Bless me khakis for I have wandered. It has been two Expos since my last confession. You might have noticed the complete lack of content from the 2016 show, save for a passing mention of walking five miles in last May’s 52 Hike Challenge update. The fact is, as good as it was to catch up with friends in Mormon Puddle last year, I was left feeling quite “meh.” Now that’s not a reflection on the show itself, nor the hard work and excellent job the Hansons and their team do to make every Overland Expo happen—I have nothing but love and respect for them and their efforts.
No, it was directed at the overland-o-sphere in general: I lost faith in the overland industry’s willingness to evolve and grow, and I’d become jaded against the overland market’s unwillingness to mature out of rampant segregation—created by both the titanium-clad and the budget-minded alike. So much preaching of how this community of adventure-seekers was different, bound together by our common interests; but the actions spoke louder. The walls built by so many, to mock or often shun anything that was “too expensive,” or “too cheap,” or “too heavy,” or “too minimalistic” said volumes. Weren’t we supposed to be sharing libations and learning from our differences? I mean, we all just want to travel by any means possible, right?
Those walls finally crumbled this year.
Whether caused by overlanding hitting the mainstream, or the new venue reaccommodating elites amongst the commoners at random (I like to think that was a deliberate stroke of genius by Roseann), the end result was the same: we all felt like equals. No booth, no table, and no camp felt unapproachable; all parts of the show felt warm and welcoming. I sat in a half-million-dollar camper chatting up the owner for advice on a clapped-out budget build. I shared a beer with a fellow gearhead in a $2,000 Subaru, and wasn’t thought snobbish or out-of-touch because I apply lessons learned from Land Rover. It was a reoccurring theme through each encounter from Wednesday’s Gear+Beer event until our departure Sunday evening. I was reluctant to attend, but I’m glad I put aside doubt and showed up for what became the best Overland Expo yet.
Three more things stood out at the show:
- Overland has indeed hit mainstream. Yakima released their own line of rooftents, Nissan sees an emerging opportunity to legitimize their truck line, and traditionally offroad/racing types are pushing the comfort and endurance aspects of their products to the average joe. Things like that don’t happen to a small, tight-knit community like ours without a significant shift in the market.
- Light is in. Finally, lightweight and efficient gear isn’t just for the motos. It seemed like everywhere I turned there was an ultralight, low-profile, or aerodynamic alternative available for our go-to gear…and geared towards everything from rugged crossovers to the big self-contained ubercampers.
- Good prices are back. Yes, it costs more to make quality gear. Yes, it costs more to make it in the USA, or Germany, or South Africa. That doesn’t mean a $40 bag made on an assembly line should cost $400. I was pleasantly surprised to find as much attainably-priced gear for folks who just want the job done as there were super-premium options for those who’ll pay to ogle the details on hand-made items. I fall somewhere in the middle…
Now, the reason you clicked: My personal picks from OXW17
The Mini-Skottle. I’ve been torn since Tembo Tusk first released the Skottle to the US market. I really want one, but the Discovery has it’s own galley and a full-size Skottle is too big for the Subaru. This miniature “Adventure Skottle” prototype, designed to run on a compact multi-fuel MSR stove and fit on an adventure bike, is the perfect size. I’m told it’ll be available soon, after they’ve figured out how to shave even more weight off of the tiny cooktop.
The Getaway Trailer. Yes, that’s a low-deck, high-clearance, Subaru-friendly Turtleback Trailer. It also has one of my favorite trailer-top tents for a lid: the Oz Trail. Though I stand firm in my belief that the only right way to build a Subaru is light and fast, it’d still be nice to have the option of a trailer-based camp when attending events. The little trailer would also be practically undetectable behind the Discovery. Want.
Proffitt’s Rum. I quickly got over the Toyota on the front of the flask to sample some truly delicious Resurrection Rum. The smooth home-distilled batch surprised us with hints of smoky flavors I’d expect from a fine Scotch, or as we took to calling it: rumskey. An added bonus, at 120-proof our six-ounce flask lasted for most of the day—conservation demands we practice inebriation efficiency, right?
OTG Adventure Pants. While the trusty Levi’s 505 is my go-to pant, it’s nice to have some options on longer trips…especially when the summer heat hits. Off The Grid’s prototype adventure pant feels light, cool, and comfortable, I can’t wait to try out the production model in a few months.
Interchangeable Canopy Tents. Every once in a while in every industry there’s a “duh” moment that spreads like wildfire, revolutionizing the way things are done—this might just be one of those moments. One problem roof- and trailer-top tent buyers have long faced is whether to buy an ultralight screen tent and stick to warm climates, or get an insulated or canvas all-weather tent and suffer through the summer heat. With Tepui’s new Zipper Gimp interchangeable canopies you can now buy one tent, and switch out the canopy to match the season. It’s a genius move I hope we’ll see from more manufacturers soon.
“The best quiche I’ve ever had.” The comment came up in several conversations, including one with world-traveled quiche connoisseur Christophe Noel. We moved with purpose on Sunday morning, and ordered a #1 before the lunch rush hit (roasted chilies, bacon, aged cheddar, leeks, topped with mesquite honey). It was indeed the best quiche I’ve ever had.
And of course…some shameless self-promotion. It’s always fun seeing your work in print, but nothing quite compares to the feeling of seeing it on display at a live show, helping your clients guide their customers to the products they want. If you’re in the industry and need help reaching your audience drop me a line.
Shout out to the crew at American Adventurist, Equipt, XOverland, Tembo Tusk, and of course the Overland Expo team for all the hard work they put in to make this event and our co-hosted shenanigans a success. Last, but so not least, huge thanks to everyone that tracked me down to share the love for the new direction we’ve taken with recent content (you know, that adventure boudoir thing). You are the reason I’m inspired to put in the work, try new things, and share them with the world.