Are you the type of adventurer that likes following distant dusty trails, living out of your vehicle for days on end, and enjoying all that backcountry motoring has to offer? If so, then you may want to check out an Overland Expo. We attended the most recent one held near Flagstaff, Arizona. The event drew a crowd of about 8,000 interested off-road travelers, and the variety of attraction and vehicles in attendance did not disappoint.
Whether you’re a newbie to dirt exploring or a seasoned world traveler, you’ll learn from others to build your confidence and competence to get away from it all. There were 4WD- and motorcycle-related classes on off-road driving, getting unstuck, vehicle recovery, field repair, and other techniques. Scattered amongst about 175 vendors in attendance, we saw demonstrations of cooking skills, winch handling, fire starting, cutlery, and backcountry packing skills. Walk the vendor aisles, and you’ll be bombarded with vehicle and travel ideas, along with many great products designed specifically for backcountry exploring. While there were many amazing expedition-style vehicles on display by the vendors, we also spent a good bit of time walking the camping area where attendees had set up camp for the weekend. The array of vehicles there was staggering, many of which you’d rarely see out on the road. There were many unusual imports, conversions, and huge heavy-duty trucks with spacious interior accommodations. However, there were rigs to please a good range of budgets and a wide enough array to give anyone inspiration for their own overland rig.
For info on future Overland Expo events, check overlandexpo.com.
1. Coyote Enterprises had its dual internal pneumatic beadlocks on display and visible, installed in a cutaway tire. Their updated Staun design is tougher than the original and uses 50 psi of air pressure in the bladder to lock both tire beads to the wheel. They fit on any wheel and have no DOT-compliance issues. They also had a display to illustrate to drivers the difference in tire-pressure behavior as you change altitude.
2. Factor 55 had its ProLink and FlatLink winch terminations on display, along with some other new products. There was a fair bit of emphasis at the expo on vehicle recovery methods, including safe winching and getting yourself out of that inevitable stuck spot.
3. We spotted this thoughtfully equipped 1997 Land Rover Defender from British Columbia. It was gorgeous and fully equipped for expedition-style travel with spare fluids, sand ramps, on-board air, and spares/tools in storage. In tow was a custom off-road trailer with a rooftop tent and full camping provisions for long treks away from civilization.
4. Simpler field skills demonstrations were a common sight. One survival instructor showed onlookers a number of primitive techniques used to create fire. Here he was illustrating a two-man friction drill technique. He made it look too easy!
5. There were attendees from most of the 50 states and a good few international license plates as well. If the stickers are to be believed, some of these vehicles have been to a lot of places across our globe.
6. There was a wide variety of off-road and camping trailers, some being very elaborate. This high-clearance Moby1 trailer was fully decked out with rear kitchen, sleeping quarters with adjacent tent, and awning, while still supporting a two-person kayak on top.
7. Organization. When it comes to cramming a lot of essentials into your expedition rig, organization can pay dividends. Walking the expo could give anyone plenty of practical ideas on planning or building a rig and dreaming about your next adventure away from civilization.
8. We spotted a fair number of Sportsmobile vans at the Expo. The Ford E-350 1-ton 4x4 conversions use Dana 60 axles to get you into the backcountry. The penthouse top with a full-length upper bed sleeps two adults, and a queen bed also lies below. These vans are fully equipped with kitchen, water and shower provisions, furnace, and solar panel systems.
9. We spotted this classic Toyota FJ45 Land Cruiser Troop Carrier from Colorado parked amongst the camping crowd. It looked fairly original and was supporting a rooftop tent.
10. There were overland skills areas where instructors could teach recovery and vehicle rescue techniques, including proper use of recovery straps and safe winch use. There was also an overlanding driving skills course and a separate on-site adventure motorcycle skills course in the dirt.
11. How often do you look up in the States and spot a MAN truck cruising through a parking lot? This couple cruising with their infant child had a well-equipped mobile homestead just looking for a camp spot.
12. Nemo Equipment had a nice solution for times when you don’t have a good spot to hang a solar shower bag. The Helio Pressure Shower uses a pressurized method to dispense shower water. A foot pump is used to pressurize the 11-liter welded fabric water tank to provide a water stream without relying on gravity feed.