Overlanding is all about self-reliance. Take what you know about car camping, add a bit of off-roading know-how, and boom: overlanding. Why is it worth it? Well, by loading your car or truck with everything you need to survive comfortably out of your vehicle, you open yourself up to trips beyond the campground.
But to do it, you need more than just your car-camping kit. Pack shelter, cooking equipment, food storage, power and water storage—plus a handful of items you maybe wouldn’t realize you need to turn your car into a kitted-out home away from home. Here’s a list to get your started.
Water, water, water. Thankfully, you really can’t bring too much when you’re overlanding (unlike when you’re backpacking in the desert and must carry it all). Ergo, go with something big like the 7-gallon Aqua-Tainer from Reliance. It’s nearly indestructible, packs easily into your vehicle and has an easy-to-use spigot. $19.95
Note: If you’re only going out for a few days to a week at a time, an Aqua-Tainer or two should hold all you’ll need, otherwise consider adding on a gravity filter like the Katadyn BeFree Gravity 10L Water Filter ($109.95).
Roof-top tents have become a favorite for overlanders, offering a super comfortable and protected sleeping platform that’s quick and easy to set up and take down, without taking up any additional space inside your vehicle. One problem with roof-top tents, though, is that they tend to occupy your vehicle’s entire roof. That’s not the case with the Thule Tepui Foothill, which folds hotdog style (lengthwise), so if you mount it to the side of your crossbars, you can maintain space on your roof for bikes, cargo boxes and more. This one sleeps two adults comfortably. $1,699.95
Score two pots (2- and 3-liter) and a 9-inch frying pan in this portable GSI Outdoors set—perfect for any basecamping kit. The pots and pan are made of durable stainless steel, so they should last years and withstand accidental bangs and scrapes. Rubberized handles, integrated strainers and embossed measuring marks make the pots easy to use, and a nesting design means they won’t take up any extra space in your car. I pack mine alongside silverware and other utensils (not included) inside a single 5-gallon bin in the back of my truck. $79.95
Take your nice dining set, make it rugged and light, and get it dirty. Hydro Flask’s suite of Outdoor Kitchen gear includes plates and bowls, tumblers, flatware, serving bowls and spoons, a tote to carry it all around in and more. Fill out your kitchen kit with whatever’s missing with these slick pieces, which, of course, keep the hot stuff hot and the cold stuff cold. Starting at $19.95
With this double-burner from GSI Outdoors, you may even forget you aren’t cooking at home. A pair of 10,000-BTU burners provides precise simmer control and ignites with a built-in piezo igniter. The stovetop has enough room for two large pots, and maybe best of all, the stainless-steel and nickel-chrome cooking surface is super easy to clean up, even on the road. Baby wipes did the trick 90 percent of the time when I took the stove on a recent trip to Moab, Utah. $124.95
Having a sturdy table that’s, well, table height can go a long way toward improving your mood on the road for an extended period of time. This one from Mountain Summit Gear packs small but sets up to roughly 4 feet wide and more than 2 feet off the ground—big enough for your stove, cutting board and ingredients, with enough room leftover for a couple of folks to play cards. The tough aluminum frame and tabletop adds strength without making it too heavy, and it sets up in less than a minute. $99.95
You can always keep smaller things like your phone or rechargeable headlamp powered up using your vehicle, but larger items will drain your car battery and put you at risk of needing a backcountry jump. That’s where a massive power bank like the Goal Zero Yeti Lithium 1500X comes in handy. Its 1,500Wh battery capacity can power laptops, refrigerators, cameras and more for days at a time with its plethora of outlets (USB, 12V and AC plugs). If you head out for an extended period of time, plug it into a panel like the Goal Zero Boulder 100 ($249.95) for endless power. $1,999.95
Note: For anyone working from the road or who needs to charge bigger devices, the price of the Yeti Lithium 1500X may be worth it, but if you only need to juice your phone and smaller items, consider something smaller like the Goal Zero Venture 70 ($149.95), which will have plenty of power to keep you going.
Angular duffels like the Big Haul 90 from REI Co-op allow for more efficient use of space when storing gear in your car because you can stuff them into corners and stack them. This one also has ultradurable ballistic nylon on the bottom (perfect for tossing on the dirt or granite) and ripstop on top (so your stuff will stay dry). Stowable backpack straps and a medley of pulls let you easily schlep it from car to camp. $139
For a lot of us, the length of time you can comfortably go without taking a shower is a point of backcountry pride. For the people we’re bragging to, it’s a liability, especially if you have to share a car or a roof-top tent. Enter the Helio from NEMO. Easier to use than a gravity shower, it’s pressurized, allowing you to spray the hose at any angle. Wash your face and feet or your mountain bike after a long, dusty ride. After a couple days of biking and camping near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the water in the Helio had warmed up enough for me to enjoy a total rinse before moving on the next morning. Trust me: As nice as it feels to brag about not showering for a week, taking one feels even better. $99.95
Overlanding is just tailgating but you sleep there, too. Hide from the sun or the rain with the Tailgating Canopy from Rightline Gear, which attaches to your hatch and extends 8 feet—enough room for a pair of lawn chairs and your cook station. $99.95
Outside of established campgrounds, you’re not going to find a premade fire pit ready to go. Instead, tote along a portable one like the FIRESIDE OUTDOOR Pop-Up Fire Pit. It provides fire wherever you go without leaving a trace. Packing down to about the size of a camp chair, the Pop-Up Fire Pit sets up in minutes, comes with a heat shield to protect the surface below and burns logs, charcoal and more. $119.95
If you’re driving your car, you really have no excuse to not pack out your poop. (Furthermore, if you’re going to post up at one campsite for a week, how many times can you scatter catholes within a short distance of your campsite? LNT applies to overlanders, too.) Make the experience a little more enjoyable with a Luggable Loo from Reliance. Pair it with some Double Doodie Waste Bags ($17.95 for six) and there’s virtually no cleanup. Make believe you’re sitting on your real toilet at home, but with a much, much better view. $19.95
Remember how we said overlanding was all about being self-reliant? Well that’s true especially when it comes to your safety. Without help close by, carrying a well-stocked first-aid kit is critical and this one from HART Outdoor has enough to help you out until you can seek expert help. All gear is divided into separate pockets, making things easy to find, and it comes with a manual. $57.95
Interested in more staff picks and kits? Find more collections here.