The 10 Essentials: Overland Edition

Not everyone has heard about the 10 essentials before, or maybe you have and never knew what it meant? This guide will run through our essentials checklist that we take with us every day.

It doesn't matter if you are going for a month-long expedition, a weekend adventure or just commuting to work. You should always be prepared for what unexpected "adventures" lie ahead. 

The 10 essentials are categories of equipment you should always have quick access to. The following list has been modified from the hiking version since we are generally taking our vehicles with us. 

At the bottom of this page is a printable checklist to help you get started!

So let's get started!

1.) Navigation

Getting lost can be part of the adventure, but you need to a plan to get out of that situation and find your bearing. Almost everyone carries a smartphone with them and is by far the easiest way to figure out where you are in unknown territory. Unfortunately getting away from civilization means this is not a reliable tool in rough situations, combine that with short battery life and you need to bring additional navigation methods. 

Handheld GPS units can be found for under $100 and can at the very least give you a direction to head in. Nicer units will have the ability to store maps and add breadcrumbs to your trip, so you can always find your way back. Just remember to have spare batteries, as they can eat through them very quickly. If you already have a spare tablet or phone, try downloading maps of your area from Google, or use an app like Gaia. That way you are not running your main phone battery down and you have a dedicated device for navigation. 

Personal Locator Beacon's(PLB) are essential for when you need help to find you. These should only be used when all other means of self-extraction have been attempted or a serious life-threatening injury has occurred. Pressing the SOS key on a PLB instantly sends a signal to various networks monitored by Search and Rescue. Depending on the model you have, you may be able to have a brief conversation with the search team on what your situation is. These units tend to be more expensive than a handheld GPS, but could mean the difference between life and death in extreme situations. We never leave home without our SPOTX. This PLB has a Blackberry style keyboard for basic conversation, tracks and uploads your location and communicates instantly with SAR. The price on this unit is also extremely low for the features. If you want a step up check out the Garmin Inreach series or for the very basics, the ACR 2881. Any of them are better than having nothing. 

Lastly, but extremely important are items that do not require battery power to operate. A local and state map, compass, pencil and a ruler will always work and never needs plugged in. Just be sure that your maps cover the detail you need it to. Your gas station map might not include trails, ranger stations, forest roads etc. 

Navigational equipment is absolutely essential. Make sure you test out, learn and become proficient in any equipment you choose to bring. You do not want to wait till you need them to learn how to use or read them. 


2.) First Aid and Medical Equipment

This one is probably pretty obvious, and for good reason! A good first aid kit can help you in many situations. From getting a sunburn or eating foreign food to helping clot wounds and applying a tourniquet. 

All Offtrak Expedition vehicles have a first aid kit and we know where they all are in each vehicle. We found that this one from Amazon gives you a great start with supplies and a rugged case. We also found the color-coded labelling and layout to be extremely intuitive and easy to read. 

You will always need to add to your kit when you first get it. Even if it comes with every standard medical supply known to man, you should still add your personal medications, allergy medicine, patient information cards etc. 

Find a First-Aid kit with clear outer markings of what it is and place it in an obvious, easy to get to spot in the vehicle. You may be the one that needs medical attention and any random person should be able to get it and know what it is with minimal guidance. 


As overlanders, we all love to set up camp and cook a great dinner or wake up in the morning to have the sunrise illuminate our breakfast. But you need to have an emergency backup of food in case your plans go south. 

Try and pack something in your rig that has a long shelf life and requires no cooking. You do not want to use up your emergency water supply to make your emergency food. Things like Jerky, nutritional bars or dried fruit will keep you going and pack down small so you barely notice they are there. 


Insulation is anything that protects you from the elements while keeping your body temperature regulated and running well. We travel through all sorts of climates and having something that works for any possible condition you may encounter is essential. 

If you are travelling into the mountains in Fall or Spring, and even some places during the Summer. Keep in mind it may be warm and dry down low, but in the upper elevations where you are more likely to encounter an issue, it might be cold and wet. 

Plan for the worst and breakdown your insulation by what you may encounter and the layers you should bring. 

Hat - Keeps the sun off you in extreme heat and regulates temperature. Keeps your head warm and can take windchill away in extreme cold. 

Jacket/Pants - A set that will regulate your temperature and keep your dry. Becoming wet can rapidly increase the onset of hypothermia or make your body work harder causing dehydration. These two also protect you from additional hazards like branches, rocks, bugs, snakes etc. 

Socks - There is nothing like a brand new pair of socks, and if you run into an emergency they might not be brand new but they can definitely help you in a bad situation. Socks protect your feet and help regulate body temperature in extreme conditions. 

Gloves - You use your hands for just about everything. Protecting them from frost bite, burns, cuts and scratches is essential


Moving and working at night is sometimes the best option. You may find yourself in a situation where you cannot wait till morning or need the cooler temperature in order to move safely. Having illumination can mean the difference between making the situation worse or being rescued. 

Flashlights and Headlamps are great for lighting a specific area and working on something. Try wearing your headlamp around your neck for added comfort and the ability to shine it wherever you want without turning your head. 

Lamps can provide security around a campsite or cast light onto a wide area.

Both can help signal your location during the day and at night to nearby search parties, aircraft and drones. 

We love things that are powered by the sun. They do not charge nearly as quickly as something that has swappable batteries or charged from USB. But you know that you will never completely run out of juice. 


Overlanders love carrying enough tools to rebuild they're entire rig. It's fun, it looks cool and come on..they're tools! But making sure you have not skipped over the essentials while worrying about where to mount your Tactical Spade Signal Booster Jack combo is very important. 

Self Recovery - Not everyone can afford a winch or has a place to put one. Recovery boards, some rope, a recovery strap, hi-lift jack and tire pressure gauge or all items you should consider. Recovery boards like Maxtrax can get you out of just about anything with enough trial and error. If you have another vehicle with you (You should always travel with someone), then a recovery strap is an obvious choice and there are many types available. But did you know you can use a hi-lift jack as a winch? Or better yet, creating a winch out of some rope and a log? You don't always need to spend money on the latest winch to get yourself out of a sticky situation. 

Smaller tools, like a good multi-tool that includes screwdrivers, knives, scissors etc may not help in replacing a blown shock but can help in small repairs or medical emergencies. 

You can deflate your tires for added traction using a small stick (I've done it) but having a deflator and tire pressure gauge makes this much better. There are countless stories out there of people have lost their lives due to being stuck, only for the rescue team to lower air pressure and drive the vehicle out under its own power. Don't worry about how to re-inflate them once you have gotten back to a main road. Your first priority in these situations is just getting to safety. 

Lastly, make sure you have the correct tools in your party to replace a tire. Lifted vehicles may not be able to use the factory jack, or you have special locking lug nuts. Bring all of the tools (And a full size spare) to get you moving again. 



In the hiking and backpacking version you should always have a tarp, space blanket or tent with you. Luckily we travel by vehicle over land (Overlanding), so we have a great shelter already. But what happens when your vehicle runs out of fuel to keep you warm or is unsafe to stay with? Fall back on making sure you have the ability to leave your vehicle behind. 

I like the idea of a warm blanket or sleeping bag that won't get wet and a tarp to keep the elements off of you. Even a large plastic trashbag can be used in a pinch. They can pack up small and can be used in or outside the vehicle for various uses. 

8.) Hydration

Water is absolutely essential to survival. Water makes up roughly 65% of your body and helps you with everything from the creation and distribution of blood and digesting to brain cell creation and body temperature regulation. Becoming dehydrated can cause a loss of blood pressure and become fatal very quickly. 

How much should you bring? We like Overland Bounds way of thinking and test in Baja. 2 Gallons per person per day. This is meant to cover your showers, cleaning dishes and drinking water. 

(Number of People) x 2 x (Days travelling) = Required Water. 

Using their method, you are planning for the worst and equipped for the best at the same time. This is a very conservative amount, but water is probably the most important thing on this list. 

Remember that you may not be able to stay with your vehicle. So water bottles and camelback allow you to bring water with you on your way towards safety. If you know you're going to be well away from civilization and the next clean water source, pack a small water filtration system. You may come across a stream, lake, river or even a muddy puddle and it just may save your life. 

9.) Sun Protection

This one could fall under insulation as I feel it protects you from the environment and regulating body temp includes protection from the sun.

 I have been in temperatures so hot that the back of my eyeballs felt like they were on fire (Literally). Sunglasses keep the glare down on snow, and keeps the burning sun off your face. Your eyes help you take the next step and make smart decisions. A sunburn on your face or temporary blindness will hinder your ability to make smart survival decisions. 

Sunscreen protects you from burns but also can help keep the amount of work your body has to do for a minimum. You should always have the proper type in your First Aid Kit and apply BEFORE you feel like your burned, otherwise it is already too late. 

10.)Fire Starter

It's always great to learn how to start a fire with nothing. It makes you feel like more of a man (Or women). But when trying to keep yourself and your crew safe, the last thing you want to do is waste valuable time and energy when you could've brought a 50 cent lighter. We usually have a couple of different types, like a rechargeable electric lights and a standard butane. Fire helps you keep warm, melt snow, cook food, signal for help or purify water. This one is up there with food and water. 


This list is just meant to create some thought behind what you bring on your travels. You do not need to spend a lot of money or have the latest equipment to be prepared. The 10 essentials are meant as just that, if you bring the bare minimum then bring something from the list above. If this list help you prepare and you just bring one extra item on your next trip then I consider this a win! 

Here is an example of items that won't break the bank but give you a great small setup to store in a backpack with your vehicle at all times. 

If you started with absolutely nothing you can have a great beginner kit for less than $200 including a backpack to hold it all.

Water Bottle $7 

Water Purifier $16 

Fire Starter $9 

Beanie $8 

Sunglasses $18 

Sun Screen $7 

Pack of nutritional bars 

Space Blanket $4 

Trash Bags $10 

Multi-Tool $30 

Headlamp $11 

Small First Aid Kit $15 

Washington Map $25 

Backpack $20

Total: $192

If you have any recommendations or items you think we missed, please leave a comment below. Or maybe you have a story about how the 10 essentials helped you that you wouldn't mind sharing with the community?

We make no money off the links above and just want to share our thoughts on travelling safely. Hopefully you learned a bit or had a refresher, now get out and explore!

Printable Checklist


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