OB18: Keeping Your Gear Organized

organization cover photo

Keeping your gear organized may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you want to get outdoors. Some folks just throw everything into a couple of bins and hit the road. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. Any excuse to get out is a good one, but not being able to find something because you brought everything can kill the fun.

Ready to Go Bins

Having a few ready to go bins can go a long way in not stressing about packing. Keep anything that doesn’t have an expiration date on it in some bins. They should be easily accessible with everything you might need for a quick jaunt into the woods. The only thing you would need to do is pack a cooler with food, something easily remedied by a quick stop to the grocery store. You could even go one step further and have a ready to go bin with just food. Depending on where the food bin gets stored you could keep it stocked with non-perishable food or dehydrated food. Make sure to rotate the food out if it’s close to expiring and replace it as needed with newer items.

Packing Your Vehicle

There isn’t really any right or wrong when packing your rig for a trip. We can say avoid putting too much on the roof if you have a safari rack. Adding things increases the chance of a rollover event, which no one wants. Keep as many things as you can inside the vehicle and inside whatever you store them in. You also want to make sure there are not too many small projectile like items floating around in case of stopping quick or an accident.

Having two or three ready-made storage bins, you can just grab and go. This eliminates any time you might spend digging through bins of gear searching for what you might need. Keep the number of things in the bins down to the basics; you shouldn’t need to pack everything for a quick weekend trip. Minimalism is a good thing.

Storage Options

Everything in one bin does not make for a good time. Ideally, you should have storage inside of storage. We mention breaking things down into kits early on in this guide. It’s a good idea to store those smaller kits in their own containers inside of the larger kit container. Label them so you can easily identify what’s what and get to it quickly.

Drawers

If you have a drawer system, consider making sectioned off areas for specific types of gear or food. There are some companies that offer dividers for drawers that configure easily to your needs. A drawer system is probably the best way to keep things in your rig and out of the way. They generally mount in the cargo area of a vehicle and come in various configurations and sizes.

Plastic Bins

If you go to any hardware store, you can find inexpensive plastic bins to store your gear in. These are not bad options and work well. Plano makes several different styles that consistently come up in conversation when gear storage and organization is discussed. They stack easily on one another and have hooks to be able to strap to a cargo rack or bars.

If you want something more rugged, consider going with a Pelican case. Pelican cases are military grade, and their prices reflect this. Many people swear by them though. Hit some local military surplus stores or even check online for discounted or surplus cases. They can often be gotten for several hundred dollars less than retail.

 

OB17: Staying Safe From the Elements

When stopped for the evening and setting up camp, you’re going to need to have some form of shelter. There are numerous options, and if you’re an experienced camper, you may have a preference of one thing over another. Overlanding is no different than regular camping, and plenty of people get by using what they already have. Being able to carry multiple options ensures you are staying safe from the elements.

Inside Your Rig

This is probably the easiest and cheapest option provided you have a large enough vehicle.  The cargo area of an SUV or truck with topper can be converted into decent sleeping accommodations. Most SUVs and truck beds are large enough to accommodate a single person blow up mattress, sleeping bag, and some blankets.

Roughing It

While not most people’s cup of tea, simply laying down a sleeping bag on the ground will also work. This is a great way to sleep under the stars. However, you must be aware and prepared for possible weather conditions and animals.

Ground and Tree Options

Probably the best option is a regular ground tent. They’re cheap, easy to set up, and most people already have one. Unless you’re rolling around with a huge canvas hunting tent, their footprint in terms of space claim is minimal. If this is your preferred choice make sure you have season rated tents.

Hammocks can be a great alternative to using a tent, especially if you are traveling by yourself. Their footprint is about the same size as a tent, maybe smaller. Hammocks come in a variety of sizes and variations. With under quilts and over quilts they can be extremely warm in colder months. Set up and tear down of a hammock is as easy as stuffing it back in its storage bag and moving on to the next campsite.

Roof Top Tent

The more expensive option here provides the same type of shelter as its ground brother, just on your vehicle’s roof. The main benefit of having a rooftop tent is that it gets you off the ground altogether with no worry about animals or changing weather conditions affecting sleep. Most rooftop tents will accommodate a regular mattress for sleeping on that stays in. For some, this is preferred to sleeping on a blow-up pad, hammock, or just on the ground.

OB16: Menu Planning and Meal Prep

Gourmet style meals can be had while on the trail with some menu planning and meal prep. There is no need to compromise eating well in favor of easy and terrible. The options available these days surpass just having to buy a bunch of groceries and hope things stay good. Dehydrated meals offer a quick, easy, and sometimes tasty alternative to spending money on a weekends worth of groceries.

Creating a Menu

First and foremost determining what type of meals you want to have. If you want dehydrated meals, hit up your nearest outdoors store or Amazon and pick up enough for 3 meals a day. Most of the time dehydrated meals contain enough for more than one person and can be used for two meals through the day. Be warned though, if you haven’t tried these before you may want to do some research beforehand.

Fresh Ingredients

It is absolutely possible to travel with fresh ingredients to cook with. Especially if you have a portable refrigerator on your rig. It’s doable in a cooler also, but with less of a “shelf” life. We’ve traveled with fresh ingredients and most times find what we buy for a weekend trip lasts the weekend with no issues. Longer, extended trips may require a stop to replenish some items either as they’re used or as they go bad.

Dehydrated Foods

Dehydrated meals are a good alternative to cooking fresh. It’s also a good idea to have dehydrated meals as a backup solution if your cooling solution fails or you find yourself in a situation that food isn’t readily available. Most of the meals are super easy to make. Add boiling water and let stand for 10-20 minutes. That’s it. And surprisingly they’re quite good.

Prepping Food

One solution for this is to prep some pre-cooked and pre-made freezer meals before leaving. These can be thawed at once camp is set up and cooked in a pot over a fire or on a stove within a matter of minutes. Having cut vegetables and pre-cooked meat saves time once in camp, and your belly is grumbling.

Traveling with canned foods instead of fresh foods can also mean the difference between having to stop frequently and being able to push on while out. They are also easy to just heat up and eat if it’s getting dark and time is running out for the day.

Keeping Things Cold

When planning a trip, you need to determine how much cold food you’re going to take. This can play into what size cold storage you’re going to need. There are two camps you can fall into. The first being usage of a regular cooler. The second being spending more money (potentially close to a thousand dollars) on a portable refrigerator. If you prefer dehydrated meals all weekend, skip right over this because it doesn’t apply to you.

Coolers

The options for coolers are well into the high hundreds. Ultimately you want something that can keep things cold or frozen for days at a time rather than hours. For a high functioning cooler like this, you’ll end up spending more on a good cooler. Also, it would be beneficial to find a basket that can be used to keep items up out of the ice, so they don’t get soggy.

Ideally, it might even be beneficial to have multiple coolers of the same or different designs. This allows you to keep easily contaminated items in one, drinks and other cold items that one get spoiled in another, and even one for dry goods and non-perishable items.

Good cooler prep is also essential if you’re going to be out for days at a time. Prepping a cooler for long-term usage is pretty easy to do before a trip and during a trip. Follow the steps below to ensure you’re food and drinks stay cold and good while on the trail.

  • Precool the cooler by placing ice in it for 4-6 hours prior to packing. You may even consider putting it outside overnight if the temperature is cool enough.
  • Freeze any food and drink items that can be frozen.
  • Use block ice instead of cubed ice; they won’t melt as fast.
  • Drain water on longer trips, but not on shorter ones.
  • Layer the cooler: block ice on the bottom, cover the ice with a thin layer of waterproof material, pack food items on top.
  • Repack food into Tupperware containers or Ziploc bags to prevent water leakage.
  • Add an insulating or reflective cover to the cooler.
  • Keep it closed as much as possible and organized for easy access.
  • Pack drinks in a separate cooler.

Refrigerators

While expensive, a portable refrigerator is a great alternative for keeping your food cold. Much like you’re home refrigerator, portable refrigerators come in all shapes and sizes to fit your rig and needs; tie into your vehicle’s battery system; and keep things cold consistently without having to add ice. The good thing about a portable refrigerator is that the draw on a battery is minimal it could be kept on and never shut off while traveling. The downside is they are nowhere near as large as some coolers, which could be a drawback if out on an extended trip.

Water & Storage

There are numerous ways to carry water. One of the easiest may be just to purchase a large pack of bottled water to use for cooking, drinking, and whatever else. The problem there is having to carry around the empty bottles when done.

Another option is to work in a storage solution, whether one container or multiple, to your complete rig loadout. Onboard storage can be added to any rig also. One solution is to add a tank to your rig either in a storage area or even behind a seat. The other option is to have a few portable 5-gallon jugs with a spigot that can be moved to either a water source or just to a more convenient location for usage.

Sometimes the only available options are natural sources. Having a filtration system helps eliminate any contaminants that might be in the water. This is one area you do not want to cheap out on. If you’re going g to carry a filtration system, then spend the money on a good one. Do your research on what works best and even take some training on how to properly filter water.

Cooking Methods

There are two primary methods for cooking once camped. Either you are cooking on an open fire, or you are using a stove. Regardless of the method, each has its own quirks when making a meal.

Campfire

Cooking over a fire has been a staple for thousands of years. There is some technique to building a good cooking fire and being able to cook on it successfully. Learn the differences in making a cooking campfire versus one you can just sit around. Also look into the cooking gear you will need to use.

A good piece of gear to carry if you choose to cook on an open flame is a breakdown grill. These usually come in several pieces and pack down nicely for storage. They provide a good, solid surface to place pots and pans on for cooking. If you have experience cooking at home on a regular grill, this method should be right up your alley.

Stove

Stove cooking can be accomplished using a small backpacking style stove or a multi-burner camp stove. Using one over the other probably depends on what you are cooking and how many you are cooking for. If you’re making just dehydrated meals, a backpacking stove can do the trick nicely. Having multiple people along requires the use of a two or three burner camp stove.

In either case, make sure what you are using has some level of control over the flame. Something that just burns at the highest setting is likely to burn foods very quickly, ruining any chance at a good meal. Plus, burned on food is not fun to clean up at a campsite.

OB15: Getting Stuck and Performing Recovery

Much like breaking down, getting stuck and performing recovery is going to happen at some point. Having the correct equipment to safely recover means you don’t have to pay the huge amounts of money to have a tow truck come to you. While most of this equipment may be overland and off-road specific, it can also be used day-to-day for example if you find yourself stuck in a snow bank in the middle of winter.

You want to stock the correct gear in your rig that suits and fits the environments you are traveling in. Most recovery gear is pretty universal and can be used across all types of conditions and weather. However, consider keeping a baseline set of recovery gear and supplementing it with seasonal based items as needed.

The tools only go so far and proper training on how to safely recover a vehicle. Knowing what to use in certain situations, the limitations of equipment, and the dangers associated with recovery keeps everyone safe and equipment undamaged. Read the product manuals that come with your equipment and schedule training classes to learn the correct techniques for vehicle recovery.

Gear Needed

Much like everything else overland related, there is gear that is needed to perform recovery successfully. This is not the gear you want to cheap out on either. Having high-quality recovery gear keeps people safe and allows you to get out easily. Throw in some training, so you know and understand how to use your recovery equipment, and you’ve set yourself up in a good way.

At the most basic level, you should have the listed below on your rig. All of them are good tools to carry even on regular roads in the event yourself, or someone else, stuck in uncertain conditions. As you begin to make modifications certain things can be replaced, for example, the come-along can be replaced by a bumper mounted winch. Ensure everything is rated for your vehicle or better, making sure to take into account all the gear and bodies that may add additional weight.

Jack and Baseplate

A hi-lift jack serves multiple purposes. It can be used for recovery situations in place of a come-along. The jack and baseplate are essential for performing field repairs as well.

Traction Boards

Traction boards come in various shapes and sizes. Their primary purpose is to give your vehicle traction in stuck conditions by placing them underneath the wheels.

Snatch Strap

A snatch strap allows another vehicle to recover a stuck vehicle by attaching the strap between the vehicles on recovery points. The idea is to tug or pull the stuck vehicle out, however, using a snatch strap puts considerable strain on both vehicles and may even cause damage.

Tree Saver

A tree saver works in conjunction with winch recovery and usage and does what the name implies. Attaching a winch line up to a tree bare can cause serious amounts of damage to the tree itself. Most tree savers are made of materials that will not cause damage and are even safer to use than just using a winch line.

Snatch Block

Snatch blocks serve two purposes; the first is to allow for redirection of a winch line and the second is to increase the pulling power.

Shackles & D-rings

Shackles are used on mounting points on the vehicle to offset some of the stresses of recovery. These small but extremely useful tools are an essential item to keep in a recovery kit.

Recovery Methods

Short of calling in a wrecker to get you unstuck (which can be really expensive) there are many different ways to get yourself recovered. The gear you carry, or someone with you carries, and how stuck you are will determine how you end up performing recovery actions. There are two categories that recovery can fall into. Self-recovery means you are using the tools you have on your rig to get yourself unstuck. Assisted recovery means you have another vehicle helping to get you unstuck.

Either way, knowing the gear you have and how to use it is very important. Training goes a long way in helping you understand how to recover your vehicle safely. This means you learn how not to damage a vehicle or cause harm to anyone involved.

 

OB14: Communicating With Others

While overlanding can be done as a solo venture, it’s recommended to travel in some sort of pack. This means ensuring each rig has the ability to communicate with another. CB and HAM radio are the preferred method for communicating between vehicles, more on that will be provided below.

Cell and Satellite Phones

While the cell phone is not the preferred method of communication, it still holds a spot on the list. We do not recommend using your cell phone as the primary means of communication because of the high possibility of losing your cell signal. Signal coverage, while better than it was 10 years ago, can still be extremely spotty once you’ve ventured away from populated areas.

Satellite phones eliminate the coverage issue cell phones have by using satellites in orbit around the earth. Much like the cell phone that resides in your pocket, satellite phones are expensive and require a service plan.

Radio Services

There are a number of different types of radio communications that can be utilized on the trail. Some are good for short range, and some are good for long range. You should consider configuring your rig for two different methods, one short and one long. This gives you the ability to communicate while moving in a convoy or over short distances. If an emergency arises, the long-range option will allow you to communicate if cell phone coverage is not available.

FRS & GMRS

Most people starting out will have regular two way or FRS radios. These are really only a good choice if you are in close proximity to each other. Vehicle to vehicle communication can happen as long as they are within close proximity. Larger convoys or vehicles traveling with space between them may need to upgrade to something stronger like CB.

General mobile radio service, or GMRS, is an alternative to the regular two way and FRS. It does require a license to operate, but it can be had by simply requesting a usage license. The license is good for a family so using it on the trail means the other people you are with will need their own license. GMRS has the same issue as FRS in that line-of-site is preferred for best possible communication

FRS and GMRS are good for vehicle to vehicle communication but should not be relied upon for emergency communication.

CB Radio

CB, or citizens band, is a short distance form of radio communication that is most prevalent among truckers. CB does not require a license to use and is an effective way of communicating on the trail. CB offers more range than regular two way radios due but still has its limitations. In order for CB to be effective at long range, it has to have a properly tuned antenna and radio.

Amateur/HAM

Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, is probably the best way to communicate while traveling. Its long range allows for users to talk to each other over miles of distance rather than having to have an unobstructed line-of-sight like two way or CB. Ham radio does require a license in order to use and is relatively easy to acquire at the lowest level.

Other Communication Methods

If things go really wrong and you need to get a message to someone than a device like the SPOT satellite messenger. The SPOT is a small hockey puck sized device that allows you to send an okay, tracking, and help message if necessary using existing communication satellites in orbit around the earth. The SPOT is not a cheap device (although cheaper than a satellite phone) and requires a monthly service plan in order to work, but it provides a piece of mind for those traveling in remote areas.