20 January 2023
Jerome Andre goes Landy spotting at the world’s largest overland show in Flagstaff, Arizona
When a show boasts its own smartphone app, then you know the organisers are not messing about and have put every effort into delivering a world-class event. Mind you, the 28,000 attendees of the Overland Expo West certainly needed an app to navigate the vast number of activities on offer, the 406 trade stands, numerous new vehicles to ride in, plus the fantastic off-road-focused educational talks.
I’m in the US city of Flagstaff, Arizona, where the event has attracted overlanders from all over the globe for more than ten years, effectively becoming the largest adventure show in the world. Overland Expo West is the ultimate rendezvous for all overlanders, off-roaders, van-lifers and adventure motorcyclists.
While every single brand in the market presents its latest gear and equipment offerings or newest adventure guided tours, the expo also offers non-stop classes and workshops for the duration of the three-day event. Attendees have to carefully organise their stay, selecting between in excess of 220 courses and talks totalling a massive 400 session hours. Whether you travel solo, in groups, in Land Rovers, other 4x4s or motorbikes, you are able to learn new skills to improve your next journey from the best of the best.
These classes cover everything from border crossings tips to family adventure dos and don’ts, optimal packing, fixing broken suspension or how to guide a driver over tough obstacles. These courses alone will make the trip to northern Arizona worth your while.
There were also great demonstrations on how to master certain critical skills such as recovery and precision off-road driving. Last but not least, kids had their own dedicated areas in which to have fun.
The Land Rover Las Vegas collection
There’s no way around it, Land Rovers are in the minority when it comes to adventuring and overlanding in the US, but every year their popularity grows. More and more specialists are importing Defenders from Europe, and now more than ever, enthusiasts are restoring Discovery IIs, Series IIs and IIIs and early Range Rovers. The dynamic Land Rover Las Vegas team came with a few examples from their superb collection of classics. Ray DiNardi, Rick Nelson, and Mark Padilla brought an excellent promotional Forward Control prepared a la G4 Challenge, a fantastic AA-yellow LSE Classic, and a genuine Camel Trophy Discovery I. Talk about the perfect marketing tools to promote their dealership and convert the Toyota- and Ford F150-loving attendees. They offer off-road adventures in Southern Nevada twice a year, so check them out if you are in Sin City at LRLV.com.
Land Rover Las Vegas team Ray DiNardi, Rick Nelson, and Mark Padilla with their G4 Challenge Forward Control
Marcus’ awesome 110
One Brit attending the show was Marcus Whitaker, owner of Sonoran Rovers. He relocated to the US in 2009, taking along his superb HCPU 110. It is seriously kitted out for overlanding and includes an Icarus pop-top roof conversion. Marcus offers self-contained, fully-equipped Defenders to American buyers along with self-drive 110 rentals in Mexico. Later this year he plans on offering the same self-drive option to the US market. This means that you can already starting plan your next US adventure while behind the wheel of a Sonoran Defender. Wine tour in Arizona anyone? See sonoranrovers.com/tours.
Old is gold: It wasn't all shiny new machines here
You can never have enough accessories
Taking centre stage at the Expo, was this kitted-out Series II, driven over 250 miles off-road to the show by the Dometic team. As dusty and patinated as it was, it outshone all the spotless 4x4s and Japanese and US pick-up trucks
Camel Trophy reunion
While the previously mentioned classes and demos are very handy, for a few days this show is also the epicentre of the overlanding world. This makes it the perfect place to meet iconic members of the 4x4 scene, especially when legends such as the 1989 Camel Trophy winner, Bob Ives, are attending. It felt like we were in the Surrey countryside while having a chat. Bob came from the UK to take a look at some of the USA’s best off-roaders and locally prepared Land Rovers, and he was not disappointed.
Pete Sweetser, a UK Camel Trophy club member, who, along with his American wife, bought an ex-Camel Trophy 110 to drive around the world with their two young kids, also attended the show. Another Camel Trophy alumni, Fred Monsees, who competed as the US entry in 1990, was also here – it was the first time in 30 years that he caught up with Bob. A very emotional and special moment.
No other event gathers as many 4x4 adventure experts and off-roading legends, such as Bob Ives, visiting from the UK
The E-off-roading experience
From electric bikes to gargantuan off-roaders, electric vehicles such as the 350 mile range Hummer EV and Rivian R1T, certainly made a splash at the Expo. There was also an electric Series model, pictured below. However, we cannot wait for Land Rover to bring its Gen 5 Range Rover and Defender 130 hybrid versions to the show and, eventually, the forthcoming fully electric models. These should provide instant maximum torque from the first revolution of the wheels, four-wheel steering, and fantastic traction control, with each wheel precision-controlled and independently driven.
Many ingenious ideas were on display, and often for sale
Travel and off-road tips were shared until well into the wee hours around the Friday and Saturday evening BBQs. This made me crave an overland adventure. I genuinely hope to see some of you at the Flagstaff Expo next year. To find out more see overlandexpo.com.
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