Vagabroads Gift-Guide for the Overland Traveler - Christmas 2017 Edition

We spend a lot of time talking about gear – what we need, what we have, what we can’t believe we spent money on, what works and what definitely doesn’t work. 

Before we took off on a two-year drive through Central America, we had a going away party.  Many of our friends bought us gifts. We appreciated every single one, but it was clear they had no idea what we might need while on the road.  How could they? We didn’t.   We were given a ton of gift cards, many to Starbucks – little point of order: most gift cards can’t be used outside of the United States. 

What DO you give to someone who lives in a tight space, might be spending a lengthy period of time out of the country and generally, values experiences over things? 

HAVE NO FEAR – THE VAGABROADS ARE HERE.

We have compiled a list of gear and cool accessories that will be sure to excite the overlander in your life (or yourself if you’re like me and find any excuse to buy yourself something). 

HIGH END ADVENTURE

1.     Cascadia Vehicle Tents Rooftop Tent – they have a variety of styles to fit any need.

We lived in our Mt. Shasta for two years and can’t wait to take our new CVT hardshell model on our next adventure through South America.  A quality rooftop tent is the ultimate overlander must-have.  Also, look for our upcoming guide to choosing and using your rooftop tent. On a personal note, there are many rooftop tent companies out there but none that can beat the customer service or commitment to quality of CVT.  We are part of the CVT Family and that is exactly how they treat us. 

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2.     An Overland Adventure through Costa Rica with Nomad America. $160 USD/day and up

Know someone who would love to take an overland trip like ours but without having to sell their house, car and take two years off?  We have a solution!  We had the opportunity to camp and get to know the guys at Nomad America.  They rent fully outfitted adventure vehicles equipped with rooftop tent, propane stove and everything you need for a short Costa Rican camping adventure.    If this video doesn’t get your adventure tastebuds going then nothing will. 

SAFETY FIRST

This is a category for all the moms and dads out there wondering if their overlanding children have “lost their damned minds!”  First, yes, they have.  Second, they will be okay – really, it will be fine.  Third, there are a few pieces of gear out there that will greatly ease your mind

1.     The Big Mama of First Aid Kits from Outer Limit Supply Company, their Outback Series First Aid Kits.  $378

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Think this is overkill? Nope.  I assure you we had no idea how many items from our first aid kit we would need in Central America. We used it all – everything from the charcoal tablets, to the bandage wrap to the moleskin to the tourniquet.   This kit, designed by an overlanding paramedic, lacks NOTHING.   I can’t begin to explain the importance of having these things in one, organized container.  The kit is large, but another genius idea, Outer Limit Supply Company also sells a quick release mount system allowing it to be stored just about anywhere including the exterior of the vehicle. 

2.     A Quick but Complete, Portable  First Aid Solution - A360 ATP Trauma Kit by The Activity Group $199.00

Another one? YES. Different gear for different needs.  Central America is full of amazing hikes and we often found ourselves needing to a more portable first aid solution that we could take along in our backpacks.  Also, we spent SO MUCH TIME driving that we needed quick access to first aid gear. Enter the A360 ATP Trauma Kit by The Activity Group.   

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Because we tried so many of the small, “backpack” style first-aid kits out there, we can tell you, don’t be fooled – they are really insufficient.  On an overland trip there is not room (figuratively and literally) for crappy or cheaply made gear.  Your first aid solutions are not the place to be skimpy.  There is nothing lacking in this kit that mounts neatly on the back of your headrest. We recently learned that knowing how to use all of the equipment in your first aid kit is as important as the equipment itself.  The Activity Group also offers immediate response training. 

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3.     Garmin (formerly, Delorme) Inreach Satellite Phone

Okay, really you guys – I can’t say enough good things about this device.  It has its problems (at least, our model does – I’m hoping the newer model out now has addressed these issues) – the operating system is clunky, you need to do some setup on your phone or tablet to send text message smoothly (something we never did) – but the pros FAR, FAR outweigh the issues.  The peace of mind we were able to give our families with the real-time tracking to our website is immeasurable.  The peace of mind we had ourselves being able to send our location anytime we were camping in remote places or a quick message to either of our mom’s saying things like “off the grid for a few days, all is well. Here are our coordinates) – priceless.   The trip tracking map looks incredibly cool and someday, will take us back to all of our favorite stops.   Just get one.  There really still are  more places in the world without wifi then there are with it. 

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4.     Blue Ridge Overland Gear Spare Tire Bag - Leave No Trace - No, really. Don't.  $49.99

Trash Management  -- before this journey, neither Karin or myself were very “outdoorsy” – it seems so funny to even say now.  I never really considered how important it would be to have a solution for a quality trash management along the way.    Because we had seen so many other Overlanders with them, we started with a Trasharoo and had high hopes for it.

My current opinion – pffft.  Maybe they are fine for weekend Overlanders but not for long term travel in sometimes difficult conditions.  Ours did not hold up well.  It broke down relatively quickly, faded instantly, could not be washed (it crumbled) was difficult to install and always sagged covering our license plate.  

We have now discovered the Blue Ridge Overland Gear Spare Tire Bag and it is AWESOME.   It is a bit smaller than the Trasharoo but has plenty of space for our needs. We use it to store garbage, wet or dirty tarps, you name it.   It doesn’t sag on the tire, is made of quality materials, is washable and looks awesome.   If you use the discount code “Thanks2017” you will get a 10% discount on BROG products.

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Car Organization and Gear Management

I could spend about 100 pages on this topic and talking about what worked for us and what did not.  Here are some basic must-haves.

1. QUALITY BUNGEE Cords – seriously, do not skimp on this.  Do your research – you will use these things EVERY SINGLE DAY.  You need them to be reliable, you need them to be adjustable, you need to not worry about them breaking.  We tried the ones you can buy at Auto Zone – nope.  We tried the ones you can buy at Walmart – nope.  Do not buy bullshit bungee cords!  I wish, oh how I wish, that someone had bought these for us before we left.  We will not leave on another trip without them. Buy THESE bungee cords. They are from Bihler Flex. They are stupidly well-priced, made of quality materials, have a variety of sizes including adjustable ranging in price from $2.00-$18.00.  Trust us. 

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2. Interior Roof Attic from Blue Ridge Overland Gear $99.00

The biggest challenge we faced were the items we needed at easily accessible for quick-grabbing.  Traveling with a dog, the majority of our storage space was in the back of the vehicle, under lock and key, behind heavy-duty Slee gates.  I truly don’t know what we would have done without our interior attic.  We stored rainjackets, a small blanket, extra toilet paper, extra socks and walking shoes that otherwise, would have haunted us by running around loose in the car.

3. Seatback Panel and Accessories from Blue Ridge Overland Gear $51.99

EVERY. INCH. COUNTS.  Can I get an Amen?!  Valuable real estate on the back of your seats.  Blue Ridge overland gear has a variety of seatback options that you should check out – all using the Molle system so you can use organization bags you may already have. And remember, if  you use the discount code “Thanks2017” you will get a 10% discount on BROG products.

4. Frontrunner Wolfpack Boxes $39.95

This is what we used for pretty much all of our stuff and they never failed us. Stackable, hearty, lightweight.  They also make great tables and chairs in a pinch. 

POWER AND LIGHT

1.  Overland Solar Bugout 120 Watt Solar Charger. $539.00 

We MASSIVELY underestimated our power needs on the road. Although we have a two battery system, it just couldn't keep up with the needs of our refrigerator and device charging.  We vowed to never again leave home without a solar setup.  Because we are in a landcruiser and not a truck camper or van, we have serious space issues.  The usual three hard panel setup wouldn't work for us because where would we put it?? We have opted for the easily stored, power-packing Bugout Solar Charger System from Overland Solar. It is ultra portable and weighs in at only 7.5 lbs.  

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Nothing and I mean nothing sucks worse than camping in the middle of nowhere and having shitty lights.   We had so much trial and error with out lights…sigh…so much.  

I have two recommendations that never failed us: 

1.   Luci lights by Mpowerd – waterproof, they float, solar powered, light, collapsible.  Practically perfect in every way.  $14.95 and up

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2. Revel Gear Trailhound Camping Lights – lightweight fairy lights perfect for lighting the inside of a rooftop tent or under the awning for ambience. $24.99  While you are at it, pick up their daytripper handheld solar charging pack. $39.99-$49.99

 photo from revelgear.com

photo from revelgear.com

COMFORT AND STYLE

    1.   Blue Ridge Chair Works – perch, camp chairs and camp table. $233.00

            Our rig is an 80 Series Landcruiser. The inside isn’t built out to have any workspace or seating room beyond the passenger’s seat.  Even the backseats were removed and replaced by a large locking box.  Being digital nomads, we often found ourselves without a good place to just get the laptop out and comfortably work.  Sitting in your lap makes your neck hurt after awhile.  A perfect solution – the perch chair from Blue Ridge Chair works.  It multi—purposes as an adjustable-height chair, a laptop workspace or table to eat on. 

So many beaches, so many campfires, so many morning cups of coffee…so much time.   If we weren’t driving, (or setting up camp or exploring a city or hiking) we were usually sitting by a fire, on a beach or on a mountain overlook.    We were SO ENVIOUS of our overlander friends who brought full-sized, well-made camp chairs with them.  At this year’s Overland Expo, we discovered these Blue Ridge Chair Works foldable chairs and we might be in love.   They fold down flat for easy storing, sit low enough on the ground to feel the warmth of a campfire but high enough to take pressure off of your knees and lean back comfortably.

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 picture by @southern_xpeditions

picture by @southern_xpeditions

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING

Still can't decide on a gift? Nervous the overlander you are buying for already has whatever you were thinking about getting them?  Or do you just want to be particularly epic and remind them of your love and support for their adventures on a monthly basis?  We have just the thing!  The Get Lost Box is truly an adventurer's dream gift.  A monthly subscription delivers a box full of gear wonderfulness. 

There are several options to choose from ranging from around $40 to to $130.00 per month.   Last month, we were able to test some rad recovery gear - and its really great because this kind of gear is EXPENSIVE and to be able to try a few items out before making such an important purchase is priceless. Not to mention - it is so much fun to get this in the mail every month!  These guys understand adventure travelers and they know what makes us smile.  If you use the code "Vagabroads" you will get 10% off of your subscription.  Merry Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE VAGABROADS - SUNNY AND KARIN