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The amazing vehicles of 2016 Overland Expo East

Kamil Kaluski October 14, 2016 Car Shows, Featured 5 Comments


Overlanding, basically exploring the great outdoors in a capable off-road vehicle, is becoming more and more popular. Think of it as long distance hiking but while driving a vehicle, and camping.

Overland vehicles tend to be off-road capable, modified from stock for trail duty. Unlike some over the top rock crawlers, they are designed to reach a destination while enjoying the journey, and not just to go muddin’. Some are converted to full camping vehicles, some just have a tent in the trunk. They vary from stock Subarus to completely built Unimogs. There are rules so as long as the vehicles serve the purposes intended by their owners.

Overland Expo is where overlanding enthusiasts and vendors come together. On the weekend of October 7 – 9, 2016, Overland Expo East was held at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. While I couldn’t attend, one of my best friends did and he sent it a few pictures of the amazing rigs that were there. Thanks, Leo!


Toyotas are one of the most popular overlanding vehicles. Cost, capability, and aftermarket support are some of the key factors. Their stock tow rating is around 5000 pounds, enough for a little camper.


Older Landies also see plenty of action, with a newer LR3/4 here and there.


Defenders are kings in this world but their price puts them out of reach for many.



Much like 4Runners and FJ Cruisers, Tacomas get a lot of love for their size, reliability, and aftermarket support. 


If you think Defenders are pricey then cost of Unimogs, especially newer ones, will blow your mind.




You don’t need a fancy new rig with a tent on a roof and an awning. Older Jeeps and Land Cruisers are popular, too. They have the added benefit of fitting onto narrower trails.


Did you read my Unimog article on TTAC? You should…


Here is a Bowman-style pop-up fitted into the bed of 3/4-ton Ford. Surely you know of the Bowman and his odyssey, right?

Full-size pickup are increasingly more popular but their size somewhat limits where they can go.


Preferred overland Mitsubishis are Monteros/Pajeroas, with a few Delcias in between, but there are a few Fusos, too.



Tires are the most important thing on an expedtion vehicle. Many people add lifts, bumpers, skid plates, sliders, snorkels, roof racks, lights, and other stuff. While good to have, those are not essential.


Chef’s kitchen in the trunk. Never cooks at home, brings a whole kitchen when camping. 🙂


Vendors and sponsors show off their latest stuff.


BFGoodrich, maker of what is probably the most popular all-terrain tires, brought some Defenders for ride-alongs and driving classes.




There classes and workshops, too. Here you could learn how to weld with a car battery and jumper cables!




It’s curtains for this Rover!


Oh, the new F-150 Raptor! Massively capable with a huge, and really nice, cab. Oh, and powah!!! But it is not ideal due to its price, size, and relatively low 1200 pound payload when compared to 3/4 ton trucks. When I reviewed the previous generation Raptor I got something like 11mpg. Hopefully the new Raptor, with less weight, more efficent EcoBoost six-cylinder, and a 36-gallon extended range fuel tank, won’t require its buyers to carry extra fuel jugs.



I used to watch a ton of Camel Trophy races as a kid. Some years ago Land Rover did something similar with the G4 Challenge. I applied but was not selected. 🙁

Jeep is the most popular American rig for obvious reasons. Since its introduction in 2007, the long wheel base Unlimited, JKU, has proved itself to be a very capable rig.



You don’t have to kill your bank account for an expedition rig. Older body-on-frame Explorers can be purchased cheaply and modified equally cheaply. Plan ahead and they will get you where you want to go.


Heck, you don’t even need a truck. Ground clearance and traction is what’s needed in most cases. With little modifications, little Subies can supply both.





That’s a tad big in my opinion. I had apartments smaller than that, but I’m not hating. 10/10, would drive it from Cape Town to Etosha.



More Camel Trophy Landies because I love Camel Trophy Landies.


I once spent four weeks in Africa in a Defender 110 and a Land Cruiser very similar to this one. I liked the Landy a lot more than the LC was a much better vehicle – cheaper to buy and maintain, more reliable, better on gas. Read my story here.


There is even an occasional Range Rover. They are pricey and complex but with air suspension and locking diffs, they are amazingly capable. Yes, there are kits that allow the stock air suspension to raise higher. Aftermarket for Range Rovers is more limited than for Land Rover Discoveries or the LR4, but not absent.



Ah, the classic Jeep Chrokee, the Miata of overland world.


That is really cool, but like many 1-ton or bigger trucks, it is limited to how far off pavement it can really go. But, if ascending a 10,000-foot mountain over a steep rocky trail is not in your plans, and you want all the comforts of your home, this is perfect.



Another option is a military trailer converted into an expedition trailer. It has a ton of space for stuff, some people add pop-out kitchenettes, and a tent up top. It reduces the stuff you carry in your rig, and perhaps the size of your rig. It allows you to setup a base camp and do day trips.

Do you have more questions about Overlanding? The below video will explain everything in a Simpson-esque of way

Overland Expo 2016 – THIS is overlanding from Exploring Overland on Vimeo.

  • Batshitbox

    The pop-up in the 3/4 ton Ford is the venerable Four Wheels Campers “Grandby” for longbed trucks. Since bed dimensions change over time, you can get a pretty good deal on a lightly used pop-up if you happen to have a 25 year old truck.
    If Unimogs are getting too expensive, there’s always the Mercedes 911 Kurzhauber.


  • boxdin

    A toyota late model 4wd carries 900 lbs in the bed, my Dakota is rated at 2100 lbs carried in the bed. There is simply no comparisn, yet I hear how wonderful toyota are. Why does toyota recall all trucks evrery few years for rusted frames? They call it; “spare tire separating form chassis”. Junk trucks.

  • Ross Ballot

    Good stuff. Love me some Expo rigs. Would have gone that route had I bought a 4Runner or JKU, but went WRX instead for a number of reasons. Next phase of life will include an off-roader.

  • outback_ute

    Very interesting Kamil. My ‘overland’ setup was a cap (aka canopy here) on my ute which easily carried all my gear and with 7′ length at the floor is long enough to sleep in. It has 126L fuel capacity (33 USgal) plus I have jerry cans if needed eg when traveling to Lake Eyre. It has about 8″ ground clearance, all-terrain LT tyres, LSD etc.

    Also, are tires sticking way past the side of the vehicle (or flares) legal??

    • Yup, no rules, whatever works for you and your budget.

      In U.S. laws like that vary by state but generally wheels shouldn’t stick out past the fenders. But the truth is that cops won’t likely bust your balls about that unless you’re doing something idiotic.