Few things are more satisfying than embarking on a trip where the journey is the primary goal. Sure, reaching that special destination can be enjoyable in its own right, but the journey for many truck camper owners is pure nirvana. Indeed, few things are more enjoyable than when the journey includes spectacular scenery interspersed with highly technical terrain, sweaty palms not withstanding. If your plans include overland travel, then you’ll need to outfit your truck camper rig with a number of implements to prevent breakdowns. Sure, the items in this list can be expensive, but it’s better to invest now than be broke down and stranded later.
The items presented here are based upon extensive research and upon the input from several overland experts and truck camper owners like yourself. This list does NOT include basic camping equipment, basic survival gear (though it was tempting to place things like a water purification system on this list), or standard vehicle maintenance items. Instead what you’ll find here is a collection of items to keep you and your rig rolling and you and your loved ones safe. So without further adieu, here’s our list:
1. Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT All-Terrain Tire
First things, first. When it comes to overland gear for your truck camper rig, nothing is more important than your tires. Everything is riding on them, literally. As you know, a tire’s primary function is to provide traction. A quality all-terrain tire, like the superb Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT, will provide the traction your rig needs to excel on and off-road on all kinds of surfaces from mud, snow, and ice to sand, rocks, and boulders. The Discoverer AT3 XLT features what Cooper calls its Durable Tread Technology, which allows the tires to haul heavy loads with less wear, and are built to withstand the ongoing assault from off-road driving. Unlike the standard Discoverer AT3, the XLT variant features rugged, biting edges on the shoulder of the tire for extra grip and resistance to punctures, perfect for airing down on off-road trails. The XLT also comes in larger sizes. Sure, an all-terrain tire won’t do as well off-road as a quality mud-terrain tire, but it will last longer and ride better on pavement with far less noise.
2. Buckstop Classic II Winch Bumper
Outfitting your truck camper rig with a Buckstop bumper provides peace of mind when you’re traveling far off the beaten path. Not only does it look good, but it also protects the front of your truck from impacts that can disable it. Unfortunately, most of today’s trucks feature plastic grilles that offer little or no protection from deer or elk. The last thing you want is to suffer a breakdown far from help due to a wrecked radiator or engine. Quality protective bumpers, like those made by Buckstop, can be purchased in either aluminum or steel at several price points. We recommend buying the strongest and lightest bumper that your truck can handle, preferably one that can also support a winch like the superb Buckstop Classic II pictured here.
3. Warn 16.5ti Heavy-Duty Winch
A quality winch is an essential recovery tool for any overland rig. No matter how skilled you are in driving off-road, you’ll eventually need it. It’s true you may not use it very much, but if you ever do, you’ll be glad that you have it. The winch you buy should be rated for 1.5 times your truck’s GVWR, this ensures that you’ll have a winch powerful enough to do the job. For most truck camper rigs, the Warn 16.5ti heavy-duty winch will be more than sufficient. It features a series-wound motor and a 3-stage planetary gear-train that can deliver 16,500 pounds of pulling power. The winch provides a number of features, including a thermometric LED on the remote that provides operator feedback on the temperature of the motor. Simply the best winch you can buy.
4. Winch Accessory Kit
A winch needs the right accessories to get you out of trouble. You can assemble your own bag of winching accessories or buy a ready-made kit sold by the pros. One of the better ones is this winching recovery kit offered by Warn. It includes all of the basics you need to operate your winch safely, including a heavy-duty snatch block rated for 24,000 pounds, a tree trunk protector rated for 30,000 pounds, a 10-foot choker chain with hooks, a 3/4-inch Clevis/D-shackle, and a standard recovery strap rated for 21,600 pounds. The kit also includes a pair of Warn gloves and a camouflage nylon carrying case with plenty of room to spare for additional tools and gear.
5. ARB ARB505 E-Z Tire Deflator
It’s likely you’ll encounter soft sand and rocky roads at some point on your overland expeditions. For maximum traction and to soften your rig’s suspension while navigating on rough roads, you’ll want to air down your tires. You can do this either slowly by using the tip of a small screwdriver, or you can do this quickly by using the ARB505 E-Z Tire Deflator. This patented device works by removing the valve core from your tire for rapid tire deflation. The quality bronze design, which includes an analog pressure dial for accurate deflating, ensures accuracy regardless of the temperature, humidity, or elevation. And at only $38, the E-Z Tire Deflator is a real bargain.
6. VIAIR 450P Portable Air Compressor
After airing down your tires, you’ll need an efficient way to air them back up before hitting the pavement. For this job we recommend using the VIAIR 450P air portable compressor. This powerful, lightweight unit is pretty neat. It gets its power by connecting directly to your truck’s 12 volt battery. The VIAIR 450P generates an operating pressure of 150 psi for up to 40 minutes before it automatically shuts off for a period of time to cool. It delivers 1.80 cfm free flow at 0 psi with a maximum current draw of 20 amps. This portable air compressor includes everything you need to air up your tires, including a 25-foot coiled extension hose with quick connect coupler, a gas station style inflation gun with a 200 psi pressure gauge, and an 8-foot power cable. A convenient carry bag is also included.
7. Safety Seal Pro Tire Repair Kit
It’s important for all truck camper owners to have a way to repair flat tires. To do this, you’ll need a quality tire repair kit, like the Safety Seal Pro Tire Repair Kit, and a portable air compressor, like the aforementioned VIAIR 450P. Having these items with you will give you peace of mind knowing you can fix a flat when the need arises. The Safety Seal system is simply the best and employs a patented, chemical resistant nylon yarn insert immersed in a proprietary rubber sealant that seals in all kinds of temperatures and conditions. The kit comes with a handy, impact resistant carrying case, 30 repair inserts, lube, and all of the tools you need to create a lasting repair to your tires.
8. Atlas-46 Yorktown Tool Roll
The one emergency nearly all of us will face at one time or another is a roadside vehicle breakdown or mishap. Unfortunately, many truck camper owners are woefully unprepared for such emergencies and have only a vehicle jack and a lug wrench to change a flat tire and perhaps a set of jumper cables. These are important items, to be sure, but comprise only a tiny fraction of the items that should be in every vehicle’s emergency roadside kit. A key component of a good emergency roadside kit, is a good set of hand tools organized in a high-quality tool roll. The Yorktown Tool Roll by Atlas-46 is the best. Consisting of two sides, the front has four large, zippered front pockets, each measuring 16 inches by 2.5 inches by 3 inches, while the back side is lined with 11 wrench slots and seven multipurpose tool slots. These slots can accommodate wrenches of various sizes with the smallest slot measuring 5.5 inches by 1.375 inches and the largest, 8.875 inches by 2.375 inches. We especially like the Quick Roll System, which allows the tool roll to be easily cinched up and condensed for better mobility and storage.
9. GoTreads Foldable Traction Mat
Traction mats are an absolute, must-have item for overlanders, but the patented GoTreads traction mat is even better. Not only does GoTreads’ traction mat provide traction just as well as other, over-priced imports like Maxtrax, but it also doubles as a leveling block and is easier to store because it folds up. Not only that, the GoTreads traction mat was designed with commercial big rigs and military vehicles in mind, so you know that it’s tough and can take a lot of weight. It’s also made in the USA and guaranteed for life. A two-pack of GoTreads goes for only $119.00. Stores easily in truck camper rig compartments. Available in either orange or black.
10. Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade
Basic hand tools, like the Gerber E-Tool Folding Shovel, fill an essential need off-road, especially when traveling on soft sand and dirt. This shovel features a sharp, serrated edge on one side for cutting and a pick that can be exposed with a few quick turns of the handle. What’s great about this lightweight, American-made shovel, is that it doesn’t take up much storage space in your rig. Gerber makes the best survival tools in the market. Don’t go with a cheap imitation.
11. Estwing Sportsman’s Axe
Another must-have hand-tool for your overland expeditions. The Estwing Sportsman’s Axe is the perfect implement for chopping logs, small trees and branches and for splitting firewood and kindling. Made in the USA from 1055 carbon steel, this high quality axe features a genuine leather, hand sanded and lacquered grip. It measures 12 inches long, weighs just 1.38 pounds, and comes with a protective nylon sheath to protect the hand-sharpened cutting edge from damage.
12. Yaesu FT-8900R Ham Radio
Your travels will frequently take you out of cell phone range, so you’ll need a way to communicate with others. A Ham radio is the way to go. It provides more power out thus greater range than a CB radio or a standard FRS hand-held. The only negative is that you’ll need a license to use it, though they aren’t that difficult to obtain. One of the best Ham radios in the market is the Yaesu FT-8900R. This ruggedly built, high quality Quad Band FM transceiver provides 50 watts of output on the 29/50/144 MHZ Amateur bands, and 35 Watts on the 430 MHZ band. It includes a host of features like cross-band repeat, dual receive, VHF-UHF Full Duplex capability, and over 800 memory channels. And its 10-meter FM coverage brings the possibility of world-wide FM DX-ing to you on your overland travels.
13. McMurdo Fast Find 220 Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
When you’re out of cell phone and Ham radio range. A personal location beacon (PLB), like the McMurdo Fast Find 220, is a personal safety device designed to alert others when an emergency occurs. When activated this PLB transmits a coded message on the 406 MHZ distress frequency, which is monitored by the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system. The alert is then relayed via an earth station to the nearest rescue coordination center. As the satellites that provide this service are in a polar vice equatorial orbit, they offer true global coverage on land or sea, no matter where your travels will take you.
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