Overland Expo started out as a small event where world travelers and van-living vagabonds came together to talk about their trips and upgrades, but like a rooftop tent, it has expanded to massive dimensions. The number of vendors showing off camping upgrades for all types of vehicles is mindboggling. Whether you sleep in your Subaru or have seen the world in your Unimog-mega-house-on-wheels there is something for you at Overland Expo.
For 2017, Overland Expo West moved to a fairgrounds near Flagstaff, Arizona, and it was better than ever. The event has a variety of driver training for novice off-roaders as well as lectures and seminars from experienced world travelers, but the real growth was in the vendor arena. The number of companies offering something new or just a new version of something old was great to see. Overlanding is bigger than ever these days and there are companies supporting every level of build and budget you are comfortable with.
The vendor area of Overland Expo was bigger than ever as more and more people are building overlanding vehicles. Whether it’s the dream to see exotic places, or the goal to take the whole family exploring and camping in a well-built 4x4, the scene is exploding. We saw every variety of rooftop tent and camp cooking setup imaginable.
As much as we like seeing all the new gadgets and upgrades, our favorite part of Overland Expo is all the cool vehicles. Whether full restomod diesel International Scouts or budget beater Land Rovers that families are living out of, the variety will keep you drooling all weekend. We spent three days at the show and were still finding cool new rigs on the last day, and that’s just in the show. Take a walk through the parking lot and nearby campgrounds and you’ll find even more great vehicles.
If you’re hoping to someday take a long camping weekend, or dreaming of a ’round the world adventure, then put either the Overland Expo West (in Arizona) or East (in North Carolina) on your radar.
Land Rover has long supported Overland Expo with off-road driver training and new vehicle ride and drive testing. There were a fair number of classic Rovers both on display and in attendance, but we were thrilled to see a real Camel Trophy version of a Discovery on display atop a log bridge. The now-defunct Camel Trophy consisted of epic off-road competitions in remote destinations by teams from different countries that ran during the ’80s and ’90s.
One of the cleanest vehicles we saw at Overland Expo was this diesel scout built by All Things Scout. The vehicle is part of their New Legend endeavor where they built classic vehicles on Jeep JK Wrangler frames with all new drivetrains. This build had the new Cummins 2.8L crate diesel engine and JK Dana 44 axles. New Legend is also offering Wagoneers and classic Range Rovers all repowered and rebuilt for modern daily driving use.
If you’re a longtime reader of Four Wheeler, then you may recognize the name Ned Bacon. Ned and his wife Kat recently drove to the tip of South America and the top of Alaska in a four-wheel-drive Volkswagen Syncro van. As a part of Overland Expo they offered a slide show to tell attendees about their trip and some of the hurtles and adventures they encountered. This type of talk is common at Overland Expo, and a great motivator to get your overlanding vehicle kitted out so you can hit the road.
Sprinter vans by Mercedes and Ford Transit vans are quite popular, and companies like Van Compass and Sportsmobile as well as others are offering a wide variety of upgrades for them. Everything from fancy interiors to lift kits and rocker panel protection to make van-life dreams a reality.
American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) has expanded from Jeeps and heavy-duty Ram trucks and now offers a suspension for the Ram ½-ton trucks. They also offer a lighter weight ½-ton winch bumper and a new beadlock wheel that can be run either as a beadlock or a non-beadlock rim. AEV is a longtime supporter of Overland Expo and the overlanding lifestyle.
Overland Expo is a family event with seminars for both adults and kids. We saw groups of kids running around the show on scavenger hunts and there were also seminars where teachers taught kids about camping and cooking while overlanding. We also met a number of families that were on overlanding adventures and living out of their vehicles.
Organization of gear is very important for vehicle travel. We dug these tool rolls from Adventure Tool Company. They come in a variety of sizes and styles that look like they’ll last a lifetime.
Speaking of products that will last a lifetime, these handmade camp chairs were really nice and made in the U.S. by American Camp Chair. They were priced like a family heirloom as well, but there are many overlanders who won’t settle for the basic grocery store camp chair.
Among other things, Cummins displayed its new 2.8L crate engine. A small diesel engine with good fuel economy that is easy to stuff into a Jeep or Toyota sounds like the perfect powerplant for an overlanding project build. They had one on display in a stock Jeep TJ and it’s said to get 30 mpg.
This Land Rover Defender is on our bucket list of travel trucks. It’s painted Camel Trophy Yellow with a full internal cage, rooftop tent, and all the winch, recovery gear, and side awning a person would need to go get lost in. The door statement “One Life. Live It.” are words to live by and a good reason to go travel.
A Unimog travel camper is big, hard to fit on tiny trails, and will stick out like a sore thumb in a third world country. It’s also very off-road capable and another one of those trucks we’d consider selling our house and living in. This truck is built by Couch Off-Road Engineering with a camper box by Bliss Mobil.
Not every overlander is traveling in top-of-the-line mega trucks. We met this guy who drove up from the Phoenix area in a Samurai, camped in a hammock, and had a great time. The down-to-earth vehicles are mostly found out in the nearby campground.
Chevy offered all-wheel-drive vans in both its Astro and larger fullsize vans. These have common to find parts and offer a good platform to start with if you’re looking for a domestic traveling machine.
It’s pretty cool to see a traveling kitchen more organized then the one we use every day at home. This Land Rover was near OCD in storage systems for everything from the recovery gear, to the food prep area, to the dog’s living space in the back. We only dream of a life this sorted out.
The show seemed to be bursting with Toyotas, rooftop tents, and travel trailers. There were simple options and extravagant options like this cool tent and living area combo by Cascadia Vehicle Tents. The one lesson we learned is that overlanding offers something for everyone, no matter your budget or level of comfort desired.