Time for reading: 12 min.

So You Want To Go Overlanding? Here’s What You’ll Really Need

We discuss the items we feel are must-haves for an enjoyable and crisis-free overlanding journey.
So You Want To Go Overlanding? Here’s What You’ll Really Need

About overlanding, it's been said that we travel the trails, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel them, next, to find ourselves. We agree, and it's no secret that a number of us at CARiD are 4x4 fans - customizing our Jeeps, SUVs, pickups, and all-wheel-drive vans in various ways for any number of purposes. But when we realized just how many of our staffers share the enjoyment of overlanding, we were compelled to get together not only to share our stories, but to figure out what items we commonly feel are most important to bring along on an overland trip. Things that have proven themselves time and time again when the going gets rough and the roads are unfamiliar.

Protective Skid Plates And Other Vehicle Armor

Protective Skid Plate

For starters, one of the best things to ensure your trip over unpredictable terrain remains uneventful is body armor for your vehicle, starting with skid plates to protect vital mechanical areas underneath your vehicle. Using the selection boxes along the left side of our skid plate page, you can select sturdy steel pieces shaped and sized to protect engine, fuel tank, transmission, transfer case, control arm, differential, steering, and other areas. Our related article Skid Plates Provide The Ultimate In Off-Road Protection will provide some helpful examples and guidance. It's also worth taking a look at all the armor and protection pieces we offer, because you just may find something that suits your individual needs well.

Rampage SRS Retractable Black Rockguard Steps Installed
Rampage SRS Retractable Black Rockguard Steps
Rocker bars such as the Rampage SRS Retractable Black Rockguard Steps shown here provide vital protection for vulnerable rocker panels over uneven terrain.

If you're in an area where you'll need to plant tires on and over big obstacles such as rocks or fallen trees, you'll want to fit your 4x4 with rocker bars to protect rocker panel areas below the side doors. Those rocker panels will end up making more contact with the rocks than your underside will, and they tend to get chewed up badly without protection. With a selection of attractive powder coat finishes, rocker bars are typically stylish and, depending on design, can easily double as running boards for climbing in and out.

Smittybilt Magnetic trail Skins
Body Armor Tub Rails
Rugged Ridge Hood Protector
Windshield Protection

If you're doing a more serious level of off-roading, we also offer body protection reinforcement pieces for all areas of 4x4s, some of which include tubular steel bars designed to be placed higher up on doors and side areas. For example, we've got the Affordable Offroad Rear Quarter Rub Rails for the rear doors of 1984-2001 Jeep Cherokees, Body Armor 4x4 Tub Rails for rear fenders, and even tubular offroad doors for select models that can be used in place of factory ones.

Off-Road Bumpers And Winches

Heavy-Duty Bumpers Designed Especially For Off-Roading

If you feel a need for skid plates and other body armor, you'll want the protection that high-strength front and rear "off-road" bumpers provide. Made completely of heavy gauge steel, they'll resist scrapes and damage while handling a variety of tasks OEM bumpers can't. And thanks to angled corners and edges, you'll have a lot more clearance for big tires and tackling steep approach angles that would damage factory bumpers. For guidance, we recommend checking out our off-road bumper shopping guide which makes recommendations based on various scenarios you might encounter.


Being prepared for unexpected situations while overlanding makes a trip fun instead of traumatizing. And because the whole point of overlanding is to explore new and unfamiliar places, you can plan on the unexpected occurring. Being prepared with a bumper-mounted winch is one of the best ways to pull your vehicle out of tough situations where no one's around and no one is coming. Off-road experts will tell you the most important factor about tough situations is getting out of them fast - and few things can quickly move heavy loads at virtually any angle than winches do.

Curt Winch Plate For 2" Receivers
The Curt Winch Plate for 2" Receivers is one example that mounts to your truck's frame so you don't need to use factory bumpers for winch mounting.

For those who prefer to keep their factory bumpers that may not be suitable for the stresses of winch use, it's still easy to install a winch on specially designed hitch receiver cradles which bolt to the front or rear of your truck's frame.

The basic rule of choosing an off-road winch is to select one with enough muscle to lift at least 1.5 times the fully loaded weight of the vehicle it's attached to. When your overlanding trip ends and you're back home, winches also come in handy for yanking tree stumps, pulling objects onto and off trailers, reeling in marine equipment, and much more. Our off-road bumper shopping guide referenced earlier gives some good advice about winches, and it discusses off-road bumpers specifically designed for mounting a winch on. We also recommend reading our article How Much Winch Pulling Power do I Need for my Vehicle? for more details on weight considerations.

LED Off-Road Lights Permanently Mounted To The Vehicle

Selection Of LED Off-Road Lights Permanently Mounted To The Vehicle
Shown here are just some of the powerful off-road lights we offer designed for permanent mounting almost anywhere on your vehicle.

When you're covering ground at night, being able to see farther ahead allows you to avoid and detour away from tricky situations before you get stuck in them. Powerful off-road lights, available in your choice of compact sizes or long light bars, give you the ability to know what's coming. In fact, it's not a stretch to say they can save your life - not to mention spare your 4x4 from expensive, embarrassing damage. They'll also clue you in to what wildlife is out there just beyond the reach of normal headlights and flashlights.

Lumen Dual Row LED Light Bar With Illuminated End Caps
The Lumen Dual Row LED Light Bar with Illuminated End Caps, available in lengths from 18" to 50".

For serious lighting capabilities, we recommend light bars that come in a wide variety of lengths to choose from using check boxes you'll see under the "SIZE" category on the left of the screen. Using similar check boxes, you can also narrow your search to lights designed for mounting on windshield frames, roofs, A-pillars, bumpers, grilles, hoods, winch fairleads, or even trailer hitches in back. For more details, we recommend a quick read of our related articles Off-Road Fog Lights - When the Road Ends and the Fog Begins and/or What Light Beam Patterns Are There For Auxiliary And Off-Road Lights?

LED Headlight Bulbs Vs Halogen Bulbs Output
Light from the lowest output LED headlight bulbs (left) is brighter and cleaner than halogen bulbs (right).

Another way to greatly improve your vehicle's lighting ability is to replace original equipment halogen headlight bulbs with LED headlight bulbs. To make it easy, we offer "plug-n-play" bulbs with bases that are designed to fit right into the same socket and mate with the same wiring connector(s) as original equipment halogens. For more details, see our article LED Headlight Conversion Bulbs - The Cost-Effective Way to Better Lighting.

Good Quality Portable Lighting - Flashlights And Stationary Lights

Good Quality Portable Lighting Selection

When night falls, there will probably be at least 100 reasons you'll want to have good-quality, bright hand-held flashlights, spotlights, or other portable lights at the ready. Bring enough to stash a couple around your 4X4's interior, inside tents, and inside backpacks. Or, attach them to a vertical or horizontal surface with specially designed flashlight mounts and brackets. And if you're interested in more powerful work lights, give our article Portable Shop Lighting Is Bright And Affordable a quick read.

Off-Road Tires

If your overlanding adventures will take you through mud, water, snow, or loose terrain, consider equipping your vehicle with a set of off-road tires designed with larger overall diameters, deeper tread, and higher sidewall ratios than standard tires. Whether you're keeping your 4x4 at stock ride height or raising it up with a body or suspension lift kit, we can assure you that not getting stuck in mushy areas will make the trip a whole lot less messy and stressful for everyone along.

Land Rover On All-Terrain Tires

Before we get into how off-road tires are different, it's important to understand many of them use a different size measuring system. Our guide Understanding Off-Road Tire Size Measurements will clarify these and other important details.

Goodyear Wrangler Duratec / Americus Rugged A/TR / Yokohama Geolander X-AT
Off-road tires such as the Goodyear Wrangler Duratec (left), Americus Rugged A/TR (middle), and Yokohama Geolander X-AT (right) feature thicker rubber and stronger steel reinforcements to handle the rigors of rough terrain. Tread grooves extend onto the sidewall in order to provide a wider traction footprint when they're deflated to a lower psi.

Off-road tires have a much more knobby, aggressive tread pattern with larger gaps between tread blocks. These larger gaps give the tread blocks the ability to sink further down into loose mud, snow, dirt, and rocks where they use a paddling effect to gain the most possible traction and push the tire forward.

More importantly, off-road tires are stronger across tread surfaces and sidewalls thanks to thicker, denser rubber and beefed up steel support underneath. They're truly designed to handle rocks and sharp-edged debris without getting cut to pieces the way standard all-weather tires would. When you're in low-traction areas, deflating tires to lower pressures will widen the tire's footprint and increase traction. Stronger sidewalls can handle these low psi's without becoming damaged, and they'll be a lot less likely to separate from the rim when they deform over bumps - a big problem when you're miles from nowhere. If you plan on deflating tires, you'll want a powered tire pump to re-inflate them later.

Spare Tire Carrier For Bringing An Extra Wheel & Tire Along

Spare Tire Carriers Selection

If you know the terrain you'll be running on is sketchy, being prepared with an extra spare wheel/tire can be a life-saver. Because keeping big wheels and tires inside your 4x4's storage areas isn't practical, we recommend any of our spare tire carriers engineered for convenient mounting on a vehicle's bumper, body, roof, trailer hitch, or tailgate. Many of them are designed to swing out of the way when adjacent vehicle areas need to be accessed, such as a rear tailgate.

Body Armor 4x4 Swing Arm Carrier
The Body Armor 4x4 Swing Arm Carrier, just one of the many creatively packaged spare tire carriers we sell.

Hand Tools For Unexpected Situations

Even if you've got rugged off-road tires on your 4x4, you can never rule out the possibility that one of them will be punctured by something sharp. While lengthy cuts and gashes will permanently bench any tire, punctures similar to those caused by nails or screws can be plugged without dismounting the tire from the rim. For these situations, we recommend tire repair kits that make the plugging process easy. Note that in that same section, we offer tire patches and a wealth of other tire-related specialty tools.

We've also got a variety of hand tool sets ranging from sockets and screwdrivers up to full 300-piece mechanic's sets. These are typically compact enough to stow almost anywhere, yet comprehensive enough to make most repairs on the trail. While you're in our hand tools section, take a look around - there's a good chance you'll find other items that will prove useful on your trip, or for other household applications.

Automotive Tents For Your 4x4's Roof Or Pickup Bed

If you like the comfort and room that enclosed tents provide but don't like the safety risks and inconvenience of sleeping on the ground, truck & SUV tents are one of the most important overlanding investments you can make. Whether you've got camping for two or for your family in mind, we've got 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, and 7-person tents that let you set up camp anywhere your vehicle goes, without the hassle of finding ground that's level and smooth enough to sleep on. Note that many 4-person tents are expandable to sleep 6.

Because these tents keep you off the ground and are connected to your vehicle, additional safety benefits are inherent. Having your automobile available for use as an adjacent retreat room can also serve as vital protection from bears, wolves, or other wildlife. This is especially true if you've got a hatchback or SUV style tent setup. Even with pickup bed tents, it may be possible to squeeze through an open rear cab window in an emergency.

Rooftop Tents

Roof Tent In Use
Roof Tent Components Overview

If you prefer rooftop enjoyment, we've got universal-fit rooftop tents such as the iD Select Soft Rooftop Tent, Smittybilt Overlander Coyote Roof Tent, and Overland Nomadic Extended Roof Top Tent with Annex (for 4 people) just to name a few. These anchor in place on top of the roof, with approximately 1/3rd of their length extending over the vehicle edge - supported by an aluminum ladder that's included.

ID Select Trustmade Hard Shell Rooftop Tent
The iD Select Trustmade Hard Shell Rooftop Tent.
ID Select Trustmade Hard Shell Rooftop Tent Inside View

We also recommend the iD Select Trustmade Hard Shell Rooftop Tent as a great value for those who prefer a higher level of structural integrity with a hard roof that can stand up to the worst weather. We've also got Thule's similar Hardshell Tent.

ARB Simpson III Roof Top Tent With Annex Section
The ARB Simpson III, with optional "annex" section.

Many rooftop tents offer the option of an "Annex" section that extends downward to cover the ladder area. We recommend the Thule Explorer Series Kukenam 3 Tent (3 people), ARB Simpson III Rooftop Tent, Thule Ruggedized Series Autuna Tent (3 people), and Thule Tepui Explorer Autana Tent With Annex (4 people).

Pickup Beds

Rightline Gear Truck Tent
The Rightline Gear Truck Tent.

If you've got a pickup truck, we have vehicle-specific tents designed to fit in the bed area (with tailgate down) such as the Rightline Gear Truck Tent, and a number of stylish designs from Napier. Many of the Napier tents are available with a section that extends further out onto the ground.

Variety Of Napier Truck Tents
The variety of Napier truck tents designed specifically for pickup beds.

Pickup Truck Bed Caps

Pickup Truck Bed Caps Selection

If you've got a pickup truck, bed caps provide hard shell, weathertight protection while giving you a decent amount of room inside for storage and/or sleeping. They also make a great platform for any of the rooftop tents covered in the section above.

SmartCap Camp Kitchen Insert
The SmartCap Camp Kitchen insert designed for their EVOa Bed Cap.

For select pickup models, we've got SmartCap's EVOa cap that's available with fitted insert pieces for the side windows. In the Product Options field for the EVOa, you'll find the cleverly-designed Camp Kitchen insert that comes with a fold-down stove, cutting board, and vibration-proof storage for the included dishes, cookware, and spices. You'll also find a selection of roof racks and the Drawer Bin with numerous storage drawers.

Decked Truck Bed Storage System
The Decked Truck Bed Storage System.

Another great organization tool for an overlanding trip is the Decked Truck Bed Storage System, available for full-size, mid-size, and even service body pickups. The assembly can support 2,000 pounds across its top surface, and features two slide-out drawers that can be sectioned depending on individual preferences. The Addictive Desert Designs Lander Overland Rack isn't a fully enclosed cap, but it does provide sturdy framework to put tents on top of and hang jerry cans and other accessories on the sides, etc.

Bestop Supertop Convertible Top for Truck Bed
The Bestop Supertop Convertible Top for Truck Bed.

And for those who enjoy lying down and gazing at the stars, the Bestop Supertop Convertible Top for Truck Bed can be put down to enjoy nature, then raised for fully closed, screened protection against mosquitos and other flying insects when it's time to sleep. Another big advantage of this soft cap is how lightweight and easy it is to put down out of the way when you need room in the bed for bulky items. Traditional hard bed caps are too heavy and cumbersome for one person to remove or install.

Air Beds And Mattresses

AirBedz Lite Original Truck Bed Air Mattress
The AirBedz Lite Original Truck Bed Air Mattress is one of the mattresses we offer that's custom-fitted for the bed of your make and model pickup, with cutouts for wheel wells.

You can't enjoy an overlanding trip without getting good quality sleep, and we can ensure that happens for you with the car & truck mattresses we offer. For starters, use the check boxes along the left side of the screen to narrow your search to air mattresses specifically designed for a custom fit in many of today's popular pickup truck beds or SUV cargo areas.

AirBedz Rear Seats Down Air Mattress
The AirBedz Rear Seats Down Air Mattress is fitted to rear cargo areas of sport utility vehicles.

When it comes to mattresses for roof tents, you'll often see fitted mattresses that can be selected in the Product Options section of the roof tent pages themselves. We've also got inflatable mattresses arranged by general dimensions if you prefer to order that way in the camping air beds section of our sister website RecreationiD.

Portable Heaters

Portable Heaters Selection
From L to R: the Prime Products 12V DC 200 Watt Screw-On Heater with Swivel Base, Road Pro 150 Watt Heater/Fan with Detachable Rotating Base, Performance Tool 12V Heater, and the RoadPro All-Season 180 Watt Heater/Fan with Swivel Base.

For cooler weather, we've got portable 12-volt heaters that plug into standard car charger outlets when you need extra warmth quickly. Naturally, caution is advised not to run down your vehicle's battery using a portable heater while the engine is off.

Whether your engine is running or not, portable heaters are great for instant heat on chilly mornings - especially when you're inside the vehicle starting a cold engine.


Cooking Essentials Selection

Let's face it - whether you're thinking back on past overlanding memories or imagining trips to come, some of the best times are spent with companions gathering together cooking and enjoying a hot meal prepared in the beautiful outdoors. Whatever your preferred food preparation method is, you'll want to spend some time in our Camp Kitchen page - because we've got some great 1- to 3-burner camping stoves, cleverly packaged portable grilles, cookware, dinnerware, pre-packaged emergency rations, and much more.

Portable Battery Jump Box + Jumper Cables

Because you'll probably end up using more power accessories than you think, being prepared with a portable 12-volt jump box to revive a dead battery can be a real lifesaver on an overland trip, especially if your battery isn't particularly new. Note that a jump box won't charge your battery the way a battery charger will - its job is to provide a quick surge to get your engine cranking. Just don't forget to charge your jump box up before you leave.

Stanley Tools 12 V Jump Starter With Compressor
Shown here, the Stanley Tools 12 V Jump Starter with Compressor.

It's important to choose a jump box based on its Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) rating the same way you would with a traditional 12-volt battery. Basically, the CCA rating is a measurement of strength that refers to the minimum amps available at zero degrees Fahrenheit, and it indicates the amps that a fully charged battery can maintain for 30 seconds while maintaining a voltage of at least 7.2 volts. As a rule of thumb, a 12-volt jump box should have 1 CCA or more for each cubic inch of engine displacement size. So if you've got a 350-cubic-inch V8, you'll want a minimum CCA rating of 350.

Starting at best value prices, we've got the Stanley Tools 12 V Portable Battery Jump Starter (300 CCA), Solar 12 V Portable Battery Jump Starter (choose 300 or 400 CCA), and Schumacher Pro Series 12 V Portable Battery Jump Starter.

Associated Equipment KwikStart 12 V Portable Professional Heavy Duty Battery Jump Starter / Schumacher Pro Series 12 V/24 V Portable Battery Jump Starter
The Associated Equipment KwikStart 12 V Portable Professional Heavy Duty Battery Jump Starter with Air Compressor, and Schumacher Pro Series 12 V/24 V Portable Battery Jump Starter.

How about a jump box with a built-in air compressor for your tires, air mattresses, and any watersports items? Consider the Associated Equipment KwikStart 12 V Portable Professional Heavy Duty Battery Jump Starter with Air Compressor (350CCA) or Stanley Tools 12 V Jump Starter with Compressor.

Quality Jumper Cables
We also recommend carrying a set of quality jumper cables because you never know when you or someone else you pass might need them.

If you need a jump box with versatility to handle yours and other vehicles when you're not overlanding, the Associated Equipment 12 V/24 V Portable Heavy Duty Battery Jump Starter (360 / 720 CCA), Schumacher Pro Series 12 V/24 V Portable Battery Jump Starter, and Weego Crankenstein 12 V/24 V Portable Jump Starter all give you a choice of 12- or 24-volt operation. Note that if your vehicle runs a heavy-duty 24-volt electrical system, we've also got a selection of dedicated 24-volt jump boxes that deliver the power you need.

Coolers And/Or Portable Refrigerators

Coolers Portable Refrigerators Selection
Whatever your food & drink storage wants and needs are, we've got you covered with cleverly-packaged coolers, insulated packs, powered coolers & mini-fridges, and more.

If you and one or two companions need to keep food and drinks cold for a weekend, a thermally insulated soft- or hard-shell cooler is an excellent choice to bring along. But for 4+ people or extended trips, you're going to want to take advantage of any auxiliary power ports tucked into various locations around your 4x4's cabin, cargo area, or pickup bed and set yourself up with some smart-sized refrigeration.

Powered Coolers Selection
Powered coolers as seen here from L to R: The Norcold 1.6 cubic ft Portable Refrigerator and Freezer, iD Select Portable 12/24V DC Refrigerator, United Pacific DA CoolBox Thermoelectric Cooler/Warmer, Dometic RV 1.3 cu ft Portable Refrigerator and Freezer, and Koolatron Thermoelectric Cooler.

We're confident you'll find something to like in either our 12-volt compact powered coolers section or compact portable refrigerators section (typically sized from 1.1 to 1.6 cubic feet). Unlike most small low-cost refrigerators, these are designed for the hard knocks of trail use. Whichever style you prefer, you'll be glad to find that all of the choices we offer are energy-efficient and don't take up much space. Plus, most of them feature built-in battery protection sensors that can be set to switch the unit off when your truck's engine isn't running.

Enjoyable Overlanding Experience In Jeep

We sincerely hope this article has been educational, and that it's given you some new ideas about overlanding in your own style. We welcome questions you may have on any of the products referenced here on CARiD or our sister websites CAMPERiD and RECREATIONiD, and our knowledgeable product reps are here seven days a week to help.

Shop Now
CARiD FacebookCARiD XCARiD YouTube ChannelCARiD PinterestCARiD Instagram
All manufacturer names, symbols, and descriptions, used in our images and text are used solely for identification purposes only. It is neither inferred nor implied that any item sold by CARiD.com is a product authorized by or in any way connected with any vehicle manufacturers displayed on this page.