Overland Expo is a biannual event that is held in both Flagstaff, Arizona (West) and in Asheville, North Carolina (East). It’s the country’s largest gathering for everything related to overlanding and car camping.
For those who don’t know, overlanding means long-term vehicle-based exploration, but in the past few years it has mixed with the off-road world and many people are now “overlanding” on weekend car camping trips. A great way to break into this hobby all at once is by attending the Overland Expo, where visitors find insanely cool vehicles in both the vendor area and the general camping space.
This year, we went out in search of our favorite five vehicles throughout the event.
5. Claire and James Young’s 2007 Dodge Ram 3500
First up are Claire and James Young from This Big Road Trip. They are exploring in a 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 with the 6.7-liter Cummins. Attached to the back of the truck is an XP Camper and flatbed. They started their road trip in Vancouver and have been wandering around the lower 48 for the last six months before they dive south, into central and South America, eventually going onto Africa and Europe.
The Dodge has been outfitted with all the necessary accessories for exploring the world: ICON suspension, Buckstop front bumper with lights and a WARN 16.5ti-S winch inside, 60-gallon auxiliary fuel tank, ARB lockers, Scheel-Mann seats, and a bunch of other accessories that make driving the truck around the world easier.
The camper is a two-part fiberglass construction that uses screw jacks to mechanically lift it up and down keeping the driving profile low but also allows for a large interior standing height of 6’5” when in the upright position. With an 80-gallon water tank, diesel stove top, heater, shower/bathroom, and plenty of interior living space, Claire and James are ready for anything that gets thrown at them while driving around the world.
4. New Legend’s 1972 International Scout II
The next vehicle that caught our attention wasn’t a fully built overland vehicle, but it was a great vehicle to start a build with and turn into the ultimate overlander. New Legend 4×4 restores International Scouts, Jeep Wagoneers, and Range Rovers, bringing them back to life and making them better than ever.
The vehicle that caught our attention was their 1972 International Scout II 4×4. New Legend creates vehicles that keep their vintage looks, but also won’t leave you stranded on the side of the road with a mechanical failure. The International Scout has had a complete mechanical restoration, including the installation of a 5.3-liter LS V8 engine and a 4L65 automatic transmission. Throw a good hardshell roof top tent on it, a cooler or fridge inside, and presto, all your camping needs are met.
Most overlanders today are interested in vehicles with as much tech as possible. Crawl control, A-Trac, massive touchscreen navigation systems, electronic disconnecting sway bars, and all the other gadgets that modern vehicles come with; but these creature comforts aren’t really necessary to go out and have a good time overlanding. Sometimes simpler is better, and New Legend 4×4 understands this. They make a rig with fewer things to break and cause your overland trip to be postponed because a sensor went out. We think this ’72 International Scout II is the perfect weekend camping rig. It’s just simple and looks damn good.
3. The Blackwells’ 2003 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U500, a.k.a. “White Acorn”
There are tons of different sized vehicles at Overland Expo, but this next one is one of the largest at the event. The “White Acorn,” as it is known, is a 2003 Unimog U500 with a Global Expeditions camper mounted to the back.
Weighing in at just over 24,000 pounds and over 26 feet long, this rig is massive. Within the overlanding realm, the Unimog chassis is held with a lot of respect and admiration; after all, most of the large campers you see at OEW are mounted to Unimogs (although nowadays, some manufacturers are starting to use Ford F-550s and Ram 5500s for the US market).
The Unimog rides on 46×15.5R20 tires and has a 160-gallon diesel fuel tank, giving it a range of 1,500+ miles. As you can imagine, that sort of range potential is extremely important for exploring unknown areas. This Unimog’s chassis is practically stock, as these machines come so rugged from the factory; there’s no need to upgrade it much.
The camper is custom-built by a company called Global Expedition vehicles. They specialize in expedition campers for large vehicles. The camper is made up of a composite material, and the inside is built out more as a house than an RV. It features an A/C unit, heater, toilet, water heater, granite countertops, large solar array, and a fridge/freezer combo.
The owners of the White Acorn have already traveled multiple continents and countries in their camper, exploring as far away as Russia and Europe. They’ve proven that even though they drive a massive vehicle, they are still capable of overlanding and exploring the entire world.
2. Customized 1994 Mitsubishi Delica
On the other side of the spectrum is the Mitsubishi Delica. This specific one is the 1994 Chamonix L400. It is a 4×4 with a 2.8-liter turbodiesel engine. Jordan and Candice, the couple who built it, plan on traveling the Pan-American Highway – driving from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, south to Ushuaia at the bottom of Chile.
During their trip they will be focusing on three major goals: Exploring Provincial Parks of Canada and National Parks of the United States, especially ones that are currently under threat, showcasing local artisans along our path, and learning about respectable horticulture by volunteering on local farms.
They’ve modified the Delica slightly to be able to comfortably complete the journey, adding a two-inch lift, more aggressive all-terrain tires, sleeping platforms and storage solutions, a homemade snorkel, front and rear custom bumpers, and a Dometic fridge/freezer. Living out of this small of a vehicle must be quite uncomfortable at times, but its small size allows it to go many places; places where a much larger overland truck will not fit.
1. Patriot Campers’ LC79 Super Tourer
Australia has been overlanding for many more years than in the U.S. Down there, it’s almost a requirement to just get into certain areas of the country. Patriot Campers‘ LC79 Super Tourer is one of the most capable overland vehicles to come out of Australia.
Based on the legendary Toyota Land Cruiser chassis, it comes from the factory insanely beefy, ready to take on any terrain. Patriot Campers upgrades the vehicle by adding a suspension lift, beefy Mickey Thompson MTZ tires, TJM front and rear bumpers, and a 300mm chassis extension to accommodate the custom Patriot Campers tray, which has storage all over it along with a built-in water tank.
Optional accessories they have included in this build are a James Baroud rooftop tent, mounted onto a Patriot Campers canopy. Inside of that canopy, there is a Dometic CFX refrigerator, dog crate, ARB twin air compressor, and an array of Redarc electronics that powers everything. To help hold the weight, they have also completed a rear coil spring conversion, tuning the normally harsh-riding leaf spring rear suspension into a washboard-taming dream.
This year’s Overland Expo West was one of the best ones so far. A huge influx of new vehicles from around the world, along with a ton of innovative new products for the industry, made for a lot of walking. But getting to see so many awesome rigs made the aching ache just a little less.
If you ever have the chance, make sure you make it to either Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, Arizona or Overland Expo East in Asheville, North Carolina. You won’t be disappointed.