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Cold Weather Overlanding Tips by Joey Slayton

Contributed By Joey Slayton

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Joey “the BROfessor” Slayton is a native of Arkansas. He is an avid off-road/outdoor enthusiast, hiker, backpacker, motorcycle rider, and podcaster. Find him on Instagram here.

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When you live in a part of the country that suffers (or is blessed with…however you see it) high levels of humidity (such as where I live…Arkansas), you will have highly varied temps to deal with when being outdoors. You might even experience all of the seasons in one 24-hour period. But for the most part, we have hot summers and cool winters. The hot summers are miserable, reaching into the upper 90’s but feeling as if it is in the low 100’s. You do not even want to go outside your house, much less pack all your stuff and spend the weekend in your sweatbox tent. But we get breaks every now and then with mild temperatures. We take vacations to cooler climates. We make due.

But then we make the transition to the best time of the year. Fall and winter camping are what Overlanders in Mid-America dream of. In this transition, we have to move gear around, we act different, we are able to enjoy different things and different pieces of gear that we have left at home for months now. Let’s talk about it.

Summer Setups for Overlanding

What are things you MUST HAVE with you in your rig?

Fan

I can’t go without a fan. I cannot sleep when I am hot. What fans do you recommend? Please let me know in the comments if you have some that are tried and true for you. I have a couple fans from Claymore that hold a charge well and do a good job. There are many good options out there. Many cheap options from Amazon where they have lights and all kinds of things on them. I have one with lights and it works very well. It has the arms you can wrap around things to hold it. I keep it attached to my fridge in the vehicle to keep the dog cool.

Portable Battery Powered Air Conditioner

Now Tony I know this is a hot topic for Tony and his wife. He was able to try out the portable AC this past summer on a trip to Okie Overland. Some friends of ours who have Lady Owned Toyotas out of Arkansas lent Tony and Arla their Zero Breeze for the night. I believe Tony and Arla stated that it did not perform as good as they thought it would, but it was extremely hot that night.

I have one and have tried it several times now. It does fairly well I think in small spaces. I have used it inside the tent, and also inside a camping cabin in Minnesota that did not have an AC. It does very well in small spaces. It is bulky to carry around. I am afraid I’m going to break it. The shape is awkward. And it has a lot of parts, but if you are going to camp in the heat, it is a good tool to have.

There are many other companies now that are coming out with some competition for the ZeroBreeze. EcoFlow now has an option and there are other companies getting out there as well almost monthly with new options.

Water

Many times, we camp by water in order to refill and keep potable water handy for camp. We need this for drinking, washing dishes, watering the dog, taking showers etc. In summer water is scarce and when you are camped by it, it will need to be filtered, so I usually carry way more water in the summer

Clothing

In summer we wear shorts and t-shirts. Clothing such as this is not bulky and doe not take up much room. For shoes, I am usually wearing sandals of some kind such as Chacos to keep my feet cool and also be able to get in and out of water easily.

Bug Stuff

You can’t go anywhere in summer in Arkansas without some form of bug spray. Tick Spray is also essential. Although the two are similar they are made of different chemicals and one does not seem to work well on the other. Our Thermacell is also something we do not ever leave home without. We use the butane with the cartridges. It never has to be charged with electricity, burns for several hours, is cheap to operate, small to transport and does a great job.

If, by chance, you are having a cool night with a fire, take some Lemongrass and Sage wrapped in a foil packet to put on fire. It offers a great smell and does a decent job of keeping pests away. You can buy Lemongrass and Sage in bulk on Amazon.

Shower

I always have the Overland Shower on the trailer ready to go. In the FJ, I always travel with the Geyser Shower system. It is easy and conserves water better than anything I’ve ever seen. Showers in the summer are amazing. We even take biodegradable soap to take baths in rivers and creeks if they are clear.

Gas and Travel

We live in Arkansas where the summers are brutal. Most of the time we have to travel far away from the state to get to cooler weather or higher elevations, so we have to factor in for time, travel and also gas.

Cooking

When it is hot, I don’t like to spend a lot of time on a stove or at the Skottle. We do picnic type stuff — pimento cheese, grapes, chicken salad, meat cheese and crackers etc. If we do cook, it is quick like ramen in the Jetboil.

Extracurriculars

In summer we are taking paddleboards and kayaks. In the fall that will not likely change, but when it gets really cold those things will be put away until spring. In the summer, we do not do much hiking — heat is too bad and the bugs and critters are way too bad. I do carry fishing gear. Too many times I have pulled up on a creek and can SEE the fish daring me to try and catch them — and I had nothing to fish with. I invested in a telescopic spinning rod/reel combo from Amazon and a Reyr fly fishing combo so I am always prepared. Goes everywhere with me.

Changing Gears – Best Gear for Overlanding

So to move into the BEST time of the year…FALL! And winter camping…what do you change out? What do you add? Everyone listening put your gear in the comments so we can all learn from each other! For me?

Heater

First and foremost I will need some HEAT. I use a little Kovea heater. I like it. It is very compact and portable. You can even use it as a stove to boil water in a pinch. One thing I do not like — It uses the Butane bottles and I don’t use those for anything else. I also have a diesel heater. This is my second one but I use it as my main heater on most trips. Some people have issues with them. I also have had issues with them. My setup is to have the diesel heater as a main because the temp can be controlled and it is safe. Then have the Kovea as a backup. I also have a Mr. Buddy Heater. This is the most common type of heater. I don’t sleep well with these. They are hard to control. Easy to knock over. And your tent has to be well ventilated.

Other types of Heat

I have a Propane Fire Pit. I have the Trail Fire Grill combo that you can cook on I picked up from Okie Overland — One of my new favorite pieces of gear. I also carry with me Wood Fire pits and cookers. I always love a good campfire and sometimes there are not fire rings or protection for your fire from the elements or children.

Blankets for cover

I use Wool Blanket — Most wool is rough. I found some wool blankets at a Military Surplus store in Greenbrier that are from Poland. So soft and warm. I also use a Rumpl. I love my Rumpl. I use it often for covers in summer. For the main sleeping area, I choose to have a double sleeping bag instead of sheets and covers. This is mainly because it is easier to keep in place and easier to clean. I like the double because it fits perfectly in my tent and is very large when I am by myself and large enough for my wife and I to share when we are both on the trip.

Clothing

Clothing is different when it gets colder. In the cooler temperatures, I always carrying a fleece and puffy coat/vest. These can get pretty bulky and take up a lot more room than clothing in the summer. My shoes changes as well. I do take my open toed shoes but for my main shoes I prefer hiking boots or puffy shoes from Teva because they slip on.

Fan

I still use a fan to circulate air and it also helps me breathe better.

Shower

I carry my shower but rarely use it unless it gets really warm during the daytime. I move shower time from evenings to the middle of the day. In the winter time I switch to using wipes, shower pouches or other means of keeping clean (especially when it is really cold outside). One idea though, is if you carry a diesel heater, run the hose from the heater up underneath your shower enclosure to give you some heat before, during and after your shower. You will be surprised at how good it works.

Cooking

This is what I love. Getting out the Skottle or the adventure Skottle from Tembo Tusk and going to town on some grub. I have saved up and got all my dream stoves from Partner Steel and Jetboil Genesis. I have my beloved steel skillets from Lodge Cast Iron and I absolutely LOVE cooking up some cool stuff on them. It is so much more fun when its not hot.

Extracurriculars

Unless its nice and cool (and not cold), we are leaving the canoes and kayaks at home. No freezing water floats for me. Hiking and backpacking gear — We love this. We are definitely going to be getting some exercise during the winter months. Mountain bikes — definitely getting those out more now. Fishing — I’m still carrying my fishing gear.

Bug Stuff

I have my Thermacell, and always will. I also will keep carrying the bug sprays as you never know when the days and/or nights will get warm and they will thaw out and come out to hunt your blood. Flies sometimes can be an issue, but the mosquitoes not so much. One trick I have learned is to cut up (or run across a cheese grater), some Irish Spring soap and keep it out for the flies and bugs. I have even picked up some shreds out of the bowl and rubbed it on my skin and my dog to keep the biting flies away.

Gas and Travel

It is nice to be able to spend more time in our beautiful state. Everything is close. I live about 20 miles from the Ouachitas and about an hour from the Ozarks. But I do get a lot of time off in the fall/winter — this year we plan to backpack the Ouachita Trail the week of Thanksgiving (we won’t get it all done but a LOT of it), and then probably back to Big Bend NP over Christmas in our new rig (whatever that may be — we have options).

There you have it. I just wanted to give you an idea of the changes that we make when we move from summer to winter camping. Things change, but they can change for the better. We just have to improve, overcome and adapt (Clint Eastwood, Heartbreak Ridge) instead of letting the weather keep us at home.

Joey “the BROfessor” Slayton is a native of Arkansas. He is an avid off-road/outdoor enthusiast, hiker, backpacker, motorcycle rider, and podcaster. Find him on Instagram here.