Our Favorite Gear at Overland Expo East
If you're going to splurge on the vehicle of your dreams, best to kit it out properly
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In addition to the drool-inducing rigs we saw earlier this month at Overland Expo East in Asheville, North Carolina, there was a bevy of new gear to make living the four-wheel life even more luxurious.
Blue Ridge Expedition Trailers BRX-1 Uwharrie Package ($19,750; above)
We liked the heavy-duty steel frame, tough aluminum skin, and high 20-inch clearance suspension of this “Teardrop on Steroids” (as BRX calls it). Hand built in Lewisville, North Carolina, the camper features an instant propane hot-water shower, a compressor fridge, a full galley, and inputs for solar panels and other electronics. Inside you’ll find beautifully crafted hardwood cabinetry and a queen-size memory-foam mattress.
E-Z Over Grill ($279)
There’s a lot to like about this stainless-steel wonder grill, invented by Pennsylvania outdoorsman, stonemason, and foodie Doug Buffenmeyer. It hangs from a tripod and can be easily raised and lowered above the included coal basin—via an adjustable steel cable—for precise heating. The grate clamps down on your burgers, brats, and buns while cooking. With the clamp secured, simply rotate the entire grill to flip your food.
Kovea Dream Gas BBQ Grill ($210)
Korean brand Kovea builds a variety of tricked-out camping gear. Our favorite, though, is the butane-fueled Dream Gas BBQ. Heat is evenly distributed with a U-shaped burner, and the grill comes with three different cooking surfaces: a broad cooking pan, a grill for burgers and kabobs, and a grid assembly for pots and pans. A drip plate catches greasy runoff, and the whole package assembles and disassembles in seconds.
Topper EZ Lift Weekender ($1,995)
Pop-up campers have been with us for a while, but Topper has raised the bar by turning your existing pickup truck camper top into a pop-up. Using a system of four electric jacks set at each corner and mounted to the bed and the roof of your camper, the EZ securely lifts essentially any camper back, making it possible to jam a full load of building supplies and wood into your truck bed without taking off the camper. And with the zip-in Weekender package’s insulated and cozy tent setup (with no-see-um-rated screening to keep bugs out), you can live out your wildest Westfalia fantasies without all the breakdowns.
Flexopower Lithium 444 Power Pack ($412) and Baja 105W Solar Kit ($399)
Deploy this Flexopower combo in full sunlight and you’ll have enough power to juice everything from a laptop to a portable fridge. The solar panel kit includes a 12-volt solar controller to regulate the output. Hook it up to the Lithium 444 Power pack, a remarkably compact lithium battery system with a built-in 400-watt pure sine inverter, meaning it can run even the most sensitive electronics without frying them.
Blue Ridge Chair Works XL Deck Chair ($290)
The Blue Ridge XL deck chair is built in North Carolina with beautiful kiln-dried ash that’ll spruce up any overland setup, and the back and seat are made of burly polyester for durability. Comfortable, adjustable shoulder straps make the chair easy to tote.
Blue Ridge Overland Gear Molle Seat Back Panel ($59)
We love the handmade packs and organizers from Blue Ridge Overland. The Molle Seat Back Panel attaches to the front seat headrest and serves as a sort of docking station for Blue Ridge Overland’s myriad Molle-compatible bags and attachments—from bottle holders to tool pouches.
Opus Camper Air Opus Tent ($19,000)
How do you create a truly palatial popup camper without a ton of weight? If you’re Opus, you make all the supports inflatable. The basic trailer is not much bigger than many overlanding tow-behind rigs, but when you open it up and flip on the integrated “air pole” compressor system, you have a full-fledged eight-foot-high, 20-foot-wide backcountry palace within about 90 seconds. It’ll sleep up to six, and the annex attachment provides space for a kitchen. No cranks or rigid poles are necessary, yet it’s still strong and watertight enough to resist the blast from a firehose.
Dometic PLB 40 Power Bank ($641)
Dometic’s little power brick (available in January) is designed to provide a portable replacement for any camper’s coach battery. The PLB40 uses a new lithium iron sulfate technology, which delivers a steady 12.8 volts of power until it’s almost fully depleted. What this means for sophisticated electronics and power-sipping fridges like Dometic’s CFX 28 ($622) is that it delivers essentially as much useable power as a much larger battery. You’ll likely get more than two days of charge for your fridge via this little beast and it’ll take a reviving charge via USB, solar, or 12- or 120-volt inputs, too.
ARB Jack ($812)
ARB had a steady stream of curious onlookers during its demos of its Jack. Compared with an industry standard workhorse like the Hi-Lift 48 (32 pounds, 7,000-pound capacity), ARB’s jack (28 pounds, 4,409-pound capacity) is indeed pricey. But it’s also more compact and, with its simple design, is incredibly easy to deploy, raise, and lower. We were also impressed with a blow-off valve that keeps the Jack from exceeding its recommended capacity, and a lifting handle which is much, much shorter than the extended jawbreaker on the Hi-Lift (no accidental concussion-inducing releases). The Jack will lift your Land Rover to an impressive 48 inches.
Kinsmen Hardware 270-Degree Awning ($1,499)
Tough as they come, this freestanding North Carolina–built shelter bolts securely to the roof of your van, car, or camper and deploys in about 30 seconds to give an amazing swath of protection from the elements. We were impressed with its thick and solidly stitched marine-grade fabric, which is attached to a tubular-steel frame via durable brass and stainless-steel fittings. Kinsmen’s inventors say it will hold up under a few inches of snow or 35-mile-per-hour winds.
Ural Gear Up Sidecar Motorcycle ($16,500)
Want to know what handled really well in the calf-deep mud pit that was Reeb Ranch during Overland Expo East? A two-wheel-drive motorcycle. The Gear Up’s drive-shaft-powered sidecar wheel engages on the fly to give this mini overland machine gobs of traction. We love the sidecar’s spacious trunk, and the Gear Up’s low-maintenance, fuel-injected, air-cooled motor is basically a Russian version of BMW’s venerable boxer engine. It’s not cheap, but it’ll carry you and a friend from Siberia clear to Calais.