What To Bring Overlanding
What makes a 4x4 an Expedition vehicle? Can’t we call any 4x4 that is prepped for off-roading also “expedition ready”? For the sake of definition, let’s say an expedition vehicle is something that is advantageous to driving off-road and, once off-road, is prepared to be lived out of. This may be your rock buggy with a sleeping bag stuffed behind the seat, or a Range Rover with a rooftop tent, three electric coolers, an onboard espresso machine, a stove, and long-range fuel tanks. Like one friend said, if you own a Land Rover or Land Cruiser it’s called overlanding; if you own a Ford or Chevy it’s called truck camping.
No matter your definition, we’ve thrown together some cool upgrades to make any 4x4 a little more backcountry-camping friendly. Whether you’re crossing the Amazon, in the deep woods of Wyoming on a hunting trip, or just taking the kids to the back forty on the farm for a night under the stars, something here may help you have an even better time.
Truck Camping Checklist
A good place to sleep is very important when camping, and we’ve tried a bunch of options. Rooftop tents are extremely comfortable and keep you up off the ground. However, they also impede aerodynamics and can hurt fuel economy. Some are not the easiest for setting up or down, so test out a few before buying. One solution we’ve found it mounting them in the bed of a truck on the rails so they don’t stick up above the cab roof line.
A ground tent is always a good place to sleep, and when matched with a small camping mattress like a Therm-a-rest (thermarest.com), a ground tent can be simple and easy to pack in a small vehicle. They are available at just about any sporting goods store. One favorite we have come across is the Tent Cot by Kamp-rite. This is an all-in-one tent and cot that keeps you up off the ground, and the included rain-fly keeps you dry in foul weather. Plus, you can fold up the Tent Cot with your sleeping bag inside and it measures about 3 feet by 3 feet by 6 inches thick. Tent Cots are a favored sleeping system for our Ultimate Adventure.
If you’re truck camping, then one inexpensive option we’d recommend is a simple futon mattress. We ordered a 6-inch-thick futon mattress, size Full, from Overstock.com (product 11202636), and not only was it made in America, it was only $99. It made for a perfect bed mattress, though it is a bit hard to roll up and store if you want to use the truck to haul anything other than a mattress.
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When camping and cooking outdoors, a flat surface is useful for making a sandwich or chopping up broccoli. Some vehicles have a tailgate or a flat fender, but others aren’t so lucky. Rock-Slide Engineering has a folding table that attaches to a swing-out gate or door. Designed for Jeep JKs that don’t have a fold-down tailgate, this dual-level aluminum shelf gives you a place to brew coffee or make a bowl of fruity-Os for breakfast. The table attaches with three screws. We mounted ours on the swing-out doors of our truck camper for easy access.
Water is as important to humans as fuel is to 4x4s, so you should probably bring some along. Small water bottles are handy but pretty wasteful. Instead, get a good double-walled stainless steel water bottle. We prefer the Thermos and Hydro Flask brands because they keep cold water cold and hot water hot all day long.
Instead of bottles of water, consider a big plastic water cooler. These are available at many sporting goods and hardware stores and can carry up to 10 gallons depending on the design. We recommend one with a screw top so you don’t lose your H2O when wild wheeling.
In addition to water for drinking, some for cleaning up while camping isn’t a bad idea. Check out the Synergy Sit Shower Shave kit. This uses a small electric pump, a heat exchanger fed by engine coolant, and a shower head to take abundant stream or lake water and heat it up for use as a camping shower. It sure beats climbing in your sleeping bag dirty after a dusty day on the trail.
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When man discovered fire he figured out that it was pretty good. Imagine you’re a caveman and every day you wake up to cold coffee, and one day you discover fire and can have hot coffee! That was probably the start of the Industrial Revolution right there.
The same goes for camping. Cold cereal isn’t bad, but eggs and bacon are better, especially if they are cooked. Building a fire and cooking over an iron skillet is hard to beat, but not always legal or possible. At those times a camp stove is the next best thing.
The old standby and still reigning champ for truck camping has got to be the Coleman grill. We have an old green one that runs off of white gas, and it works great for cooking, especially when we have more than one mouth to feed.
If you’re a light eater or alone, then check out the Jetboil. This is a gas-powered stove that boils water in a minute. It’s perfect for making oatmeal and coffee on a cold morning on the trail.