a text or email from anywhere in the world. Make sure you don’t need it, though, by bringing along a GPS so you don’t get lost. The aptly named Garmin Overlander is a solid choice, especially because it comes pre-loaded with iOverlander points of interest, public campground locations, and navigates highways and off-road locations.
Clean water is essential. You’ll probably have more than enough room to haul a good supply between refueling taps, but it’s a good idea to bring a water purifier or filter just in case.
And, of course, just because you’re off the beaten path doesn’t mean you’re banished to off the grid as well. Bring a portable solar power station with you, like the Goal ZeroYeti 1500X, and you’ll have a way to light your campsite, charge cell phones and laptops (movie night, anyone?), refrigerators, or anything else you decide you can’t leave behind.
More Essentials For Your Checklist
Overlanding for the first time can feel like a lot. Still have questions? Need more gear recs? Our Gearheads are ready to chat 24/7. Until then, we’ll leave you with a few more resources to keep in mind when you’re in the backcountry.