Overland Expo East was our only prior Expo experience and we were very excited to see what Expo West had to offer. The venue for the show had been moved from Mormon Lake to Fort Tuthill in Flagstaff, AZ, and everyone we spoke with was in agreement that this was a much better venue. The campgrounds were well shaded in a beautiful forest setting, but those areas quickly began to fill in, and the first few camping areas became quite crowded. The organizers of the event were on top of their game and quickly opened up an even more beautiful area of dispersed camping on the property. We were so lucky to have been some of the folks to be guided into these more open and beautiful spots, and we couldn’t have been more pleased with our location. Our spot did require a bit longer hike to the vendors, but it also meant that we weren’t stacked right on top of each other like we were at Expo East.
The organizers of the event had everything well thought out, including shuttle service to and from campsites, ample and clean port a potties, and a very smooth check-in process. All of this impressed us greatly as Expo West is unquestionably a much larger event, with many more vendors and visitors.
There was a large amount of vendors selling anything from “Overland Coffee”, roof-top rents, trailers, and even “Overland bathroom-bags”. Expo West certainly had every category covered with any piece of gear you could ever need available for sale.
In my opinion, A.E.V. (American Expedition Vehicles) had one of the most impressive displays, which included some very well designed and well-built rigs. Their Dodge Ram was definitely a showstopper.
Among the many companies selling RTTs, Tepui had a great display, lots of knowledgeable reps on hand to answer questions, and a nightly concert that included FREE BEER!
One of the products that we were really impressed with was the Shiftpod tent by Advanced Shelter Systems Inc. This very attractive dome shaped structure was very eye catching and drew our attention right away… not just because it was shiny and my wife is drawn to these things. This product was engineered with at very reflective and well-insulated material, which made stepping inside feel ten degrees cooler than it did on the outside. This lightweight tent sets up very quickly in about two minutes time, provides ample room on the inside to stand up, and could easily sleep a family of 4. The tent had integrated tie down points and beefy ground steaks that aided in the easy setup and provides 900+ pounds of combined down force to hold fast in high winds.
Tear down was also super fast and simply required a few quick latch releases and the whole tent folded down to fit easily into its storage bag. This tent truly was a unique product amongst the many that we saw and is one we look forward to checking out for ourselves and to list for rent on our site at Overland Gear Exchange.
The Sportsmobile and slide-in truck-bed campers made a big impact this year. Sportsmobile, along with a few other companies even had their own section separate from the other vendors with an estimated 15-20 Vans!
Sprinter vans were also very well represented and we believe that these types of vehicles will definitely become the normal “Overland” rig sooner than later. The ease made by simple set-up, stealth camping, and very capable 4WD systems make these vans very appealing.
The “Off-Road Overland” display was also plentiful. A few of the companies brought their version of an “off-road trailer” but some of these seemed to be nothing more than glorified utility trailers with a larger set of tires. However, there were a few companies that did stand out. Conqueror and Patriot Campers are great examples of “true off-road” campers and are both very impressive and capable. We believe this market has a very bright future because these trailers appeal to those who like to set-up base camp prior to heading out on the trail, yet are still more than capable of going anywhere your tow rig will take them.
We also spent a great deal of time in the V.I.P. Travelers section. This area of the Expo featured travelers who live full-time on the road, either in the U.S., internationally, or both. We really enjoyed checking out their truly unique builds and how each one was suited to the taste and needs of each traveler. We found each person that we met to be warm, inviting, and more than happy to chat about their home on wheels and all of their adventures. This was probably one of our favorite areas of the Expo because these are the folks that are living the dream that a lot of us weekend warriors wish we could live.
With all of the good that Expo West had to offer, there were also some things that weren’t so great. The large number of vendors made the set-up area very tight and compact. It almost seemed as if you couldn’t tell where one vendor stopped and the next vendor started. Overland Expo East had a much better “flow” about the vendor area, which allowed more space to check out and take pictures of each individual product.
We ducked our heads into multiple classes that were being offered and found a lack of good education and a plethora of story telling and product promotion. This was probably the number one complaint that we heard from many expo visitors. They were upset with the higher prices for the Overland Experience and felt that they didn’t get much out of the classes.
All in all, our Overland Expo West experience was an epic one. We look forward to going back to another Expo, as this region of our country is so breathtaking with miles and miles of incredible scenic routs and unforgettable views. Most importantly for us, we look forward to returning for the opportunity to make new friends.