It wouldn’t be painting with too broad a brush to say that most people who fall into the overlander category are overland gear and equipment junkies. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it’s natural to indulge in the wants, rather than the needs of our builds.
However, there is a downside to this inherent urge: we overlook upgrades to our rigs that aren’t ‘exciting’. If it doesn’t throw out thousands of lumens of light, make our vehicles a little bit taller, or give us a little more power, it can feel lackluster. Again… this isn’t a bad thing. But in the larger conversation of preparation for off-road exploration, it pays to drill down and focus on the basics.
We Are Fragile
Humans are fragile, and for whatever reason, we like to play with things that are trying to hurt us like axes, knives, fire, propane, winches, etc..
FACT: As overlanders we pride ourselves on seeking out remote locations.
Lesser known fact: Remote is derived from the latin “not close to a hospital.”
So what does all this mean?
Carry a first aid kit. Carry a trauma kit. Have solid comms. Be able to put out a fire. These are musts. (Go see if you can stuff that fancy light bar on your truck into a wound to stop the bleeding.)
First Aid & Trauma
Here are the basics:
- Keep a First Aid Kit for minor injuries, light cuts, abrasions, burns.
- Keep a Trauma Kit for life threatening injury.
A First Aid Kit will have your basics for treating scratches, light burns, small cuts, blisters and other scrapes. Think band aids, wound cleaning tools like alcohol pads and neosporin, gauze, athletic tape, pain killers, etc.
Example items you want to have in your trauma kit include clotting sponges/bandages, tourniquets, splints, trauma scissors and dressings, gloves, etc. These are the tools that allow you to stop bleeding, immobilize a sprain or break, or control a penetrating trauma.
And because you never know if things are going to end “rubber side up” while overlanding, it’s a good idea to have multiple kits accessible at various entry points in your vehicle.
There are wide variety of kits available online (Amazon returns 52,082 results in its online search alone), so find a kit in your spending comfort zone but do not cut costs and skip the basics.
Here’s an outdoor first aid/trauma kit combo for $50: Adventure Medical Kits Sportsman Series Bighorn Medical Kit
And you can’t just carry these kits, you must know how to use them. I find that medical classes are the most ignored, yet critical, for off-roaders/overlanders. It’s a perishable skill as well. You’ll forget things, and consulting a manual when you’re trying to stop bleeding is not the best on the job training.
A quick search around the internet can point you to numerous classes and resources to help educate and prepare yourself for first aid emergencies. For example, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) offers weekend long Wilderness First Aid Training courses at locations around the globe, as does WildMed.
Good kits can be put together for a great price, and by taking medical training you’ll realize what’s important to have and what you can leave at home to save space. I carry at least 2-3 trauma kits in my vehicle, stashed in the door pockets, with tourniquets present in each door or visor panel. These kits are not just for me to use on someone else, but for someone else to use on me if the moment arises.
Have access to communication for reaching first responders. While it’s important to have a CB or Ham Radio for communication on the trail when you overland with a group, communication only works in an emergency if someone happens to be listening on a frequency.
If you pride yourself on being away from civilization, be forward thinking in being able to reach civilization. I’m a big proponent of systems like Satellite communicators, they’re a fraction of the cost of a satellite phone, they’re more reliable than a cellular phone, and you only need to use them ONCE in a critical situation to justify their cost.
Overland Bound co-founder Corrie Murguia has this experience. “We bought our DeLorme (now Garmin) Garmin inReach back in May 2015 and we immediately used it to plot and track our off-road excursions. It was definitely an investment we considered carefully. It’s not an impulse buy. I liked that we could activate and deactivate our service based on if we were home or on the trail.
We didn’t put it to the test until September 2015 when we coordinated an off-road trail repair via text message/satellite. There are no words to describe when you send a text message confirming a spare part is on its way and will arrive in 3 hours while you’re in the middle of nowhere. Hugs, high fives and relief were abundant.”
Overland mishaps aren’t a question of “if”, it’s “when”. Be prepared and know what technological resources are available.
It’s not just our bodies that need to be looked after, it’s also our vehicles. It is alarming to consider the amount of people who travel without a fire extinguisher in their vehicles. And even more critical, the number of people who travel with an extinguisher but out of arms reach. If you store it out of reach, you’ve basically put it on the moon.
Good quality fire extinguishers range from $40-$100. Whether that’s an ABC for gasoline or grease fires, or a gas based (halon style) for electrical or interior fires, there’s a bunch out there. What’s $40 to keep your high dollar investment from burning to the ground?
We also all make campfires, and campfires can get out of control. Don’t be that person who burns down their rig and/or the forest because a widget from REI was higher on the list than basic fire suppression.
Don’t Forget Your Basic Overland Gear and Equipment
Roof racks, tires, suspension, light bars are all awesome, but life is a perishable and fleeting thing. Make the investment into the systems and products that can maintain your investment into this wonderful thing called life. The life you save may just be your own.