Regardless whether you call it overlanding, 4x4 camping, or simply pitching a tent while off-road, we all use similar equipment and techniques. If you believe there is always room for improvement, then you can’t miss the Overland Expo West, held every year at Mormon Lake Lodge outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. This year’s 10th annual event hosted 255 registered exhibitors and 10,000-plus attendees from as far away as Australia, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Switzerland. If you live closer to the East Coast, don’t fret, there is an Overland Expo East held annually in Asheville, North Carolina, as well. For more information about the Overland Expo and future events, check out overlandexpo.com.
Sometimes traditional camper and motorhome sales centers don’t fully understand off-road camping needs and issues. The Overland Expo is a great place to get up close and personal with the products and manufacturers before committing to a big-ticket item like a slide-in camper or turnkey 4x4 motorhome.
The best way to learn about something is to talk to people that do it all the time. The 2016 Overland Expo West featured 190 different classes, seminars, demos, activities, slideshows, and films—totaling more than 400 session-hours of instruction.
Training sessions and classes include everything from knife grinding, HAM radio certification, cooking, photography, and navigation to extreme vehicle recovery. There is sure to be an informative class you’ll find interesting. There are also programs specifically tailored to adventurous kids and their parents and even sessions for kids, by kids.
Ram Truck has supported the Overland Expo for several years now. This year, the company gave the public the opportunity to ogle and even sit in not-yet-released truck models like this new ’17 Power Wagon.
Heavy equipment is brought in to create an off-road training, testing, and display course. The obstacles are designed to represent what you might encounter on a typical overlanding journey.
The Camel Trophy Training Team had perhaps one of the most interesting hands-on instructional classes. It combined driving with custom-tailored overland skills training that included winching, rope-work and lashing, recovery, specialty substrates, spotting, bush skills, and more.
Parking is extremely congested at the event, so plan for a bit of a walk if you show up late in the day. There are a few wet camp spots available, but they fill up quick. Nearly unlimited dry camping is available on the lakebed. However, larger Class A motorhomes are not allowed because they can become easily mired in the mud created by only a small amount of rain.
Overland Expo isn’t just for 4x4s. There is a huge overland motorcycle following. Hundreds of riders attend the event on everything from mildly modified Honda XR650s to 2WD Ural sidecar motorcycles.
Both Land Rover and BFGoodrich had off-road areas and products available for consumer evaluation. Thinking about purchasing a Land Rover or BFG tires? Overland Expo could give you the opportunity to try them in the dirt before you buy.
Everyone at Overland Expo West is extremely friendly and helpful. Nightly events result in many gatherings. There is a lot of incredible knowledge available for those thinking about overlanding inside and outside of the U.S. borders.