Overland Expo West 2021 wrapped up early this week, and Overlander was there to bring you the news, sights, and sounds from America’s biggest overlanding event. With dozens of classes, hundreds of vendors, and thousands of rigs on hand for the annual event, it can be hard to sort through the noise.
But it's worth it. Overland Expo, and in particular, Expo West in Flagstaff, Arizona, is the place to find like-minded adventurers, all the best gear and vehicles the industry has to offer, and - most importantly - education to get you out of your chair and behind the wheel.
There's a strange disconnect with the Expo, especially when you travel there from a thousand miles away via a really slow Land Rover. One of the central experiences we all seek as overlanders is solitude, and a solo drive from Montana to Arizona provides plenty of that. But when you arrive in Flagstaff, be prepared for a big shift. Averaging over 30,000 attendees in recent years, Expo West is no place to hide - my new slogan for the event is "Expo is for Extroverts".
That said, the defining characteristic of the Overland Expo venue in Flagstaff is that it is gigantic. From my campground for instructors and staff on the southeastern end of Ft. Tuthill County Park, to the attendees’ campground on the far northeast was a 30 minute walk. Let’s just say I put a lot of miles on my boots over three days, which wasn’t all bad. There were wide open spaces for trying out 4x4 driving skills, ride-alongs in the new Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport, and rigs as far as the eye could see.
The weather Thursday through Sunday was Arizona-spiffy. There were a large variety of food trucks to sample, a cheerful al fresco bar selling local Flagstaff beer and spirits, of course, a dizzying array of vehicles of all shapes and sizes, and more overlanding kit than you could shake a MAXTRAX at.
Despite our quest for solitude in the remote places of the world, overlanding is also all about community. We learn from, inspire, and help one another. Whether that's through online platforms and social media, or in the actual physical form we all take in the real world, it's important. It's also encouraging to see how our overlanding community has grown not only in numbers but diversity in recent years. The more different kinds of folks we can welcome into the fold the better. When we increase awareness for land access and encourage education in Tread Lightly! principles across the board, we all win.
Speaking of education, I presented a class on self-drive safaris in southern Africa, and I was a moderator for roundtables on safety while traveling and making a living on the road. I had plenty of time to wander through the parking lots and vendor areas, meet some of the world travelers who populated the “Special Vehicles” area, and just generally chill with lots of neat folks. That included Clay and Rachelle from Expedition Overland, who are more than generous with their time and knowledge at these events. I also connected with Sonya Staples from Black People Off Road and Staples in Tents. Sonya and her husband Necota are at the vanguard of a new generation of BIPOC overland explorers. Graeme, Luisa, Keelan, and Jessica Bell from A2A expeditions have traveled the globe full time for eleven years now, and Keelan and Jessica literally grew up in a roof top tent. Overland Expo is the best possible place to meet those kinds of folks, and have those kinds experiences.
Solitude? I found a little on my way home - somewhere deep in the Utah deserts, just me and my Land Rover. You can do both next year when Overland Expo returns to Flagstaff. The dates are not yet set, but keep an eye out. You won't want to miss it. Check out some more impressions and great stuff from Expo West in the photo gallery below.
I found some out of the way places in Utah to explore on my way back home to Montana.
What's that I spy? An overlander.com decal?
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