The Overland Essentials Bag
Being as self-reliant as possible should be the goal of every adventurous soul seeking the overland travel experience. A cornerstone of self-reliance is to prepare for situations that might arise during the trip.
The Overland Essentials Bag is a great way to keep important items together that you might need in emergency situations.
It should be something that you can carry equipment and supplies inside of that will allow you to stay alive until you can find help or help can find you.
It Starts With The Bag
You know how important quality can be as an overland adventurer. The bag, or pack, that you plan to use should be of the highest quality that your budget can afford.
Cheap will not do when it comes to equipment that you are relying on in an emergency. The bag that carries everything in needs to be able to handle the bulk those items create. Stiff materials with little or no flex can become damaged if they become overfilled.
It also needs to be able to withstand the stress from the weight of all items you carry in it.
Materials used to make the pack should be able to withstand the elements with minimal damage. Water-resistance is a must and it should also offer UV protection to prevent fibers from becoming brittle.
Finally, keep in mind that the bag may need to be carried for several days so it needs to have straps.
What Should You Carry?
1. First-Aid Kit and Documents
In an emergency, the first thing that you need to think about is addressing injuries. A first-aid kit should cover basic issues and should sit at the top of your bag.
It should include various bandages, gauze, and wraps used to cover burns and cuts. Ointments and alcohol wipes clean wounds and helps dress them to prevent infection.
Other general materials should include items for bowel/stomach relief, pain relievers, fever reducers, and emergency female hygiene products.
A splint for damaged limbs and a tourniquet for stopping blood flow are worth carrying if you know how to use them.
If you have special medical needs, such as prescriptions, make sure to include four days worth in the first-aid kit.
More specialized items, like a snake bite kit, can be added to the pack if the regions you travel justify it. If you wear contacts or glasses, keeping an extra pair in the pack could prove beneficial.
Extra documentation should be included in your first-aid kit.
A secondary ID (or your passport if you are traveling out of the country) provides a quick way to establish who you are in emergencies. It also allows rescuers to spell and pronounce your name if you become incapacitated.
A list of any allergies and prescribed medications can be a lifesaver if you are unable to communicate and a contact list will provide loved ones with information while allowing them to relay information to rescuers.
Keep some cash and spare credit cards next to your documents just in case you can’t grab your main wallet.
Although your bag should already be water resistant, it’s important to keep your documents and spare cash in a water-proof plastic folder.
2. Communication Equipment
In today’s electronic world, Outlanders will carry the latest technological gadgets. Two-way radios should be standard gear for groups that explore together.
These devices work well in short-range situations where someone may fall behind or get separated from the others.
A more long-range solution, especially in remote areas or when you are traveling alone, will be a satellite phone.
They may be pricey upfront and require a monthly fee, but they will also provide you with communications almost anywhere a satellite can receive your signal from.
This type of messenger can allow you to contact family or friends, and you can send details with messages. You will also need to keep it charged.
A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is another device you should have in your gear if you don’t carry it on you all the time.
Remember that you need to register with the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) so that your unique code will identify your distress signal once activated.
They have a stronger signal than satellite messengers but only send basic data.
The pack should also carry non-electronic signaling equipment as well. A whistle can send an audible burst that can be easier to detect than a voice, with less stress on your throat.
A small signaling mirror reflects across large areas during the day, including into the sky towards planes or helicopters. It also reflects searchlights pointed at your location in low-light environments.
Bright glow lights and flares can alert others to your location in low-light and darkness. Reflective tape placed on you or on objects to spell out words or to create arrows and other symbols.
3. Protection from the Elements
What you stock up on here will depend a lot upon the conditions you will experience on the trails you drive. At the least, make sure to include a tarp to use as a sun/wind block.
Small bivy shelters designed for a single person are compact, while larger structures can be important for multiple people as well as the gear you are carrying.
A couple of the emergency blankets can keep you alive by helping to contain heat, and they can make a simple signal if the material reflects the sunlight.
Light sleeping bags will suffice in many situations. A heavier sleeping bag is needed when Overlanding in certain regions or at particular times of the year.
A rain poncho will cover you and your bag from getting soaked. A hat with a brim and long sleeves will protect you from the UV lights and from bugs.
Full length pants with pockets help keep legs covered during hikes and aid in carrying things if they have pockets. An extra pair of socks should be added in as well.
4. Food and Water
Stash one-liter of water in the pack in an appropriate container. Adding water purification tablets as well as a filter will offer you many ways to use resources you come across.
Adding an extra bag will allow you to use the filter systems while you have the main canister already in use.
Backpacking canisters and utensils have small footprints and allow you to eat warm meals. Carry enough high-energy bars and Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) to last you for three days.
5. Navigation Aids
Personal GPS equipment can provide you with critical information that allows you to find your location as well as aid with navigating the area.
A map of the area you are traveling, along with a baseplate compass, will provide you with accurate lines of travel.
Some people prefer the mirror compass, as it provides them with the best visual orienteering, while ex-military and survivalists often make use of the lensatic compass designs used by the military.
6. Other Survivalist Equipment
The knife is the most used survivalist gear you could carry and can be used for a multitude of tasks. A collapsible hand saw can cut through thicker branches, while a hatchet is preferred by many purists who also use it as a hammer and for shaping wood.
Another excellent tool to load in here would be a multi-tool.
Paracord can be used for building shelters, carrying equipment, climbing, as well as a variety of other tasks.
Load up with 50-feet of the 550-pound rated material for the best balance between strength and bulk.
Flashlights are important for seeing in low and no-light situations. A style that clips to your clothing or can be wrapped around the head helps to free up both hands. They can also double as a signaling device as well.
Some other things to consider include pen/paper, duct tape, sewing kit, fishing kit, as well as extra matches or lighters. Also, toss in a pack of cards to help keep you from going stir crazy while waiting for help to arrive.
Now, Where Should You Stow It?
Your Overland Essentials Bag will not do you much good if it is packed under everything else you carry or it’s located in a part of your vehicle that is not easy to get at.
This gear is intended to help save you in the event that you need to abandon your vehicle (Imagine it sinking in a river, catching fire from overheating, or being stuck someplace that you cannot stay at).
It can also be used to help another driver in your group or even a stranger you encounter.
The Overland Essential Bag should be located in a place that you can reach from your seat. Placing it behind the driver’s or passenger seat is a safe bet, but each vehicle offers owners unique storage options.
Make sure that it is also tied down somehow.
This keeps it from moving around during travels and will keep it in the place it needs to be when the time arises.
Keep it at arms reach when at all possible and use straps or tie-downs that can be removed quickly.
Ferenc Elekes has been a devout Overlanding enthusiast for many years. During that time, Ferenc has explored 75 countries on six continents, with overland travel involved in 40 countries on three continents. From his trusty 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado with a roof-top tent, he’s blogged about experiences that can only be found in the remotest regions on Earth. Along the way, he's gained in-depth knowledge of the novel challenges overlanders encounter and practical ways to meet them. On his website, he shares informed opinions about everything from the best overland gear to how to get a vehicle unstuck. Ferenc has also written for Ih8mud, the Expedition Portal, the Overland Journal, and he is often invited as a guest to outdoors-related podcasts.
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