Leading an Overland Trip

While organizing and leading a successful overland trip with family, friends, or group members can be a rewarding experience, it is also a responsibility for someone to handle. You can be expected to arrange everything – from the location and time of the trip down to very specific details such as creating an itinerary, taking care of necessary permits, and creating a plan for when things don’t go your way.

What to Consider When Organizing the Trip

To help you during the planning phase of your overland trip, we’ve listed a few important things to consider.


Start your trip planning by defining the area you want to visit.

Researching a Location

Before selecting a place to visit, start by doing some basic research about the area.

  • Get a general idea of the area
    Look up online sources such as online articles and social media posts to determine the general location, climate, and other important details about the area.
  • Find out what other people think about the area
    Talk to other people that have visited the area or local citizens and authorities. You can get great insights from others experience. They may also give you valuable tips for your trip.
  • Find out must-see places in the area
    Find out and take note of the places that you consider a must-see in the area. While it all depends on your preference, consulting other people or looking up online resources can help you identify which places in the area are worth seeing. Once you have a list of all the places you want to visit, put it all together on a map by adding them as waypoints.
  • Locate all the different organized and dispersed camping sites
    Use apps like Campendium or iOverlander to find organized and dispersed campsites near the area. Then, create multiple waypoints of all potential camping areas so you have backups.

Creating a Route:

If you're not planning to use a pre-planned route, you’d want to create the route yourself. In creating a route, a few reminders:

  1. Pick a starting point
    The starting point should be the most accessible spot for all participating members. If possible choose a landmark that is close enough to your destinations.
  2. Add Waypoints
    Apart from the camping sites and the places you want to visit, you can also add waypoints of different establishments such as gas stations, public restrooms, hospitals, grocery stores, etc.
  3. Create routes for each waypoint and stops
    Now that you have a set of important waypoints, connect each major stop by making a route using your GPS mapping software such as Gaia GPS or onX Maps. When creating a route through a public trail, make sure that vehicles are permitted on the trail by using an MVUM layer or map.
  4. Create multiple routes
    Map multiple possible routes so you’ll have backups in case of road closures, obstructions, and other unforeseen circumstances.


Time is also another important factor to consider. There are a lot of sensitive details that can affect your decision on a trip’s timeframe such as:

  • Availability of Participants
  • Expected Weather
  • Park Schedules
  • Road Closures
  • Activities Offered in the Area

Creating an Itinerary
Tips for creating an itinerary.

  1. Create a general sequence for all the major stops and activities
    The sequence can be based on distance, convenience, length of activity and interest.
  2. Be mindful of time-sensitive road conditions
    You may not want to be driving on a forest trail at night or even at dusk. Keep this in mind when planning your itinerary.
  3. Allocate enough time for traveling, eating, and packing up
    Have a modest estimate of the travel time, eating time, and pack-ups between stops so your group is not always in a rush.
  4. Allocate time allowances for each activity
    Sometimes you just want to appreciate the scenery or to participate in an activity for a little longer. You can make allowances in the itinerary for such moments.
  5. Ask for feedback
    When the initial itinerary is done, ask other participants on their thoughts about it.


You always have to plan around the weather. Some activities and sites are off-limits under certain weather conditions. Use information and forecasts from trusted weather sources such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). You can also use weather forecasting software such as the Windy App and Accuweather.

Permits and Fees

Depending on where you intend to go, certain fees and permits must be settled ahead of time. To find out what fees and permits are required, head over to the national park website, forest service website, or backcountry information center concerned with the area you intend to visit. You can also visit recreation.gov to easily book and pay for reservations at most national parks.

Safety Plan and Considerations

Creating a safety plan is a must when organizing an overland trip. As a leader, you are responsible for the safety of your group.

  • Take note of important emergency numbers in the area
    Have a list of emergency numbers such as hospital, fire department, and towing services.
  • Establish more than one channel of communication
    You can use a combination of group chats, satellite communicators, and radio communication, to make sure that you will be able to contact each other with or without service.
  • Ask participants if they have special medical conditions
    If they do, have a plan for it or ask them.
  • Know who in the group has essential experience
    Make a note of group members that have experience practicing essential skills such as offroad recovery, first-aid, and vehicle repair.
  • Join or Follow Good Samaritan Groups in the Area
    Certain areas have Facebook or Instagram groups for requesting offroad recovery from other overlanding enthusiasts. Make sure that you request to join or follow the group or page of good samaritans in the area you are going to visit beforehand.
  • Have a plan for natural hazards present on different routes
    Research what natural hazard is most likely to occur at your route. Then, try to learn what you can do to keep the group safe should that hazard occur.
  • Inform somebody outside the group about the trip
    Before going out, inform a second party about your trip destination and ETA. Make sure to update them when possible.
  • Make sure that the route or trail you’re going to take is appropriate for the group’s skill level
    You may not want to pick a very technical trail if you have new drivers in your group.
  • Create a buddy system for new drivers
    To make sure that you accommodate the needs of new drivers in your group, pair them up with veteran drivers. Ask the more experienced driver to guide the other.

Things you can do before and during the trip

Now that we’re done with the planning phase, here are some things that you can do right before the trip and during the trip.


  • Invite and notify participants in advance
    Inform the group members or intended participants at least a month the trip. Send them the itinerary and other things that they’ll need to know. This will help empower them with knowledge and gives them plenty of time to do research.
  • Introduce new members to the group
    If there are new members joining your group, introduce them to existing members to ensure they feel welcomed.
  • Share the route map with participants
    Share the route map that you created for the trip with other participants. If you are going to update the routes, make sure that you also send them the updated version.
  • Make sure that the group has at least two channels of communication
    Make sure that everybody can be contacted with or without service.
  • Inform the members about the rules and restrictions in the area you are going to visit
    Before going, make sure that everyone is aware of the restrictions imposed in the different national parks, attractions, public lands, and organized campsites that you’re going to visit.
  • Organize and Conduct a Driver’s Meeting
    Meet the drivers right before the trip or at the start of the trip and make sure that they understand the routes you’re going to take, they know all the major stops, the communication channels are working, and other things that need to be clarified or answered.


  • Record the trip
    Record the trip in your GPS mapping software for when you need to backtrack.
  • Keep communication alive
    Communicate and set expectations along the route.
  • Make sure that the group is taking the correct route
    Be mindful of the map when driving. Consult it from time to time to make sure that you are all in the right path.
  • Be responsible for following the itinerary
    While you don’t want to be strict with following the itinerary, it is your responsibility to remind the group that there are other places to visit or that it’s getting late and you need to hit the road.
  • Remind members to clean up after themselves
    Before leaving an area or a campsite, pack up everything you brought.
  • Make sure that members who separated from the group during the trip are safe
    Should someone in the group depart in the middle of the trip, keep your communication with them and make sure that they are safe.
  • Make sure everybody is having a good time
    It is your trip so make sure that everyone will remember it well. :)