Mistakes First-Time Overlanders Should Avoid

Overlanding is so. much. fun. That might sound cheesy, but it’s true. Loading up your vehicle and setting out on a backwoods adventure with friends or family is one of the best experiences you can ever have.

But. Overlanding—serious, extended, truly off road overlanding—is also kind of complicated. Outfitting yourself and your vehicle with gear that will keep you safe, moving forward, and reasonably comfortable amidst whatever the trail might bring takes careful thought and planning. If you’ve got an overlanding journey coming up, here’s a quick look at the 7 most common mistakes inexperienced overlanders make and how you can avoid them.

Buying cheap gear.

Good overlanding gear is never cheap. It doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg, but you generally can’t get solid, reliable gear from bargain basements, dollar stores, or deep discount retailers. Here’s why. The gear you need must be lightweight, so it doesn’t weigh you or your vehicle down. It needs to be durable and able to perform under harsh conditions. Some of it, like sleeping bags, tents, and even clothing, also needs to be waterproof because almost nothing takes the fun out of overlanding faster than everything being wet. And lightweight, durable, waterproof materials and designs are expensive.

Don’t give in to the temptation to skimp or save on gear; you’ll regret that decision the moment your bargain stuff breaks or doesn’t get the job done.

Taking the wrong gear.

Check the weather and the trail conditions before you leave home, and then gear up accordingly. If temps are freezing and you’ve packed your tropical weight sleeping bag, you’re going to be very unhappy. Similarly, if you learn the trails are muddy from recent rains, make sure you pack along recovery gear that will help you successfully navigate a sloppy trail.

Overpacking.

Don’t take too much stuff. Experienced overlanders become experts at balancing the line between having what they need to enjoy the adventure and not overpacking. Why is overpacking a big deal? Space in your vehicle is scarce; there simply isn’t room to haul extraneous, nonessential stuff. Every item you bring along takes up space, represents something you have to care for, and adds weight to your vehicle.

Neglecting navigation and communication.

With high-tech cell phones in our pockets that can tell us instantly where we are and connect us to almost anyone, it can be easy to forget there are still places “off the grid” where our cellphones can’t help us. Finding those places is kind of the point of overlanding; if you’re doing it right, your cellphone won’t find a connection. Be sure to bring along tools that will allow you to get help or find your way wherever you are. Sat phones, personal locator beacons, and GPS navigators are a few examples. And always bring along a paper map and a compass and know how to use them.

Bringing insufficient water.

Water is heavy and takes up a lot of space, making it oh so tempting to skimp on hydration. Do not fall into this trap. Staying hydrated is critical; you can’t make good decisions and keep yourself safe on the trail if you’re dehydrated. Bring along plenty of water for everyone in your party – more if you’re traveling in the heat. Study your route carefully and make sure you know exactly where you can replenish your supplies. You might even consider bringing along a small refrigeration unit to keep your beverages chilled if you have the space and the power. Cold drinks are more appetizing, making it more likely that you’ll drink them and keep yourself safely hydrated.

Skipping equipment tests at home.

Test all your gear at home. Every single bit of it. Fire up the propane stove. Set up the tent. Roll out the sleeping bags and pads. Make sure you know how to operate your winch and visually inspect the ropes, cables, and straps. Go through your first aid kit and update your supplies. Make sure everything works. Now is the time to discover that your waterproof jacket has a hole in it, not when you’re putting it on in a rainstorm 100 miles from anywhere.

Messing up the MPG calculations.

Fuel economy matters when overlanding. You’ve got to have a solid idea of your range – the number of miles you can go between fueling—when planning your itinerary, as running out of gas really puts a damper on your plans.

Overlanding vehicles are not known for being particularly fuel efficient. But, when you add upgrades like all-terrain tires, bumper mods, auxiliary lighting, roof racks, and extra storage plus you load up all your gear, the additional weight, drag, and friction cause your vehicle to work harder and decrease your mileage. But here’s the thing: your vehicle will NOT get the same miles to the gallon on the trail as it does in town; your MPGs will be lower.

For newbies, this means two things. First, weight is extremely important when shopping for overlanding mods for your vehicle; you never want to add unnecessary weight. For every mod you add to your vehicle, you’ve got to factor in its impact on your fuel economy. For example, the weight difference for steel vs aluminum bumper mods can be over 100 pounds, which can really make your truck or SUV work harder than it needs to. A hybrid solution like the Hi-Lite bumper series from Backwoods Adventure Mods gives you the added strength of steel plus the lightweight of aluminum. In fact, if you search the Backwoods Adventure Mods product catalog, you’ll find that weight is a critical consideration for all the products we sell. We strive to provide high-quality overlanding mods that offer exceptional performance at the lowest weights possible.

Second, when estimating your MPGs and driving range for your trip, you need to do your calculations based on your vehicle’s weight when fully loaded. This means adding the weight of your mods, gear, and passengers to the gross vehicle weight. You also need to consider the type of terrain you’ll encounter; it will take a lot more fuel to climb a steep incline than cross relatively flat trails. It makes sense to think this through carefully so you don’t get stranded without gas.

Get Out There

Yes, there’s a lot to think about when planning an overlanding adventure. But the work is well worth the effort. And the more you go, the more proficient you’ll become. In fact, if you can avoid these mistakes your first time out, you’re already ahead of the game.

Upgrade your vehicle with superior overlanding mods from Backwoods Adventure Mods and get out there.

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