In just over a week, I will be out in Flagstaff, Arizona, and checking out some of the latest technology and campers out in the overlanding world. Yes, The Autopian is going to Overland Expo West, and we cannot wait. I’ll be there checking out over 400 exhibitors, motorcycle demos, educational programming, and more. Then, I’ll be setting out into the desert behind the wheel of a Lexus LX 600 towing an overland trailer.
If you’ve been paying attention to the worlds of off-roading or camping, you’ve almost certainly either heard of overlanding—basically adventuring into the wilderness in an off-road-capable vehicle with your pals—or at least seen an overlanding vehicle.
Much like the boom seen in motorcycling and RV sales, overlanding exploded in popularity with help from the pandemic. As I’ve said before, the pandemic initially closed down resorts, theme parks, and so many popular vacation destinations. Even when they did reopen, vacationing around with a bunch of people came at the risk of spreading sickness. Thus, so many people got into outdoor activities, be it riding a motorcycle, going RVing, or going off-road.
I’ve noticed that sometimes the terms “Off-Roading” and “Overlanding” have been used interchangeably, but they aren’t exactly the same activity. When David and I beat up some beater SUVs at an off-road park, we aren’t overlanding. When you hitch up a Taxa Mantis to the back of your Toyota Land Cruiser and embark on a journey on a desert expedition, yes, you’re also off-roading. However, you’re also generally navigating your way through a lengthy journey complete with overnight stays and since you’re likely somewhere far from civilization, you’re also at least somewhat self-reliant.
Overlanding trips can last days, months, or years for some people and the vehicles involved are often equipped with gear to help its occupants get through challenges on their own.
Basically, off-roading is part of overlanding, and overlanding is a journey and adventure taking you and your rig to places far from manicured lawns and fresh asphalt. The Overland Expo is a series of massive events dedicated to promoting overlanding while also educating people about how to do it the right way.
The Overland Expo
Overland Expo began in 2009 in Prescott, Arizona when it was founded by Roseann and Jonathan Hanson. The pair didn’t just want to celebrate overlanding but promote conservation and responsible overland travel. Despite the appearance of some outdoor environments, like deserts, overland travel has the potential to wreck ecosystems. Racing vehicles through the desert without care can cause so much damage that you might not even notice.
As Overland Expo notes, Roseann is an ecologist and writer by trade. She grew up in Southern Arizona and has spent most of her life documenting the natural world while also trying to preserve it. Meanwhile, Jonathan is a writer and also a teacher. He’s taught and guided on three continents on outdoor subjects including recreation, history, conservation, and travel by land and sea.
Here’s what Overland Expo has to say:
In 2009, Roseann and Jonathan along with a small group of like-minded friends ran with the idea of a trade show that emphasized conservation and responsible overland travel through training and education as well as by gathering the best gear and equipment companies in the industry to outfit any size of adventure. The non-profit partner organization, ConserVentures Charitable Organization has been run by the Hansons in an effort to promote exploration and conservation of the natural world. You might recognize the ConserVentures name as the sponsor of the Change Your World Fund grant that is awarded at Overland Expo annually. The Change Your World Fund was created to honor the memory of Alistair Fairland, an Australian world traveler who died in a motorcycle accident during his adventures in 2014. Alistair believed in using exploration to change the world and the Change Your World fund carries on that legacy today by funding travel projects that bring about positive change in the world.
What You Can Expect From Me
I’ll be joining well over 1,000 people from all around the world to experience the joys of overlanding. The event says that there will be over 400 exhibitors. These will be everything from companies showing off their latest camping rigs to gear suppliers displaying their newest inventions. The show will also include over 175 classes, demos, and associated activities. For an example of what I’ll see, the subject of a recent article, Alaskan Campers, will be there too.
I’ll be there on the weekend, Saturday, May 20, and Sunday, May 21. After that, I’ll be taking the aforementioned Lexus and overlanding trailer on a two-night adventure. While I’m in Flagstaff, you’ll be able to find me checking out all of the latest campers and gear. Motorcycles are a huge part of Overland Expo, too, so you can also expect me to check out what’s going on in adventure motorcycling. If you’re looking to attend, here’s what the schedule looks like:
Tickets are currently $27 for Friday, $37 for Saturday, $20 for Sunday, or $80 for the whole weekend. Attendees under 15 are free, though, prices for each ticket go up by $3 on May 15. If you’re on a motorcycle, you can get a weekend pass with camping for $170. If you’re in a car, SUV, or truck with a small trailer (up to 13 feet), you can get a weekend pass with camping for $230. Also currently up for grabs is a weekend experience pass for $490, which includes:
Primitive, festival-style camping in the Premium Campgrounds Thursday – Monday morning for 1 vehicle; (also allows for one small trailer up to 13 ft.: off-road, teardrop, pop-up, motorcycle transport, etc.)
Overland Experience Exclusive Education weekend pass for 1 adult (ages 15+) & 1 vehicle. Valid May 19-21, 2023 at Fort Tuthill in Flagstaff, AZ;
Access up to 6 classes of tailored instruction on our custom off-road driving skills courses—bring your own vehicle;
Access to curated education schedule exclusive to Overland Experience;
Plus, access all general admission classes, demos, roundtables, films, and the exhibitor area;
Access to the exclusive hospitality lounge;
First drink FREE at nightly Happy Hours;
Badge, Goody bag + Sourcebook Magazine.
Passenger ticket sold separately ($300)
For any Autopian readers heading to the event, let’s meet up! I’m not entirely sure of my schedule just yet, but send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you out there!
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There is going to be a ton of cool stuff and rigs there. I can’t wait to see what you find! I don’t think I have the mental energy to go to something like this anymore though. Just so much stimulation and people legitimately amped about their product/car/life/blog etc… I don’t think I can match the energy for more than a few hours.
So bring back the good stuff for those of us who just can’t bring ourselves to do something like this.
How much of a redneck-fest is this? Or is it mostly people who are actually interested in camping and being in the great outdoors?
From the few I know, it’s neither.
That should be fun, can’t wait to hear about it.
And before people start with the usual comments try and adjust your perspective a little. Overlanding today is about the gear and the rig. It’s like a moving car/camping show or a customs show. It’s not really about how useful (or actually used) any of the stuff is, it’s about showing off fun custom builds. You can see some cool things if you appreciate it for what it is.
I have found that in Southern California a lot of people into overlanding used to be part of the import tuner crowd back in the 90s/00s. When put into that context it kinda makes sense that a lot of overlanding now is largely a competition to see how much aftermarket equipment you can tack onto your truck.
So, basically a cosplay convention for cars and trucks?
After reading through the comments I realize I was wrong.
I used to laugh at Overlanders, every time I saw one.
I thought they were some terrible fixation rich kids who didn’t have access to a Barbie Jeep as toddlers we’re obsessed with.
Now I can recognize them for what they are thanks to the Autopian community.
A bunch of Barbie Jeeps rich kids are obsessed with.
$230 to car camp and pretend you’re overlanding while surrounded by a mass of humanity is kinda ironic.
1000 people is a big underestimate – last year over 35000 people came to Expo West.
The new Tacoma being unvelied the day before is a cosmic gift to these people
Sorry, Flagstaff isn’t a desert
That was an error on our part. To clarify, at the end of the event I will be driving into the desert in the Lexus from the event and with the trailer in tow.
Just north of Flag, is high plains. As you get close to Cameron, that’s desert all the way to Page. Yeah, we gave our best lands to the Hopi and Navajo Nations (NOT).
The overlanding group I am in, most of them feel that the roof top tent is mandatory for some reason. I hope there are load of alternatives there for people.
Roof tents suck. Hard to get a dog into, and once you’re up there, if your rig has any side area the wind rocks it back and forth. I don’t get it. Sleeping inside a vehicle is superior to a roof tent, as long as you can fit everything.
The advantages are you’re not taking up cargo room with your sleeping arrangement or vice versa, and if you have a hard shell version you can basically close it with your bed already made and not have to make it again at your destination which saves set up and tear down time. If you are truly overlanding by going point to point and staying in a different place every time, I can see that being appealing.
But even with those advantages I agree with you. Camping and drinking beer go hand in hand and the last thing I want to do in the middle of the night when it’s time to go 10-100 is climb down a ladder in the dark.
I am a tent guy and I have gotten older so my tent needs to be able to stand up in and fit my cot, folding chair and folding table. My gazelle t4 sets up way faster than most RTTs I have measured the set up times. Also at 3am not ladders involved in relieving a full bladder.
Massive and quick-to-deploy pop-up tents like shift pod and gazelle have really made a traditional cloth and pole tent look very old-fashioned. Bivouacs are also becoming a popular import from Australia like most overlanding gear.
Except a giant heavy tent is basically permanently attached to your car and creates a crap ton of drag.
I dont get roof tents. Me and my wife went camping recently. Tents have gotten to be so easy to setup we had ours up in less than 3 minutes. Same with taking it down. Plus we didn’t have to blow a ton of money just to have a metal thing stuck on the roof.