2013 Overland Expo

Have eight-lug truck will travel

Gary Wescott
Jan 23, 2014
Photographers: Monika Wescott
When we think of trucks, we think of travel, but an eight-lug heavy-duty truck is not a Jeep. You probably won’t get your Ford F-350, Ram 3500, or shiny 1-ton GMC over the Rubicon or the Dusy-Ershim trails without considerable damage. Big trucks are not meant for rockcrawling in Moab, but realistic adventures for fullsize trucks are practically limitless beyond the paved roads of the world.
As we wandered through the aisles of tents, campers, fuel cans, cook sets, camp chairs, jacks, and winches at this year’s Overland Expo (overlandexpo.com), we saw every imaginable type of equipment one might need for what is being called “Overland Travel.” The outfield behind the Mormon Lake Lodge and campground a few miles south of Flagstaff, Arizona, looked like a high-tech refugee camp. What is the Overland Expo all about?
First, it was a learning experience. Classes and seminars included everything from how to travel with kids and dogs to how to pack a motorcycle to hands-on off-pavement driving techniques -- and even how to repair a ripped sidewall on a tire when the only other option is to walk 20 miles. It was also a gathering of like minds, sharing experiences and ideas about overland travel. For the newcomers and the dreamers, it was inspiration. For those of us already addicted to Overland Travel, it was reinforcement that we had taken the road less traveled and were not alone.
"Perhaps as much as anything, it was about vehicles, most of which were trucks. Without a truck, or a motorcycle if you prefer, overland travel becomes backpacking."
Perhaps as much as anything, it was about vehicles, most of which were trucks. Without a truck, or a motorcycle if you prefer, overland travel becomes backpacking. What occurred to us as we looked at the options was that the purpose of owning a truck had come full circle, back to what it might have been 30 years ago -- before toy-haulers, rockcrawlers, and vehicles that you had to tow on a trailer to the trailhead. Back when a truck was used to go camping and get away from the crowds. As the world has become ever smaller and interconnected, many of us have ventured beyond the borders of countries and even continents. What was once considered nearly impossible -- like driving to the tip of South America or across Africa -- has become commonplace. Guidebooks cover every road and beach, and GPS maps reduce the entire globe to chips the size of a postage stamp. Internet and satellite phones bring us together at the push of a button.
This is not to say you need to buy a $300,000 German Unicat or fully outfitted XP Camper. Many just use what they own and slowly outfit it to meet their personal needs and comfort levels. Rooftop tents on any type of truck or SUV are an affordable alternative. Of the photos you can peruse through here, you can bet that if you see anything that’s not on at least a 1-ton truck, it’s probably overloaded. Overland travel is for everyone. You don’t need to drive around the world, though many of us are. A week in the mountains or the desert is a good starting place.
As you read this and think about the many possibilities of Overland Travel, The Turtle Expedition has started on The Trans-Eurasian Odyssey, driving our F-550 from Lisbon, Portugal to Shanghai, China through 26 countries and following the legendary Silk Road -- an adventure we expect will take at least three years. If you can’t leave just yet, follow us at turtleexpedition.com
Photo 20/20   |   With a custom-built camper by GXV, the owner of this new Unimog U500 was already having concerns about the height of the vehicle.

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