Solo Vehicle Dependent Exploration, Travel & Adventure

Overlanders Tips: Tread Lightly Please…

Most people that travel have a healthy respect for the environment they live in and that of the country they travel to. Im not going to preach to the converted but this is especially important when your living our of your vehicle and this presents  its own challenges. In developed countries waste disposal of day to day items along with old engine oils etc is not much of a problem, these can be responsibly recycled. However, when you are faced with 10-15L of waste oils in a developing country what do you do?

Tread Lightly have the following basic principles:

Travel Responsibly on land by staying on designated roads, trails and area. Go over, not around, obstacles to avoid widening the trails. Cross streams only at designated fords. when possible, avoid wet, muddy trails. On water, stay on designated waterways and launch your watercraft in designated areas.

Respect the Rights of Others including private property owners, all recreational trail users, campers and others so they can enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed. Leave gates as you found them. Yield right of way to those passing you or going uphill. On water, respect anglers, swimmers, skiers, boaters, divers and those on or near shore.

Educate Yourself prior to your trip by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies. Plan for your trip, take recreation skills classes and know how to operate your equipment safely.

Avoid Sensitive Areas on land such as meadows, lake shores, wetlands and streams. Stay on designated routes. This protects wildlife habitats and sensitive soils from damage. Don’t disturb historical, archeological or paleontological sites. On water, avoid operating your watercraft in shallow waters or near shorelines at high speeds.

Do Your Part by modelling appropriate behavior, leaving the area better than you found it, properly disposing of waste, minimizing the use of fire, avoiding the spread of invasive species and repairing degraded areas.

Website: with some great generalised recreational tips here:


The above is the cornerstone of travelling anywhere in the world, however some of the points raised and tips given are only applicable to developed countries. On our recent trip we were faced with a few more situations that required a bit of thinking. servicing vehicles? plastic recycling? where to leave waste? We had to think on our feet and come up with something. Here are our thoughts:

  • Waste Vehicle Oils – Probably the biggest problem for longhaul overland travel. Try to plan your service intervals around large or even capital cities (usually when your waiting for Visas), this may be the only place with facilities to at least store or better still recycle oils responsibly. If your servicing yourself make sure you have oil spill mats and enough containers to carry/store the waste oil in. Try not to use soft drink or milk bottles as these will likely leak in the heat. Take all spill mats/rags, old filters along with the oil for disposal.
  • Filter/Purify Water – Do not buy water in plastic bottles. Before you leave ensure you have a sustainable water filter/purification system along with replacement filters and a back-up. Even developed countries struggle with plastic recycling, do not increase the burden. Fill your containers/bottles from mountain springs, streams, people’s homes etc and filter from there. We have had no issues with this since using a proper system (we do not recommend chlorine or iodine for longterm use).
  • Daily Trash – Only dispose of this stuff in towns or cities with proper facilities. Depending on your destination you may be carrying out 3-4 weeks worth of rubbish and it soon stacks up. consider what you are carrying and the space it will take up after you are done with it. Tinned foods for example take up a lot of room and are not easy to crush. Transfer suitable food types to ziplock bags for re-use later whilst your in a town/city to minimise carrying waste later on. Consider your space for waste. We use a Trasharoo spare wheel trash bag ( This keeps the waste and smells outside and can take a huge amount of bagged rubbish. We took the time to separate this stuff out so we could easily handle and recycle when needed. We managed 3 weeks of waste in ours whilst in Mongolia easily.
  • Poop – Yes, it was going to come up sooner or later. Realistically you cannot pack this out when overlanding so its the bury option. Human waste should be disposed of in a shallow hole six to eight inches deep at least 200 feet from water sources. Cover and disguise the hole with natural materials. It is recommended to pack out your toilet paper but again realistically you should burn this responsibly. Don’t forget the hand gel afterwards!
  • Jerry Cans/Fuel Filling – Only fill your vehicle or jerry cans at filling stations. Take your time and prepare in advance to avoid spillages. Some pumps do not have auto shutoff and will continue to run when you have your back turned. Line up your cans in advance with lids open and have your fuel cap(s) open ready. Only used approved fuel cans for transport not plastic barrels.

Pack it in, Pack it out!

So that is all the big stuff dealt with, if I think of anything else I will add to it here. If you have anymore suggestions you would like us to add please let us know in the comments below.

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