At about 9:30 last Friday night something strange happened. We were at an off-road event and the after-parties were calming down, not revving up. There were no engines firing, no night wheeling trips getting under way, no fellow enthusiasts ripping through camp on quads or two-stroke dirt bikes, no huge bonfires fueled by beer-swilling dirtheads, and the off-road course was shut down for the night. Instead, residents of Overlandia (our new name for the strange new world we experienced) at the 2016 Overland Expo West, at Mormon Lake, Arizona, were cuddling into their rooftop tents or queen-sized beds in the back of million-dollar overlanding rigs to get some sleep. Sure, some had to be up to work booths in the morning, and it was a bit cold for a May night in most parts of the country, but still something seemed. . . different.
Slightly confused and thinking, If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, we snuggled into our sleeping bag rolled out in the back of Rosco P. Drivetrain, but sleep was hard to come by. Instead of snoozing we entertained an abundance of questions firing off the insides of our skulls. Did these people know about night wheeling? Do they know how much more fun and adventure you can have after the big light bulb in the sky has set? Do they understand that people have been car camping since the first night of the first road trip the day after the first car was invented? Finally, we fell asleep with the following comparison in our head: Overlanding is to car camping as the hashtag is to number (or pound) sign—or something like that. It’s new yet not new, the same yet different. Somehow changed, more fancy and reserved, yet not really that different than the past. We don’t know why, or if we like it or not, but either way something has changed.
Despite our confusion, the 2016 Overland Expo West was a fun event and we got to see lots of cool stuff you generally don’t see at other off-road events. We know you couldn’t be there, or if you were maybe you want another look. So here is a gallery of cool and confusing stuff we saw. Some of it gets used; some of it is just for show. Some of it represents new ideas but mostly old ideas spiffed up for today’s modern age.