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Overlanding Checklist

An Overlanding Checklist for Off-Road Success

Preparing for Overlanding takes time, careful planning, and the ability to objectively strategize for the scenarios that lie ahead. Similar to planning an upcoming family or business trip, making a checklist before going off-road is a proven method to ensure you have everything you need.

If you overpack, your trip as a whole and your vehicle will suffer. Under-pack and risk staying in the wilderness a lot longer than you planned. You goal should be to avoid unneeded stress by striking a balance between having too much and not having enough.

However, there is another Overlanding supplies checklist that needs to be created—or at the very least, a new column needs to be added—before you put together that list of off-road accessories and recovery gear. You’d be surprised at how many Overlanders are very thorough when it comes to accessories but overlook the actual vehicle itself. The Overlanding vehicle is the most crucial element of a successful journey.

The Vehicle Checklist

Simple upkeep and inspection are quick and easy routines to spot any bumps in the road before they annoyingly appear on the trail. Therefore, take a step back and examine a few things on your rig before loading up the bed rack, storage box or roof rack with gear.

4-Wheel Drive System

Check that your 4WD system is working properly. Especially if you don’t have full-time 4WD like us on our 4th Gen 4Runner. Make sure that the 4WD engages and is working properly. The last place you want to find out that you have 2-wheel drive is on a steep incline attempting to climb a muddy hill.


Power steering, brake, coolant, wiper, differential, and fuel should all be full. Be sure to check for any leaks when doing this. Additionally, it is a good idea to bring additional fluids with you on the journey. However, make sure the container is designed to hold the fluid you are transporting. For example, there are specific containers that are designed to hold extra gasoline.


Lighting is essential, particularly at dawn and dusk. Verify the electrical connections for security and check your high/low beams, fog lights, and any auxiliary lighting. Verify the proper operation of all powered accessories like winches, air lockers, air compressors, solar energy sources and other devices. It’s also a good idea to load test your battery to check its condition before heading out. Also check the interior devices like portable refrigerators and off-road GPS units


Serpentine belts, radiator hoses, and anything connected to your alternator and water pump system should all be checked, replaced, and stored as spares. On the trail, these are regularly damaged.


There are several parts to inspect, but a reliable suspension may make or break a trip. Check springs, mounts, tie rods, control arms, and shocks for wear, leaks, and overall performance.


It’s crucial since it’s your only point of contact with the ground. Inspect your tires for sufficient tread, peeling or cracking, and any air leaks. The same should be done with your spare.

Survival Checklist

Moving on from your vehicle itself, let’s talk about the things you place inside. No matter how simple the trail ahead turns out to be, you should always have these Overlanding supplies on hand for any type of adventure. These are the non-recovery specific gear and supplies that you should have on hand.

First Aid Kit

For less than $50, you can purchase a basic Adventure Medical Sportsman 200 first aid kit, or LIFE+GEAR 116 piece first aid kit. Alternately, acquire a more extensive off-road first aid kit like the Sportsman 400 first aid kit. If the kit doesn’t already contain these, think about hot/cold packs and gels for snake bites and burns.

Food and Personal Essentials

Additional food and drink. A minimum of one gallon of water per person, each day, and twice as much food in case you get lost on the path. Favorites in non-perishable or freeze-dried form are preferred. Don’t forget to pack toilet paper, trash bags, antibacterial hand soap, sunscreen and water purification tablets.

Extra Clothing

You’ll wish you packed some extra clothing if you end up knee-deep in a muck hole. If the weather turns bad, having extra socks, a rain jacket, a hat, gloves, and warm gear on hand is a fantastic idea.

Basic Tool Kit

There should always be access to common hand tools.  A basic wrench and socket set, ratchet, hammer, or mallet might be quite helpful. On the trail, something like the Performance Tool W1532 mechanics tool set will come in handy.

Compass or Off-road GPS

In most circumstances, your phone will work just fine, but for people who travel to areas with poor cell service, a standalone device is a great option. Visit our post about Overlanding GPS units for more information.

 Charging Accessories

Make sure you have all the cables you need to charge your GPS, cameras, phones, and other vital trail equipment. Although USB hubs are excellent, a portable power bank like the Southwire Elite series portable power stations also have AC outlets.

Battery Jump Pack

A portable jump pack is a useful item to have on hand in case of a dead battery. Jumper cables also work well, but if you’re by yourself or in a difficult-to-reach place, a Duracell 900 amp jumpstarter or the Michelin XR1 portable power source is the best option. Additionally, many jump packs are equipped with extras like USB charging connections and flashlights to increase their functionality.

Recovery Gear

We’ve discussed your needs for trail survival, but what about those for your vehicle? The tools required to maneuver your rig around, over, or through nature’s obstacles are listed below.

We go into more detail on this subject in our article “Guide to Recovery Gear for Overlanding“.


The leader in your options for recovery gear. The WARN Drill Winch and Superwinch Winch2Go are two portable options, although most Overlanders have their winch mounted to their rig’s winch-ready off-road bumper.

Check out our winch buying guide for more detailed information.

Kinetic Straps or Rope

Traditional tow straps work well for towing disabled vehicles, but kinetic tow straps have more flexibility, which makes them ideal for weight distribution during recovery pulls. Pick from a number of reliable brands, including ARB, Voodoo Offroad, Rugged Ridge, or Bubba Rope.

Tree Protector

Tree Savers protect both your winch line and the anchor point when used to secure to a solid object, such as a tree or boulder. Look into what Factor 55, Bubba Rope and Bulldog Winch have to offer.

Tire Repair Kit

Off-roading often results in tire punctures. Having a spare is a fairly common practice, but occasionally it makes more sense to fix something rather than replace it. There are excellent kits available for under $50 from brands like Smittybilt, ARB, Overland Vehicle Systems and many more.

Recovery Jack

If something needs fixing on the trail, this is a recovery tool that will allow you the extra space to work under your vehicle. Additionally, you can use the added height it offers to free your rig from a rock or stump if it becomes stuck. When it comes to recovery jacks, Hi-Lift is the best in the business, and their All-Cast 48 inch is a classic.

Air Compressor

Dropping the PSI in your tires is by far the best technique to improve grip on the trail. It’s quite simple to let air out, but it’s not quite as simple to put more in. When getting ready to go back home, air compressors take the search for the closest service station out of the equation. This category is dominated by Viair and ARB.

Recovery Gear Kits

All-in-one recovery gear kits are a terrific method to cover the majority of your recovery gear needs. They also prevent having to hunt for each individual item. However, creating your own recovery “tool kit” is fun and offers a little bit more customization. Although they might not contain everything you could possibly want, the organization and convenience of recovery kits free up space for further planning.

Here are a few of our recommendations:

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