If you’ve ever been to an Overland Expo, you know there’s a mind-boggling array of offroad and overland products on display. You can find everything from offroad recovery gear and camp hygiene essentials to overland trailers and portable power solutions.
Last year was my first time attending an expo and I spent most of my time just taking it all in and enjoying the experience. Sure, I visited the exhibitor booths and checked out a ton of cool gear and equipment. But this year, heading into Overland Expo West 2022 in Flagstaff, Arizona, I was on a mission.
My goal was to find to find at least five things that would make my overland and offroad journey better. Well, I found 10 and they make for a pretty diverse and eclectic list.
In no particular order, here are 10 things I found at Overland Expo West that I absolutely loved.
1. The Chameleon Carryall by Step 22
I don’t pack light. Never have, never will. I don’t say this out of stubbornness, it’s just the truth. I have tried really hard to pack only the essentials for our overland adventures (or any adventure), but it seems that I have a lot of essentials.
That’s why most of the toiletry bags on the market, even the “extra large” ones, just don’t work for me. Inevitably, I end up carrying multiple bags and that’s not convenient or efficient. Having my toiletries spread across several bags makes it a challenge to quickly find what I need and it’s easier to forget something.
Needless to say, when I saw the Chameleon Carryall in the Step 22 booth, I was pretty excited.
This sturdy piece of gear is large enough that I can stow all of my things in one bag and, best of all, it’s completely customizable so I can configure it however I want so that it works perfectly for me.
It has three generous zipper pouches on one side with plenty of room for shower gear, makeup, and other essentials like medications, bandaids, and nail clippers. The other side has a velcro back that you can easily modify with several of Step 22’s removable pouches or you can use their Reef Molle Attachment system and still have room for a pouch. And the molle system on the back panel makes it easy to add straps or d-rings so you can attach it wherever you need it.
I can’t wait to take this on our next adventure!
2. Patriot Campers X-3
Unlike the Chameleon Carryall, I didn’t leave the expo with the Patriot Campers X-3 trailer, even though I really wanted to!
I absolutely love our X-1N model with its ample storage, outdoor kitchen, and rugged offroad capability that lets us take it just about anywhere we want to go. I also love our Four Wheel Camper setup with its indoor living space that lets us get in out of the elements (or away from the mosquitos) whenever we want.
But the X-3 is the best of both worlds.
It has the same wonderful outdoor kitchen that our X-1N has and it also has an easily accessible indoor space. There’s no clambering up a ladder to get into a rooftop tent—in just three easy steps you’re inside the X-3. It’s cozy living space allows you to take refuge from the rain, wind, and bugs. There’s a large seating area with a fold-up table that you can use to enjoy a game of cards, spend some quiet time journaling, or whatever else you fancy doing.
I also love that the sleeping area can be accessed from both sides, which means I wouldn’t have to crawl over my husband in the middle of the night when nature calls.
You can also access your fridge from inside and it has an optional pop-up cafe and charging station! This trailer has pretty much everything I could ever want.
We don’t have an X-3, but it’s definitely one of my favorite things from Overland Expo and a girl can dream!
3. Citizen J
While not your typical find at an Overland Expo, Citizen J is a brand-new podcast and is most definitely one of my favorite things.
Hosted by our friend Jillian Rebekah, this podcast was inspired by campfire conversations and the friends she’s made over the years. She will share the real stories and experiences of individuals who are blazing their own trails through life as she talks with fellow adventurers about what motivated them to take their first steps into the unknown and discuss not only their triumphs but, more importantly, their struggles and vulnerabilities.
Jillian is an overlanding pioneer herself, having blazed her own trail through a largely male-dominated space. She’s looking forward to talking others who are redefining normal, meeting challenges head-on, and have stores of their own to tell. And even though overlanding is her base, she’s looking forward to sharing the stories of inspiring individuals no matter what community they belong to.
The inaugural Citizen J podcast kicked off with a conversation between Jillian and Rachelle Croft of Expedition Overland. They talked about everything from Rachelle’s experiences in the Rebelle and Morocco Rallies to motherhood, marriage, and being vulnerable.
If you love great conversations with real people who are boldly living life to the fullest, then you’ll want to tune in to the Citizen J podcast, which can be found on YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify.
4. Trails Offroad
Trails Offroad is a compatible website and an app (iOS and Android) that creates detailed offroad trail guides, covering locations from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, and everywhere in between. You can plan your adventure on your desktop computer and then download it on the app to your mobile device for use offline when you’re ready to hit the trail.
Born out frustration with not being able to find accurate information about trails, like the level of difficulty or whether they were open or closed, the Trails Offroad team not only maps trails, they also provide a wealth of information to help ensure you have a great experience on the trail.
In addition to basic trail information, such as route and waypoint descriptions, their guides include technical ratings on the various trails’ difficulty levels and community consensus where members vote about the ease or difficulty of the trail, which helps the Trails Offroad team when updating the guides. You can also find information about camping, rules and regulations, and short videos with trail highlights.
Trails Offroad has a free version, which offers a trailhead map view and directions, camping regulations, track upload to Gaia GPS, highlight description and photo, and the community reviews. The paid version is only $25 a year and gives you everything the free version does as well as advanced search features, detailed route descriptions, details technical ratings, robust maps, trail waypoints, printable trail guides, and more.
We’ve been using Trails Offroad for years and love everything about it, including its compatibility with Gaia GPS and the fact that the Trails Offroad team are genuinely good humans.
5. Omnia Stovetop Oven
I’ve been wanting a camp oven ever since Marco got one last year for his camp kitchen (thanks, Marco!). I love baking and there’s just something magical and soul-soothing about enjoying fresh baked goodness around the propane campfire (yes, we live in California).
I know you can “bake” with a dutch oven, but many states (did I mention we live in California?) have fire restrictions that prohibit campfires and charcoal, which makes cooking with one almost impossible. So, when I saw the Omnia Stovetop, I was smitten. I’d finally found a tool that I could use to bake up some homemade treats on the trail!
This oven is compact, lightweight, and works on a variety of heat sources, including a propane stove. The pan looks like a cross between the pans used for making bundt and angel food cakes and includes a lid and a base. It’s this three-part design that allows it to “bake,” directing heat to the top and bottom of the Omnia oven.
Optional accessories, which were being offered as a package deal at Overland Expo West, include a nifty carrying case to protect the oven, two silicone molds (one to line the pan for easier cleanup and one a six-muffin ring), and an oven rack that can be used for steaming food. Oh, the possibilities!
I've used this three times now and I'm completely in love. So far, I've made apple pie monkey bread, a pizza calzone, and blueberry buttermilk breakfast cake and everything has "baked" perfectly! This is definitely one item that is now a necessity on all of our overlanding and camping trips.
I can't wait to bake more of my favorite recipes in it. We'll be enjoying homemade cinnamon rolls, angel food cake (my husband’s favorite), cupcakes, brownies, zucchini breads, and a host of other family favorites when we’re off the grid!
6. Firman ZeroE (coming soon!)
I never thought I’d get excited about a portable generator, but never say never. After stopping by the Firman booth at Overland Expo, I found my heart was doing a little dance about what we found there.
So, let’s get the technical specs for the Firman Zero E expandable power station out of the way and then I’ll tell you why I’m looking forward to adding this to our overlanding gear when it comes on the market this summer.
- *Lithium ion phosphate battery
- 2,000 watt inverter
- 1,040 watt hours
- (4) 120-volt outlets
- (1) 240-volt outlets
- 4 USB ports - 2 USB-C ports -
- (1) 12-volt socket
- (1) wireless phone charger
So why am I excited? Because it provides more outlets and more power than our current system, and it charges much faster. This means I could charge more of our things at the same time and more often. For example, I could run a blender while charging my phone and my Fitbit. Or I could blow dry my hair while my flat iron heats up.
The Zero E also has a compact, square design with handles on the side and a top that’s completely flat, which will make it easy to stack when we’re packing our rig. And, speaking of stacking, this generator lets you add up to 10 expansion packs that increases the duration of your power supply, something that will come in very handy on multi-day trips.
While the new Firman Zero E generator isn’t available just yet, I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on one when it is.
* This new-ish type of battery charges faster, has a longer lifecycle, has a less of an impact on the environment, and is more stable and safer than other batteries.
7. Dometic GO Water Faucet
Running water with the touch of a finger? Yes, please!
When you’re overlanding and offroading, water is a precious resource (at least, that’s what my husband keeps telling me when I forget to turn the water off) and Dometic has made it really easy to conserve your water supply with their new portable, battery powered faucet, the HYD-WF.
This nifty little battery-operated faucet can connect to just about any water container to create a source of running water that turns on with two taps of your finger—or the back of your hand if you want to avoid touching the faucet with messy fingers. It’s also lightweight and totally portable, so you can put it just about anywhere you need it and move it from rig to rig if you have more than one vehicle.
I was able to give it a try at the expo and I was impressed with the water flow (one liter per minute), which is plenty of pressure for washing your hands or doing the dishes.
It also shuts off automatically after a minute so you don’t have to worry about excessive waste (they must have been thinking of me when they designed it) and, if you’re using it at night, there’s an integrated LED light so you can see what you’re doing.
I don’t know how many times I’ve had to have my husband help me pour water over my hands because they were covered in soap or contaminated with raw meat, and I didn’t want to touch anything. With this faucet, hand washing won’t be a two-person job anymore!
8. Kokopelli Kayak
We actually saw the Kokopelli kayaks for the first time at Overland Expo Mountain West last year, and I still think these are perfect for incorporating more physically active pursuits into our overlanding adventures. (Big hint to my husband when he reads this!)
I love driving our vehicles but there are times when I want to do more than just look out the window. I want to get outside and immerse myself in nature, breathing the sweet air and feeling the splash of cool water on my skin.
One of my favorite ways of doing this is kayaking. There’s just something wonderful about being on the water, working my muscles, and soaking in the beauty all around.
But between rooftop tents and other space limitations, squeezing a full-sized kayak (or two) onto one of our rigs is just about impossible. And that’s what I love about Kokopelli’s inflatable kayaks—once you’re done, you deflate them, fold them up, and away you go.
Kokopelli offers several different versions of their inflatable kayaks, the smallest of which weighs only 5.2 pounds and when it’s all rolled up it’s only 12 x 7 inches. I think one would fit perfectly in a Jeep, a Bronco, a trailer…you get the idea!
9. KC Pro6 Light Covers
How could anyone not love the KC Pro6 Light Covers? Seriously, they just make you smile. Well, they definitely make me smile. These 50th anniversary limited edition light covers totally fit the happy, walking-on-sunshine vibe of my Hella Yella two-door Jeep as well as the Gravity Pro6 LED Lightbar that we just installed.
Full disclosure, I’ve had the iconic smiley face covers on my LED Daylighters for years and I’ve always loved how they look, so adding the anniversary edition with their sunglass-wearing happy faces was a no-brainer.
Aside from the fact that they look fantastic, these tough, composite plastic covers also do a great job of protecting my lights from debris, rocks, and bug splatter when we’re off-roading and keep my lights looking brand new.
Whenever I look at them, “Boogie Shoes” by KC and the Sunshine Band starts to play in my head…and that makes me happy too!
Last, but absolutely not least, friends were the best thing about Overland Expo West. I know this may seem a little odd compared to the rest of the list but having the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones is really the highlight of any Overland Expo.
Last year was my first time attending any of the expos and I hardly knew anyone. This was my husband’s world, and I was just along for the ride—literally and figuratively. But you know what? Everyone that was his friend became my friend, and I met so many new, wonderful and welcoming, people who became my friends.
You see, one of the most amazing aspects of overlanding and offroading is the community—people bonded by a love of adventure and the outdoors. I’ve said it before and I will keep on saying it because it is so true—this is a community of likeminded folks who are genuine and down-to-earth. It’s a community of wonderful individuals who are dedicated to hitting the trail, enjoying nature, and supporting others in their pursuit of the same.
I am fortunate to have made so many friends during the past few years, including Marco, Josh, Paula, David, Ryan, Nate, Stacey, Jillian, Natalie, Jeff, Blair, Will, Jason, Wade, Mary Jo, Jayson, Carol, Peter, Caroline, Dan, Pete Jr., Echo, Mark, Brandon, Kellie, David, Stefanie, Doug, Kate, Joe, Casey, Sean, and so, so many others along the way.
I’m looking forward to the next Overland Expo and all the friends I’ll find there!