The largest overlanding event in North America is the annual Overland Expo West. About 15,000 people attended in Flagstaff, Arizona, last week. Our resident overland traveler, Bryon Dorr, went to dig into the latest overland gear trends.
I already highlighted some of the hottest new gear from Overland Expo 2018. While that list showcases some of the top overland products, it barely scratches the surface of all the happenings in the industry.
Here, I give you a peek at some of the latest product trends in the overland space. I also illustrate the newest trends by detailing some of the new products I saw around the show.
I picked only the most interesting things to show you. This means you get everything from the coolest new must-haves to the most ridiculous products you could possibly spend your money on. Enjoy!
Outdoor brands have now fully embraced the overland community. These days, much of overlanding is just glorified car camping. But what better way to go car camping than with quality gear from the top camping and outdoor companies out there?
This year’s Overland Expo West saw a record number of top outdoor manufacturers displaying their goods, many with products oriented directly at the overland crowd. NEMO, Sea to Summit, Big Agnes, Princeton Tech, Gear Aid, Garmin, and others were all there showing off their latest products.
Self-Build Overland Gear
One of the big trends this year was more and more companies supplying high-quality components to build out your own overland vehicle. This seems to be a new movement, especially in the cargo van category. Fully built-out vans are really expensive, and there is a saturated market of van builders. More and more overland travelers are building out their own vehicles, integrating high-quality systems already developed by others.
Zenvanz Interior Kit
There are very few companies out there providing high-quality Sprinter van interior kits for you to install yourself. Zenvanz has built a full interior furniture system from aluminum and bamboo. Its founders have used their design skills from building tiny homes and ADU units to creating this gorgeous van interior.
The Zenvanz interior kit is designed to be super easy to install and remove while being affordable at $18,000. That price includes all the cabinets and bed but does not include the mattress, fridge, walls, flooring, insulation, or bike slides. This leaves you room to build the rest of the van out to your exact needs and budget.
ROAMBUILT Pop-Top Rack
There are only a few companies out there making high-quality exterior components for Sprinter vans, at least components that can withstand proper off-road travel. Based in Portland, Ore., ROAMBUILT is one of few companies that do so. It continues to innovate with skid plates, wheels, ladders, bumpers, and roof racks specifically for the Sprinter chassis – and recently the Transit as well.
Its latest product, the Pop-Top Rack, debuted at Overland Expo. This rack allows for composite raising roofs on the Sprinter to function properly while providing a front basket area for gear, mounts for off-road lighting, and a clean look.
Trail Kitchen Van Kitchen
The all-new Van Kitchen from Trail Kitchen is another great option to help you build out the van of your dreams. Trail Kitchen is known for its compact and portable all-in-one kitchen box systems. The new Van Kitchen is super easy to install, remove, and set up by itself outside. Cooking outdoors is almost always a better scenario than in the small van where you’re going to sleep.
The Van Kitchen will set you back $2,695 and is available now. It includes a water pump, fresh water tank, gray water tank, two-burner removable propane stove module, and integrated sink.
Earth Cruiser GZLMOD
Earth Cruiser has been making truly world-conquering overland vehicles in Australia and the U.S. for many years. Most of its campers are built on the FUSO chassis. But it recently started offering slide-in truck campers for midsize and full-size American trucks.
The GXLMOD is a stripped-down version of the brand’s latest truck camper. “MOD” stands for “My Own Design” and is what this camper is all about. It comes with a fully outfitted electrical hub, accessory tracking throughout, and a bed – but not much else. You can use it as is or fully build out the interior to whatever specification best suits you.
$22,000 will get you the 750-pound Earth Cruiser GZLMOD. Earth Cruiser will also sell you a full complement of accessories and interior components if you don’t want to build or source them yourself. The GZLMOD will come in two widths and fit both 5.5- and 6.5-foot truck beds.
Most of us outdoor adventurers won’t really understand the phobia, but one of the top deterrents from people embracing the overland lifestyle is not having a private, traditional comfortable toilet always at the ready. Sure, that’s always a nice option, but mankind has been taking care of this “issue” for ages.
At Overland Expo West, there were lots of different options for taking care of your daily business. Two products stood out to me: the PooLaHoop and the Thunderbox.
The PooLaHoop is utterly ridiculous but kind of awesome at the same time. It’s an American-made adjustable lanyard with a toilet paper holder. The idea is that it holds your TP at the ready when nature calls, so the roll doesn’t get wet and dirty, or roll away into the woods, when you put it down on the ground. This modern marvel will cost you $16.49 and is shipped to your door.
Another bathroom solution you never knew you needed is the Thunderbox (U.S. website coming soon). This collapsible toilet seat allows you to sit in the wild doing your business at a traditional toilet height and level of comfort.
The whole thing weighs 9 pounds, can hold an impressive 500 pounds, packs pretty small, and is super durable. You will still need to dig a cat hole or use a waste bag along with it. Oh, and it will set you back a whopping $175!
There seem to be increasingly more options for securely and safely carrying gear on your adventure motorcycle. There are two main schools of thought: soft luggage and hard luggage. Both have pros and cons, and both are seeing some impressive innovations lately. The new Mosko Moto HOOD5 tank bag and the DrySpec H35 Luggage System caught my eye in particular.
Mosko Moto HOOD5
The Mosko Moto HOOD5 is a fairly large bucket-style moto tank bag. The HOOD5 is completely waterproof without the addition of a cover. The big plus to this style of tank bag is that its contents are super quick and easy to access. When that elusive yeti walks across the road on your next moto adventure, you’ll just need to flip open the HOOD5 and grab your camera. Never miss a shot again!
DrySpec H35 Luggage System
The new DrySpec H35 quick-release mil-spec luggage system takes the concept of traditional hard plastic case moto luggage to an all-new level of refinement. The waterproof and crushproof locking hard cases can be top or side mounted. They also sport a secure, super-easy-to-use mounting system.
The industry-first (patent pending) Top Load Liner for these cases takes them to a whole new level when being used as panniers. Another nice touch is the available hard MOLLE panels that can be fitted to the exterior or interior in order to securely carry a wide variety of gear.
Off Road Recovery Gear
New innovations and offerings in the off-road recovery gear space are pretty few and far between. This year saw a variety of interesting, useful, high-quality offerings. I already showed you the STEP 22 Gear Recovery Straps and 7P Recovery Rings in the new gear article.
Another standout product is the ARB JACK. We wrote about the details on the new ARB JACK here. This revolutionary product will hit the North American market in early July with a massive price tag of $812.
Velcro-backed patches are still all the rage in the overland community. Every year, companies release highly sought-after limited-edition Overland Expo patches. This year also saw a variety of booths dedicated to them. Many vehicles and RTT headliners around the show displayed massive patch collections.
RTT Truck Bed Toppers
For sure the hottest new product category in the overland gear world right now is truck bed toppers with integrated rooftop tents (RTTs). These lightweight units have all the advantages of a traditional truck canopy while also providing a quick and comfortable sheltered sleeping area. Their biggest advantage over RTTs is that they allow for sheltered standing room in the truck bed.
We’ll have a full rundown of all the latest RTT truck bed toppers soon. This market has exploded. And while many of these units look alike, there are actually massive differences between each manufacturer.
As per usual, the fully kitted overland platforms, both in the vendor area and campground, are what really get the attention at Overland Expo. Every year, the mix of overland vehicle platforms changes and indicates the direction in which the industry is moving.
Toyota still dominates the overland platform space with the Tacoma and 4Runner. The Tundra, in all generations, is getting some serious attention lately as well. The 200 Series Land Cruiser, due to becoming somewhat affordable on the used market, has also found a home amongst overland enthusiasts. The 200 was the hot Toyota last year, but this year the Tundra seemed to be getting the love.
The Jeep JKU, the 4 Door Wrangler, still has a massive following. Along with its replacement, the new JLU, the Jeep Wrangler is setting record sales every month. Many of these vehicles find their way into the overland community and are being kitted out with RTTs and other overland accessories.
When thinking of an overland vehicle, most imagine a Land Cruiser Troopy or Defender 110 rolling across the Serengeti. While these iconic wagon-style vehicles are still a mainstay, American full-size trucks are quickly surpassing them. Ford and RAM are both frontrunners in the overland community, but Chevy/GMC and Nissan are also quickly growing in popularity.
These big trucks are being outfitted with a wide variety of camping systems on the back. They are also being properly sorted to tackle serious off-road terrain or big potholes on the way to the mall.
Stay tuned for a look at the top drool-worthy overland vehicles from around Overland Expo West. Coming soon!