Overlanding Gear Review: 5 Essentials for the Trail
Over the last several years I’ve been upgrading our camping and travel gear for overlanding. I’ve learned to travel light, pack smarter and live easier—and compressed my belongings to include items that make traveling better. The five products highlighted are durable, inventive and high quality. Each item has its place in my vehicle, no matter where in the backcountry I travel.
1. VSSL’s Suunto Supplies Flashlight + Kit
If you’re like me, you make sure your gear can work for you in multiple ways. You make it effective and reliable. Meet VSSL, (pronounced "vessel"), from Abbotsford, Canada. VSSL has created a unique solution that combines a high-powered LED flashlight with an emergency or supplies kit. This cool aluminum-encased travel tube doubles up as an LED flashlight with an SOS alert, red light night vision mode and a full-on supplies kit for emergency accessories.
The VSSL Suunto Supplies flashlight includes items such as a razor blade, fire starters, six-hour beeswax candle, waterproof matches, signaling mirror, reflective trail markers and first-aid supplies. Also included are primitive fishing gear, a wire saw and a P38 military GI-type can opener (for emergency food needs). The Supplies kit is compact, smartly designed and can fit pretty much anywhere in your vehicle or camp box.
In addition to important preparedness contents, the VSSL Supplies flashlight kit comes with a Suunto compass. It’s a “best in its class instrument” and can be accurate to approximately half a degree. This Suunto compass is globally balanced, meaning you can find your way back home no matter if you’re in the northern or southern hemisphere. It's perfect when you need to find your way when directionally challenged.
I’ve used the VSSL test model on a few remote camping excursions. It’s easy to use, bright and solid. Long press to turn on. Two intensity modes for brightness, one red light mode, SOS mode, then off. You need to migrate through all modes in order to turn your VSSL off, however.
Cool, compact and concise. I give it the thumbs up if you want an all-in-one flashlight and supplies kit.
$142.95 | VSSL Supplies Suunto Edition Flashlight
2. Off Grid Trek’s 28w Solar Panel
Keeping ancillary items juiced up is critical—no matter where you are. Canadian company Off Grid Trek makes solar products designed for you to go further, longer. Their 28w foldable panel has the ability to charge devices simultaneously, especially in a variety of weather conditions. Devices are easily charged with two USB charging ports on the back of the panel. A digital display on the back shows a variety of info: charging current, charging voltage and output voltage.
Off Grid Trek’s 28w solar panel uses SunPower Gen 2 Maxeon cells, which allow optimum absorption of energy in direct sunlight or even in diffused situations like cloudy skies or shady conditions. This product boasts a 23% efficiency rating.
Off Grid Trek’s solar products take up little space and can be deployed quickly. They are waterproof, rugged, efficient and cost less than comparable brands. My 28w foldable solar panel easily fit into a small bag when transporting and quickly clipped onto the back side of my backpack when hiking. This foldable model easily laid on most surfaces for ray-catching opportunities and has weathered several back country trips successfully.
$289.97 | Off Grid Trek’s 28w Solar Panel
3. Pull Pal’s RW6,000 Land Anchor
United States-based Pull Pal has been in business for over 25 years and has been manufacturing land anchors to help recover your off-road vehicle from sticky situations (if there isn’t anything around to winch to). Pull Pal has recently redesigned its RW6,000 land anchor. While the RW6,000 is for smaller rigs like UTVs, 4x4 Suzukis or buggies (with 3,000 GVWR and under), we effectively recovered our weightier 1989 Mitsubishi Delica van multiple times with it. Pulls on level ground didn’t involve vehicle assist whereas pulls up steeper hillsides did.
This land anchor took minutes to get ready, positioned and hooked up to our winch and pull us out of soft sand. It required little effort to use and was easy to carry. Digging the Pull Pal out after the pull was a different story. Be prepared to dig a little or a lot, depending on terrain type.
The redesigned RW6,000 shaved two pounds off its predecessor via its dimpled spade head, has an improved soft shackle connection (that can also be used with metal D-rings) and comes with a Hammerite-painted finish. An optional carry case is also available.
RW6,000 $420.95 | optional case $79.95 | Pull Pal RW6000 Land Anchor
4. Watershed’s Chattooga Duffel Bag
Crossing over from hunting and kayaking markets is North Carolina’s Watershed Drybags. Since it was founded in 1995, this company has designed, manufactured and sold heavy duty waterproof bags in America. The Chattooga duffel is one of their most versatile duffels, is 10″ tall x 19.25″ wide x 9.5″ deep and weighs in at a mere 1.6 lbs. Total capacity when rolled and clipped secured is 22 liters and it dons a 16” airtight ZipDry Ziploc-type opening. There’s definitely a trick to opening the ZipDry: grip tabs with your thumbs, kink the closure into a reverse “S” shape (bending sharply will open it) and pull the closure open. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once mastered, it's easy to do.
The duffel’s exterior boasts durable carrying handles, an abundance of hard lash points and numerous compression straps. Our coyote-colored bag is crafted with extreme attention to detail. It has withstood water, wind and mud. Easily transportable inside a vehicle, this unit could also feel at home atop of one.
Nature’s elements don’t stand a chance to penetrate inside the bag, although the fabric straps do get wet and may become stained over time. Various-sized duffels are available, from the diminutive Goforth (9" tall x 16" wide x 7.25" deep) to the oversized Mississippi (15.5" tall x 43.25" wide x 15" deep). Duffels are available in several colors, have RF-welded seams, are made of polyurethane-coated nylon fabric and have a lifetime warranty.
$129.00 | Watershed Chattooga Duffel Bag
5. Tribe One Outdoors’ Jungle Cords
Tribe One Outdoors is a Utah-based company that developed a line of cargo management solutions to stow your gear. Designed and manufactured in America, their products haven’t shown signs of wear, even after years of use. Our favorite from Tribe One Outdoors is their large Jungle Cords. Their Jungle Cord bungees can increase well beyond their actual size (they boast 4 feet of length that stretches to double their size). Since they’re made of heavy duty material and are braided, versus their single-stranded cousin, they offer up three times the strength due to its construction. They can be wound through themselves via their J-hook ends to make any custom length. Note: If you stretch this cord tightly enough, it’s a bit of arm wrestling to poke the hook into a braid opening as the braids compress down into one large association. No worries, though. Use your brute strength to push the hook through and you’re all set.
Jungle Cords can be anchored in a multitude of ways. You can use either the J-hook at either end or the unique PackTach connectors that come standard with each Jungle Cord two-pack (two connectors per cord). These connectors allow for 60 lbs of load force. They work great when the only anchor point is your tarp side or other soft material where there isn’t a grommet hole or something to anchor the J-hook to. Simply take off the plastic banana-shaped piece, slip it behind any thin pliable surface (with the banana shape facing away from you), and slip the J-hook into the center slot of the plastic and fabric (with the fabric between the hook and you). Now you have an instant new anchor point! The PackTach connectors work as a friction point in the material that stays static and creates the anchor point, without damaging the fabric. It's perfect if you need extra tie-down points for your tarp or rooftop tent during a windy day.
Tribe One Outdoors' Jungle Cords secure your belongings no matter where you travel. Our old bungees were quickly thrown into the shed, never to see daylight again.
Two pack $29.95 | Tribe One Outdoors' Jungle Cord
Whether you're looking to store gear securely or keep your contents in one spot, charge up your electronics, get your vehicle unstuck from the mud or sand or light your way to base camp, these five items will help make your life easier on the trail.