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.

 

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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.

Photography

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

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.

Journal

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.

Find more of this series here.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

Find more of this series here.

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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.

Find more of this series here.

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