The 2018 Overland Expo East brought travelers and off-road enthusiasts from around the East Coast (and beyond) to a very cold, soggy, and muddy part of North Carolina. There was gobs of rain, mud so deep it could swallow a shoe, and chilly mornings that blanketed the off-road rigs in frost. But even with the crazy weather, the Expo went on as planned.
For 2018, Overland Expo East organizers relocated the annual event to the scenic Oskar Blues REEB Ranch, just south of Asheville, North Carolina. Vendors and off-road enthusiasts congregated there for the three-day weekend event, and the grounds were saturated with overland-centric vehicles, tents, gear, 4x4 testing grounds, and a large vendor area. Attendees exchanged stories, perused the cool overlanding gear and rigs, braved the muddy driving courses, and attended some of the many classes that were offered. The classes had something for everyone, including vehicle recovery, emergency preparedness, photography, shipping essentials, camp safety, and how to travel with a young family.
If you want to experience an event where you can learn to travel the world (or even just your local area), or you want to check out cool overlanding rigs and camping/travel gear, then Overland Expo East is a must-see. For more information visit overlandexpo.com.
Friday was a soaker. Although it rained most of the day, vendors did their best to set up shop, and those brave enough to walk the waterlogged terrain had the show to themselves.
An interesting sighting: an American-made Rokon Trail-Breaker all-wheel-drive motorcycle. This two-wheeler boasts hollow drum wheels that can provide flotation or space for a few gallons of extra fuel or water. These bikes can also tow up to 2,000 pounds and climb a 60 percent grade.
The all-new midsize ’19 Ford Ranger was on display and available for on- and off-road testdrives. Unfortunately, the mega-wet weather forced closure of the off-road course for safety reasons.
Camping was available at Overland Expo East. Due to the rain, what once was a trail across a depression turned into a fast-flowing creek. Intuitive show-going participants figured out inventive ways of getting to and from camp.
Global Expedition Vehicles from Springfield, Missouri, was on hand; the company offers fully customizable units with extended fuel range and water capacity, appliance and electrical upgrades, as well as a number of other options. You can even order your GXV with bamboo cabinetry or solid teak flooring.
Four Wheel Campers was out in full force. The company’s low-profile Hawk flatbed model, sitting atop a Ram 2500 AEV Prospector truck, is an adventurer’s dream. When the top is popped, this unit boasts 6 feet, 6 inches of headroom and sleeps three to four adults using a cabover bed and a couch-to-bed conversion.
Early mornings proved difficult to maneuver through the grounds: Frozen or sloppy mud made for slow walking and uneven ground, no matter if one was traversing in the vendor area, driving courses, or camp areas. Expo-goers made the best of the situation, however. Participants laughed together, got stuck together, and even slipped around together.
REEB Ranch was beautiful, even in pouring rain and low-slung clouds. Attendees were greeted with rolling hills, meticulously maintained grounds, and the last of autumn’s colorful leaves.
On display was this ’86 high-roof Toyota FJ62 4x4 Land Cruiser. It was beautifully restored by the FJ Company and has the original chassis and power sunroof, rebuilt Toyota 3F engine, four-speed automatic transmission, upgraded Old Man Emu suspension, a digital sound system, LED headlights, plus much more.
This Toyota Tacoma was armed with an ARB front bumper, winch, lightbar, and snorkel, and spent its time navigating through the Camel Trophy driving course. This muddy course was the perfect trial to practice speed, adaptability, and proper throttle-when-needed techniques in thick and slick mud.
This Land Rover Defender 110 trotted along the muddy Camel Trophy driving course as if it was nothing. Even throttle, picking the right line, and driver experience aided in this red Rover’s successful course completion.
Chris Walker, an Expedition Skills & Off-Road Driving Instructor from Overlanding BC, worked with 7P International for driver instruction and expedition training at Overland Expo East. He helped guide attendees through various courses, including the Camel Trophy driving course. Hills, V-notches, off-camber situations, and thick mud presented interesting puzzles to navigate through. If drivers weren’t successful mud mitigators, bulldozers were standing by to help pull them out.
Wyatt Evans, from Fayetteville, North Carolina, took his time driving around the Camel Trophy driving course. His ’08 Land Rover LR3 slid sideways, backwards, and occasionally hopped up on three wheels. This didn’t stop the patient and determined young driver.
Wyatt Evans’ driving instructor taught him the ins and outs of successful navigation through the concentrated mud and tricky turns of the Camel Trophy driving course. They hopped out on the course so Wyatt could understand vehicle dynamics against a tough course.
Once finished with the Camel Trophy driving course in his ’08 LR3, we learned Wyatt Evans was only 16 years old. He’s been riding in off-road vehicles since he was a small child, but this was one of the first times he actually drove off-road.
There were some monstrous 4x4s present at Overland Expo East. Talk about a unique rolling house that’s extremely capable off-road!
Don Grissett and Byron Friel, from Expedition Joe Coffee Company, launched their brand at Overland Expo East. The team passed out hot-brewed samples of their Rubicon and Wrangler Roast coffees.
This ’86 RHD Toyota Land Cruiser BJ70, named “Beastie,” belongs to Maggie McDermut, an instructor with the Overland Expo Training Team. She imported it from Japan via Land Cruisers Direct and has covered its adventure via Instagram (@maggiemcdermut).