We are super excited and extremely humbled to be a part of the programing at Overland Expo 2019 WEST. If you don’t know what Overland Expo is, start HERE.
OX is the premier overlanding event in North America with shows in Flagstaff, AZ and on the East Coast at a new, all-weather venue in Fall 2019. Overland Expo attracts hundreds of vendors from the overlanding segment, hundreds of world-travelers telling their stories, and thousands of attendees coming to learn new skills, buy new gear, and meet lifelong friends.
We are really pumped that we will both be involved in programs available in the Overland Experience class schedule and a roundtable that is available to all attendees. Our roundtable discussion is with two other traveling couples Matt & Amie of The Traveling Together Journal and Marisa and Tim of Notiers’s Frontiers. Both couples have done some serious traveling and we look forward to hanging out and chatting about our challenges and experiences living full-time on the road.
Rachael will be teaching a couple of yoga classes geared toward traveling. In “No Mat Yoga”, Rachael will be walking the class through a yoga flow that is designed to relieve some of the issues that come from spending long days in the truck or on the bike. Often times a yoga mat takes up too much room to bring along, so this entire flow will be sans yoga mat.
Her second class, “Recovery Yoga” will focus on relaxing and relieving tension that can often arise after a long day on the trail. The stretch-intensive flow will be beginner friendly and doable for even the least flexible of the EXPO crowd (her husband included). Vehicles aren’t the only ones that need recovery!
Overland Expo is a great place to meet new friends, try out that roof top tent you have been shopping for, and learn new skills to make your time on the road that much better. Tickets are for sale HERE now!
We had just walked out of the Grand Canyon after a 5-day backpacking trip through some of the most beautiful canyon-country in the world. Surely, whatever activity we picked to occupy our time in Flagstaff following the bucket-list hike of a lifetime would be a dud, right? Wrong. Overland Expo West would prove to be an excellent experience as a volunteer and as an attendee.
Expo West, as it is called around the event headquarters in Fort Tuthill County Park, is the premier overlanding expo event in the country.
What is overlanding? The best way that we have been able to describe overlanding to folks that ask is: it’s just like backpacking, only with a truck, van, or other off-road capable vehicle instead of your feet.
Tens of thousands of 4×4’ers, motorcycle explorers, and weird adventurers like us flock to Flagstaff, Arizona for a 3-day event full of specialized training, trip report films and presentations, and overland experiences that include a Land Rover Driving Course. On top of all of that, nearly 400 vendors from the outdoors industry swarm the county park to showcase their newest products and offer show-discounts on a lot of great gear.
Before the show can begin, volunteers and staff show up to the enormous county park as early as Sunday (Mother’s Day, mind you) to begin setting up the event. Goodie bags needed to be stuffed and booths needed to be staked out and marked to ensure that all of the exhibitors have a spot to display their newest and grandest gear. The rest of the week carries on this way to coordinate signage, parking, camping, and food vendor locations. We were amazed at the amount of man-power and resources that goes into making this event a success.
Wednesday before the event was capped off with a “Cool Ride Contest”, a sort of fan-favorite vote of a few overlanding vehicles on display in Downtown Flagstaff, followed by a pub-crawl of local breweries being served in the various outdoor stores in Flag. Wednesday was a fun night where we also met Jordan and Candice from @beoldlater. These two are traveling in their built out Delica 4×4 van from British Columbia to who knows where. They are both super talented and if you don’t already follow them, you should.
While we are on the topic of the amazing people that you can meet at events like this you should also follow Noah and Amalie (@hella_mello, @anamalie; Destined for Lateness). These two are the real deal and are traveling North America in their Toyota T-100. Another fantastic couple that we ran into at Expo West was Amie and Matt (@the_traveling_together_journal) they are seasoned overland travelers that have a great YouTube Channel documenting their travels and their interactions with other overlanders around the globe. Back to the show.
Once everything is perfect (emphasis added, nothing is perfect in large event planning), the show can begin on Friday morning. Thousands flock to the park for classes, demonstrations, and to spend their money on roof-top tents, new coolers, or recovery gear to get themselves unstuck out in the wild.
The weekend flew by as we checked attendees in at HQ, helped direct parking, and even emptied some trash cans. If it sounds like work, it’s because it is. In exchange for volunteering, however, we were given free admission to the event, all sorts of freebies, and a place to camp for a few days. It is a great deal! The majority of staff that we volunteered with were knowledgeable of their field, helpful and friendly, and most were very fun people that we were very happy to have met. A lot of them have been a part of the event for a long time, some since its inception, and it shows.
Long story short, we can’t wait to be a part of Overland Expo again! The same folks host Overland Expo East in Asheville, NC in November and we are making moves now to be a part of that event as well. We want to send a huge thank you to Cyan Samone for being one of the better volunteer coordinators that either of us has ever worked with. Cyan was always friendly, upbeat, and very informative and helpful throughout the entire week. Another huge thanks go out to Roseann Hanson for founding and directing such a fun and unique event. There is not an event like this in the country that we have found.
If you are interested in being a part of Overland Expo in any capacity, your best bet is to start at the Overland Expo Website. If you are going to be in the Flagstaff or Asheville area before, during, or after one of the Expo events, we highly encourage you to volunteer. It will be well worth your time. In the meantime between events, we will continue to scour Instagram and drool over the coverage from this year’s event until we can make it to the next one.
We had a ball in Arizona! From backpacking in the Grand Canyon for 5 days to volunteering at a massively cool event (Overland Expo), to mountain biking amongst the ponderosa pines in Flagstaff, we had a blast. Flagstaff was one of the first towns in the West that we have visited that we both agreed could be a future “home base” for our adventures. The abundance of free camping is one of the reasons that we felt so comfortable with the area. Below are our picks for top camping spots in Arizona:
Grand Canyon Forest Service Rd. 328
GPS: 35.98789, -112.12556
Don’t pay for camping in the National Park! This Forest Service road is just before the South entrance of Grand Canyon National Park and is an easy drive back into the woods. There are hundreds of spots on many different roads and plenty of firewood if the burn ban ever lets up.
With this much free camping available this close to the National Park there are bound to be some rude people that don’t appreciate free spots, but the farther back you go, the less you see them. We had two quiet nights here in late-April.
This camp site was a perfect staging site for our weeklong backpacking trip into the canyon. The National Park is only about 5-minutes away and the road in and out is extremely easy to drive.
Coconino Forest Service- Shultz Pass Rd. 553
GPS: 35.355505, -111.589746
Visit the little-known National Monuments North of Flagstaff, AZ and enjoy free camping ACROSS THE STREET! We parked here and road out bikes to the Sunset Crater National Monument and it made for a good day. The park is super interesting and there are a ton of pullouts for all sizes of rigs and even tents.
Flagstaff is a dark sky city and the stars were amazing looking out toward the San Francisco Peaks. We really enjoyed the privacy and seclusion of this site compared to some others in Flag.
Coconino Forest Service Rd. 535
GPS: 35.045561, -111.754196
Looking for an escape from Flagstaff on your way to Sedona? This is the perfect stop for you. There are hundreds of spots along this forest service road that seems to go back forever. We camped at the top of the second hill and were very happy with our experience.
There were traces of elk all through our camp and a short hike up revealed a great view of the valley below leading to Sedona. Rigs of all sizes can find a spot here. The farther you drive away from the road, the better the spots get. Be sure and park at least 500 yards from the small pond near the road, this is a forestry pond for the elk population restoration efforts. They will ask you to move.
Walnut Canyon BLM
GPS: 35.175436, -111.488306
If you are visiting the Walnut Canyon National Monument or are just getting into town on I-40 from the East, this is a good stop to prepare for a good time in Flagstaff. These spots are nothing special and most are just off of the dirt road, so during the day dust and noise can get a little rowdy. At night it was quiet and we slept well despite our proximity to the Interstate.
We saw several coyotes and birds and stayed here two nights. We would definitely stay here again.
Coconino Forest Service A-1 Mountain Rd.
GPS: 35.201236, -111.738389
This road was packed with people camping during the week in May 2018. We simply kept driving until we found a spot. We had great views of the San Francisco Peaks and amazing stars at night. It was very quiet at night and the only complaint we had was some broken glass, which unfortunately is common on Forest Service roads.
There are spots for rigs of all sizes and the road was in decent enough shape, with some wash board. We would definitely stay here again.
Coconino Forest Service- Snowbowl Road
GPS: 35.292032, -111.677885
This is a rough road that is quite a distance from town. We are travelling in a 24-foot 2WD school bus and it took us roughly 45 minutes to make it from downtown Flagstaff to our campsite and we didn’t even drive to the deepest campsites. If you need to escape town for a bit, this site is perfect. It is near the ski area and the site was quiet and flat.
It seems that the 4WD roads go around the mountain in all directions as well as some very good mountain biking like Moto Trail and Shultz Creek Loop.
Welch Forest Service Road
Ash Fork, AZ
GPS: 35.217747, -112.377663
This campsite can be as adventurous as you are. There are a lot of spots for big rigs right off of the Interstate and you can explore deeper into the woods for a smaller, more private spot. Keep in mind that the southbound boundary that seems to connect on Google Maps, ends in a dead end and doesn’t connect to the Interstate. You want to exit the same place that you enter.
The road noise was minimal and there are plenty of level sites. Sheep are open-range farmed in this area, so be on the lookout for 1000 sheep that seem to go where they want.
Regardless of where you want to be in Arizona, our travels should give you a decent starting point for your adventures in Flagstaff and beyond. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to subscribe to our e-mail list on the right sidebar of this page; we don’t spam you, we just let you know when an article has published or when we have information we think you might want. As always, follow us on Facebook and Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube Channel…You’re the best!