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10 Tips for Overlanding in Winter

No matter how far south you’re overlanding in winter, temperatures can drop unexpectedly. Depending on your elevation, you might even find yourself overlanding in snow. If you don’t prepare, it can be tempting to seek shelter by checking into a hotel.

Before you do, keep reading. We have some tips to ensure the cold and snow don’t spoil your adventure. Let’s get started! 

What Is Overlanding?

Overlanding is a traveling style that emphasizes the journey as the goal and not the destination. These adventures typically last for weeks, months, or even years as travelers tour remote locations in vehicles adapted to make the most of their experiences.

We Renovated A 20 Year-Old Truck Camper Into A Luxury Overland Vehicle

Because overlanders generally spend most of their time in very remote locations, they must be highly self-reliant. This means they need to manage power sources, water storage, and waste disposal. Overlanding can be an exciting travel style, but it’s not something anyone can jump into without doing research.

Why Do People Overland in Winter or Snowy Climates?

Overlanding in winter might sound wild to you, but when done right, it’s a great idea. Some of the best overlanding destinations can become overrun with travelers during the warmer months. This can make it hard to find a quality place to camp for the night.

It can also make it challenging to enjoy the peacefulness that remote overlanding locations can provide. By overlanding in snowy conditions, you can avoid crowds and snag some of the best spots.

overland Jeep in winter
Overlanding in winter provides a change in scenery and a chance to get away from the crowds.

When you’re prepared to handle overlanding in snow, you can experience a unique environment. There’s something special about the quiet and brightness of a fresh winter’s snow. It transforms the landscape into what seems like an entirely different scene.

Even if you’ve experienced a location in summer or fall, visiting during the winter months can provide a new perspective.

10 Tips for Overlanding in Winter

If you’re not careful, you can ruin your winter overlanding experience before you hit the road. Following these tips should help you prepare for overlanding in winter so you can have an unbelievable adventure.

1. Carry Spare Fuel

You’ll want to have plenty of fuel when you’re overlanding, but especially when overlanding in winter. Running on empty is never ideal, but it can be hazardous during colder months.

You can find yourself in a dire situation if you run out of fuel in a remote location. And with fewer crowds, you might not be lucky enough to have a fellow traveler pass by and come to your rescue.

Pro Tip: If you want to extend your driving range while off-roading, consider investing in a truck bed fuel tank.

fuel can
It’s always a good idea to carry extra fuel when you’re traveling off the beaten path.

However, fuel isn’t just for keeping your vehicle moving. You’ll need to make sure you have plenty of fuel for your heat source and cooking. You’ll want to maintain a reasonable temperature inside your overlanding vehicle overnight when the temperatures drop.

2. Upgrade to Snow Specific Tires

Tires designed for use in snow are essential for overlanding in winter. It’s helpful to have these installed as winter approaches because waiting until you need them may mean it’s too late. 

Snow-specific tires can help you avoid getting stuck and give you the best opportunity to get unstuck. Some overlanders even upgrade to a set of spiked tires before overlanding in snow. 

snow tires
Upgrade to snow tires if you anticipate overlanding in snow.

3. Bring a Recovery System for Winter Overlanding

You can’t be dependent on others when overlanding in winter. Having a recovery system can help get you out of a challenging situation. You’ll want to have a set of MAXTRAX, a winch, and a set of recovery straps. These items can give you the best chance of getting yourself unstuck without depending on others.

MAXTRAX MKII Safety Orange Vehicle Recovery Board
  • The original, Australian-made recovery board with a lifetime...
  • Manufactured from Australian-made fiber-reinforced engineering...
  • Six glove-friendly handles, with a built-in shovel on each end.

Don’t forget that there’s a chance it could snow while you’re sleeping. Having a shovel on hand can help you dig out of unexpected snow.

4. Splurge On Your Sleep Gear

You should expect the temperature to drop considerably overnight. One area we recommend investing in is your sleep system. You’ll want a high-quality sleeping bag that’s rated for at least 20 degrees below the lowest temperature you plan to experience while overlanding. 

Some of the best cold weather sleeping bags can handle temperatures as low as -40 degrees. However, these sleeping systems are for survival, not comfort. Getting one of these sleeping bags doesn’t mean you’ll be wearing shorts and a t-shirt to bed each night. You’ll need to dress for the weather to stay as warm as possible.

woman setting up tent and sleeping bags in snowy mountains
A cold weather sleeping bag can help keep you warm if the temperature drops below freezing.

Don’t underestimate the importance of your sleeping pad, either. This can create a softer surface for sleeping and add another layer of insulation between you and the cold. Trying to skimp on either of these items can make for a long, cold, and uncomfortable night.

5. Don’t Forget to Crack a Window

Cracking a window will be essential if you plan to use pretty much any heating system. Doing so will help the air circulate and keep a fresh oxygen supply. This will also keep the moisture level down inside the vehicle and reduce the chances of developing mold. Mold will grow in areas with minimal air circulation.

6. Bring Really, Really Warm Clothing

If you plan to go overlanding in winter, make sure you’re able to dress for the temperatures. Leave the shorts and tank tops in storage and bring out your winter clothes. Have a few pairs of warm socks, a couple of gloves or two, a stocking cap, and a winter coat. You’ll want to be able to get out and enjoy your winter wonderland.

person bundled up for winter hiking
Make sure you bundle up for your snowy off-road adventures.

Winter clothes are thicker and bulkier and take up more room than lightweight summer clothes. If storage is an issue, get creative with storing your winter clothes. For example, some people will stuff their warm clothes in a pillowcase to provide additional comfort while sleeping. 

7. Let People Know Your Travel Plans

First of all, you should have a plan. Secondly, share your plan with your family, friends, or fellow travelers.

You may find yourself in a remote area with limited or no cell reception. If an emergency were to happen, you’d want someone else to have an idea of where you are. Depending on the situation, this could potentially save your life.

Many overlanders will use GPS monitoring services to communicate their location with loved ones. When you share your travel plans, loved ones can keep an eye on your travels and be aware of your last known location should they need to come looking for you.

SUV crash in snow
Make sure someone knows where you’re going, so you can be located quickly in an emergency.

8. Have a Backup Way to Communicate

Overlanding in snow will quickly show you the importance of planning, including when it comes to communication. You can’t always depend on having an internet connection or cell phone service.

A dead battery, maintenance on a cell phone tower, or a broken piece of equipment can leave you unable to communicate with others. If there’s an emergency, you’ll need to be able to share that with the outside world. Make sure you have a plan for how you’ll communicate with emergency services and your loved ones.

Personal locator beacons use satellites orbiting in space to track your location. Some models require a monthly membership but will allow you to send an SOS signal if an emergency occurs. You may not be able to communicate directly with your loved ones, but this can provide a way to share your location.

person looking at their phone in winter
You won’t always have a cell signal, so it’s a good idea to have a backup plan for communication.

9. Do Some Research On Fuel Additives

You’ll want to have fuel additives on hand in the case of frigid temperatures. This can help prevent the fuel in your vehicle’s fuel lines from freezing when temperatures plunge below zero.

If the fuel in your lines freezes, you’re not going anywhere until it can unthaw. Adding an additive to your fuel helps protect it from freezing and allows you to hit the road toward warmer temperatures.

10. Be Prepared for Winter Storms While Overlanding

It would help if you prepared for storms well in advance. Storms can pop up with little or no warning, especially at higher elevations. The weather can be incredibly unpredictable, and weather apps aren’t always accurate enough, especially when it means putting your safety at risk.

Preparing for storms means you’re able to handle the unexpected events that come with overlanding in the winter. You may find that you have supplies or equipment that you didn’t use for the entire season. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry when preparing for storms.

Overland camper gear
It’s better to be overprepared for overlanding than underprepared.

Pro Tip: No matter the season, make sure you always have the proper gear on hand. Check out our recommendations: What Gear Do You Need for Overlanding? 11 Top Essentials

Take Advantage of the Season by Overlanding in Winter 

Overlanding in winter and snow can be a magical way to experience an already extraordinary traveling style. However, it’s hazardous and stressful if you don’t plan accordingly. Follow these tips, and you’ll be ready for your winter adventure.

Looking for an overland rig thatll keep you warm in winter and cool in summer? Consider one of the 8 Best 4 Season Truck Campers for Cozy Camping Year-Round.

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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