Fitting It All In: How to Pack for Long Distance Overland Travel

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Too much stuff with no good way of packing, be it a backpacking trip or packing Nemo, our Landcrusier.

For the last several months we have struggled with the best way of packing our gear. This past summer’s trip to Labrador was half to see what sort of packing we would need as well as what we really needed to take. If nothing else we found we needed 4 doors … or at least the ability to physically get into the back of the vehicle easier. This is how we ended up with Nemo the Landroamer.


In our search for the perfect packing solution, we discovered several different options by talking to people and checking out online resources. Unfortunately there is a HUGE divide in what works for the drivers who go camping for a few days vs long term travel. Not to mention every person or couple has their preferences. Some like cooking and want as many gadgets as possible. Some want a pot, Ramen noodles, and can open a beer on a bumper. Taking all this into account, many options simply did not fit or meet our needs. In the end it came down to core issues that had to be addressed. They are as follows;

Weight: This is huge for us. Weight equalls lower gas mileage as well as more wear and tear on the vehicle. And our landcruiser is not a new vehicle clocking in at over 200,000 miles under its hood already. While we have our suspension and tires set up to carry added weight, we did not want the containers alone that hold our gear to take up the entire weight quota while holding only air.

Efficient Use of Space: This is a hard one. Far too many commercial bin manufactures produce luggage that is smaller at the bottom than the top with protruding handles which reduce packing volume because you just can’t put as many in. Also few fit well in the dimensions of the cruiser. Draws have been a popular choice and we made some. But the weight was prohibitive as was the ruggedness due to poorly manufactured drawer slides (which were not cheap to purchase!) Commercially produced drawers such as Dobson and ARBs are very nice, but way outside our price range.

The drawers Autumn made for Nemo. So pretty but so HEAVY!
Safety: Having built-in drawers allows you to bolt in the furniture so that in an accident nothing gets thrown. Loose bins would get tossed and potentially cause a fatality. This is a concern, but having worked in the construction fields with loose acetylene and oxygen tanks rolling around in the back. I’m not too concerned.
Ease of organization and access: Drawers are key as everything is hidden and stored when not needed, and easily found when needed. Bins are more difficult due to the simple tightness of packing. Invariably the bin you need is in the middle!
Adaptability of space: On a damp day when you just want to hang out inside the vehicle It’s nice to have that ability. Bins are the only storage solution that allow this flexibility as they are stackable, creating benches or desks. Sturdy enough to be seats, they can even be removed completely from the vehicle and stored outside if they are watertight.
Not the most efficient packing method or place...
Not the most efficient packing method or place…
In the end we are strongly leaning towards Frontrunner’s brand of Wolf and Cub boxes as they meet many, if not all, of our specifications. For the Labrador trip, we used the Plano brand Sportsman boxes, which, while they did work quite well, did not use space efficiently due to the handles and taper. We’ve also used a number of Pelican cases, but their advantage of thick walls and strength, which was perfect for the motorcycles, leads to reduced interior space and weight when used inside a vehicle. A close contender, but ruled out due to lack of a lid, were cheap and rugged milk crates. Though one or two might tag along in some capacity. They make great stepping stools for those of us shorter than 6′! Another common bin that many use are Rubbermaid Action Packers. These are very rugged but the lack of local availability and the common problem of a top larger than base configuration prevented further consideration.

Get more information through these links to the manufacture websites.

Frontrunner Cub, Wolf, Wolf Top
Rubbermaid Action Packers