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Car Camping Convention: The Workshops and Wares of Overland Expo West 2018

Posted in Events on July 9, 2018
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The 2018 Overland Expo West was wheeling, camping, exploring, and self-sufficiency, all rolled into a rooftop tent and parked in the wilderness. A record-breaking 14,000 people ventured from all corners of the globe and gathered outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, for the 14th Overland Expo West.

As the sun rose over the horizon, casting a glow on Fort Tuthill County Park, the French presses and camping stove-top espresso machines came to life, drawing the overlanders from their abodes. Some crawled from tents in the dirt, others pitched forth ladders from the doorways of their vehicle-top fabric palaces, while the rest peered out from the windows of their hard-sided glamp-yachts.

However they chose to spend the nighttime hours, the overlanders had congregated in the open camping areas on-site at Overland Expo West. Before long, sunblock was applied by the gallon, wide-brim hats were donned, and queues of showgoers shuffled toward the day’s activities. For those coming to the show wanting for all the gadgetry the overlanding market had to offer, there stood the vendor show—display tents lined up like barracks showcasing a variety of wilderness wares. Companies were quick on the trigger to explain how, with a few stealthy modifications, the passenger quarters of most vehicles could be outfitted with sliding drawers, tanks of potable water, steamy showers, and enough cooking gear to satisfy a sunburnt sous chef.

Whether camping in a retro ’72 Ford Econoline Sportsmobile conversion, cruising through for a day trip, or making a stop on a transcontinental journey, Overland Expo West was the place to be.

Need help un-stucking your ride? Vendors were on hand with un-stucking gear. Want power for your gadgets while making camp? Solar-powered solutions were on hand. Also, if one took the time to lend an ear, the only thing more abundant than rooftop tents at the show were the stories from the adventurers of terrain crossed, gear used, and experiences gathered.

Overland Expo West was not just a gear grab; many were on-site peddling skills as well as wares. Poke your head into a canvas tent and you might have found yourself in a class learning the intricacies of wilderness medicine, or perhaps meal preparation or welding from vehicle batteries. Other vendors provided instruction on vehicle recovery, driving skills, and obstacle navigation. We’ll take you on a trip through the show visiting everything from skills clinics to the vendor booths, so you can plan your journey to Overland Expo West (or East in North Carolina!). More information can be found at overlandexpo.com.

Big-Rig Roster

Many companies at Overland Expo West were on hand with king-sized rigs fit to take a family into the backcountry—in style!

Global Expedition Vehicles tells customers, “You will run out of world before you run out of truck!” The custom-built vehicles are designed to be self-sufficient, allowing customers to “cut the umbilical cord” and free themselves from the water and electrical hookups typical of RV resorts. This rig combines high-class RV amenities with the chassis and cab of an International 7300. Find out more about these rigs at globalxvehicles.com.

Bliss Mobil, based in the Netherlands, is unique in that the camper boxes are built to be removed from the chassis of your desired vehicle, placed on a cargo ship, and sent across the globe. Though this box sits upon an LMTV 1078A1, customers have chosen Mercedes-Benz Unimogs or Zetros 6x6 platforms. The camper boxes come in lengths up to 20 feet and include solar panels, climate controls, and enough space to comfortably sleep four adventurers. Want one? Check out blissmobil.com.

EarthRoamer built what we affectionately call a “camper mansion” on a Ford F-750 chassis. This 35-foot-long behemoth holds 115 gallons of diesel fuel, 250 gallons of fresh water, has a 2,100-watt solar system, and carries a price tag of $1.5 million. Read more about this rig (XV-HD) and other creations by EarthRoamer at earthroamer.com.

Scavenging for Skills

As one of the iconic vehicles in the world of overland travel, Land Rover had an impressive presence at Overland Expo West. Drivers were invited to sign up for a ride (or three) around the skills course in a Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, LR4, Discovery Sport, and other vehicles. Trained instructors were ready with tips and tricks for navigating through the obstacles. Whether you were a seasoned wheeler or experiencing your first one-wheel-skyward Land Rover wave, the course offered plenty of opportunities for fun.
For a hands-on introduction to the company’s newest off-roader, the Mud-Terrain T/A KM3, BFGoodrich had an informational booth with seminars on tire technology and development, as well as a driving course to showcase the capabilities of the new rubber. Fans were invited to crawl, climb, and cruise over obstacles in a fleet of vehicles dressed in KM3 tires.
Those familiar with the Camel Trophy might think of it as the “Olympics of Off-Roading” and recognize it for the abundance of Land Rover Defenders, among other vehicles. Though there wasn’t quite enough space to host a full competition at the venue, the Camel Trophy Expedition Skills Area offered a place for participants to learn off-roading skills on a closed course with help from trained professionals. Whether the challenge was choosing a safe line through a rock garden, learning when to engage locking differentials, or even communicating with a spotter, this was the place to learn.
Also in the Camel Trophy Expedition Skills Area were tents with personalized instruction. This group was learning the basics of mending metal trailside with the help of sequentially wired vehicle batteries, welding rods, and of course, proper personal protective equipment.

Adventure Equipment

American Expedition Vehicles teamed up with Chevrolet to build some exciting new parts for the Chevy Colorado line of trucks, including the ZR2. The AEV Colorado Snorkel Kit is designed to suck in the coolest, cleanest air and install directly to the factory airbox. The Crestone DualSport Beadlock wheels are made from strong and lightweight A356 T6 cast aluminum and are customizable—you can run them with or without the beadlock ring depending on your style preference. For more on both products visit aev-conversions.com.
When your rig is outfitted with a winch, trails can seem less scary. What happens when you’re stuck in the sand without a tree in sight? Instead of burying your spare tire (you have one, right?), the folks at Deadman Off-Road have a solution. The Deadman is designed to either be buried beneath the ground to act as an anchor point for your winching, or to create a safe wrapping anchor point around a boulder. Check them out at deadmanoffroad.com.
The Road Shower is plumbing for your vehicle rack! Available in 4-, 7-, or 10-gallon varieties, it uses the sun’s rays and black paint to heat up water for showers, hand washing, or even spraying off recreational equipment. Pressurize the system with either a garden hose or your personal bicycle pump, or let gravity dispense the water. Get your fill of this cool product at roadshower.com.
We’ve all gone a couple days in the dirt without a real-water shower, perhaps even wiped off with a baby wipe or two. Say goodbye to baby wipes and hello to the Shower Pouch. Measuring in at 1x2 feet, it is designed to be just long enough to hold behind your back and scrub away layers of dust and grime—it even smells good! We tried these out and were impressed (and frightened) by how much dirt one wipe could scrub from a dirty wheeler. Get a few for yourself at theshowerpouch.com.
Desert Rat Off Road Centers (desertrat.com) brought the entire storefront to the show offering everything from coolers and winches to recovery hardware and spare tire tie-downs.
The Opus Off-Road airs-up the ante on camp trailers. Where some campers require cranks and tent poles, this system inflates in minutes using Air Pole Technology. We watched this tent come to life before our eyes; see for yourself at opuscamper.us.
Dometic showed us how this 47-can, 32L electric cooler could keep us fed and watered for an entire weekend. Small enough to fit the cargo area of most vehicles and quiet enough to sleep next to, this ultra-low-power-draw cooler runs off either your vehicle’s battery or your choice of aftermarket solar power to keep goods cool. See the lineup of coolers at dometic.com.
Part of the overlanding experience is patch collecting. This is a look at roughly one eighth of the patches available at the show.
While exploring the show, it was fascinating and inspiring to read about the journeys others had taken or were planning in the future. Whether it be across the globe or across the state, seeing the routes and hearing the stories was one of the more memorable parts of Overland Expo West. Whether it was the skills, the technology, or the camaraderie, many walked away from the show inspired to go out and explore.

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