top of page
  • Writer's picturePolaris Overland

"The Essential Elements For Successful Overland Trip Planning "




Planning an overland expedition involves careful consideration of many factors to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. By following these steps and with thorough planning, you can embark on a memorable overland expedition.

Each of the below listed need to be considered to varying degrees depending on trip duration and destination.

All the planning phases below are covered more comprehensively within this guide.


1.     Define Your Objectives

2.     Select Your Route

3.     Vehicle Selection and Preparation

4.     Gear and Equipment

5.     Logistics and Supplies

6.     Visas and Documentation

7.     Safety and Security

8.     Communication Plan

9.     Budgeting

10.  Environmental Responsibility

11.  Emergency Preparedness

12.  Flexibility and Adaptability.

1.     Define Your Objectives: 


Determine the purpose of your expedition. Are you exploring a particular region, following an historical route, or simply seeking adventure?


2.     Select Your Route:

Choose your destination and plan your route accordingly. Consider factors such as terrain, weather, political stability, and accessibility. Use maps, guidebooks, and online resources to research potential routes. Good route selection is crucial for ensuring a safe, enjoyable, and successful journey.

Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when choosing an overland route:


  • Terrain and Difficulty: Consider the terrain and difficulty level of the route, including factors such as road conditions, elevation changes, off-road sections, and obstacles. Choose a route that matches your vehicle's capabilities and your skill level.

  • Scenery and Points of Interest: Look for routes that offer scenic views, natural landmarks, historical sites, and cultural attractions along the way. Consider what you are interested in seeing and experiencing during the expedition.

  • Accessibility and Permits: Check if the route requires any permits, passes, or special permissions for access. Make sure the route is open and accessible during the time of your planned expedition, considering seasonal closures or restrictions.

  • Safety and Security: Research the safety and security of the route, including potential hazards such as extreme weather, wildlife encounters, remote areas with limited services, and security risks in certain regions. Consider consulting local authorities or experienced travellers for up-to-date information. Join region specific overlander WhatsApp and social media groups

  • Services and Amenities: Evaluate the availability of services and amenities along the route, such as fuel stations, accommodations, restaurants, and medical facilities. Plan your itinerary accordingly to ensure you have access to essential services when needed. In Uzbekistan we were warned diesel was difficult to obtain and on the Pamir Highway fuel was often of poor quality and limited availability. Delays getting fuel in the likes of Murghab can easily cost you a week. So we included this in our planning making sure we could carry enough fuel to complete the sections.

  • Cultural and Environmental Impact: Respect the cultural and environmental sensitivities of the areas you will be travelling through. Avoid routes that may have a negative impact on local communities, wildlife habitats, or fragile ecosystems. In muslim countries be respectful, women should wear long sleeves and long dresses / trousers and a head covering.

  • Route Flexibility: Choose a route that offers flexibility in case of unexpected changes or challenges, such as road closures, inclement weather, or mechanical issues. Have alternative routes or contingency plans in place to adapt to changing circumstances. This happens more often than you would think, we had to turn around in Albania due to security issues, in Mongolia the the rivers on the northern route were impossible to cross so we had to detour and find alternatives.

  • Local Regulations and Laws: Familiarise yourself with local regulations, laws, and customs in the areas you will be travelling through. Be aware of any restrictions on camping, off-road driving, waste disposal, and other activities to ensure compliance and avoid legal issues. Be aware of rules on medicines, have a full list of everything you carry and if possible a data sheet. Crossing into Georgia for example we were held up for about 3 hours. They were not happy with our" own brand" decongestants and because they could not get an ingredient list for them they were eventually confiscated and we were forced to sign a waiver (written in Georgian) in order to be allowed to enter.

  • Travel Time and Distance: Estimate the travel time and distance of the route to ensure it aligns with your schedule and preferences. Consider factors such as speed limits, driving conditions, and planned stops along the way. Distances in Mongolia and the Stans are often measured in time rather than miles due to the lack of roads or very poor state of the ones that were available.

  • Experience and Skill Level: Consider your experience level and skill sets when selecting a route. Choose routes that are suitable for your level of experience and expertise in overland travel and off-road driving or convoy up with others where needed. We did this in many countries including Morocco, Russia and Mongolia when we joined other overlanders for difficult or risky sections of the route.


When planning / researching our Mongolia trip all of the above needed careful consideration and research. In all research and prep for Mongolia including obtaining the required visas was in excess of 3 months.


3.     Vehicle Selection and Preparation:


Choose a suitable vehicle for your expedition, considering factors such as terrain, road conditions, and the number of passengers. Selecting the right vehicle for an overland expedition is essential for ensuring a safe, dependable, and enjoyable journey. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when choosing an overland vehicle:


  • Terrain and Conditions: Consider the types of terrain and conditions you will encounter on your expedition, such as paved roads, dirt tracks, gravel paths, and off-road trails. Choose a vehicle with appropriate off-road capabilities, ground clearance, and traction control systems to navigate diverse terrain if needed.

  • Payload Capacity: Determine the payload capacity of the vehicle, including its ability to carry passengers, gear, equipment, and supplies. Make sure the vehicle has sufficient cargo space and weight-carrying capacity to accommodate your needs for the duration of the expedition.

  • Fuel Efficiency: Evaluate the fuel efficiency of the vehicle, especially if you will be travelling long distances or through remote areas with limited fuel availability. Choose a vehicle with good fuel economy to minimise fuel costs and reduce environmental impact or with the ability to carry the additional fuel needed.

  • Reliability and Durability: Prioritise reliability and durability when selecting an overland vehicle, as you will be relying on it to transport you safely through challenging conditions. Look for vehicles with a proven history of reliability and durability, as well as easy access to spare parts and maintenance services. Remember your vehicle is also your home so you need to look after it and treat it gently.

  • 4WD/AWD Capability: If needed opt for a vehicle with four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) capability, as this will provide better traction and control when driving off-road or in adverse weather conditions. If you decide you do need 4WD / AWD then make sure the vehicle has a robust system preferebly with low range gearing for tackling steep inclines and rough terrain.

  • Towing Capacity: If you plan to tow a trailer or caravan during your expedition, consider the towing capacity of the vehicle. Choose a vehicle with sufficient towing capacity to safely tow your trailer or caravan, considering the weight of both the vehicle and the trailer/caravan. For our first big trip we built an overland trailer to tow behind our Defender. The base platform was the British Army Sankey Trailer build specifically for the British Army Land Rovers. You hardly noticed you were towing as it tracked exactly as the Defender.

  • Comfort and Amenities: Prioritise comfort and amenities when selecting an overland vehicle, especially if you will be spending long hours behind the wheel or camping in the vehicle. Look for features such as comfortable seating, climate control, entertainment systems, and storage compartments. Consider the weather to be encountered. An Roof Top Tent and outdoor cooking is all well and good when the sun shines but in cold wet weather everything becomes a chore after a few days.

  • Accessibility and Serviceability: Consider the accessibility and serviceability of the vehicle, especially if you will be travelling in remote areas with limited access to repair facilities. Choose a vehicle with easily accessible components and a design that facilitates maintenance and repairs in the field. Keep the vehicle as standard as possible as it will make obtaining spares quicker and easier.

  • Budget: Determine your budget for purchasing or outfitting the overland vehicle, considering not only the initial purchase price but also ongoing maintenance, fuel costs, insurance, and any modifications or upgrades needed for overland travel. Be mindful that overly modified vehicles should not be needed. Save your money by picking a capable vehicle and keep it standard as far as possible.

  • Personal Preferences: Finally, consider your personal preferences and lifestyle when selecting an overland vehicle. Choose a vehicle that suits your individual needs, preferences, and desired level of comfort and adventure. No point in getting a Suzuki Jimny if you are a family plus a dog and you like to take surf boards and mountain bikes. Vehicle choice and preference is very personal but ultimately the type of overland trip you are doing will dictate the vehicle you need.

So in summary the vehicle you choose will be defined by what you can afford, the choices of route and objectives and the type of Overland trip you want to undertake. Consider do you really need four-wheel drive when the terrain you cross will be tarmac roads. Four-by-four whilst looking good increases costs in fuel and maintenance for example. What ever vehicle you choose ensure your vehicle is properly maintained and equipped for journey you wish to travel. By thinking carefully about these vehicle selection considerations, you can choose the right overland vehicle to suit your expedition needs and ensure a successful and enjoyable journey.


4.     Gear and Equipment:


Make a list of essential gear and equipment needed for your expedition, including camping gear, cooking supplies, navigation tools, communication devices, first aid kits, and emergency supplies. Pack light as remember weight equals more wear and tear on your vehicle but ensure you have everything necessary for safety and comfort. For example is do you intend to camp on the ground, in a roof tent or inside your vehicle and considerations such as temperatures to be experienced during your trip. On the Mongolia Trip we experienced temperatures ranges of -14 degrees C to high 30 degrees C so had to carry equipment accordingly.


Creating a comprehensive kit list for an overland expedition involves considering all the essential gear, equipment, supplies, and tools needed to ensure a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable journey.

Here is a basic overland expedition kit list to help you get started which can be refined as your planning progresses:


  • Vehicle Essentials: ·        Off-road capable vehicle (e.g., 4x4 SUV, truck, or camper van) ·        Spare tyre(s) and tyre repair kit ·        Jack and tyre-changing tools ·        Recovery gear (e.g., tow straps, shackles, winch) ·        Basic vehicle toolkit (including spanners, sockets, pliers, etc.) ·        Jumper cables or portable jump starter ·        Vehicle fluids (engine oil, coolant, brake fluid) ·        Fuel canisters (for extra fuel)

  • Camping Gear: ·        Tent or roof top tent ·        Sleeping bags and sleeping pads ·        Camp stove or portable grill - consider fuel availability on your route ·        Cooking utensils and cookware ·        Cooler or portable fridge/freezer ·        Folding chairs and table ·        Lanterns, headlamps, or flashlights ·        Fire starters and waterproof matches ·        Tarp or awning for shade/rain protection ·        Multi-tool or camping knife. ·        Portable camping toilet or shovel (for waste disposal)

  • Food and Water: ·        Non-perishable food items (e.g., canned goods, dried fruits, snacks) ·        Water storage containers or jerry cans ·        Water filtration or purification system ·        Cooler or ice packs for perishable food items if no fridge ·        Cooking oil, spices, and condiments

  • Navigation and Communication: ·        GPS navigation device or smartphone with offline maps ·        Paper maps and compass ·        Two-way radios or walkie-talkies - Check region restrictions ie CB not permitted in Morocco ·        Satellite phone or emergency locator beacon - Check region restrictions ·        Mobile phone charger (car adapter or portable power bank)

  • Safety and First Aid: ·        First aid kit (including bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers) - Check region restrictions ·        Emergency blanket or sleeping bag. ·        Fire extinguisher ·        Signalling devices (e.g., whistle, signal mirror) ·        Personal locator beacon or GPS tracker ·        Emergency contact information and medical history ·        Comprehensive travel insurance - Read how important this is here

  • Clothing and Personal Items: ·        Weather-appropriate clothing (including layers for varying conditions) ·        Sturdy hiking boots or shoes ·        Hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen ·        Insect repellent ·        Personal hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, etc.) ·        Towels and washcloths ·        Spare prescription medications (if applicable) - Check region restrictions

  • Miscellaneous: ·        Camping permits or park passes (if required) ·        Cash and credit/debit cards ·        Repair manuals or guides for your vehicle ·        Entertainment items (books, games, musical instruments) ·        Rubbish bags and Ziplock bags (for waste disposal and organisation) ·        Duct tape and zip ties (for temporary repairs. ·        Camera or smartphone for capturing memories. Check region rules on Drones


Remember to tailor your kit list based on the specific needs of your expedition, including the duration of your trip, the terrain you will be traversing, and the number of people in your group. Regularly review and update your kit list to ensure you are adequately prepared for your overland adventures.


5.     Logistics and Supplies: 


Plan your food, water, and fuel supplies carefully, considering the duration of your expedition and the availability of resources along your route. Stock up on non-perishable food items and carry enough water for drinking and cooking. On all our trips we always carried enough dried food stuffs such as pasta etc to last about 5 days and with our external water tank could carry about fifty litres of water but still stocked up on bottled water when we knew we were crossing remote areas.

Research fuel availability and plan refuelling stops accordingly. In Uzbekistan we found diesel to be in noticeably short supply often only available on the black market. On the Pamir Highway we needed to have enough fuel for most of the high-altitude travel as Murghab the biggest town in the Pamir Mountains could not be relied on for fuel with Overlanders sometimes having to wait up to a week and even then, fuel quality could not be relied on.


6.     Permits and Documentation:

Check if you need any permits or visas for the countries or regions you will be travelling through. Ensure you have all necessary documentation, including passports, driver's licenses, vehicle registration, and insurance papers. Keep digital and physical copies of important documents.

Visa planning was a massive headache and cost for the Mongolia Route. Also understand the limitations of your Visas. On the way back through Russia Dave was stopped by a police / military patrol and threatened with deportation. Although we had 12-month multiple entry visas these were not valid off the main routes in some regions such as Dagestan. Only a telephone call to the British Embassy in Moscow resolved the situation.


7.     Safety and Security:


Research potential safety hazards along your route, such as wildlife, natural disasters, or security risks and keep up to date. Take necessary precautions, such as securing valuables, practising safe driving habits, and familiarising yourself with local laws and customs. Consider obtaining travel insurance for added protection. A basic example is in certain countries you must always drive with your head lights on, where in others they should only be on at night. Small infractions like these lead to confrontation with authorities and give opportunities for a shakedown. Another is in some countries a CB Radio is illegal such as Morocco.

Ensuring safety and security during an overland expedition is paramount to the well-being and success of the journey.


Here are some key safety and security considerations to keep in mind and already you can see how each phase overlaps with other trip planning considerations.


  • Route Planning and Research: Conduct thorough research on the routes and destinations you will be travelling through, including potential hazards, road conditions, weather patterns, and security risks. Plan your itinerary accordingly to avoid high-risk areas and minimise exposure to potential dangers.

  • ·Vehicle Maintenance and Inspection: Regularly maintain and inspect your vehicle to ensure it is in good working condition before setting out on your expedition. Check the engine, tires, brakes, suspension, and other essential components, and address any issues promptly to prevent breakdowns or accidents on the road. In our case Dave would every morning do a visual vehicle inspection for leaks and problems whilst also checking all fluid levels. Weekly he would crawl in and under the vehicle and check any bolts and nuts for tightness. This diligence helps to identify issues before they become problems leaving you stuck or broken down.

  • Emergency Preparedness: Covered in more detail below but ensure you equip your vehicle with essential emergency supplies and equipment, including first aid kits, fire extinguishers, emergency blankets, flashlights, and tools for vehicle repairs. Carry spare parts and supplies for common repairs and familiarise yourself with basic troubleshooting and maintenance procedures.

  • Communication Devices: Carry reliable communication devices such as satellite phones, two-way radios, or emergency locator beacons to stay in touch with your travel companions and request assistance in case of emergencies. Ensure your devices are fully always charged and accessible and know the legality in each country of carrying these devices.

  • Travel in Groups: Whenever possible, travel in a convoy with other vehicles or companions, as there is safety in numbers. Stick together and communicate regularly to maintain situational awareness and provide mutual support in case of emergencies or security threats. There are numerous Overlanders WhatsApp and social media groups for all regions where you can contact other overlanders and convoy together for certain sections of your trip where the terrain or the security situation make it prudent.

  • Stay Informed: Stay informed about local conditions, regulations, and safety advisories in the areas you will be travelling through. Monitor weather forecasts, road closures, and security updates from reliable sources, and adjust your plans accordingly to avoid potential risks. As above join the regional Overlanders groups where you can get up to date first hand experience of border crossings for instance. In many regions there are known Overlanders hangouts where you can spend a few days, meet other Overlanders, and discuss / find out about road conditions, where to get fuel or supplies, where to change money or get local sim cards.

  • Security Awareness: Be always vigilant and aware of your surroundings, especially in unfamiliar or remote areas. Avoid displaying valuables or attracting unnecessary attention, and exercise caution when interacting with strangers or unfamiliar individuals. In Spain we were robbed at the side of the road. There were a number of reasons why it happened but the biggest was we got complacent having already crossed Turkey, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia we incorrectly thought Spain was safe, we were wrong.

  • Campsite Safety: Choose safe and secure campsites that are well-lit, away from hazards such as cliffs or flood-prone areas and have clear entry and exit points. Set up camp in groups whenever possible and maintain a watch schedule to ensure round-the-clock security. In Georgia in the mountains off road we were camped up and spotted then harassed by drunken Georgians to the point Dave had to push one away who was climbing the roof tent ladder. We packed up at just after midnight and moved else where.

  • Wildlife Encounters: Take precautions to avoid wildlife encounters and minimise the risk of conflicts or injuries. Store food and rubbish securely to prevent attracting animals and familiarise yourself with local wildlife and their behaviours to know how to respond in case of encounters. In Namibia you have wild animals coming into camp so be prepared. Jackals had a taste for shoes and many a traveller woke to find a shoe or shoes missing in the morning.

  • Emergency Response Plan: More details below but have and agree an emergency response plan with your travel companions, outlining procedures for medical emergencies, vehicle breakdowns, accidents, or security threats. 8.     Communication Plan:

 

Establish a communication plan with loved ones back home. Determine how you will stay in touch in remote areas without cell service, such as using satellite phones or emergency beacons. Share your itinerary with someone dependable who can assist in case of emergencies. In each country we always purchased a local Sim card as soon as we could for local use and for all our trips we used a Spot GPS Tracker which also had the ability to send a distress message to the contacts we had set up back home to assist in the event of a distress message being received. We also sent each contact a Weekly OK message and they had access to our tracking website to follow our progress.

As an additional back up we had an Iridium Satellite Phone set up and activated. Thankfully, it was not needed, in fact it spent the whole trip dismantled in parts hidden throughout the Land Rover as in some countries to have a Satellite phone was illegal, but it gave us that added piece of mind it was there if needed.

9.     Budgeting:


Estimate the costs of your expedition, including vehicle expenses, fuel, food, accommodations, permits, and miscellaneous expenses. Plan your budget accordingly and have contingency funds for unexpected situations. Everything you have decided on up to now will influence your budget, vehicle choice impacts fuel costs, maintenance costs and ferry / transportation costs. Route choice affects what visas you need and the associated costs that go with them which can be substantial as well as general living costs for example Norway everything seems expensive, but Azerbaijan seems cheaper. The type of trip you are doing also affects the budget, are you minimalist wild camping as much as possible or staying in charming hotels when an opportunity arrives, are you cooking your own food or using restaurants. All need to be considered when looking at budgets.

10.  Environmental Responsibility:


Practice Leave No Trace principles and respect the environment and local communities you encounter during your expedition. Minimise your impact on natural habitats, wildlife, and cultural sites, and dispose of waste properly.

This should be second nature to any responsible member of the human race and applicable at all times not just on overland journeys.

We often found local residents treated us with less suspicion if we cleaned up our camp area when we arrived. In one case in Turkey, we were camped on a beach with other overlanders and cleaned up the beach area at which we were camped. This made it a nicer camp for us, but the locals also appreciated and returned the gesture by bringing us wood for a fire. It seemed strange they would take time out to go and get us wood but not take the time to clean up their beach.

11.  Emergency Preparedness:


Develop an emergency plan outlining procedures for medical emergencies, vehicle breakdowns, or other unforeseen circumstances. Carry essential emergency supplies, such as first aid kits, fire extinguisher.

Top of the list here is make sure you have medical insurance and make sure it is good medical insurance.

Our experience with Angela needing Emergency Surgery in Uzbekistan should be a warning to others who think they can save some money on their budget by scrimping on the medical insurance.

Our story as covered in a previous blog should be your wake-up call.

Vehicle breakdowns are to be expected, although Dave is by no means a mechanic, we did carry a number of spare parts and more importantly the few specialist tools needed for Land Rover maintenance and repair. The thought being a decent local mechanic can do the job if we have the tools and or spares needed.


12.  Flexibility and Adaptability: 


Be prepared to adapt your plans based on changing circumstances, such as weather conditions or road closures. Stay flexible and open-minded and embrace the unexpected challenges and opportunities that come with overland travel. These challenges will become a large part of the story once your trip is over.

Border closures can be quite common; breakdowns can delay your onward travel and when you are delayed make the most of the opportunity and remember overlanding is not the destination it is the journey and what a journey it is.



Finally

Embarking on an overland journey can be an incredibly enriching and memorable experience. Whether you're travelling across continents or exploring a remote region, there are several aspects of such journeys that make them unique:

1. Freedom and Flexibility: Overland travel offers the freedom to set your own pace and itinerary. Unlike guided tours or air travel, you have the flexibility to make spontaneous stops, explore off-the-beaten-path destinations, and change plans as you go.

2. Immersive Cultural Experience: Overland travel allows for deeper immersion in local cultures and communities. By traversing landscapes slowly, you have more opportunities to interact with locals, participate in traditional activities, and gain insights into diverse ways of life.

3. Scenic Landscapes: Overland journeys often involve crossing vast and varied landscapes, from mountains and deserts to forests and plains. The scenic beauty along the way can be awe-inspiring and provide countless opportunities for photography and exploration.

4. Challenges and Adventure: Overland travel is not without its challenges, whether it's navigating rough terrain, dealing with unpredictable weather, or facing logistical hurdles. However, overcoming these challenges can be immensely rewarding and add an element of adventure to the journey.

5. Self-Discovery: Overland journeys offer ample time for reflection and self-discovery. Long hours on the road or trails provide opportunities to disconnect from the distractions of daily life, reconnect with nature, and gain new perspectives on oneself and the world.

6. Connection with Travel Companions: If travelling with others, overland journeys can strengthen bonds and create lasting memories. Sharing experiences, overcoming obstacles together, and experiencing the highs and lows of the journey can forge deep connections with fellow travellers.

7. Environmental Impact: Compared to air travel, overland journeys typically have a lower environmental impact, as they involve less fuel consumption and carbon emissions per person. This can appeal to travellers seeking more sustainable ways to explore the world.

8. Culinary Exploration: Overland travel often involves sampling local cuisines along the way. From street food stalls to family-run restaurants, exploring regional dishes can be a delicious adventure in itself, offering insights into local traditions and flavours.


Overall, an overland journey is not just about reaching a destination; it's about the experiences, connections, and memories made along the way. Whether it's a solo expedition or a group adventure, the journey itself becomes an integral part of the travel experience. Enjoy yours !



1 Kommentar


Gast
09. Apr.

Nice, even I just overflew this, I already loved it. Will come back later to read more of it.

Gefällt mir
bottom of page