Monday, May 30, 2016

2016 Overland Expo West: The Essential Overlanding Show

The Teal Terror in Marble Canyon on the way from Overland Expo 2016

Photos and Words By Mercedes Lilienthal
How would one sum up this year’s Overland Expo West? Windy? Fun? Exciting? Informative? Well, yes, we say all of the above. What was my first time attending and covering this show will surely not be the last. The 2016 Overland Expo West was an awesomely windy, thrilling, fast-paced, and exciting event.

The WARN booth at Overland Expo 2016
The Teal Terror was on display in the Warn Industries booth at Overland Expo 2016.
With a record-breaking crowd, the eighth annual Expo West had 250 exhibitors, 400 hours of classes, roundtable discussions, and workshops, and nearly 10,000 attendees. Huge! This yearly event brings in adventurers from all over the world to learn about latest gear, rigs, lessons learned while traveling, and hopefully make new life-long friends along the way. Expo West is one of two main overlanding events in the USA, Overland Expo East is its counterpart and is held later in the year in the eastern part of the country. Expo West was held near Flagstaff, AZ in the countryside around Mormon Lake. Beautiful but really windy. The weather here can change on a dime. Last year it was snow and mud. This year it was wind and dust. In fact, there was so much wind that several camping tents and vendor pop-up tents pulled away from their anchors, tore to shreds, or did a sky dance before landing in the aisle next door. Thankfully, we heard of no injuries. Maybe just a few cuss words.

Broken refrigerator
It broke right before we left!
My husband Andy and I were eager to get down there. He, as a vendor for his company Warn Industries, and me as media to cover the event for Subcompact Culture. Before we left Portland, Oregon, all of our gear and tools were spread about the house and the Teal Terror (project 1995 Suzuki Sidekick) was getting its final details put together (oil change, fluid checks, CB radio/antenna install, etc.). Food was bought and stowed in our home’s fridge (more on this part later). Clothing pulled together—we were just about ready to go. As the final hours approached to what we knew was going to be an epic trip, Andy opened the fridge door to make breakfast, and there it was. Dead. No chilling action. No light. Nothing. Doh! What was a seamless pre-pack and pull-together of everything for the show ended up in a last minute frenzy to fix or replace our fridge, and to ask friends or neighbors to house our food for, er, at least 1–2 weeks. An interesting feat to say the least! Well, long story short, we have a few awesome friends that took our frozen and fresh food delights and took them into their homes: in exchange for beer. We kept what we needed for the trip, jam packed our ARB off-road fridge (thank God we bought it last year!), defrosted our home’s fridge with towels on the floor and doors opened, and headed to AZ. We have learned enough that once surprises like that happen, to do the best you can to be flexible, calm, and collected. An adventure really doesn’t start unless something goes wrong, right?!? There may have been a few swear words along the way though …

The Teal Terror and the WARN AEV Brute in Nevada
The Teal Terror and the WARN AEV Brute in Nevada.
Getting to Expo West from Portland, OR was another story in itself: rolling hills with pine trees, lakes, flatlands with millions of sagebrush, Las Vegas (do I need to say more?), and dusty nothingness. Full sun, dark clouds, rain, and high wind. Prepare for everything, but pack as light as you can. We were slow goin’ as we had three vehicles caravanning down there: the Teal Terror with diminutive-in-size but very capable Dinoot trailer, the WARN 2013 AEV Brute conversion Jeep with Schutt Industries XVENTURE trailer, and a Dodge Ram 3500 diesel dually, with a truck bed camper and toy hauling trailer. None of us were going to win the prize on getting to AZ quickly. But, we all stuck together going 55–65mph where all the vehicles were most happy. All of us met up just south of Portland at 5:00am Tuesday, May 17. After two days and some long hours on the road avoiding Interstates when we could, we decided upon a surprise quick visit to the south rim of the Grand Canyon (neither of us had ever been) before rolling into the Expo Thursday late afternoon. We set up camp, our vendor booth for Warn, said hi to a bunch of friends, and were ready to roll.

1974 Land Rover Forward Control Overland Vehicle
This 1974 Land Rover Forward Control came from South Africa. Think of it as a subcompact house!
The 2016 Overland Expo is an overwhelmingly awesome event. It is an amazing visual treat: tons of rigs (both large and small), people everywhere (from all walks of life), and a plethora of equipment, gear, food, and clothing to be sold. And … the smells! Mmm, food was always being cooked up. Some to be given away too, like the best breakfast burritos on earth cooked up from Cec of Roambuilt, a new customizer of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans. As Andy and his co-worker Chad (along with his parents Steve and Ginny) manned the WARN booth, I was the roamer for our site. Every morning we were up at 6:00am or earlier, out of our CVT rooftop tent by “as-soon-as-you-can,” and worked until late, late that evening. After I loaded up on tons of sunscreen, I grabbed my camera, cell phone (with another great camera on it), note pad, map, and food to nosh on and skedaddled. If you ever have the chance to go, make sure to wear comfortable hiking boots!

A couple in a class at Overland Expo West 2016
A couple learns to use a signaling mirror
during a class as Overland Expo West 2016.
I had a chance to attend several classes: all of which were valuable in their own way. One of my first classes was taught by Doug and Stephanie Hackney ( It was titled "44 Countries, Lessons Learned." A couple that gave up their careers in order to travel the world together. They talked about how they got started, what they did wrong, and valuable lessons learned along the way (like respecting each other’s boundaries, the real value of saying I am sorry, and that experiences was the most important to them vs. gear and what kind of rig they had).

Another class I attended was a roundtable discussion called "Paranoid or Practical? Real Life Tips for Security on the Road." This was a particularly interesting discussion as the panel who led this discussion were seasoned travelers whom traveled dozens of countries with various experiences. Takeaways from it: trust your instincts, always have situational awareness, know the local culture and customs before you arrive (so you know what’s appropriate). Other good tips: carry two wallets, two different credit cards, two different debit cards. Two you wonder? One wallet you actively use with your documentation and no more than $50 in it, the other that’s tucked away or locked up in your rig with the majority of money, documentation, and information in it. If a border guard or police sees you open a thick wallet with wads of cash they may attempt to take you for a ride. Or, heaven forbid, if you are robbed away from your rig, the bandits will get away with only a bit of money but you would still have the main wallet in your rig. You still have methods to get to your money vs sitting dead in the water. Much, much more to come regarding classes and information obtained. There is a ton of great tips/tricks/lessons I learned. Stay tuned for future articles!

Adventure motorcycles at Overland Expo West 2016
Whether two wheels or four, there were all kinds of unique vehicles at the event.
IT'S BIG ...
Expo’s layout was fairly simple yet large. One huge area was dedicated to adventure motorcycles, along with ones that had sidecars attached (I still need a ride in one). Another area was dedicated to an off-road driving course (where classes were held for driving, recovery, skill-building, etc.). In the center of the site was “vendor row”; several rows that housed the vendors who sold product, services, or rig-building equipment. Sprinkled around the entire site were tents or buildings that housed classes or workshops. Maps were plentiful (both paper and PDF form, as well as oversized signs at major intersections) but it was still tricky to find a few key areas. Intermixed in all these areas are all the rigs, from small to monstrous and everything in between. See our gallery for just some of the inspirational modes of transport found.

Rachelle Croft from Expedition Overland
Rachelle Croft from the web series, Expedition Overland.
Overland Expo West was everything I had hoped for, and tons more. There were such great people, such great modes of transportation, and a cool adventurous vibe overall. I cannot wait to go back. If you ever find time to go, please do so sooner than later. You will not regret It. Who knows, you may even find your inner adventurer peeling back the layers of corporate mundanity to get you out and about in your own way. Number one lesson learned at Expo West: JUST GO FOR IT!

The Adventurist Life Subaru Forester
The Adventurist Life Subaru Forester—compact AWD exploring!
Land Rover of Las Vegas' amazing 1964 FC-101 Forward Control.
Land Rover of Las Vegas' amazing 1964 FC-101 Forward Control.
4.3-liter Chevrolet V-6-powered Jeep CJ
This early Jeep CJ is small and is now powered by a 4.3-liter Chevrolet V-6.
Breakfast burritos
There was no shortage of great food at Overland Expo, including these burritos by Roambuilt.
Ninkasi Beer at Overland Expo West 2016
There was also no shortage of libations at Expo, thanks in part to Oregon-based Ninkasi Brewing.
Timberleaf Teardrop Trailer
Looking for cool gear? Overland Expo West had it all, including this Timberleaf Teardrop Trailer.
SHIFTPOD offered these compact, durable, portable shelters. Sets up in under two minutes and weighs just 52 lbs.
small bbq
A cool, compact cooker—mounts right to the bumper!
Tentsile offers "portable treehouses." There's a lot of tension on this that allows it to be suspended!
WRX overlander
Love this lifted WRX, complete with a roof top tent. Subarus are becoming more popular with overlanders recently.
Mitsubishi Pajero (Montero)
Great looking classic two-door Mitsubishi Pajero (Montero). We'd love one of these!
Suzuki Sidekick
Esteban recognized the Teal Terror. I recognized his Sidekick! Another nice subcompact Suzuki!
2WD Ural with Astrid and Anthony Sicola
Astrid and Anthony Sicola of Overland Nomads in this great 2WD Ural motorcycle with Sir Digby the dog!
Love this. "Small" is all about your perspective. It's not a big car, it's a small house!
Earth Cruiser EXP
Here's our dream travel vehicle: An Earth Cruiser EXP. Mitsubishi Fuso cab, built in Bend, Oregon! #overlandinggoals

Fun at Overland Expo West 2016
Overland Expo was a great place to see cool gear, learn about travel, and meet great people. Can't wait for next year!


Socarboy said...

Saw the Teal Terror featured in the Overland Expo article on Autoblog

Andy Lilienthal said...

Yeah we just saw this too! How cool!