The potential for heavy rain and winds from a coastal hurricane might be enough to cancel some fall events. But when that event is Overland Expo, a gathering of dedicated overland travelers and the companies that support them, those conditions simply become evaluation tools for shoppers seeking out the best protection from the elements.
While Hurricane Matthew was making landfall in Florida and along the Georgia and Carolina coasts, overland fans were several hundred miles inland in Asheville, North Carolina, taking in the third annual Overland Expo East, held October 7-9. Despite the potential for a very wet and windy weekend, conditions remained bearable, with light rain on Friday and occasional strong winds on Saturday and Sunday.
The first two East Coast editions of the popular Overland Expo have taken place near Asheville at Taylor Ranch, but this year’s event moved to a more prestigious venue, the Biltmore Estate, which is also home to the Land Rover Experience center for North America. The expansive grounds proved to be a fantastic setting for the couple-thousand visitors and campers that attended the Expo over those three days, with most of the event’s activities taking place in the lowland fields just off the banks of the French Broad River.
Nearly 100 vendors from around the country showed off everything from tents and off-road trailers to camp furniture and motorcycles. Overland travel authors shared a tent where they were available to sign books and talk to fans. Throughout each of the days, attendees could sign up for lectures, demonstrations and workshops covering a range of adventure travel topics ranging from knife sharpening to extreme vehicle recovery.
Members of Land Rover’s Camel Trophy team were on hand for numerous training exercises, sharing their experience with countless fans who probably never though they’d have a chance to meet these real-life heroes, let along work alongside them. Nearby, Raw Hyde Adventures was training motorcyclists in off-road riding and recovery skills.
Taking advantage of Land Rover’s on-site driving school and its experienced off-road instructors, drivers had a chance to get behind the wheel of new Land Rover vehicles and put them through their paces on a series of trails cut through the Biltmore’s woods. If driving a new Land Rover wasn’t an attractive enough offer, participants were invited to bring their own off-road vehicles up to the trail and receive some coaching from the team.
A very family-friendly event, there were numerous activities specifically for kids, as well as women-focused seminars. What appeared to be several hundred attendees chose to camp on-site in the designated camping areas adjacent to the show grounds. Clusters of similar vehicles congregated throughout the grounds, as evidenced by several “Camp Land Rover” locations. Camping arrangements spanned the gamut from the expected rooftop tents on expedition-ready SUVs to fully-fitted Unimogs to, of all things, a Piper Cherokee airplane fuselage converted to a trailer.
After a successful third year on the East Coast, we look forward to Overland Expo East 2017 and sincerely hope it returns to the Biltmore.