Overland Expo West 2014

My first official destination of the Pacific Northwest Tour was Overland Expo 2014 at Mormon Lake in Arizona.

This was my second year attending and after my first visit last year, I knew this event would be something I’d want to return to year-after-year. The largest reason part behind that is the reunion with some of my favorite outdoor folks, particularly the ATQA crew. While it’s largely about the people and community, there is also a lot to learn from the event and the other attendees.

Your guide to events at Overland Expo takes the form of a mini newspaper. So much to do in just a few days.

What is Overlanding?

But first off, if you’re not familiar with it, Overland Journal has a pretty good definition of Overlanding and its cousins. Basically, there are a few flavors of this concept that depend on your level of independent-ness and the purpose of your journey.

Last year I struggled with whether this was an appropriate event for me since I don’t fit the Overlander model exactly. Like any group though, there are a lot of variations that fill out the edges and tendrils. I may be on the casual end of the adventure travel spectrum, but I still take a lot away from hanging out with the more extreme varieties at Overland Expo.

What does Overland Expo offer?

The Expo is loaded with a variety of panel discussions, demos, roundtable talks, instruction sessions, and even Overland-themed movies. The topics cover the likes of camp cooking, family travel, vehicle selection and recovery, motorcycle skills, bicycle overlanding, and destinations. As much as there is available to the day-pass folks, you can also go a little deeper with the Overland Experience package which adds on things like driver training, women’s skills, navigation, and wilderness survival just to name a few.

For travelers like me, I find the day-pass option to be more than enough because I couldn’t even manage to make it to all of the sessions I wanted as it was. But if you are seriously looking to improve your skills, the offerings and instruction available with the Experience package will get you there.

And, of course, dozens of vendors are on hand to hawk their wares. This year I saw the usual various vehicle improvement bits and tow-behind camper options as well as camp kitchen systems, solar power systems, and even survival education.

The driving course will most definitely challenge and build your skills.
Thought I was kidding about those skills?
There’s plethora of gear and equipment for you to drool over in the vendor area.
You can decide to get fancy with your camp kitchen if you like…
There are even cool old trucks and motorcycles to marvel at in the vendor area.

What did I learn?

Last year I got caught up in the philosophical end of travel with topics like volunteering and travel ethics. This year though, I focused on a more practical aspect… camp cooking. It wasn’t my intention, just where I landed as I got into the groove this time around.

Cooking in general is a weak spot of mine and my camp cooking is particularly abysmal. But given the amount of time I like to spend camping, there are times I just don’t think I can eat another burger or hot dog. So at the nudging of Wilderness Dave and Living Overland, I attended some cooking demonstrations. I’ll have more on that adventure in a later post since I did dive in and give some things a try in the weeks that followed on the Pacific Northwest Tour.

At Overland Expo, cooking demos can take strange forms… like learning to cook an entire chicken in mud.
Beau Johnston of Living Overland, giving us a run-down on camp cooking.

Cast of characters…

In the end, it’s all about the people, though. My buddy, Wilderness Dave, put it quite well in his wrap-up of the this year’s event.

You can’t beat hanging out with these folks.
Lou and Dave getting in some chat Overland Expo while waiting for pizza.
J. and Nancy often have to ponder my sanity during Overland Expo discussions…
Dave proving he can’t handle Georgia beer…
You will leave with inside jokes…
This is Nancy (with some infamous pizza… another inside joke). I love Nancy. She’s fun, happy, and she makes me coffee.
Pizza, beer, friends, and camping at Overland Expo.

Things to know…

In case this event is now on your radar, here are some random Val thoughts about the event:

  • Overland Expo takes place each year in mid-May at Mormon Lake, Arizona near Flagstaff. Check their website for info.
  • Camping is available on site but isn’t guaranteed. And, trust me, the good spots go early.
  • It gets very, very windy. You, your gear, and every nook and cranny of your vehicle will be covered in dust by the end.
  • Yes, this is kid-friendly and there are demos and events to keep them entertained.
  • You don’t have to be a hard-core Overlander to enjoy and benefit from Overland Expo but you will leave inspired to take your travel to the next level.
My camping setup at Overland Expo 2014.
Overland Expo attendees prove there’s more than one way to get out there.
Lots of cool points here, no?
This is a set-up-where-you-can-and-get-cozy-with-your-neighbor camping. I guarantee you’ll make new friends.
I am not kidding about the wind and dust. Just so you know.

The big news this year is that for the first time there will be an Overland Expo East in October in Asheville, North Carolina. This is huge for eastern Overlanders and Overlander wanna-bes who can’t get all the way out to Arizona in May.

And now for your moment of green…

Mormon Lake in Coconino National Forest is the backdrop for Overland Expo.

For more, check out my Overland Expo album on Flickr…

The full monty…

The Pacific Northwest Tour (2014)