A journey that began in Northern Michigan (Part 1) just as snow started to blanket our home. Ended 850 miles away at Reeb Ranch among the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. The next couple of days were spent in our Tepui rooftop tent while we navigated Overland Expo East. This annual culmination of displays, vehicles and people is a monumental task for both the organizers as well as the participants. Folks drive, ride and fly in from all over North America and descend on this mountainside ranch. And it only becomes more complicated when mother nature fails to cooperate.
Fortunately, Overlanders are not faint of heart. They are a hearty group that not only prepare for what the weather brings, they may sadistically enjoy the challenge it presents. Besides, preparedness is required of Overlanders. In order to adventure in a vehicle way off the beaten path for extended periods of time over rugged terrain, self-reliance is essential. For Overland Expo East, some essential gear included waterproof outerwear, boots and a sleeping bag rated for below freezing temperatures. Because mother nature gave it her best shot to rain on our parade and spoil all the fun.
Overland Expo East Part 2:
After settling into our prescribed campsite with an impromptu creek running through the middle of it, Brandie and I dawned our rain gear and Muck boots for our slog to the vehicle display area. Two inches of rain overnight converted Reeb Ranch into Mudfest 2018. The Carolina dirt quickly became an almost impassable muddy soup. The following two days were spent watching others attempt to navigate the slop by foot. Almost as entertaining as the expo itself. Ladies with designer boots, guys with low top sneakers, and a gal rocking white pants. Clearly, they had no idea what was in store for them.
Vendors lined the open fields at Reeb Ranch with beautiful and well thought out displays. Only to have mud tracked through and over every square inch of them. The six-figure exploration vehicles wouldn’t even open their doors in fear of getting the “show trucks” dirty. Awnings were a hot commodity at the show, or so it seemed. Times of heavy rainfall had hundreds of spectators huddled under various awnings on display. Even the “Overland Driving Experience” was shut down due to a deteriorating track. And from what I understand, no refunds were issued for the pricey admission.
All that aside, we were able to spend some time chatting with several manufacturers like Dometic, Hard Korr Lighting (link to review), Patriot Campers, Four Wheel Campers, Maxtrax, Overland Solar, Warn, Tekton Tools and a few others. Learning how these products specifically fit into the Overland space making you a more capable explorer was interesting. Maxtrax traction pads were in vogue all weekend. Mostly to help display vehicles get un-stuck and into position. As I continue to refine and outfit my Overland vehicle, I’ll keep you updated with the products we choose.
Four Wheel Campers and Patriot Campers win my “best engineered” award. Four Wheel Pop-Up Campers are designed to slide into the bed of a truck. Yet maintaining a low profile while driving. Additional headroom is available with a roof that raises and lowers. Patriot Campers had a couple of their compact pull behind campers on hand. Both manufacturers are very well engineered and don’t waste a single cubic inch of space in their designs. If you have some time to kill (like an hour) take a look at this video from Patriot Campers. You’ll be amazed at what they fit into the X1 trailer.
Dometic’s powered coolers present a better way to haul your food for extended periods. Well insulated coolers, unbelievably low draw electrical compressors, WiFi monitoring and control from your phone, all make the Dometic CFX line the perfect companion for Overland camping. From the mouth of a Dometic rep…”ice is for amateurs”. Without the need for ice, these coolers will not only extend your time off the grid, but more than double the useful load. For example, a “top of the line” 75 liter cooler advertises a capacity of 57 cans when used with a 2:1 ice ratio. The Dometic CFX75DZ (70L capacity) not only features a dual zone cooler, but can haul a whopping 113 cans of brew! To top it off, Dometic has a rad new 12v battery in the pipeline to power these coolers. More to come…
All in all, Overland Expo was an experience to remember. And we’re looking forward to making the trip again, hopefully in better weather. Nothing beats face to face conversations with the manufacturers while getting your hands on their products. And that’s why we attend these types of events. These folks are a passionate bunch and we’re excited to continue growing as Overlanders. One thing is for certain. When Overlanding, the journey doesn’t end once you reach the destination. And with 850 miles between Reeb Ranch and our home in Northern Michigan, we’re sure to find something worth checking out. So stay tuned for Part 3 of Overland Expo East.