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How to Plan an Overland Trip

How to Plan an Overland Trip

Weekend off-roading and camping are fun, but once you get the desire to travel to further destinations, the local trails frequently fall short of fulfilling your need for new adventures.

Being a part of a group of seasoned Overlanders who venture farther into the wilderness is the simplest method to increase the length of your expeditions. While the majority are content with this kind of experience, some are compelled to take on the task of designing their own experiences.

If you have made the decision to take the plunge and start organizing your own journeys, you may discover that while there are many publications outlining the Overlanding supplies to pack, there is little and frequently conflicting guidance for how to actually prepare for a trip.

While we are not professional overland travel guides, we thought we would share our ideas and experiences to serve as a jumping-off point for those looking to begin longer overland journeys.

Know Your Limits & Weaknesses

Prior to making plans, establish a foundation upon which to develop. Above all, be aware of your limitations. Can you manage recoveries, medical emergencies, or mechanical failures? How are your skills for surviving? Will you be bringing anyone else who has skills in the areas you lack?

You can decide the kind and length of your trips by being aware of your restrictions. With your skillset, will you be capable of traveling technical, complicated trails or are more comfortable on well-maintained logging roads or National Park trails? How far will you be traveling?

Additionally, now is a good opportunity to evaluate your equipment and vehicle and to make any necessary modifications or changes to prepare for the worst-case scenarios.

For example, are you going it alone? Better brush up on your self-recovery skills. Will you be doing some river crossings? A snorkel air intake would be a good addition to your rig.

Duration of Your Trip

Using a “building block” strategy makes trip planning the simplest. To do this, categorize the length of the trip into one of three categories: short trips, medium trips, or long trips. These classifications are based on the capacity for carrying supplies and fuel.

Short excursions typically last two to three days. These trips are enjoyable weekend trips that typically include exploring a single location, like a National Park trail or a section of logging roads. These travels are distinguished by the fact that refueling and loading up on supplies are not necessary. Because of this, they are the most manageable and a great place for new Overlanders to start.

Medium-distance journeys cover enough distance to call for a fuel stop. This involves four to five days of travel. It’s easiest to approach these trips as two short ones with a scheduled stop for refueling in the middle. By doing so, you can double the size of your exploration area or explore two separate regions in the same general area.

The most challenging excursions to prepare for are those that require both refueling and replenishing. Again, using the building blocks is all that is required. Planning might be thought of as two medium trips with a stop for restocking planned for the halfway point.

If you need to refresh your ice, it’s vital to remember that bags of crushed or cubed ice won’t survive as long as ice packs or blocks, so plan to do so in the second half of any lengthy journey. However for most long trips, a portable refrigerator freezer is the best option.

The number of days in each of these categories may vary depending on how much gear you can carry, but the principle is simple to apply and can be scaled however you like.

Additional Day

It’s challenging to estimate timing and progress while traveling through unfamiliar or new locations. For instance, you might travel 100 miles in a day on good public access roads but only about half that distance over difficult terrain.

Add an extra day to your timeline projections because the need to return to work and other obligations frequently fall on either end of your travel plans. That way, if something goes wrong, you can find a solution rather than having to shorten the trip.


Now that you know your scope, you should concentrate on maps. It would be well worthwhile to make an extra effort in this planning step. We rely on three main map sources while determining our path. Gaia GPS is the first. With information on everything from off-road trails and logging road networks to topographical details across the nation, it is without a doubt one of the best backroad resources available.

The satellite view on Google Maps is the second map we use. We carefully examine the satellite images of the chosen area to get a sense of the terrain’s difficulties and accessibility. Although it is not an exact science, this method can help you determine what obstacles might be found on your intended route as well as alternate paths you might want to explore.

Obviously, Google Maps is not a live view of the current topography so be sure to refer to your other resources for up-to-date conditions. Bypass routes can be included in your plan when there are iffy areas. Google Maps is excellent for identifying scenic regions and potential campsites.

Thirdly, a map from the National Forest Service of the area you want to visit is highly recommended. In these maps, you will find National Forest land and its permitted uses. Be sure to download Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM). You can also find these maps by using Offroad Atlas.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to give someone back home a copy of your route in case something goes wrong and a search party is required.

Food Storage

Food preservation on longer journeys is one of the biggest concerns. The most efficient method involves using a refrigerator like those made by ARB or Dometic, but this isn’t always cost-effective. If you’re on a tight budget, use a heavy-duty, well-insulated camping cooler. In hot weather, it gives you three to four days of reliable refrigeration, and performance may be improved with a few adjustments.

For instance, prepare as much food as possible in advance by freezing it and pre-chilling the cooler. Larger ice is preferred. Make ice packs out of rectangular 2 L (64 Fl Oz) Nalgene bottles. If restocking is required, ice bags can be used to fill them again.

While taking things out, you can maintain some insulation by covering the food in the cooler with a towel. Fresh veggies or other goods that don’t need to be refrigerated as much can be placed on top of the towel to avoid freezing.

And finally, covering your cooler with a sleeping bag improves its thermal isolation from outside temperatures. These easy methods will allow you to go for up to six days before your refrigeration runs out.

Fuel Preparedness

This is especially important for long trips. Never leave home without additional fuel, even if you never use it. Your fuel supply should be sufficient to cover the distance between fuel sources twice over. In this way, you will be able to go back the way you came if you encounter a roadblock at the end of a leg of your journey.

Plan your trip creatively if your fuel capacity is limited. In isolated regions, getting stuck or needing to leave can rapidly turn into an emergency. Options include carrying extra fuel in Jerry cans or in RotopaX fuel packs.

Planning for an Emergency

Many Overlanders don’t have an emergency plan when they travel. This lack of planning could very quickly become a life-threatening scenario. Emergencies typically involve one of three things: health, transportation, or sustenance. Even if you can reach someone by phone, the likelihood that you may have to handle situations alone increases the further you travel.

In order to deal with medical emergencies, carry a thorough off-road first-aid kit plus over-the-counter medications for allergic reactions, pain, swelling, and other medical issues. 

It’s also wise to have a minimum of two people who are trained in first-aid. Someone who can patch you up or treat your injury quickly and effectively. Two additional products to add to the first aid kit are powdered Gatorade and Dramamine. Heat stroke and motion sickness are common and are often overlooked challenges when Overlanding.

Always strive to keep extra fluids and replacement parts for your vehicle’s most vulnerable components on hand. On logging roads, sustained abuse can be difficult on starters and alternators, and in difficult terrain, CV joints might be vulnerable. Spare parts are useless if you lack the necessary tools or skills to use them. If you travel alone, a battery booster is also essential.

In addition to breakdowns, there is always a chance of being stuck or running into a blocked trail. Be sure to carry the necessary off-road recovery gear to help you in overcoming any challenges you face. You should never travel without trail tools. At the very least a nice saw and a recovery shovel. Those two things will come in handy.

Have a supply of non-perishable or dried food on hand in case you underestimate the amount of food you’ll need or your refrigerator stops working.

Even with careful planning, there is always the possibility of situations that could force part or all of your crew to hike. In these circumstances, it’s usually beneficial to bring a small bug-out bag filled with necessities; it doesn’t need to be very big.

Your backpack should include a first aid kit, water filter, water bladder, non-perishable food, a backpacking tent, paper maps, and a compass. In order to mark your route as you walk (to backtrack if needed), you should also bring a roll of flagging tape. If you are traveling to very remote regions, a personal locator beacon is also a great investment.

Ready Set Go!

It might be daunting to prepare for Overland travel. When reading about the worst-case scenarios, you might feel like you’re in over your head. In our experience, the majority of our Overland adventures have been incredibly enjoyable and we have only encountered small, manageable problems. It’s just best to be prepared for the worst so you can enjoy the best.

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