I recently got an amazing opportunity to check out the ridiculously cool Overland Expo. What is overlanding? It is defined as “self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal”. Basically your vehicle is your home while you travel, you have everything you need and can go anywhere you want. I attended the Overland Expo East in Arrington, Virginia with the Trail Trek Tour and left with more than I expected.
You’ll recall the good orange-loving folks at the Trail Trek Tour, they sent us off to a crossover off-roading test and more recently to a midsize truck off-road test. So when Phil and company called and asked me if I wanted to go check out the Overland Expo, I was 100% in.
(Full Disclosure: We had several sponsors that made our Overland Expo East event possible. Some, like Napier Outdoors, lent us some equipment to try out. Others, like BFGoodrich, helped fund the outing and took us to a great dinner at Devil’s Backbone Brewery. Still others, like Honda, let us borrow some stuff and provided some funding to the event. Despite all of that, this is still an impartial journalist review, and I’ll give candid thoughts on all of the stuff we used.)
First, here’s a quick video of the Trail Trek Tour experience.
10. Cool Vans
Vans are cool, at least in most enthusiast circles. I can’t disagree with the logic, we love vehicles for the go-anywhere nature, and the average van delivers a whole lot of that. These overland builds take things one step further though, with beefy tires and lifted suspensions, you can not only live in them, you can park them just about anywhere.
9. This Porsche
As a performance car guy, this one stopped me in my tracks. Someone at the PA and NH based Main Line Overland clearly drank a bit too much one night and modified this 997 Porsche 911 into their #dakar997 build. Ridiculously cool. This definitely stood out in a sea of lifted Jeeps and trucks.
8. Big Rigs
If you’re interested in spending single family home prices on something that’s, well almost as large as a single family home, check out these big rigs. Built off of heavy duty commercial platforms, this is the peak of overlanding.
Want to try your hand at off-roading? Overland Expo always has a driving experience or two to help you get a little dirty. We drove these Jeeps around a course that went from basic rock and log hopping to near vertical obstacles. It was a good time, and for the record I never stalled the manual JK that I drove. Apparently that was a thing.
6. Great Tire Tech
We got to spend some time with BFGoodrich tire experts who hosted a chat about how they make some of the best off-road tires on the planet. I have some KO2s on my Jeep and they are fantastic. The engineering behind off-road tires was pretty impressive to hear about, there are a ton of variables to consider depending on terrain, temperature, etc.
5. Good Doggos
If you like good doggos with your overlanding, and why wouldn’t you, the Overland Expo has hundreds of dogs hanging around. These were just a couple that I spotted via my DSLR lens.
4. Generating Power
Roughing it is rough. So Honda lent us a pretty sweet generator at our site. It powered our lights and helped charge all of our phones. It was much quieter than I expected and helped my teenage kids stay sane during a weekend out in the woods.
3. Rooftop Tents
I love camping, but I absolutely hate setting up ground-based tents. So Napier Outdoors lent us a ton of stuff. While we had a few Napier SUV tents and air mattresses, which worked great, we also got some Roofnest tents that came mounted atop our modified Honda Passports. They were roomy and popped up quickly, making setup a breeze.
Tearing down the site was a bit more complicated, the struts that held the Roofnest tents solidly in the up position failed, and we struggled to get them back down. We had to send Kamil Kaluski from Hooniverse into the tent and then up on top to get them to clamp back down. Our guess is that whoever used them before us didn’t read the manual and broke something before we got a chance to use them.
2. Overlanding your Crossover
It’s no secret that the crossover variant of the SUV is one of, if not the, most popular vehicle rolling out of dealerships nationwide. What if I told you that pretty much all of them equipped with AWD can do this cool overlanding stuff? These Honda Passports that we borrowed from Honda, plus the Ridgeline and other Passport in their booth, highlight just how easy it is.
Honda uses a company called JSport to build them and all of the parts are available for your Honda. Plus they are warrantied as if Honda sold them new. Here is a quick build list, as you can see, this stuff isn’t really even that expensive.
- Jsport KMC 18″ PreRun Wheels ($1,495)
- Jsport Skid Plate ($365)
- Jsport Passport Side Steps ($895)
- Roofnest Sandpiper Tent ($2,800) – With Roof Rails
- Roofnest Sparrow Tent ($2,600) – Without Roof Rails
- Nitto Terra Grappler All-Terrain Tires – 255/60R18
1. Amazing Community
The most striking thing about the weekend at the Overlanding Expo East was the community. Everyone from hard core off-roaders to occasional campers came to check out the cool stuff. The amount of educational content that you could benefit from was off the charts. I brought 2/3 of my offspring and they had a blast. There was a lot to see and do.
I definitely left looking at a potential overland build for the JK Wrangler. So keep an eye out for some content about how to get started in overlanding!