OB23: Protecting The Environment

As people who enjoy being outdoors, we also want to maintain the trails and woods we populate so frequently. This means leaving them in as good, or better condition than we found them and protecting the environment. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing piles of trash left at a campsite, on the side of a trail, or damage deliberately done by people. Trails have been known to be closed down to the public because of these things continually happening.

There are some principles that can be followed in order to facilitate long-term usage of trail systems for overlanding and more. Leave No Trace, Pack In/Pack Out, and Tread Lightly provide guidelines for how we should interact and treat the great outdoors. There is absolutely no reason to leave things in a worse condition than we found. By utilizing the principles listed here, we as overlanders can ensure trail systems stay open for years to come.

Tread Lightly

Tread Lightly, while applicable to other forms of outdoor recreation, also promotes and provides training for those who particularly enjoy off-road activities. They provide training across to adults and kids that teaches how to have the less amount of impact to the outdoors as possible. Tread Lightly offers some good, self-explanatory guidelines by using their namesake to break it down.

  • Travel Responsibly
  • Respect the Rights of Others
  • Educate Yourself
  • Avoid Sensitive Areas
  • Do Your Part

Pack In/Pack Out

Pack In, Pack Out is exactly how it sounds. With the amount of room available in most four-wheel drive vehicles, there is no reason to leave any trash or waste behind. Whatever items you decide to pack into a campsite should be the same items you pack out.

Leave No Trace

Much like Tread Lightly, Leave No Trace lays out a guideline for how we should treat the outdoors we love so much. Started in 1994, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has been educating people who love being outdoors on being responsible stewards of the environment. They operate and educate people on seven basic principles to help keep the outdoors clean.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Put some time into researching where you are going to understand the rules, conditions, weather, etc. that you are going to be faced with.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

As overlanders, our impact to the environment could be devastating. Making sure we stay on solid ground is pivotal to minimize damage and not have spots become recurring campsites.

Dispose of Waste Properly

Carrying as much gear as we do, it’s easy to take all waste with us once we leave camp. Things like the Trash-A-Roo allows for waste to be carried outside a vehicle rather than on the inside. It also makes it easy to clean up campsites and trails as you go.

Leave What You Find

There is no reason to carry out natural occurring souvenirs from a campsite, trail or any place you might visit. Leave everything as is, but take lots of pictures in order to recall what you’ve seen.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

Campfires are a staple at the end of the day, either for cooking or just sitting around enjoying a beverage. However, they can be absolutely devastating if not attended properly. Either carry in a portable fire pit or use a pre-existing fire pit instead of digging a new hole.

Respect Wildlife

Much like leaving things the way you find them, do not interrupt the natural flow of animals you find while out. This is both for your own safety as well as the animal’s safety.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

The old adage of treat others the way you want to be treated is important to preserve the overall experience of being outdoors. Don’t ruin someone else’s experience by doing dumb things.


OB22: Documenting Your Trip

While the intent is to get out and connect with nature, you may want to have some memories of what you did and where you went. Documenting your trip can be a vital part of that connection and keeping the good memories fresh in your mind. There are several ways to go about this. Some may prefer the simplest way possible, and some might want to document everything through photos or video.


Taking photos is probably the main way to document the trip. Most folks have cell phones available and can easily jump out to take pictures as things happen. In order to capture the best possible photos though, it might worth investing in some good camera equipment. Adventure travel and overlanding are good ways to practice photography as a hobby if that’s something you would be interested in.


Video takes some more preparation than taking photos. Deciding what shots to get, what angles, and how to present things takes some planning. In the end, it can pay off with hours of footage to look back on. Hanging out the window of a moving vehicle is obviously not a safe way to capture footage. Having a few different small action cameras on hand to capture different shot angles goes a long way. Most new photo cameras also shoot hi-res video, so if you are in the market for a new camera, this may be one way to document through photos and video.


Writing down the day’s events is a good way to capture those small details that photos and videos might not get. It’s also a good way to clear your brain of all that has happened so you can rest at the end of a long day. If you are putting together a video of the trip, it can also serve as a possible narration of what is being presented on the screen.

Lessons Learned

Part of being prepared is always to evaluate what gear you have, how well it worked and adjusting it from there. Documenting some lessons learned during your and after your trip can identify these areas. This allows you to make adjustments to how you do things. Making you more efficient at doing things such as setting up camp or prepping food.


OB21: Off Vehicle Activities

Adventuring and overlanding go hand-in-hand. You may spend the day driving to a secluded spot to fish or drop in your kayak. Maybe you’ll be camping near some biking trails and want to get a ride in. Any of these scenarios is possible and more. Overlanders often enjoy being active in other activities as well. Having a rig capable of carrying the necessary gear makes it a breeze to carry along equipment for your favorite off vehicle activities.

Warm Weather Activities

The warm weather allows for the most engagement outdoors. There are tons of things to do once the snow has melted and temperatures reach into the higher digits. Below are some suggestions for things to do along the way during a trip or even once you’ve made camp.

  • Mountain biking
  • Hiking
  • Canoeing/kayaking/paddleboarding
  • RC hiking
  • Fishing
  • Hunting, if season appropriate

Each has its own unique amount of gear you will have to pack, with things like canoeing and kayaking having a bigger footprint than hiking or fishing. You may even go so far as to strictly plan an overlanding trip around doing one or more of these activities.

Cold Weather Activities

While warm weather affords more options in terms of what can be done, some of the same activities can be accomplished in cold weather. People have been known to bike, hike, and fish during the winter months so feel free to give them a shot. Make sure you are prepared for the weather first and foremost. Below are some suggestions for things to do along the way during a trip or once you’ve hit camp.

  • Skiing, downhill or cross country
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowshoe
  • Ice climbing

Games for Camp

If hiking, biking, or fishing isn’t your thing, maybe you just want to hang out at camp and play some games. There are several outdoor games like ladder golf or cornhole that can be brought along to entertain everyone at camp. Both pair great with warm weather and an ice cold beverage of some sort.

OB20: Travel and Security

Understanding travel and security issues within the United States and abroad is important. While traveling within the Continental United States (CONUS) is much safer than Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS), there are downsides and drawbacks to both. The best way to stay safe is to make sure you are traveling with correct documentation, camping in secure locations, and locking up and securing your valuable items.

Documentation to Carry

There are several pieces of documentation that are good to carry whether traveling CONUS or OCONUS. You should always have your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance readily available. While some states are allowing digital versions of insurance cards to be shown it is still a good idea to carry a paper copy as a primary.

A passport is a must-have document to carry if traveling abroad. Foreign countries will not let you in without having one. Michigan is unique in that you can have an enhanced driver’s license. The enhanced license acts as a passport allowing entry into Canada and Mexico only. I cannot be used in other countries.

Photo identification can come in two forms if you have them on you: your driver’s license and a passport. It can’t hurt to have a few extra passport photos with you just in case you are entering a country where you need a visa.

It might be a good idea also to have multiple copies of everything you are carrying. This ensures that you can prove who you say you are in the event of documentation being lost, stolen, or held by border crossing guards.

CONUS Travel

Traveling CONUS doesn’t have the same risks that traveling OCONUS does. Most of the time, as long as you have the proper documentation, you will be fine. Not having it means you run the risk of getting a hefty ticket depending on where you are. If you are concealed carrying or carrying any weapons at all, ensure you understand the laws and rules of the state you are carrying in. This goes for firearms, knives, and non-lethal weapons.


There is a lot of research and paperwork needed to travel to foreign countries. On top of the regular paperwork you should have when traveling CONUS, you may also need additional documents to be able to pass through checkpoints, such as vaccination reports, bank statements, and even fiche documents. If you are unfamiliar with what a fiche document is, it’s basically a document used to track where you have been.

Do your research before entering a foreign country. Some countries require additional driving permits on top of your country of origin driver’s license. Insurance also needs to be considered. While you would be covered CONUS, going into another country does not mean you will be covered there. Look into short-term insurance coverage for traveling abroad. The investment could end up saving you lots of money in the event of a breakdown or accident.

Make sure you have access to money as well and what the rules are for currency in the country you are traveling. There is no reason to be caught without funds or access to funds. This could very easily ruin whatever plans you might have had. Keep an eye on exchange rates and bank fees for exchange rates as well, especially if you are operating on a budget.

Travel & Camp Security

While traveling, you want to make sure your high value and important items are not stolen. One of the easiest ways to do this is to have a travel safe. Something small enough to keep valuable items in such as vehicle keys, documentation, credit card, and/or cash. Larger items like computers and cameras can be hidden in storage compartments. If you have items on the roof of your vehicle, consider getting lockable tie-down straps and lockable roof clamps.

You also want to ensure you are going to be safe at a campsite. Depending on the area you travel in, it may be necessary to scout sites to camp at. You also want to make sure you are not going to camp in a well-traveled area or a spot that is affected heavily by weather, for example near a river if it rains. Make sure you know and understand what type of wildlife you may encounter.  Know whether there are restrictions on making a fire, so you don’t accidentally start a wildfire.

OB19: Plan For Emergencies

Every year people all over the world experience disasters in some form. Floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, this list goes on and on. It’s a good idea to plan for emergencies to happen, so you’re prepared for the fallout afterward. While you may not experience natural disasters on the trail, it’s a good idea to be prepared for what may happen. In this case, vehicle breakdowns and getting stuck in the middle of nowhere are probably the most common occurrences.

What Does Preparedness Mean

Preparedness can be defined as “a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action to ensure effective coordination during incident response.” That is a pretty broad definition that includes functions many of us as overlanders become familiar with as time goes on. The process seamlessly transitions to what we do in getting ready for a trip or expedition.

  1. Plan –write down what you might have happen and plan for the worst case.
  2. Organize – gather the gear you need and organize it accordingly.
  3. Train – learn the skills you will need to survive.
  4. Equip – gather the equipment you think you will need to get by.
  5. Exercise – put yourself through a test scenario.
  6. Evaluate – document what worked, what didn’t, what you used, what you didn’t; did your plan work the way it was supposed to?
  7. Correct – correct the issues you had and start over with the process.

This is a continual process and should be exercised several times throughout the year. Work in some skill usage if you are going to be out on the trail. Put yourself through a test scenario at camp where you only rely on what is in your survival kit. Work through the process and make corrections once you’ve made it back to your home base.

The Three Tiered System

One way to look at being prepared is to break down the idea of emergency preparedness into three sub-tiers. Using a three-tier system ensures you have enough gear to survive at any of the levels. We are going to look at this from the perspective of usage in overlanding. However, it can be applied to any emergency preparedness scenario.

Each tier builds on the last and ensures you have multiples of certain items. Having multiple redundancies is important in situations where your life may depend on it. This eliminates the chances of not having the right tools if something gets broken or is lost along the way.

First Tier

The first tier is what you carry on you. Most people might know this is an everyday carry or EDC for short. These are basic items you carry on you that meet the minimum to survive. There are many different directions this can be taken in. The idea is not to load yourself down with tons of belt hang-on. Things should be kept small and to a minimum.

Second Tier

Second tier gear is stored in a small bag of some sort. It’s gear that is too bulky to be carried in your pockets or on a belt. All of the items offer extended survival capabilities but are still not overly bulky.

Third Tier

The last tier is gear that would offer the option of having to leave your location and would be combined with first and second tier gear to create a survival bag. This bag would allow you to walk away from your location, if necessary, and survive for up to three days.

Building a Survival Kit

Hopefully, it never happens but being prepared for unforeseen events is important. Most of the gear you carry can sustain you through an extended period of being stranded. However, in some cases, you may not be able to access the gear you are carrying. This is where having a survival kit comes in to play. There are many different names for it, but the purpose is to sustain you through an event for a couple of days.

Your survival kit should cover down on the basics items you need to survive. Start with a timeframe and build on what your plan is for survival. One to three days is a good baseline to work from. Depending on how many people you are traveling within your rig will determine how much of certain things you should have in your survival kit. More people means having more food and water available.

The list we put together and included is for a single person. It is meant to sustain them for up to 72 hours, includes enough food and water to do so, and works under the assumption that other gear is not accessible.

Staying With Your Vehicle

When a breakdown occurs, the first thought might be to leave and find help. However, this is the leading cause of death in a breakdown. People who break down in certain situations are not equipped to handle the elements, don’t know how to navigate well enough, or cannot sustain themselves.

The best thing to do in an emergency is to stay with your vehicle. You are more likely to be found within a few days if you stay put. You have all the necessary equipment to sustain yourself for a few days. If you’ve planned correctly, you should have extra food, water, and gear needed to manage a few extra days.