Day Two of Overland Expo East (OEXE) is drawing to a close and it’s been another great day on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. While the weather was a little cloudy and rainy through most of the day it was an improvement over yesterday. While we experienced rain and drizzle on and off throughout the day with the occasional gust of wind…by 6:30pm the winds started to die down, the clouds parted, and the sun decided to show itself for the first time in a few days. It’s promising to be a beautiful day tomorrow to bring OEXE to a close, sunny and in the high 60s.
Day Two started early for a lot of attendees as classes and events started at 8:00am. My first class, “Don’t Go without a Go Bag” was at 9:00am and we filled up the tent with folks looking to get a little more prepared for life’s twists and turns. With the scary clown epidemic Hurricane Matthew fresh on everyone’s mind, preparing for life’s little emergencies probably took on added importance for many.
After my 9:00am class, I took the opportunity to walk the grounds and take in the sights and sounds of OEXE. Walking the grounds, classes seemed full with attendees and vendors looked to be doing a brisk business. Some of the more popular vendors today appeared to be Blue Ridge Overland Gear, ARB, KTM, OZ Tent, CVT, and Griffin Pocket Tool. I spent a good bit of time talking with vendors today and they all agreed that this OEXE was the best yet.
If the event is anything, it’s a litmus test of what is hot on the market and if you were to ask anyone what’s the hot item on the overland market today… you will get one answer… off-road trailers. By my count there were over a dozen vendors present specializing in off-road trailers. Ranging from high-end Nut House Industry luxury trailers complete with hot showers, air conditioning, etc. all the way to the basic Manley ORV trailers (which by the way is under new ownership). CVT was present with their new travel trailer as well which appeared to be getting a lot of attention. With over a hundred vendors on site, the off-road trailer vendors had quite a showing.
If you are new to the overland community, you will quickly learn that overlanders generally pack ridiculously too much stuff like to have quite a few comforts while traveling and exploring the world around them. This means that the typical overland vehicle can get filled up rather quickly. Start talking about an extended trip and there just isn’t enough room in an average vehicle for everything you’ll need and resupply stops aren’t always an option. In addition, trailers outfitted with a roof top ten (RTT) make a great base camp. Perhaps that’s why they are so hot right now.
Just a few years ago there was only one name in the off-road trailer market… as OEXE has proven over the last few day, that’s not the case anymore.
OEXE isn’t just about products; it’s also about training, learning from others, and sharing experiences. There is a wide variety of training classes offered at OEXE, ranging from knot-tying all the way to advanced vehicle recovery techniques. Along the way you can find classes on cooking, herbal medicine, wilderness first aid, vehicle outfitting and preparation, off-road suspension design, and even how to make trail-side vehicle repairs.
One of the best parts of OEXE is the shared experiences that many explorers and adventurers provide to the attendees. I was fortunate enough to listen to Colonel John Nicholas Blashford-Snell (Ret.) detail a riveting story of the successful attempt to traverse the Darien Gap in his presentation entitled, “The Darien Breakthrough”. The Darien Gap represents to many adventurers and overlanders almost a mystical no-man’s land. I doubt there is an adventurer alive that doesn’t long to traverse the Darien Gap. The story was riveting as he detailed the challenges, dangers, and joys the exploration faced. The trip took over three months and with movement at time limited to just three miles a day; it was truly a battle against the jungle and elements. With support from numerous governments, militaries, Land Rover, and even 11 “murderers” from Panama… the expedition succeeded on June 9, 1972 after three months of slugging it out with the jungle.
Where else but OEXE can you meet a legend, drink a micro-brew beer, make a new friend, chat with an overland film-maker, demo ride a KTM, winch a Land Rover up an impossible hill, and buy an off-road trailer all in a matter of a few hours?
Tomorrow marks the close of OEXE 2016 and with beautiful weather promised by the forecasters, it will undoubtedly be a great day to bring an awesome event to a close.