Photo by 1000kbps via iStock
Overlanding can be an incredibly fun experience. Between the fresh air, beautiful sights, and simply being out on the trail exploring, there is plenty to keep you entertained and energized.
But overlanding comes with great responsibilities. Many outdoor enthusiasts have been stuck, high-centered, and broken down over the years. Having the right equipment to help with recovery and safety is essential.
With this in mind, I’ve come up with a list of 10 items you need in your kit to ensure you can travel safely and make efficient work of recovery if something goes awry.
Now, these are just my choices – there are many other possibilities within each of the ten categories I present below. So ultimately, you need to select the gear that you think will work best for you.
Let’s get started!
Overland Recovery and Safety Items: Traction Boards
If you hop onto Amazon and do a quick search for traction boards, you’ll find a wide array of options.
What’s surprising isn’t the sheer number of possibilities but the huge variation in the prices. You’ll find some as cheap as the low-$40s all the way up to mid-$400s. That’s a huge gap!
But as cliche as it might be to say it, you really do get what you pay for.
I opted for a higher-end option, the Maxtrax MKII FJ Red Vehicle Recovery Boards. Why, you ask? They have a lifetime warranty, a built-in shovel on each end, six handles for easy positioning, and they can mount to my roof rack. This is in addition to the beefy cleats that sink into the ground (and your tire tread) to prevent slippage and make quick work of getting unstuck.
A good tow strap is perhaps the most basic and essential component of your recovery gear…
Not only is it useful for helping you get out of a jam, but you can also help other people on the trail get out of a jam.
I went with a 3-inch by 20-foot Otherya strap for a few reasons.
First, it’s priced right at about $25.
Second, it has a 30,000-pound break strength, which is admittedly overkill, but I’d rather have a strap that can handle way more than I need!
Lastly, this strap has triple-reinforced protective loops for peace of mind that it’ll hold fast when in use.
A Tree Strap is a Critical Recovery and Safety Item
Sometimes you need to winch yourself out of a problem, and for that, being able to tie up to a nearby tree is often the best option.
This GearAmerica Tree Saver Winch Strap can also be used as a tow strap, a recovery strap, or a winch extension strap, so it’s a four-in-one gadget that gives you tons of versatility.
This strap has a 35,000-pound minimum break capacity so it’s ideal for towing or pulling vehicles or moving large debris off the trail.
I like this strap because it has reinforced eyes and large double web loop ends that have tons of padding and reinforcement. The webbing itself is military-grade and resists UV rays, moisture, and mildew for a longer life span.
It even comes with a lifetime guarantee and a lifetime hassle-free replacement warranty.
A heavy-duty jack is a must when you’re on the trail, and for me, that meant investing in this bad boy, the Hi-Lift HL485 48-inch jack.
This jack is priced right at about $90, so it’s very budget-friendly. But for that price, you get a ton of options that allow this jack to hit way out of its weight class.
The two-piece handle and socket design is both durable and reliable. For improved safety, it also has a shear bolt that prevents the jack from being used on loads that exceed its capacity of 7,000 pounds. It even has a top winch connector clamp for hooking up to your winch.
Plus, if I’m honest, I wanted a red jack because it looks pretty badass on my Jeep!
Recovery and Safety Must-Have: A Good Shovel
Just like everything else on this list, a shovel doesn’t have just one purpose. Sure, you can use it to dig yourself out, but it also comes in handy for proper campfire management.
I was reluctant to spend over $100 on this Krazy Beaver shovel. However, after I bought this and used it, I quickly realized what my money got me. This shovel breaks ground very easily, even when it is hard-packed. Having that kind of peace of mind is nice to have when you’re overlanding.
Just one caveat…there is a guard for this shovel that’s an $18 add-on. Don’t get the guard. It’s a pain to get on and I’ve honestly never used it. Save your money.
The shovel, on the other hand, is fantastic. Definitely recommended!
The Warn 89611 Zeon 10-S Winch on my Jeep has a 10,000-pound capacity, which is more than enough to help me get unstuck.
It has a synthetic rope and roller fairlead and a convertible control pack that can either be attached to the winch or remotely mounted.
The black powder-coated finish looks really good, but more importantly it inhibits corrosion, as do the stainless steel fasteners and clutch.
This sucker has a new, more powerful motor and a newly-designed gear train as well, so it’ll give you years and years of service on the trail.
Add a CB Radio to Your Recovery and Safety Gear
When you’re overlanding, there’s a solid chance you won’t have much of a cell signal – if any.
So if something happens and you need help, you need an alternative means of contacting people. For me, that meant throwing it back to the 80s and picking up a CB radio.
Obviously CB radios still have a place in modern transportation, but when I use it I feel like I’m on Dukes of Hazzard.
I bought the President Electronics BILL CB Radio to take advantage of its 40 channels.
This 12-volt rig has an easy-to-use channel selector, volume adjustment, and manual squelch. It also has a handy USB port.
It also has a weather alert feature which is nice when you’re far from civilization and bad weather is incoming.
A saw is a must for overlanding, but I didn’t want to deal with a chainsaw.
Chainsaws are heavy, take up too much space, and there’s always the issue of oil and gas leaking. So, I went with a hand saw, but not just any handsaw…
I got a Silky Katanaboy 500mm folding saw, and I have to say it is one of my favorite purchases.
This thing has teeth that a Great White Shark would be jealous of! It cuts through big logs like butter, so you still have the ability to clear debris from the trail without all the bulk of a chainsaw.
In fact, since the blade folds into the handle, this saw is highly portable and easy to store. And the carbon-steel blade will last you plenty long for reliable service on the trail.
An Ax Should Be in Your Recovery and Safety Kit
Of course, sometimes you need an ax rather than a saw, and for that I turn to the Hults Bruk Gran Splitting Axe.
This ax features a steel blade that is super dense, and therefore more durable than many other axes. In fact, the head is made in a way that results in a tempered zone that holds a very sharp edge, even after many sharpening sessions over the years.
If you ask me, there is nothing better for splitting wood on the trail than this handy little ax!
No recovery and safety kit is complete without a first aid kit…
I opted for the Surviveware Small First Aid Kit because it’s compact, lightweight, and easily portable. I can stuff it in one of the storage compartments in my trailer and have easy access to it should I need it.
And since overlanding can be rough, it was important for me to get a kit that has a durable shell and a heavy-duty zipper. It even has MOLLE compatible straps and snaps, so I can grab it and carry it on my backpack if need be.
Inside, each sleeve is labeled so you can clearly see what each item is. The bag is also water-resistant, which is handy on those days when you’re traveling in the rain, mud, or snow.
Of course, all this gear isn’t of much use if you don’t travel safely! Don’t have a false sense of security that you are invincible with all this recovery and safety gear. Travel smart, and hopefully you won’t need to use any of these items.