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Overlanding Packing Hacks

We started Zeus Off Road 7 years ago because we loved off-roading, rock crawling, and

building vehicles to conquer the trails. Now that we have a family, we have added Overlanding and Adventure travel to our itineraries. It is a way to combine our love of the outdoors and traditional camping or backpacking with off-roading, and like-minded people. We draw on our past travel and adventure experiences to find ways to be efficient, tread lightly, and get the most out of our vehicle.

If you follow any Facebook Group, YouTubers or have been to an event like KOAR, or MOORE Expo, or even set foot in an REI, you know that there is no shortage of gear and gadgets being invented, or marketed as the latest must-have to make the most of your Overlanding trip. At the end of the day, what do you really need? Well, in our opinion, it first needs to be practical, have a purpose, or be a necessity. Will it help us meet our basic needs or keep us safe? Will it help us uphold the principles of Tread Lightly? Once we have our basics covered like water, fuel, navigation, recovery gear, first aid, and sleeping, we work on the camp kitchen, food storage, clothing, and any other accessories.

What is right for one, may not work for another. We love to learn from others and see how people select and pack their favorite gear and prepare for a multi-day off-road adventure.

We share some of our favorite ways we have learned to pack efficiently:

  • Reusable dishes, silverware, etc. - Paper products take up space and add to the trash you have to pack out. It doesn't have to be fancy, a basic plate, cup, and silverware set from the dollar section at Walmart or Dollar General works fine.

  • Dual-purpose or multi-use items (collapsible is a plus): silicone collapsible cookware like this one from GSI Outdoors can double as a dish pot, cooking, rinsing, wash basin, etc.

  • Lay out everything you think you need, then reduce that by half, then another 25%. This might be brutal, but it makes you evaluate the purpose of the trip and what you really need.

  • Clothes - This is one area to pack lighter. Jeans, flannels, and bulky hoodies are heavy and take up space and take a long time to dry if they get wet. If it’s in the budget to choose technical fabrics that are lightweight, breathable, dry quickly, and can still protect you from the elements, we highly suggest those. And you can get multiple days out of items.

  • Freeze prepared foods like spaghetti sauce, taco meat, etc. in zip-loc bags and use that to keep your cooler items chilled instead of ice.

  • Pack eggs in a bottle. Crack eggs into a bottle and you can scramble or fry them up right from the bottle. No worries about cracked eggs and a mess in your cooler or refrigerator.

  • Refrigerator or Cooler? I think the consensus is out that an electric refrigerator is more convenient than dealing with ice and a cooler. There are many new ones on the market that now offer options for all price points and features like dual-zone for a freezer side and a refrigerator side.

  • Kitchen utensils - we like ours in a roll or kit. It’s easy to find, easy to make sure we have the essentials, and easy to see if something is missing.

  • Water dispenser - tired of lifting heavy jugs? Pack your jug, run a tube from the jug to the rear cargo area, and use a rechargeable battery-operated water dispenser. Use a can Koozie with a magnetic mount and it will stick to a metal bumper, topper, etc.

  • Pack like-things together. Some people use simple totes, Milwaukee Packout cases, or purpose-built drawer systems from Goose Gear or Decked Systems. A place or everything, and everything in its place. Knowing where important things are in an emergency or in the dark, or when you are hungry and want to get dinner going fast is helpful!

  • Choose backpack towels or travel towels that roll up to the size of a water bottle. They dry fast and are super packable. Choose a speedy one like a Nomadix, or a budget-friendly option microfiber towel from Walmart.

  • If you are in a Wrangler or SUV, a shelf in the back cargo area like this one from Vector Off-Road. This can be mounted above to keep firewood, water, power banks, sleeping bags, or other smaller items from getting lost in the cargo area.

  • Kids' stuff - tablets, color books, snacks, toys, etc. Use a behind-the-seat organizer, for things for them to do while driving. Keep a plastic shoe box tote on the floor under their feet, and that’s all the space they get for toys or extras.

  • Trasharoo - not just for trash! Use these for firewood, dirty or muddy clothes, boots, or rain gear. Mount one for trash and one for spare gear.

  • Want to bring kayaks, but don’t want to struggle to get them on top? Repurpose an old jet ski trailer. This works great for forest roads to your favorite dispersed campsite.

  • Keep your Toilet paper dry and contained in a plastic coffee container with a slit cut in the side. You can run a string through it to keep it handy.

  • If you are going to set up camp for a few days, a hanging shoe organizer hung from your awning, roof rack, or table, can help keep small items organized.

  • When you get home, lay everything out (again). Take note of what you did and didn’t use and decide if you can purge it from your kit.

Whatever your mode of travel, at the end of the day, packing light is essential as it can provide for longer-range trips, and can save you money and time. Part of the fun is finding new ways to make your adventure better in some small way.

Have a favorite overlanding hack to share with us? Share it with us and a photo and we will send you some Zeus Swag!


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