Given the variety of equipment available for off-road adventures, locating all the necessary parts and pieces for an expeditionary load-out can be more than a little time-consuming. There are a lot of factors to consider when selecting the perfect piece of equipment for your trip. I am by no means an expert in expeditionary trips. As a matter of fact, I have very little experience in this area. But since I am learning as I go, I wanted to avoid as many potential catastrophes as I could. So I came up with my the following list of questions based on a purely-logical, common-sense approach.
I realize that it may not be the most comprehensive list, but so far I’ve found it to be quite useful when purchasing and preparing equipment for any type of overland adventure. I know I can’t prepare for every possible event, but the more time I spend focused on the necessities, the better off I’ll be in the long run. And my plan is to continue adding to the list and tweaking questions as I gain more experience in off-roading and overland travel.
When and where will my vehicle be traveling?
It seems to me that seasonal weather patterns can make a big difference in whether an overland expedition is successful or not. By being prepared for extreme conditions, be they hot, cold, wet or other, I hope to increase my chances of a successful venture. In addition to seasonal time frames, I also need to consider the various terrain types I expect to encounter. Knowing, beforehand, the types of terrain my vehicle will be required to traverse, allows me to focus on equipment specifically designed for those types of obstacles.
How long will my vehicle remain at each location?
I should know the duration of the overall trip, as well as how much time I’ll be spending in each individual area. This should be planned ahead of time if possible. Doing so will help me to avoid any unexpected trips for supplies that I will have rationed based on time, weather or terrain conditions.
What kinds of obstacles do I expect to encounter?
This is a bit vague, I realize, since any number of unexpected conditions can result in disaster. This question is centered on the more obvious obstacles such as adverse terrain conditions, lack of available supply stores, or a problematic mechanical or electrical system. I would prefer to address these types of items ahead of time to help make the trip a bit less stressful.
How many travel companions and how much gear?
Traveling with companions caravan-style (multiple vehicles) means I need to account for additional required supplies, from food and water, to medical and other emergency gear. But a caravan-style expedition also means that I can potentially rely on additional gear I might otherwise have to purchase. My gear can likewise be shared among the other group members.
What is the experience level of those with whom I will be traveling?
I believe that knowing the capabilities of my trip-mates is another key to my success. For a local and casual day trip with my friends, this is probably not all that important. But for the more extended trips into remote areas, having a variety of skills on board could make a world of difference.
What are my vehicle’s weak points that could lead to breakage or other problems?
Acknowledging my vehicle’s weaknesses is not about finding its flaws. Quite the contrary. Being aware of potential problems means it’s easier for me to avoid obstacles that would place unwanted stress on those areas known to be problematic. It also serves as an opportunity to upgrade these areas prior to my deployment.
How much money am I willing to spend on equipment?
Cost is, by far, one of the biggest players when purchasing gear for an expeditionary trip. Like any other purchase, it’s up to the one holding the wallet to determine how much they are willing to spend. My own recommendation is to buy the best quality you can afford, possibly even better than you can afford. I purchase equipment with one primary thought in mind… my life or the lives of my family may depend on this one tool at some point in the future. It sounds a bit over-dramatic, I realize, but there is some truth to it as well. I always recommend purchasing high-quality equipment, tools that are designed with strength and longevity in mind. It may cost a bit more up front, but in the long run, it may prove to be the one thing that saves my hide.
Which tools are “required” vs. simply “nice to have?”
Ah, the proverbial “must have” item. Given my propensity for collecting tools, I’d have to say that this is one of my weakest areas. I oftentimes find myself justifying the purchase of new tool, but my justifications often lack a solid foundation. When it comes to purchasing new equipment, I spend a great deal of time researching my options beforehand. There have been times, admittedly, where I’ve found myself caught up in the panic of purchase frenzy, buying multiple tools back to back. To avoid this, I try to prioritize my purchase list based on realistic expectations, not based on every possible condition that may occur. I can’t possibly prepare for every potential disaster after all. So in the words of Baloo the Bear, I tend to stick with the “bare necessities” plus a few extra items in case of emergencies.