Lets skip past all of the faux pas surrounding Off-roading and Overlanding; you don't need an $80,000 lifted rig with a roof-top tent, 12K winch, and traction pads glued to the side. All you really need is an capable and reliable vehicle (see: any SUV or truck), a map/GPS, and a little bit of know-how.
What is Overlanding? I'm sure you already know, but simply put it is a vehicle based form of travel where the journey itself is the goal (not the destination).
Your average off-road excursion is going to be on a dirt road with ruts, divots, rocks, and other obstacles; this will be passable by any standard SUV, crossover, or truck. Generally, you won't need anything special outfitted on the vehicle (lift or otherwise); just good tires and a well-maintained engine and chassis.
What do I consider "well-maintained" and "good tires"? Your vehicle should be free of known defects. Don't hit the trail knowing that there is an oil or coolant leak, a tire with a nail in it, or other hazard that could potentially bring your trip to a halt. If your tires are bald or worn past the wear bars, a new set of tires will make the trip safer and better for you (plus the vehicle will handle better) - consider some all-terrain tires.
Your Vehicle Gear (Recovery)
This section is in regards to "recovery" of a vehicle - this is a broad word that can relate to any incident from a stuck vehicle, to a flat tire, to a fire. In the very least, you'll want to have:
• Jack (Hilift)
• Basic Hand Tools
• Fire Extinguisher
• Tow Rope (Recovery Strap)
• First Aid Kit
• Tire Patch Kit
Another extremely important point here is to know your gear! I have seen many people need to use a jack, only to fiddle around with it trying to figure out how it works when they need it. Test out your gear and understand how to use it before you need it! This goes for your vehicle too; do you know where your jacking (lifting) points are?
Your Personal Gear
As with any camping trip, proper preparation is key. Scout weather reports for the area you'll be in; plan for the worst case scenario. Additionally, I like to ensure the route I plan to take is open. Here in California, CalTrans (DOT) has a website to see current road status: QuickMap
Some basic items you'll need are:
• Map of Area/GPS
• More Water than needed (per person)
• Clothing (Weather appropriate)
• Eating (Stove, Food, Fuel, Utensils, chair)
• Sleeping (Tent, Sleeping pad, Tarp, Sleeping bag)
• Hygiene (Toothbrush, Meds, Toiletries, First Aid)
Of course your list will differ depending on your needs. Many people require additional care for sleeping such as a CPAP machine. Be sure to have everything you need to power such devices.
Your Trip Plan
Be realistic in your planning - especially if this is one of your first trips. Find easier and possibly well-traveled paths. I wouldn't recommend venturing too far off of the beaten path until you are familiar and accustomed to your rig, gear, and skillsets.
I like to scout locations by physical map and by Google Earth. Depending on where you go, trails and accessibility can change by the day. I camp a lot in the forest; the problem I experience here the most is downed trees. I have seen trees physically fall across trails completely cutting off access to the other side. If you planned routes carefully, you will have a good idea of how to backtrack and find routes around unplanned obstacles.
Another issue I often find are closed gates. Again, this is an unavoidable obstacle - have alternate routes planned!
Some of the apps that I've found work best for navigation and route planning are:
• Google Earth (App & Online - Free)
• Outly (App - Free)
• GaiaGPS (App & Online - Free)
• onX Maps (App - paid)
Travel with a group
One thing I do not recommend is traveling alone. If you are the solitary type, make sure people know where you'll be; give them map locations/GPS coordinates, and specific locations. It is a good idea to carry something like a SPOT Satellite Messenger or the Garmin InReach for those "just in case" emergencies.
There are many reasons why you should travel with a group; pooling resources, you'll learn from each other, and there are others there to seek help or get you back to civilization should something catastrophically break.
A great place to find more info and people to travel with is Overland Bound.
You're Ready to Venture Out!
Now you have the basic understanding to get out and explore! Don't be afraid of the "what-ifs", just pick a route, plan and pack accordingly, and I guarantee you will love the journey!
Overlanding is one of those things that gets easier with time; each time you venture out, you will get a better understanding of what you need and what you don't need. Your skillset will increase, and that lingering fear of danger will subside.
However fun this seems, I must warn you - Overlanding is addicting and will get into your blood. Now get out there and adventure on!
Thoughts or comments? Leave them below!