Five Years of Overland Expo

With just under a week to go before Overland Expo East 2019 I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at all the Overland Expos I have attended over the last five years. In total I’ve been to seven so far and this fall marks my eighth total. I’ve been to three west’s and this will make my fifth east.

What I Love About Expo

There are a lot of things I love about Expo. At the top of the list is the people. Hands down the people you meet at Expo are some of the coolest people that are out there. Some of my closest friends have come out of Expo. You also have a chance to meet the “celebrities” of the overland community. Countless YouTuber’s, bloggers, and Instagramers will be there.

Overland Expo West 2019
Facilitating workshops for attendees is the main reason I go.
Thank you to all the ECOA Corporate Partners that support this mission.

Another great thing about Overland Expo is the educational opportunities. Expo brings together a cadre of experienced and knowledgable adventure travel experts and they collectively offer a wide range of classes on any and every topic imaginable. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or an expert, there is bound to be something at Expo for you to learn.

The other great thing about Expo is the vendor area. I know a lot of people will poo-poo the commercial nature of the show. However, it is a trade show after all. This gives people an opportunity to not only see products before they buy them, but they can also talk to the people from those companies and ask them questions. Not something you get to do every day. Not to mention the opportunity to see products in use out in the camping area.

Overland Expo East 2015
Premier vendors like Adventure Trailer make hitting the vendor area worth it.
Especially after-hours!

Lastly, the great thing about Expo is the food and the beer. Well, maybe not in and of themselves, but at least the social lubrication they provide. Nothing brings people together like a “Happy Hour.” Even if you don’t drink and even if you’re on a diet (like I should be) you can still come and hang out!

What I Don’t Love About Expo

I’d be lying if I said Overland Expo is all rainbows and unicorns. Sadly it’s not. Like with most things in life great assets often become great liabilities. Over the years Overland Expo has grown into the premier event for adventure travel on wheels. It brings together off-roaders, van-lifers, and motorcycle riders. The downside is it brings in A LOT of them. Overland Expo West this year was well over 25,000 people. That’s a lot. I suspect Overland Expo East this year will be well over 10,000. That’s a lot of people. Especially when they are crammed into tiny postage stamp sized campsites. Sadly it’s the nature of the beast, I guess. I would like to see them spread out more. Hopefully the new venue at East this year allows them to do so.

Overland Expo East 2017
Tbe downside to expo is “field camping” on top of your neighbors.
Luckily I got an end-spot and had a really cool set of neighbors this year.

The other major drawback to Overland Expo’s seemingly exponential growth over the years is how commercial it’s becoming. Sure it’s always been a trade show and vendors have and will always remain its foundation. However there’s something being lost on the way when big-name box retailers start showing up with 18-wheelers. That’s not “overland” and I don’t think it fits with the spirit of an event like Overland Expo. So it’s sad to see the culture being overlooked for the sake of east vendor money. And I won’t even get into the ethics of allowing a vendor that rips off and duplicates other people’s designs – many of whom come to expo – and making them a premier sponsor. Not that I’m going to name any names.

It’s Still Worth Going

Drawbacks aside, Overland Expo is a great event. Like all things in life it is what you make it. If you want to make it rain and throw some cash around, the vendor area is the place to be. If you want to scratch that intellectual itch and get your overland nerd on, then hit up the classrooms. If you want to be a social butterfly and make friends then happy hour and the campground is your place to go. Needless to say, what you put into your time at Expo is what you’ll get out of it.

Overland Expo East 2017
THIS right here is what it’s all about.
Cold beers, a warm fire, and great people.

That in mind, let me address one of the things most people complain about: the weather. Yes, Expo over the years has been plagued by bad weather. I was there for “Underwater Expo” and “Winderland Expo” and “Mudderland Expo.” There’s a reason I have a set of muck boots and rain gear that never leaves my trailer. Ultimately, as I said, it is what you make of it. If you’re going to cry about a little rain then maybe the overland adventure lifestyle isn’t for you. However, if you stick it out then you’ll understand why, “foul weather brings together good people.” Just remember, “there’s no such thing has bad weather, only inappropriate gear.

Past Event Reports

Below is a link to all my past Overland Expo event reports. It should give you an idea on what to expect if you decide to come. If you’re already going to be there, then give me a holler and let’s connect!

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