Jim Akers (Managing Editor for Tacoma Magazine) and I arrived mid-afternoon on Thursday to a nearly full house. Since the event didn’t officially start until Friday, we figured arriving Thursday would let us setup and relax before going to work. Apparently the overland crowd was very eager to visit Mormon Lake: by the time we arrived the primary camping area was nearly full, and while only a few vendors were setup, most were already in the area. It was clear that this would be a great trip!
At last count, Jim and I took over 700 photos during the three days of the Expo. What’s included in this article is a small sample of our coverage, so for more see the June 2012 issue of Tacoma Magazine and our Flickr page.
Courses were scheduled and published well in advance of the Expo so attendees could sign up for their top choices. The most influential people in the overlanding industry were on hand to share their knowledge and help both experienced and new enthusiasts get the information they need for their next adventure. Altogether there were over 85 classes held by 65 instructors on topics ranging from solar power to advanced driving techniques. Land Rover of North America built a custom overland track and brought several vehicles for attendees to drive. Personal vehicles were also allowed on the track, with a Land Rover instructor riding shotgun, to ensure everyone got great training and stayed safe.
Of course we weren’t able to attend every class, but we managed to find some great instruction. The rollover recovery demonstration was among the most valuable, and garnered one of the largest crowds of the Expo. Another interesting face is that most attendees at the roof top tent class given by Roualeyn de Haas from Bundu Gear were very new to overlanding, and off highway travel in general. This just shows how much the overland world is growing!
A great aspect of the Expo is that there is plenty of training for experienced and inexperienced people alike. Although, the advanced courses have remained the same for the last few years, they’re a great refresher. One of the attendees we chatted with suggested multi-day overland routes with training included as a great option for next year. We’ll definitely be looking forward to all the courses offered in 2013.
Over 140 companies made the trek to Mormon Lake for the Expo this year. By the time the event officially opened Friday morning, the exhibitor area was full of rigs, experts, and gear from every category and dozens of countries. There were plenty of Australian and African based companies showing their wares in addition to every big name in overlanding gear. There were also plenty of brand new companies, offering great gear that’s fresh, exciting, and useful.
The expo is also a great time to test new gear while backup is nearby. We learned this the hard way when I set our brand new Indel-B fridge from Equipt to the wrong cutoff voltage (See the October issue for a full review of the fridge). As a result of my error, our TRD had a dead battery the next morning. Luckily Goal Zero was across the road from us and they let me field-test a 15 watt panel. It took about an hour, but the panel topped off the battery enough to start the engine. After setting the cutoff voltage to ‘High’ on the fridge, we used it without a problem for the rest of the trip.
The sheer volume of gear, toys, and ‘kit’ at the expo is beyond the scope of a single article. It would simply be impossible to touch on everything we saw. We’ll be covering our favorite products in future issues of both FJC Magazine and Tacoma Magazine, so stay tuned for much more information on all of our favorites from the 2012 Expo.
Gear is great. Training is necessary. Inspiration though is perhaps the most exciting part of the Overland Expo. From the first time we set eyes on the camping and visitor areas great trucks showing off past adventures were everywhere. Once we got ‘to work’ and started chatting with attendees, exhibitors, and instructors our desire to drop everything and head out through the forest was almost overwhelming.
Some of the most inspiring information came from the talks and sessions scheduled throughout the event. With topics such as “Getting Involved while on an adventure”, “Borders, Checkpoints & Bribes”, and regional Q&As for the most popular overlanding destinations, the Expo provided ample experience, stories, and inspiration to help plan the next adventure. I was fortunate to be invited to sit on the “Getting Published” panel, where attendees chatted with several experts including Chris Collard from the Overland Journal, and Gary Wescott from Turtle Expedition, among others. We answered questions about how to publish books, articles, and even blogs. I was honored to be on the panel with such iconic names in the industry and I came away with much more knowledge about the subject.
If the panels and attendees weren’t enough, the exhibitors were a wealth of knowledge and experience. Equipt was there, having just returned from their 6 week Mundo Maya Expedition. Expeditions 7, Scott Brady and Greg Millers current adventure had just finished their Alaskan leg. These are just a couple examples of the amazing information and inspiration we found at the expo.
Many groups decided to overland enroute to the expo or afterwards. Jake Quninoes from New Mexico Backroads led a group on an adventure prior to the event. We counted no less than six trips leaving either Sunday or Monday after the Expo headed in all directions. We even met up with a couple of other FJC’s on the north rim of the Grand Canyon during our mini-excursion over the Arizona Strip. Still others made the Expo a stop during their adventure.
Regardless of your current or future plans for overlanding, expeditions, or exploring, for a few short days every may, the Overland Expo becomes the center of our universe. You could call it the SEMA show of overlanding, the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) of our hobby, or the Mecca of Off Highway Travel. Whether you ride, fly, drive, or hike – make plans to attend the 2013 Expo. It’s been announced that Mormon Lake will once again be the venue, but dates have yet to be worked out. We look forward to seeing you there!