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Do you remember what your first vision of your new life as a 4x4 owner looked like? Chances are it was something along the lines of the big open road, forging rivers, campfires with friends and sleeping under the stars. Off-road trips, especially overnight, are the ultimate 4x4 dream for most people. And in terms of outdoor adventuring, it makes sense, too.
With an off-road vehicle, you’re able to reach more remote areas, which would be inaccessible on foot or bike. Secondly, your vehicle can serve as a base for other activities, as you can bring gear along for other types of outdoor adventures, such as a bouldering mat, a canoe or swim vests for safe outdoor swimming. And lastly, an off-road camping trip with a few technical features can be a huge thrill for the whole family. Make sure everyone is on board with the type of trip you’re planning and let them know in advance how bumpy of a ride it could be (something between a roller coaster and bumper cars might help them visualize what they’re in for). Once everyone is on board (literally), off-roading makes an epic vacation for kids especially. Fun for the whole family, right?
Well, not necessarily. As the old saying goes, “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing,” and your gear can be the make-it-or-break-it for a camping trip. A bug-infested sleeping bag, soaked clothing or 2-hour night’s sleep can quickly turn an exciting adventure into a draining mess you’ll be happy to drive out of. Whether you’re going alone, with friends or the whole family, make sure to bring the right gear to keep you safe and comfortable during your trip. But if you’re just starting out, what is the right gear to invest in? If you’re starting to get antsy for your first off-road camping adventure, we’ve put together a list of the basic gear you’ll need. Enjoy!
The first thing to think about is your overnight shelter. Its function is to protect you from rain, wind and any other elements (including those with teeth). How you bring your shelter to your chosen campsite will make the biggest difference, and as an off-roader you’re in luck: you don’t need to pay attention to every ounce your tent weighs, as a hiker or cycle tourer may need to. A simple, floor-based dome tent with a fly net and rain tarp is affordable and a great basis before investing in a rooftop tent, which can cost 10 times as much. Check out this 2-person model for two people or one and a backpack. For a family outing, there are tents as luxurious as this 6-man shelter.
When sleeping in a ground tent, the next thing to look out for is isolation from the ground. Again, there are sleeping pads in all shapes and sizes (and price ranges) available on the market. This lightweight and packable sleeping pad folds up into a rectangle, which can also be used to sit on while cooking up your campsite dinner. It may not be as comfortable as an inflatable pad, but for its multi-function and indestructibility this piece of gear is an off-roader’s dream.
A good night’s rest during an outdoor adventure is absolutely key to make you ready to hit the road fresh the next morning, and a comfortable and warm sleeping bag is your most important tool to achieve this. A 3-season bag will be warm enough from spring to fall for outdoor sleeping. Make sure to look out for the minimum comfort level warmth and think about what kind of areas you’ll be exploring before you buy.
Check out in advance whether campfires are allowed in the area you’re heading to and plan your meals accordingly. If you can’t make a fire to cook a skillet on, you could use a small gas tank and cooker for a warm meal and cup of coffee. If you’re driving out with a group of friends make sure to plan ahead who’s bringing what for a big cookout.
Food and water
In terms of camping food everything is allowed, as long as you follow one basic rule: bring along perishable *and* non-perishable items. That way, if the fresh foods do go off in your cooler, you’ll still have dry foods to keep you going. And perhaps most importantly: bring a lot of fresh water to drink, ideally more than each person will drink on the trip. You’d rather come home with leftover water than have dehydrated passengers.
Backcountry bathroom solutions are a much-discussed issue, and may depend on each place you visit. If you’re heading to an area where you definitely won’t be in reach of a bathroom, do as hikers do and make sure to dig a 6-inch “cathole” with a trowel before leaving any solids behind, and cover it up once you’re done. This trowel is a backpacking favorite, and small enough to keep in your vehicle for any offroad emergencies. Note: this doesn’t work in a desert as it’ll get uncovered pretty soon, so here you’ll need to pack out your poop. Yep.
If you’re going on a short trip, a simple scrub with a wet wipe will do wonders to make you feel fresh before climbing into your sleeping bag after a long day of adventuring. If you do use soap in the wilderness, make sure to use a sud-free camping soap to protect the waters from chemicals. There are great multi-use soaps available you can use on your cooking kit as well as yourself for this purpose, such as this mild liquid soap from Outdoors Geek.
First aid kit
Last but not least, a good first aid kit (and knowledge how to use it) is essential to keep in any off-road vehicle. This first aid kit covers all the basics.