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The 2016 Overland Expo West Show Is An Explorers Nirvana

Happy Wanderers Unite In Flagstaff

Matt EmeryPhotographer, Writer

The 5th time continues to be a charm for the annual Overland Expo West and it just gets bigger and better every time. Held at the Mormon Lake Lodge near Flagstaff AZ. on May 20-22, 2016, the Overland Expo West is part trade show, part educational curriculum and part just a good reason to go camping in a nice setting with others who share your passion for trails that are way off the beaten track.

In short, this is not your dad’s idea of going camping. The Overland Expo folks say overlanding is about exploring the world by self-guided means using off-road vehicles, and that it the journey itself that is the purpose. It’s not so about conquering a black diamond trail (though some of the vehicles on hand at OE could probably make it), or hitting a whoop section at 70mph as it is about outfitting a vehicle that can go hard-core exploring, and do it with a fairly high level of comfort and sustainability, even when 100+ miles from the nearest town. Overlanding is done on dirt roads and two-track, not the interstate. They go on to say that overlanding/adventure travel is one of the fastest growing segments of off-road, and that we can believe. There has been an explosion is adventure motorcycling and many off-roaders have take to journeying in their pre runners; even if its just the Mojave trail with an overnight thrown in halfway.

One of the reasons for the explosion of the overlanding phenomena is that amazing gear of all kinds required for such exploration is becoming increasingly available. Gone are the days of sleeping in the back of the truck in a sleeping bag. From sleeping to mess kits to cool tech toys such as solar power to not only charge your batteries, but there was oven’s that uses the sun to cook the food.

As for the sleeping arraignments, it seems to come down to a fold out tent or a camper on steroids. While some of these campers fit into a truck bed, most of the hard core ones replaced the bed with the camper itself. To keep the overall height of them down (trees, you know), most of them featured a pop up roof that added a few feet of room. They were large enough that the beds were queen sized.

The tents, made by companies such as ARB and Tepui among others, mount to a rack or to the top of a SUV, and fold open and pop up at the same time, making them spacious and very easy to ready for the night. Some offered smallish utility trailers whose suspension systems were designed to be pulled over very rough terrain while carrying a great deal of gear. One company, Camp Champ, had an entire kitchen/serving combination that folded down into one very nice wooden box, and others had slide out drawers for their kitchen that included space for a refrigerator. Other needs were covered too, but basically if you need to do something on a daily basis, then someone has designed a product that is tailored to accomplishing it during an overlanding trip.

All told, there were over 225 vendors on hand at OEW, and they included BFGoodrich, Four Wheel Campers, Land Rover, KTM and BMW. The last two are the main players in the adventure bike scene, and scores of bikers made their way to the event, which included a test track that had a least a few riders down.

Four-wheeled drivers had a chance to tackle a track of their own as Land Rover and BFGoodrich had vehicles available for the masses. And masses was the right word as Overland Expo claims that over 6,000 enthusiasts attended, and came from as far away as Australia, China, Dubai and South Africa. Many of the attendees were woman, and the whole Expo was a family affair. All had the chance to attend the 170 classes and lectures on the how’s, what’s and where’s of overlanding. Ranging from the legalities of actually driving around the world, how to read GPS coordinates to fixing a flat on the trail, the seminars were presented by experts in the field, and some were by company reps on utilizing their product to its maximum.

We have a few overland excursions planned ourselves, and seeing the many great pieces offered by the companies filled our wish list. From hard-core camper shells to purpose built, off-road capable trailers with fold out tents to cooking products to items that just make that time out in the wilds easier to enjoy, the Overland Expo was packed with great ideas and even better people.

For those interested in learning more about the thing called overlanding, a good place to start is by visiting Overland Expo at www.overlandexpo.com. They have links and a lot of info there so take a look, and think how nice it would be to really do that (off) road trip you’ve always wanted to take.