Overland Has Evolved – 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… OXW17
The new and the interesting at this year's Snoverland Expo – The chaos which ensued in the weeks leading up to OX15 should have been a hint. I wrote chaos as if it was a bad thing…often times it isn’t, and this particular chaos was the good kind. The out with old-and-busted, in with new hotness, perseverance and persistence overcoming, new alliances and last-minute salvation kind of chaos. The weather that followed us to the show was much of the same: wind, rain, snow, sleet, and the endlessly deep slurry left behind when all of the above happens on a dry lakebed. I’m making Overland Expo 2015 sound miserable, when it was quite the opposite. The beauty of a trade show put on by a group of self-reliant world travelers for a group of self-reliant world travelers is that the principles of adapt and overcome are second nature. Exhibitors braced against the cold and wet with fire and awnings; attendees strapped on the mud gear, grabbed a hot beverage, and slugged on through the muck; when the heavyweight campers bogged there was no shortage of torque and strap to free them. The fellow adventurists that weathered out the storm and stuck it out through the aftermath made the show —in four years of going to Overland Expo, this was the best one I’ve attended. Plus, there was bacon. This year American Adventurist stepped up when our campsite was canceled mere days before the event. Their answer to my panicked “Dude, can I crash on your couch?” was to place the Discovery as a featured vehicle in the booth. What a welcome change in pace to hang with a group of such chill-yet-prepared folks and make new friends. Humbled by their generosity, I prepared a little something special for the show (first photo). As the Friday winds started to die down the snow rolled in, nothing overwhelming, just that perfect light dusting that makes everything with a light seem magical (especially the Rigid Industries beacon). I never saw the six inches of snow I was promised, but we did wake to a beautifully crisp Saturday sunrise. I love a good saloon, and thankfully Mormon Lake Lodge keeps theirs well stocked and at the perfect temperature—a welcome respite when the weather turns too cold (or too hot). Enough about the weather, on to the adventure vehicles. The usual suspects returned this year, but there were a few standouts: more classics, more motos, more trailers, and more fatbikes. Rocky… Overland Expo 2015
A plea to my fellow authors – We hate to admit it in our industry, but manufacturers—especially advertisers and sponsors—will have some influence over what, and even how, we write. We are human after all: they may inspire bias for or against the wares they peddle, but they will inevitably make an impression. Anyone who claims otherwise is either lying through their teeth or a robot. It’s impossible to write completely without bias, and even if it were possible, we shouldn’t. Be biased. The audience is where we owe our allegiance: without them we are nothing. When writing an article our goal should not be to write without bias, doing so would only be a disservice to our audience. Our readers are our readers because they identify with our style and value our opinions (or at the very least find us entertaining). Our audience wants to know what we love or hate, and why. Be fair, but don’t water down your true impressions to the monotony of a dictionary just to avoid offense. Be fair. Never allow an advertiser or sponsor to gain a hand in your editorial process. Correct factual errors, of course. Profusely thank sponsors for being awesome, sure. If change for the better occurs as a result of your feedback, then by all means praise the manufacturer for their willingness to listen. Don’t allow them to effect change to the meaning of articles: doing so sets a dangerous precedent for dishonest action, scares off viewers and manufacturers alike, and like a bad infomercial only truly serves to undermine an author’s credibility. Be honest. I challenge my fellow authors to write with bias, fairness, and honesty. And, I challenge editors to approve and publish more of the concepts that arrive on their desk with these principles intact. In this strange new age of manufacturers-turned-publishers it’s the only way we can stand free from their purse strings to create trustworthy and independent content.… Editorial Integrity
A first look at Jackwagon Off-Road’s flagship model: the Basecamp. – Jackwagon Off-Road Trailers is a small manufacturer based right in or own back yard, who produces a bling-free and relatively inexpensive option for hauling more gear out on the trail. Shortly after speaking with the owner, JR, about what we had in mind, a beautifully modest black-and-green Basecamp showed up at our door for testing. We’ve spent a few weeks with the trailer so far, and it’s made a good first impression. At first glance the trailer feels much longer than the mere 11-feet it measures. A 6 x 4 x 2-foot aluminum cargo box rides centered over the axle providing 48 cubic feet of secure, weatherproof storage space, with a 4 x 2-foot open air cargo rack and spare tire mount sitting farther forward. Empty, the Basecamp weighs in at 950 pounds and has a 1,050-pound payload capacity. An additional 2-inch receiver is provided out back for bike racks or other accessories. When paired with 33-inch tires the ground clearance is about 17 inches (to the frame). Access to the cargo hold feels endless—with a tailgate, strut-assisted lid, and a drop-down hatch at the front of each side loading and unloading cargo is very convenient. Inside the box, adjustable tie-down rails run down the sides for securing cargo and double as extra reinforcement for the fenders. The floor is fitted with an easy to remove, easy to clean, protective mat. A pair of crossbars are bolted to the top of the lid for mounting a trailer-top tent or handling additional cargo such as a canoe or bikes. All points of access are lockable. As if the cavernous cargo box wasn’t enough, an additional exterior rack is nestled between the box and the spare tire for coolers or any dirty gear you don’t want on the inside. The spare tire carrier doubles as a High-Lift mount, a shovel mount, and an extra layer of security for the front rack’s cargo. On the rear of the trailer an integrated channel accepts the included counter-height work table. Despite the extra chassis length required for the forward cargo rack, our first experiences with the trailer on obstacles left us pleasantly surprised. The Basecamp proved just as nimble as our tow vehicle, and met every challenge without complaint. At higher speeds it follows along smoothly and predictably. In-camp convenience is on par with the better off-road trailers on the market. Thanks to the low-slung stance the Timbren Axle-Less suspension affords, minimal lifting is needed to get… Jackwagon Basecamp
A New Direction – It’s been an interesting few years, to say the least. I’ve watched as the dividing lines between my work in design, photography, and travel/gear blurred into obscurity. Oh, Enfluence still continues to draw in clients of it’s own, but the vast majority of new business has come either from personal introductions or articles I’ve published. The situation was forced to light late last year, when a prospect I was courting spent more time flipping through my articles on Expedition Portal than my design portfolio. Ultimately, it was the hands-on involvement in the industry demonstrated by those articles that qualified me over the competition and landed the project. And so, it’s time to put all of my creative offerings under one roof: I’m proud to introduce the new Layne Pro »… Layne Pro
The Moka Pot – It’s Overland Journal’s fault. I’ve long appreciated the pleasures of the morning coffee ritual, an easy vice to maintain in the city, but one that is typically tolerable at best in camp. Working in an office with a well-stocked espresso bar has sharpened the addiction to such a point the instant solutions often served tent-side simply won’t do. As Scott Brady reflected while showing me how to work the espresso machine “Life’s too short for bad coffee.” Espresso is without a doubt the ultimate form of coffee, imbued with three key features we strive to find in our gear: versatility, durability, and performance. It’s concentrated nature makes for the maximum quantity on a minimum of water, with the right tools it’s nearly impossible to ruin espresso, and from espresso you can make practically any coffee drink (including the good ole hot cup of joe—just add water). Thanks to Luigi de Ponti, espresso can be a hassle- and mess-free pleasure in camp. Most commonly used on the stovetop at home, the Moka pot is equally capable of brewing on the trail with a backpacking stove, larger camp stove, or even over charcoal with care. Unlike the variety of portable espresso makers out there, the Moka doesn’t require special fuels, tools, or filters. In fact, you only need three things to run a Moka: water, fire, and coffee grounds. The Moka pot isn’t picky about the type of grounds you feed it either. A fine grind (slightly more coarse than espresso) works best, but even “percolator ground” beans will yield an excellent (though weaker) result. Espresso purists may point out that a Moka pot is incapable of reaching the precise 9 bar of pressure required for “true” espresso, but the end result is indistinguishable. Use is simple, just fill the base to the fill line with water (about an inch from the top), drop in the basket and fill it with grounds, then twist on the pot and place it over heat. In about five minutes you’ll have a pot of flavorful espresso. Clean up is just as easy—the brewing process tends to draw out most of the moisture, leaving a solid clump of grounds easily tapped out into the trash. Rinse out the few remaining grounds, dry the pot, and pack it away. The Moka is available as small as a 1-shot, but I find the 6-shot variety well worth the… Camp-spresso
Over the past several months I’ve been trapped in the seemingly endless search for that perfect balance between got-it-all, and the liberty got-it-all prevents in an “everyday” bag. You name it, I’ve carried it—from sleek and elegant Tumi to weighted-down MOLLE. Based on past experience, present occupation, and future aspirations I knew what I wanted in function: classic but subtle looks, comfort with convenience, and modularity without bulk. Finding a form that achieves this function proved a frustrating and exhausting challenge. It’s no secret that I love the products coming out of WaterField Design’s studio in San Francisco—their Ultimate SleeveCase continues to keep my iPad in pristine condition. I had never given their larger bags any serious consideration for fear that their simplistic approach to on-the-go storage would blend my kit, set adrift in the huge pockets, into a jumbled pile of chaos. After a month-long trial run with their signature bag, the Cargo (small), I’m pleased to report this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Quite the opposite has happened—my bag is now more organized and easily reconfigurable than ever, and with room left over to expand my everyday kit. Features and Organization At the core of the Cargo’s design is it’s slightly non-rectangular shape, which gifts the bag with a seemingly magical ability to swallow up gear while simultaneously making it easier to load and unload. Access to gear is quick and easy, and most pockets feature a bright orange “Gold Diamond” lined interior to aid in locating the contents. Where appropriate, cord-pull zippers provide a smooth opening, and zippers in more vulnerable locations are spring-loaded to keep them securely shut and out of the way. The outside of the bag features three pockets: a phone pocket at one end, a rear pocket which fits WaterField’s Cableguy (medium) perfectly, and a slip pocket on the flap. The phone pocket is sized ample enough to fit even the largest of modern phones, while still being small enough not to lose smaller phones (yes, it also fits the new iPhone 5). Alternately, it also comfortably carries a modestly-sized flashlight and multitool. The rear pocket has a velcro closure, and features a bottom-zip to allow slipping the bag over the handle of rolling carry-on luggage. The slip pocket on the flap is perfect for carrying a notepad or other slim items. Releasing the slick paragliding buckle from the leather flap reveals… The WaterField Cargo
Lighten your Load, Lighten your Life – Necessity. Convenience. Preparedness… Coffee. Left unmanaged, the pile of stuff we carry every day grows exponentially. The affliction has become so bad it’s caused the phenomena of the manpurse (aka “murse”) to appear on city streets world-wide—as an addition to the briefcase. Over the last few years I’ve been on a mission to reduce both the bulk and appearance of this clutter while still maintaining an acceptable level of function. After optimizing everything from banking habits to keychains only a handful of items remain on the “need to carry” list. The result is a shorter morning/evening routine, little or no complications when plans change, and a lot less crap to carry around (both figuratively and literally). Here’s what doesn’t fill my pockets: Kershaw Ken Onion Leek A gentleman should never be without a knife—arguably the single most important multi-purpose tool ever created. During the daily grind it’s a trusty companion for slicing through the jungles of cardboard delivered by the Brown Truck of Joy. When disaster strikes, it’s the ultimate survival tool capable of providing everything from fire to food (with the right skills). The Leek is elegant enough for a night on the town, durable enough to take on a hike or bike ride, and sleek enough to please any minimalist. It’s also inexpensive enough to carry (and risk losing). More info » Vehicle Key Immediate access to a vehicle is simply a smart resource to keep at hand. I frequently commute by bike, but always have the key to motorized transportation with me. Streamlight Nano You never know when or where darkness may fall—light should be part of everyone’s daily carry. The Nano is bright enough to light the way yet small enough to clip on a single key without adding noticable bulk. More info » Fisher Space Pen 400 TAD Edition I was skeptical at first, but in the end a pen has come in handy quite frequently. The Fisher Bullet practically disappears into a pocket, expands to the size of a normal pen, and will write on just about any surface—wet or dry. More info » American Bison Leather Money Clip Commerce is a fact of life, but not one that requires a fat wallet. Consolodation of my accounts down to one checking and one credit not only simplifies my finances, but allows me to slip into a slim money clip with just enough room for… Simplify
I have to admit, when I was first handed the GearPods® Wilderness emergency kit for evaluation I chuckled. Decades of testing, reviewing, and custom-tailoring such kits have left me with a bias against “off-the-shelf survival”, and the bold packaging complete with photos of extreme adventuring did little to counter this prejudice. As I’m not one to judge a book by its cylindrical plastic cover, I set aside my first impression and dove into the kit with an open mind. Read the review on Expedition Portal »… Review: GearPods® Wilderness Link: Expedition Portal
The iPad has continued to evolve as an essential piece of travel kit, mastering everything from navigation to photo editing, but cases for carrying the mighty ‘Pad are often devoid of style, functionality, durability, and protective ability. Enter the SleeveCase from WaterField Designs—a thick neoprene-cushioned pocket wrapped up in rugged ballistic nylon. The SleeveCase features a soft Ultrasuede® interior which doubles as an automatic screen cleaner, impact-resistant inserts in the walls to protect the screen, and checkpoint-friendly construction. There’s also a slim pocket on the back for papers, a camera connection kit, or a slim charger. Options include natural leather trim and convenient detachable shoulder straps for hands-free carry. The case is durable and well made, with beautiful styling and excellent attention to detail. Check out the SleeveCase line and other fine gear by WaterField Designs at SFbags.com »… WaterField SleeveCase
The Swiss Army Ranger Stove is without a doubt one of the original “ultra light” cooking options. Compact, versatile, and easy to use, it continues to be a quintessential part of the classic kitchen kit. The complete package fits nicely into many of the “one liter” bottle carriers and pockets commonly available. Dry weight is a mere 15.2 ounces in the stove’s stock form, not bad for a pot/cup, 1-liter bottle, and stove. For comparison the weight of an empty Hydroflask 21-ounce bottle is 20.9 ounces. Additionally, if weight and space are of primary concern, one can forgo the bottle altogether and stuff the stove full of provisions and/or fuel. Without any bottle, the stove and cup/pot weigh in at 9.9 ounces. All testing was conducted outdoors, in the shade, on a windless day with an ambient temperature of 40°F. The water used in the test was left outside overnight to simulate realistic camping conditions. During the test, the included pot/cup was filled to the half-liter line. Testing was performed three times with each type of fuel, and the final score is an average of the results. Trioxane / Hexamine Tablets Trioxane was the fastest heating fuel tested, and brought the cold water to boiling in a mere six-and-a-half minutes. This was quite surprising considering this fuel’s dim blue flame and minimal ambient heat. The downside to trioxane is it’s highly toxic nature, the aforementioned low ambient heat and light, and the extremely nasty mess it leaves behind. It is strongly recommended that you wash your hands after handling the fuel, and it would be a good idea to place the tabs on a sheet of foil for easier clean-up. Two bars of fuel were consumed by each test with consistent results: the first bar heated the water hot enough for tea, but failed to reach boiling; and the second bar sent the water into a Jetboil-gone-mad style, dangerously violent boil. The tablet-style fuel is much better suited to this stove than the bars. Wood, Twigs and Grass A combination of twigs and kindling (grass) wrapped up in palm-sized bundles was used for the wood test to ensure a good, consistent burn. This is the recommended method of fueling the stove when using wood as it generates an optimal amount of heat without overheating the stove, burns fairly efficiently, and is easy to clean up. Boiling was achieved in a… Swiss Army Stove