10 Years Gone: Overland Expo, Then and Now

Enjoy the ride as we look back at TEN YEARS of Overland Expo! Lodestone Events has entered the game, and 2019 is shaping up to be even bigger than previous years so please stop by and say hi at the American Adventurist booth at site PS1. We’ll have a cold beer ready for you courtesy of Wanderlust Brewing in Flagstaff, bring your cup!

In 2009 at the Yavapai Fairgrounds in Prescott, Arizona, an ambitious group of like minded travelers gathered for something new. Something called Overland Expo.

Before 2009, roof top tents, 4WD vans, off-road campers, Glamping, Overlanding, all of it was virtually unknown in North America. Yes, some of the gear was around, and car camping was hardly a new thing, but Yakima didn’t sell awnings yet, and Walmart wasn’t dabbling in 12 volt fridge/freezers. It was more of a “you need to know a guy” to get a roof top tent or 12 volt fridge back then.

Overland style gear and builds were quite rare in the mid to late 2000’s, and gathering them all in one place was unheard of. Even more exotic were the tales some of these people told, with many miles traveled by 4WD in Africa, Australia and other distant lands.

Legend says that around 900 people attended that first event along with a handful of pioneering companies: Equipt, Adventure Trailers (AT Overland), Land Rover, Baja Designs, ARB, Viking Offroad, Four Wheel Campers, Ursa Minor, KC Hilites, Autohome USA, Sportsmobile, Overland Journal, Aluminess, and Global Expedition Vehicles. These are the Plank Owners of Overlanding in America as we know it.

Organized and led by Jonathan and Roseann Hanson, that first Overland Expo was the catalyst for the Overland mania that is now mainstream. Today, this event draws top automakers, hundreds of outstanding companies, and tens of thousands of eager enthusiasts.  Few dared to imagine back then that it would have grown to be the largest event of it’s kind in the Western Hemisphere, fueling a global, multi-million dollar Overland Industry.

Mark Twain said ““Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I think if Mark Twain were here today he would be proud of the community that grew up around Overland Expo.

Photo by Chris Collard.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I still remember their second Overland Expo in 2010 at the Amado Territory Ranch in Arizona like it was yesterday. The entire Overland thing was still in it’s infancy and it was there that I met Jerry from Tembo Tusk, before anyone ever heard of a skottle. It was in Amado that I contracted the Snow Peak virus, a mishap that cost me more than a few dollars in “must have” glamping equipment over the next decade.

I shared midnight tequila with the late Al Walter and company in Amado, remembering favorite Baja trips while Al regaled us with his vast knowledge of obscure places and desert history. It was at Overland Expo that I got to hang out with people like Chris Marzonie, the Baja Taco himself. I had a beer with Scott Brady from Expedition Portal, and partied with the likes of Mario Donovan from Adventure Trailers and Paul May from Equipt before they were Overland Rock Stars.

All the coolest people were there, and it was there that I realized I wasn’t that weird, and I found many others just like me, eager to follow the paths less traveled while exploring the most remote places in the world.[/vc_column_text][vc_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1557774108123-abc7103f-1d6e-3″ include=”9042,9036,9034″][/vc_column][vc_column][vc_column_text]Overland Expo was also my first look at many, many exotic 4WD’s and top-shelf vehicle builds. As a career military guy, “vehicle dependent expeditions” were nothing new to me but this new Overland thing was very, very different. I learned that I could eat well in the field, have hot coffee and cold beer, and above all I didn’t have to sleep on the ground unless I chose to. It was even possible to have a hot shower in camp.

So many things that I loved were blending together in one place: travel, 4WD’s, camping, cooking, training, gear, motorcycles, and the stories these activities produced. The Expo was blurring all the lines and I was all in.[/vc_column_text][vc_masonry_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1557774108130-aa9ac40c-8be1-1″ include=”9098,9097,9095,9062,9094,9096,9054,9056,9092,9068,9067,9065,9066,9064,9063,9061,9046,9041,9045″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]More than just a trade show, the Hanson’s brought in concepts like education, hands-on training, environmental responsibility, community service, and film festivals making the event greater than the sum of it’s parts. Above all, I was fascinated by the quality of people that I met at the Expo, and I left that event personally inspired to become better educated and better traveled. This all came at a time in my life when I was suffering from some combat related survivor’s guilt as well as recovering from my own deployment injuries and really needed “something” to focus my own surplus energy on.

Attending that Overland Expo in Amado inspired me to found American Adventurist, and I started organizing my own Desert and Mountain Rendezvous events that same year.

Thank you Jonathan and Roseann for inspiring us.

[/vc_column_text][vc_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1557774108155-db63c481-078e-1″ include=”9075,9076,9077″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_media_grid element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1557774108159-9512a648-87f3-10″ include=”9044,9057″][vc_media_grid element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1557774108162-9b88b2d2-e723-3″ include=”9040,9052″][vc_column_text]Fast forward a bit as Overland Expo grew. And grew. The American Adventurist crew attended every year in Mormon Lake and then at Fort Tuthill. When they added Overland Expo East at Taylor Ranch, we expanded too with our first Appalachian Rendezvous in North Carolina. We attended Overland Expo East at the Biltmore and then at the Reeb Ranch. We met thousands of amazing people and became involved in land stewardship and access issues.

I am unaware of any other events that have inspired such a fast growing, diverse, and dedicated following as Overland Expo.[/vc_column_text][vc_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1557774108165-918ed293-5e06-0″ include=”9091,9086,9090″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Looking back now on 10 years of events we have nothing but good memories – Underwater Expo, Snowverland Expo and Mudderland Expo included. For those of you who were there well… if you know, you know!

Challenging weather, the tyrannies of time and distance to travel to these events, in our experience it was all worth it to attend these grand family reunions. The one family reunion that you don’t have to dread going to each year. Where else in the world can you learn so much, see so much, and do so much in one weekend?[/vc_column_text][vc_masonry_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1557774108168-f602e6c7-a740-6″ include=”9058,6362,9069,7070,9060,9050,9051,9070,9049,9052,9059,9055,9043,9054,9085,6597,6578,6589,6566,6560,6562,6559,6543,6508,6492,6479,3790,3762,3767,1679,1676,1677,1650,1699,1688,1638,3855,3854,3840,3838,3848,3835,3825,3817″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]So what did we learn along the way at Overland Expo? Too much to list really, but here’s a few salient points that may be of help to anyone attending for their first time:

  1. The 7P’s aka Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Always be prepared for the wind, the wet, and the cold. Or blazing heat. Or monsoons and mud. There are no guarantees when it comes to weather, and there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.
  2. Site Selection. Just in case weather happens, select a camp site that provides for good, rapid water runoff and wind-blocking protection if at all possible. Tent and vehicle placement to take advantage of prevailing wind conditions is critical to maintain a stable structure. Arrive early for best results.
  3. Meal Planning. Plan your meals carefully in advance to save time and preparation, you’re going to be on your feet a lot at an Expo and being prepared with easy meal plans pays off.
  4. Be prepared to have FUN. We’ve made so many great friends at Overland Expo, and every year brings a wild bazaar of the latest goods and services sprinkled with happy hours with friends old and new. Bucket list trips and new business partnerships take root here every year.
  5. Bring some walking around money. You don’t know it yet, but there’s something shiny there that you need that you’ve never seen before. Trust us when we say shiny squirrels abound.

[/vc_column_text][vc_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1557774108218-de3af5f0-cee8-9″ include=”7347,7399,7343″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_masonry_media_grid element_width=”3″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1557774108223-77a3125c-8be6-8″ include=”7440,7439,7437,7433,7428,7429,7423,7418,7420,7397,7391,7372,7353,7349,7340,7335,7345,7997,7954,7580,7456,7333,7426,7443,7377″][vc_column_text]Today, the Hanson’s have handed over the keys, and Overland Expo West 2019 marks the first year with Lodestone Events at the helm. We’re confident that it’s in good hands, and we look forward to seeing what they do to take it to the next level. With well over 10,000 like-minded enthusiasts headed to Overland Expo West, it’s guaranteed to be a show for the record books. Again.

So stop by and have a beer with us at Overland Expo West 2019 courtesy of Wanderlust Brewing in Flagstaff. Grab some swag from us, trade some patches, grab a raffle ticket to win a set of Falken Wildpeak tires at 3pm on Saturday, we’d love to hear your story and how this community of interest impacts YOU.

See you out there!



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Event photos used with the express permission of Overland Expo and Exploring Overland.
Additional photo credits and thank you to: Chris Collard, Chad de Alva, Richard Soohoo, Chris Griggers, Bryon Dorr, Chazz Layne, David Croyle, Bosque Bill, Adventure Trio, Mike Petrucci and Gary Haynes.


2019 Socal Desert Rendezvous

Location: Somewhere in the California Desert

With the coordinates dispatched to those who were in the know, the stage was set for the 9th Annual Desert Rendezvous presented by American Adventurist.

Day 00:

Local weather reports had been giving out mixed readings regarding rain, and our team needed to meet early at the Rendezvous site in the desert and get set up for the large gathering to come during the weekend. Staff members Cris Mateski, Doug Robertson, and Stuart Mc Williams headed down Wednesday afternoon amidst a mixture of weather. It was a constant on and off rain, with peeks of sunshine and then more rain. Rain in the desert is always amazing. And messy. In the meantime, Brett and I would arrive to meet them the next day.

Day 01:

On Thursday camp was setup by the time Brett and I arrived on site. The weather we encountered was a steady on/off rain all the way from Los Angeles to Anza Borrego State Park. The roads were wet and so was the fire road on the way in. It was a bit muddy but nothing to deter us from getting to where we needed to go. American Adventurist had provided a cord of wood on site again this year, and there were a few Adventurists already setup around the main fire ring getting settled in. The spotty rain continued throughout the day, but the reports stated the rest of the weekend would be clear and cool. This was definitely something we had not had for quite sometime at Desert Rendezvous as we were used to heat, wind and dryness.

This day was an arrival day for Adventurists, so we kicked back and relaxed the entire day as there was nothing scheduled. It was perfect.

At American Adventurist we have an enduring commitment to give back to the local community at every Rendezvous event we host, and in previous years we’ve conducted a desert cleanup with the Bureau of Land Management where we removed about 4 tons of trash from public lands each year at Desert Rendezvous. This changed in 2019 with the government shutdown and it’s effects on the Bureau of Land Management.

This year we shifted gears to support CORVA, the California Off Road Vehicle Association with some of the proceeds from this event. They’ve been working at all levels of government for off-road interests since 1969, and CORVA was the first organization to file for intervenor status in the lawsuit filed against off road recreation at Ocotillo Wells SVRA in California. It took 4 years, and despite the odds they prevailed in court and kept Ocotillo Wells open. Take a moment to pause and think about your OHV land access and consider supporting CORVA.

We advocate on behalf of our membership to promote, protect and preserve off-road recreation and automotive access on public lands throughout California. CORVA’s main purpose is to work with the land managers for responsible off-highway vehicular access and recreation opportunities. Secondarily, we educate our membership on the constantly changing rules and regulations and promote clean-up and trail maintenance projects.

Day 02:

Friday morning we awoke to a brisk and cool morning with partly cloudy skies and no rain. The sun was barely peering over the horizon so I was able to snag a few photos of our campground before the hustle & bustle of the morning’s happenings. The increasing brightness revealed a number of new, very muddy rigs that had arrived the previous night, plowing through the muddy desert in 4WD to get here. Daylight also revealed a stunning view of snow covered mountains off in the distance. If you’ve never been to the desert in California, you really must go.

As the sun began to warm our campsite, the rest of us began to rise and prepare for the day’s events, starting with coffee and breakfast. Or at least coffee. Looking around, it’s always nice to see the smiling faces and wagging tails at a Rendezvous event. These are the ones who made it, escaping the grind and the “real world” to get outside and do what they dream about all day while they’re slaving away at their day jobs. Time to Travel. Time to Explore. Time to Live.

The main event on Friday was a trail run to Superstition Mountain OHV area, which was to be led by one of our Adventurists: @Yumafolks. Those who wanted to partake in the trail run prepped and arrived at the main fire pit at 0830 for a driver’s safety brief, map reconnaissance, comm check, and planning. It was a great turn out for this trail run as experience levels ranged from first-timers to very experienced drivers. Thanks to Yumafolks and everyone who made this run such a great success! Although I wasn’t able to join in on the run, we did hear that the group were able to get front row seats for the Navy’s Blue Angels, who were flying around our area all weekend long. From camp, we were able to see the demos from a distance and hear the roar of the Navy’s F-18’s engines.

The remainder of the day on Friday was left for check-ins, relaxing, and socializing. The weather was fully cooperative and everyone was enjoying themselves out in the desert. As the day progressed, other Adventurists began to arrive and our campsite soon began to resemble a small town.

With the sun setting and evening just around the corner, Erika LeFiell began prepping a big round of S’mores for the kids, and even the adults. The menu was provided by American Adventurist (thanks Erika!) and consisted of a variety of different types of S’mores, so customization could be done to your hearts content. While the S’mores were happening, the fire pit was being prepped to accommodate the large group. This turned out to be a delicious hit, and we even caught Brett stealing them from the kids and eating them so the peanuts came out. If you know you know.

Right after the S’mores roasting, the BBQ Social would commence, which was graciously sponsored this year by Goose Gear. BIG THANKS to Brian at Goose Gear for hosting this year’s BBQ Social! The team quickly started cooking up the burger patties on Tembo Tusk Skottles (headlamp time!), and folks soon began lining up to fill their plates. One thing we know how to do right at a Rendezvous is cook, and Friday night with Goose Gear was another great example of teamwork making the dream work.

Once our bellies were full, we all convened around the warmth of the fire and socialized until the moon rose and the fire burned down to a smolder.

Day 03

Saturday would typically be our morning desert cleanup but this time around, we mostly had the day to ourselves. There were a number of activities planned, including a few trail runs of 4×4’s and ADV moto’s, the kids scavenger hunt, and the famous American Adventurist Camp Cooking Competition hosted by Tembo Tusk. Other than those milestones, the day was for yourself and whatever you wanted to do, or not do. Sitting back and enjoying your time here is always nice with so many amazing vehicles to see and so much awesome gear on display. You can learn a lot at a Rendezvous just by seeing how others travel.


The first event on Saturday was the morning trail run to Canyon Sin Nombre and Arroyo Seco Del Diablo. Thank you to Adventurist @Sage Bromax for organizing and leading this run. This run was a little more advanced than the previous mornings’ run to the Superstition Mountains, but that didn’t stop this even larger group from going. New people are always welcome at a Rendezvous event, and runs like this help the new people learn from our experienced “old hats”.


Once the trail run group headed off into the hills, it was business as usual around camp. Kicking tires, telling stories, playing with toys, taking naps.

At around mid-morning, a small group of adventure moto riders had assembled to coordinate a trail ride. Clearly, they were having fun and one of these days I’ll have to join them.


The afternoon sun marked the start of the Camp Cooking Competition sponsored by Tembo Tusk.  Whether you decided to cook with coals on a Dutch Oven, or over your camp stove, whatever the modality, it must be cooked within the confines of camp. Dishes must be completed and presented on the serving table to be qualified for the competition, Those who weren’t participating in the competition were welcomed to participate in the Community Potluck, which we highly encourage. This year, we received a large variety of delicious dishes, ranging from salads to main dishes and desserts. A big thank you to all the Adventurists who participated in this feast; YOU who make this event what it is!

The tables were set for the dish arrivals as the competitors and potluck participants began finishing their dishes. The fire pit was cleaned out and an even larger fire pit was created to make room for the many hungry people to come! Once the cutoff time was hit, dishes began arriving and the tables quickly became crowded from all the food. Another delicious sight to see with many smiling and hungry faces.


We all gathered around the campfire, with plates full and beverages in hand. This is a classic part of any Rendezvous event and is what really makes it special. You can see everyone interacting with each other whether it’s their first event or if they are long time members. The whole scene unfolding before me would give any outsider a warm, welcoming feeling like it’s one big extended family reunion. With the temperature dropping, the fire was expanded to Viking Longfire status which made more room for chairs and really kept everyone around it nice and toasty. Winners of the Camp Cooking Competition were announced, prizes were handed out by Tembo Tusk, and the socializing continued further into another clear and crisp night.

Winners of the Camp Cook-off Competition:

Congratulations and a HUGE thank you to all those that cooked and competed in our 9th Annual Camp Cookoff sponsored by TEMBO TUSK!!! The community voted, and the competitive spirit was great. After much deliberation (and seconds just to be sure) the winners were decided:

1st Place – Bald Taco winning a Tembo Tusk Adventure Skottle Kit w/burner and Tembo Tusk apron.

2nd Place – Tim R. winning a Tembo Tusk prize pack with Wine Tote, official Cookbook, and Buzzy Wax

3rd Place – Dave Pike winning a Tembo Tusk prize pack with official Cookbook and Buzzy Wax

Day 04:

Sunday was the last day of the 2019 SoCal Desert Rendezvous. A few Adventurists had left early in the morning with long road trips home in front of them, but many had remained for the last event of the weekend. Although it was the last day, this was what many were waiting for, their big chance to win at the raffle. While everyone packed up their campsites, the American Adventurist staff began organizing the enormous amount of prizes and gathering everyone in the camp for one last hurrah.

SO MANY WINNERS and so many smiling faces at the end of a long weekend – must be present to win!

And finally, the group photo. We can’t leave without one last shot of the weekend. A huge thank you to all the Adventurists who came down to support CORVA, and for keeping the American Adventurist Desert Rendezvous going year after year!

Also another huge thank you to all our sponsors for your steadfast and continuing support for American Adventurist!


We’ll see you all at the next Rendezvous!

A special note from the Editor: These events don’t happen in a vacuum, and at the end of the day 3 groups of people make it happen. The Members (thank you!), the Sponsors (thank you again!) and last but not least, the STAFF at American Adventurist. BIG thanks to Cris, Brett, Stuart, Richard, Doug, and Erika for busting their butts to make this happen way out in the desert! You guys ROCK! – Dave Bennett