Overland Travel Mecca, Overland Expo West 2018
Each May I’m in Flagstaff, Arizona, for the Overland Expo West event. Like the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, it is a vehicle-centric gathering, but that’s about the end of the major similarities. SEMA covers all things automotive (not motorcycling) and is not open to the public. Overland Expo focuses on vehicle-based overland travel, or overlanding. It is not focused on the automotive aftermarket per se but on the growing overland-travel-focused industry that supports it; it is open to everyone. The blend of professional trade show and educational opportunities have made Overland Expo West the most popular overlanding show in the Western Hemisphere. (Its sister show, Overland Expo EAST, is held each autumn in North Carolina.) These three-day weekend events are designed to educate and inspire folks to get out and explore their world.
At Expo West this year there were over 250 classes, workshops, and roundtable programs for four-wheel-drives and adventure motorcycles. Plus there was a large exhibitor exposition (400 vendors) and evening inspirational programs and parties.
Overlanding is not four-wheeling or about conquering the toughest obstacles. It is about exploring the world using self-guided means such as four-wheel-drives or motorcycles. Whether 100 miles or 10,000 miles from home, travel on everything from easy backroads to highly technical terrain. There is so much to see and enjoy beyond the blacktop. The journey and experience is as important as the destination, when overlanding. Camping is the most cost-effective way to travel, though many people alternate with hotels, hostels, or couch-surfing.
Overlanding attracts Baby Boomer retirees, adventurous young families, and people of wide-ranging demographics. Some in the overlanding industry might turn-up their noses when the words recreational vehicle or RV are used, though plenty of the bigger outfits on display and for sale (truck campers and larger) are definitely recreational vehicles. At least they are vehicles used for recreation…labels can be quite limiting. Most overland travel, however, involves more off-pavement adventures than many traditional North American RVs can handle.
Ram, Cummins, Jeep, And Much More
In recent years OEM participation has increased, and it includes both Ram (and Jeep) and Cummins, two names that mean a lot to the Turbo Diesel Register audience. The event was noticeably bigger this year; it included an improved vendor booth layout.
Other OEM exhibitors this year included: American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), BFGoodrich Tires, Four Wheel Campers, Sportsmobile, ARB-USA, Global Xpedition Vehicles, EarthRoamer, as well as dealers representing BMW, KTM, Triumph, Kawasaki, Honda, and Ural motorcycles.
If you are a gearhead that likes four-wheel-drives and/or motorcycles, mixed with some camping—either the more traditional tent accommodation or something larger and more comfortable—one of the annual Overland Expo events are fun places to enjoy the sights and activities or to go shopping for your next outfit. Because this article was written for the Turbo Diesel Register, and my column is so aptly named Still Plays With Trucks, that’s what my imagery and captions focus upon.
Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler All Rights Reserved.
A version of this article was also published in the Turbo Diesel Register magazine.
Overland Expo: overlandexpo.com