From Maintenance To Trail Repairs & Recovery: Here Are What The Community Considers To Be Essential Overlanding Tools
Have you grown tired of the mall-crawling life and are ready to tackle the trails as an overlander? I get it, I too once was a mall crawler (Disclaimer: I still am, no shame). Joking aside, when overlanding, it is critical to be prepared and have a kit that includes some essential overlanding tools. This kit should be able to cover basic trail repairs and recoveries. The longer we wheel, there will inevitably come a time when we need to pull out a tool or two.
What Makes A Great Overlanding Kit?
What makes a great overlanding tool kit?
This is not a one size fits all approach as people use their vehicles differently. Additionally, people have vastly different budgets. I am by no means an overland expert, but below are what the internet generally describes as categories for essential overlanding tools.
- Maintenance: No matter the length of your trip, having common tools like a metric socket set (8mm-22mm) will help you tackle the majority of basic trail repairs.
- Electrical: From time to time, you may need to diagnose and repair electrical issues. This is especially true under the hood or with any accessories that you have added.
- Recovery: Whether you push your vehicle or not, there will come a time when you get stuck or need to help another rig get out of a rut (pun intended)! A quality recovery strap or kinetic rope can make easy work of this.
- Tire Repair: A good tire repair kit is relatively cheap, but is well worth the investment when it is needed. You never know when your tires may get punctured by a nail or a sharp rock.
- Misc. Tools/Equipment: There are several other items that are worth having on board when you are overlanding. These can be extra supplies such as fluids or replacement parts.
Let’s Turn To The Community
You can build a simple, yet effective tool kit to bring with you on the trails that won’t break the bank. Let’s turn to our 4Runner community to see the top three tools you should have to ensure you have all of your bases covered while exploring the outdoors!
Ro Andres (@poor.rnr)
1. Craftsman Mechanic Tool Set:
This is for anything that may occur on/off road. I would recommend a separate tool set for anything wheel/torque related. This tool set is fairly compact and good to have in case of a trail/parking lot repair.
2. Baofeng Radio:
Cell phone signals may not be the best in certain areas. This helps with any communication when my cell phone doesn’t work. It is also great for weather reports too.
3. Petzl Headlamp:
This helps me see what I am doing whenever the light is limited. I carry a flashlight too, but the headlamp is great as it frees up the hands.
Monquie Guerra (@yoda.best.4runner)
4. Tyger Shovel:
Shovels are one of the most important recovery tools you can carry while out on the trail. We’ve featured many shovel reviews here on Trail4Runner.com and if you’re looking for a good overview post, check out this buyer’s guide for off-road shovels, written by Brenan.
The Tyger shovel is one of the best items we bring out with us. Its multi-use functionality is very impressive. The shovel head has a serrated saw blade edge with a ruler on one side and an ax blade on the other. On the bottom of the shovel head, there’s a striking plate where you can use it as a hammer. You can tilt the tip of the shovel head to three different positions and it has a cover for the attachment.
The second attachment of the handle contains an ice pick. You simply unscrew the first piece to expose the ice pick. The third handle attachment has a screwdriver attachment inside of it with a flathead and Philips-head tips. The fourth attachment has a serrated knife/hacksaw and integrated bottle opener. On the very tip of it, there’s a disgorger that you can use to remove hooks from fish.
The cushioned handle contains a whistle and a fire starter inside. On the end of the handle is a loop to hang or wrap around your wrist if necessary. The shovel comes with a black canvas bag with a strap that has space for a few additional handle extensions!
All these features make it the perfect tool for any environment from sandy shores to frozen tundras.
5. Hi-Jack Lift:
I will never go out on a trip without our Hi-Lift jack. It is useful in situations where a winch can’t do the job. If you get high-centered, a Hi-Lift can raise one end to give the opposite end contact with the ground to get out.
It can also be used as a manual “jaws of life” tool to pry open a door or window in the event of a vehicle rollover. I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
6. Overland Vehicle Systems 4-way Recovery Link & Waxed Canvas Bag:
The canvas tool bag is water resistant and vital when living in the PNW. It’s a perfect size and ruggedly made to store our basic tools. One of our favorite tools in this bag is the OVS 4-way recovery link shown above. This is a great tool for complicated vehicle recoveries that involves multiple winches.
Mitch Caldwell (@crafted.outdoors)
7. OBD Scanner:
There are various scanners on the market, from $15 to several hundred dollars. I carry two in my 4Runner at all times. One is a cheap scanner from Amazon that I bought about 7 years ago for $17. It is able to pull and reset trouble codes but does not tell you what the codes are (you need Google to look this up).
I used this many times on my old 4Runner, and often it was the difference between “oh that’s nothing, it can wait” to “we have major problems that need to be addressed”. I keep this one now as a fail-safe, or for use with other people.
The other scanner pairs with an app on my phone, and I leave it plugged into the diagnostic port at all times. Not only does it allow me to read and clear codes, as well as explain them, but also to monitor things like engine temperature and transmission temperature.
8. Spare Fuses:
Both fuse boxes on the 4Runner (engine and cab) take the same low-profile mini fuses and come from the factory with a few spares. However, carrying extra on top of that is a good idea.
With the advancement in technology, even with how primitive the 4Runners are, electronics play a large role in proper performance. On a trip a few years ago, I pulled the incorrect fuse looking for a blown fuse. This sent the vehicle into limp mode, cutting all throttle power. I was able to get back up and running after blowing a few more fuses and borrowing one from a buddy.
After that trip, I added these fuses so I would not find myself in a similar situation again.
9. Extra Wire/Electrical Tape/Wire Cutters:
Extra wire to match the gauge of your accessories, as well as electrical tape/wire cutters for repairs. This is less about the physical vehicle and more about the modifications done to it.
While fixing these may not be “life or death” they can still play a big part. A few weeks ago I was tinkering with my Smittybilt compressor I have mounted under the hood. I pulled a wire loose that controls my pressure cutoff switch, rendering the compressor unusable. As a result, I had to re-wire the switch and add a section of wire. I was able to accomplish all of this in just a few minutes with the tools shown. I was in my garage but had I been on the trail, these few items would have been the difference in being able to air up or not.
Mitch Mustain (@mitchmustain)
10. MORRFlate 4 Tire Inflation/Deflation Kit:
After putting off a dedicated air up/down kit for two years, I purchased this MORRFlate Quad Air Inflation/Deflation kit and the TenSix Compressor it has proven itself a worthy mention for any frequent overlander kit. Working on wildfires in the summers, I am on and off all types of roads and trails, several times each day. I no longer need to worry about taking too much time to air down or up.
Airing down my 295/70R17s from 40psi to 10psi takes just 4 minutes. If you have flexible stems unlike my 4Runner, you could likely cut that in half. Airing up back to 40psi took 6 minutes. By comparison, the DeWalt compressor I’ve been relying on takes over 40 minutes to get back into the 30psi range on all four tires, assuming it hasn’t overheated by that point.
11. MORRFlate TenSix Compressor:
Paired with the 10.6CFM TenSix compressor, the MORRFlate system is worth its weight in gold. I can help a few friends with their tires and still finish before my previous compressor could finish. If you’re not inclined to source your own materials for a DIY kit or hardwire a compressor under the hood, the MORRFlate kit (around $450 all-in) is a good option.
12. Rigid OCTANE ½” Impact Wrench:
In addition to the tools necessary to keep us going on the trail, tools that make the job easier (and perhaps even safer) are also worth considering.
To this end, I don’t find much joy in laying force on a tire iron while my truck is lifted precariously aside a hill. So, I decided to add my impact wrench to the kit. After all, I was already using it in the driveway for tire rotations and other tasks.
Since then, I’ve used it for spare tire changes along roads and trails. The tire iron can stay in the trunk, thank ya, ma’am. It’s also made quick work of a trailer axle repair, trailside suspension repairs, and countless other tasks. Is it necessary? No, but with absurd battery life, plenty of torque, and no room lost to bring it along, it’s a no-brainer.
To those who would ask, I chose Ridgid simply because I found a great deal on it and already had Ridgid tools and batteries. I’ve used several of the other big brands, and they’ll all do just fine. Pick what goes with your other tools, or just go with the best deal. Also, keep a charger in your truck.
Bruce Hibler (@mando_rnr)
13. Element E50 Fire Extinguisher:
I keep two of these extinguishers with me in the 4Runner at all times. One is next to me between the console and driver seat and the second is attached to my Cali Raised LED upper shelf. Thankfully, I have yet to use either of them but being in Dallas, you see too many car accidents where this could be used to save a life. It can even be used on a brush fire you may have started if the transfer case was too hot during a nice summer overland trip.
14. Step 22 Pangolin Tool Roll:
I would not leave for any trip without this, since picking it up at Texas Avid Outdoors Expo. It includes all of the following:
- SAE & Metric wrenches
- 1/4” & 3/8” ratchet drive sets
- Misc. hand-held tools
15. Tow Strap:
A static tow strap is a tow strap. This is for the time you get buried up to the frame in snow and need a Honda CR-V to “buck” you out. The story can be continued around a campfire.
Tanner Hedrick (@blue.ridge.rnnr)
16. MaxTrax MKII Boards:
Recovery boards are some of the safest, most effective, and easy-to-use tools for self-recovery. Whether it’s sand, snow, or mud, a good set of recovery boards can get you out of a number of sticky situations. In my opinion, it is a must-have for anyone who likes to do solo exploring.
I have the MaxTrax MKII boards, and while they are a bit pricier, I am confident they will last a lifetime. If they save me from one tow truck bill, they will have paid for themselves.
17. ARB Tire Repair Kit:
A punctured tire can quickly ruin a weekend if you don’t have the tools to repair it. While having a full-sized spare is also a must, being able to repair a tire is essential when going off the grid. I use this ARB kit, which comes with all the necessary tools, plenty of plugs, and a nice hi-vis case. There are tons of options for tire repair kits out there, so carry whatever you like. I also throw a couple of Colby Valves in the kit in case I damage a valve stem.
18. NOCO Boost XL:
With electrical accessories, powering interior lights at camp, and cranking the engine in sub-zero temps, I ask a lot of my battery. Unfortunately, I’ve been left with a dead battery more than once. For this reason, carrying a quality jump box is a must for me. I use this NOCO Boost XL, which is a 1500A battery and is rated for 30 starts from a full charge. It also has an LED light and USB ports to charge accessories in a pinch.
This list of tools is not all-inclusive, but it’s an excellent baseline to help make sure you’re prepared. There are many other tools that could benefit you as an overlander such as a grease gun, a screwdriver/plier set, or old-fashioned duct tape. Building your kit is a process and happens over time as you gain experience. It may seem overwhelming at first, but don’t let that discourage you!
Disclaimer: I can’t promise that you bring your rig home in one piece every time!