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A massive percentage of our big, beautiful country requires getting off the paved road to truly enjoy. Especially if you take a few days to breathe it all in deeply, otherwise known as overlanding. To take on an extended, several-day trip in the sticks safely and successfully, we used RealTruck's catalog as it has a massive variety of gear for every aspect, from finding your vehicle's footing to ensuring you're not stuck munching on dry goods and foraged berries all trip long.
This gear guide will help you figure out what you truly need, first, and worry about other accessories and niceties later. It's not an exhaustive list, either. Some of it depends on the terrain you're traversing, the size of your vehicle, and so on. But let’s get into it and get you out into the wild.
Good All-Terrain Tires
No matter what vehicle you're piloting and where, a good tire designed for the task at hand is so incredibly valuable. Even in OEM sizing, a grippier tread with good puncture resistance beats simply just upsizing the hell out of your wheelset.
I'm a big fan of Falken's Wildpeak A/T3W, in fact I had these on my old Land Rover Discovery 1 in a very OEM-wheel-friendly size. They rolled quite comfortably and quietly on the road—after all, you usually have to travel on-road to reach your preferred off-road path—and gripped so well on dirt, sand, and rocks. And some occasional scary grades, too.
Alternatively, the General Grabber A/TX is another compound that I've had the pleasure of putting to the limit off-road, and it did not disappoint.
A Modest Lift
This isn't necessarily a must-have as many trucks and SUVs have good clearance off the assembly line. Some are even available with a modest lift as an optional extra, such as Toyota's optional TRD equipment.
Still, increased clearance goes a long way in climbing up and over obstacles, increasing articulation, and avoiding damage. RealTruck offers a handful of easy-to-install lift kits that net three, three-and-a-half, and four inches of extra clearance. Depending on the chassis, some of these might require other components so as not to negatively affect the vehicle's overall suspension geometry and alignment, so be sure to do your research and see what fellow platform-modifying enthusiasts have successfully put together.
Food and Beverage Storage
Nobody wants to be forced to only eat dry goods and foraged berries, so having a good food storage solution for perishable items is quite important. Enjoying a cold beer by the campfire is quite important, too, we can't forget about that.
Pelican's RC 45QT Elite Wheeled Cooler is a massive unit that keep ice frozen for up to 10 days (mileage may vary depending on climate), includes a bottle opener and fish scale, and has a very heavy-duty overall construction. Alternatively, yet for a bit more coin, Dometic's CFX3 powered cooler runs on either AC, DC, or DC solar power and keeps a space big enough to hold 40 cans nice and cold.
Back pain and poor sleep always get in the way of a good time. So why not avoid both by investing in a good inflatable mattress? Napier Outdoors' Sportz air mattress holds up to 400 lbs, comes with a built-in foot pump, and stows away easily to make organizing cargo a cinch.
Then, where you decide to sleep is something to consider as well. It seems like the default answer is "take it to the roof!" when overlanding is part of the discussion, but we all know that many modern, off-road-ready SUVs have fold-flat rear seats that make sleeping inside quite possible.
Still, if you're inclined to sleep up high with a view, RealTruck has plenty of solid rooftop tent choices, especially its Rugged Ridge unit and the more compact Thule Tepui Foothill. The latter works great atop wagons and smaller crossovers.
Like the upgraded suspension, some automakers are offering optional armoring as well, such as skid plates, rock sliders, steel bumpers, and more. A good skid plate is a great place to start and helps ensure you won't damage crucial componentry at the front of your vehicle, such as the oil pan, radiator, any coolers, or even the front differential. The Havoc Offroad Steel Bender is a great choice, Steelcraft offers specific protection for differentials, and Rugged Ridge has some great hardware for Jeeps.
Rack 'Em Up
Whether you're stashing more gear, bolting up a rooftop tent, or all of the above, a good roof rack goes a long way in expanding and optimizing cargo space.
RealTruck has no shortage of options here for all makes and models that'll accommodate them, including this ZRoadz unit for the latest Ford Bronco and Blackhorse's roof rack system with a wider application list. One of the best options available is Fab Fours' Overland Rack, as it covers a lot of bases by making the most of a pickup truck's overall length.
Charging and Carrying
Optimizing storage comes in many forms, including storing electricity to power electronic devices, lights, winches (though, try to keep the vehicle running while winching), and more. A good and dependable battery is the best place to start, which is where Odyssey's Extreme Series dry cell AGM unit really shines. Then, if you're considering running more than one battery, installing Rugged Ridge's Dual Battery Relay kit lets you run the vehicle with one battery, run a winch or other power-hungry accessory with another, and even charge them independently.
Finally, what good is increased cargo space without utilizing it for crucial needs, or being able to keep the hatches battened down? Ratchet straps are infinitely useful, and carrying more fuel in quality jerry cans boosts the amount of ground you can cover.
Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but contains a lot of gear that's worth considering for either your first extended trip off the tarmac, or if you've got a few years of overlanding experience under your belt and are after a bit more versatility, capability, or both.