Overland campsite in remote desert.

How to Plan an Overland Adventure

Nothing beats an overland adventure. The freedom felt while exploring the backcountry in your rig is unmatched by any other travel. Contrasted with traveling by plane, road tripping and overlanding allow you to travel wherever the road will take you and reach places that many others cannot go.

After countless overland trips over the past couple of years, I have built strong skills in off-roading and survival. I have also built a solid planning process for preparing for any off-road adventure.

Use this step-by-step guide to help you plan for your overland adventure.

Determine trip length and difficulty

What type of adventure are you looking for: a long rugged off-road adventure, a shorter trip with only a small amount of off-roading, or a mix of both? The type of trip you are going on should be based on your skill level and your ability to live out of your vehicle for extended periods of time.

If you are newer to off-roading and camping try a shorter trip, and once as you get more experience push yourself to do something more ambitious.

Also note that the longer the trip the more you need to prepare to ensure that you are ready for extreme situations. It also means you need to pack more gear for the extra days. If you are going on a two-day camping trip you will not need as much gear prepared as a 100-mile route on off-road trails.

Remote desert overland trail.

Find a route

The next step to any overland adventure is mapping out a route that you plan to take. You first need to find public land to explore. Depending on how far you are willing to road trip your options can be endless. In Oregon, we have many national forests and so much land administered for public use by the Bureau of Land Management. You will want to look for similar land near you.

Once as you find public land you want to explore, you will need to locate maps of that public land’s trails systems. Look up maps on the internet or use a GPS / GPS app to find trails.

GPS map of off-road trails.

Locate a route that you want to take based on how long you will stay and how far you plan on traveling each day. Consider how many days you want to camp and how long you want to travel. If you plan on packing up camp every day and moving to a new spot, you will be able to travel farther than if you set up a long-term camp.

For a detailed breakdown on how to find overland trails, check out our article How to Find Off-Road Trails Near Me.

Prep your gear

After you decide where you are going, you will need to get your overland gear together. If you are camping for multiple days you will need to get together: camping gear, cooking gear, and recovery gear.

How are you going to sleep? Are you going to camp in a ground tent, a rooftop tent, or an RV? Figure out you shelter situation. Also depending on the weather, you will want to think through how you will keep yourself warm. Bring appropriate clothes as well as fire starting materials or a heater.

Next is cooking gear. A portable stove is a reliable option to cook food and boil water, but you can also bring portable grills or even cook over the fire. You will also need to figure out food storage. Whether you have a quality cooler or a portable fridge, make sure you have the gear to keep food cold for the entirety of the trip. I use the Pelican Elite Cooler, which keeps ice for up to 10 days. If you do not want to worry about keeping food cold you can also bring dry food. I always recommend packing an emergency supply of dry food for extreme situations.

Finally, always bring recovery gear. Traction boards are an easy place to start. They can help you get unstuck from sand, snow, or mud, so I recommend investing in a pair. You can also bring recovery straps for recovery purposes. Whatever you bring make sure you have the right gear for the terrain you will be facing. Check out this list of recovery gear to help you get the right gear.

Roof rack with traction boards strapped on.

Once as you have everything you need, pack it all in your car and get ready to go. For a more detailed checklist, check out our article The Best Overland Gear.

Head out

Once as it is time to head out you need to let people know where you are going. Tell a couple friends exactly where you plan on exploring so if you get lost someone can find you.

Make sure that you have all your gear securely tied down. If not, they could fly around on rugged trails.

Before you leave you also want to make sure that your vehicle is in good shape, so that you do not run into any potential problems while on the trail. Either bring in your car to the shop to get a quick check or check it yourself.

Make sure to eat plenty of food before heading out so you are not hungry. Fill up your gas tank and fill it up again right before you hit the trials. I recommend bringing spare gas cans if you have them for the longer trips.

Check out our Checklist Before Hitting the Trail for more information.

Once as everything is ready, hit the trails and have a great time!

Remote desert landscape.


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