Updated: Oct 18, 2022
My first time at the premier overlanding event series in the world
This past June I received an invitation to join Toyota USA on October 7-9 for an epic camping trip with other social media creators at the Overland Expo, East edition, located at Oak Ridge Farm in Arrington, VA. I quickly blocked off my calendar as I was humbled to be offered an opportunity to represent Toyota as an ambassador at the event. Almost four months later, the event came and went, and I can say it lived up to the hype. The added bonus was that I also met some great people along the way and got lots of Toyota swag to take home with me.
If you’ve never heard of overlanding, it is “self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal. Typically, but not exclusively, it is accomplished with mechanized off-road-capable transport (from bicycles to trucks) where the principal form of lodging is camping, often lasting for extended lengths of time (months to years) and spanning international boundaries." (Source - Wikipedia)
Overland Expo is the world’s premier event series for do-it-yourself adventure travel enthusiasts. The expo typically takes place in four locations throughout the year — West Coast, East Coast, Pacific North West, and Mountain West. Spanning three days, Overland East included classes, inspirational programs, speakers, and training with people from all over the world. There was also the Overland Film Festival, roundtable discussions, demonstrations, delicious food trucks, and an extensive expo featuring several hundred vendors promoting their adventure travel equipment, camping gear, bikes, vehicles, and other services. I purchased a really cool flint fire starter from a small company and will be using it for many campfires to come.
Other than when I go hiking or camping, it's not often that I get to be surrounded by over a thousand adventurists all in one place. Overland Expo was just that, a gathering of like-minded and curious individuals hoping to learn and connect with their community. It felt incredible being immersed in an environment where everyone just wants to live their lives to live a little and see a lot. The night we arrived, Toyota hosted a Fireside Chat featuring tacos, beer, s’mores, and hot cocoa around the campfire. It was a great way to learn about the vehicles and settle into the Expo.
While at the Expo I took two classes that caught my eye — Food Storage, Preparation and Provisioning with Connie Rodman and Navigation Resources with Dean Shirley. I left the sessions having learned a few tips and tricks that I'll carry with me on future hiking or camping trips.
Toyota kindly provided me with a Tacoma Trail Edition outfitted with a Yakima rooftop tent, which sleeps two people for the drive to the Expo and to be my basecamp for the weekend. I was blown away by how comfortable and spacious the tent was, all thanks to its built-in padding. It also took under five minutes to fully set up once we parked. I'm used to having tents take at least 15 to 30 minutes to set up, so it felt like a luxury experience believe it or not. The tent was plenty spacious and it looked pretty sporty on top of the Tacoma. The only thing that took some getting used to was not being able to see out of my back window while driving because the folded tent fully blocked the view. I suppose that's what side mirrors and the backup camera were for.
I do wish that I was at a place in my life where owning one of these overlanding vehicles made sense for me. It was truly a wonderful experience camping with the Tacoma outfitted with the tent. I'm happy there are companies out there that rent overlanding setups so that people can get the feel for them before they buy. I don't typically drive a truck so it took a bit of getting used to at first, but once I got the hang of it I really enjoyed driving it through the back roads of Virginia. After the Expo, I took it for a spin to visit a new Virginia State Park so I could cross it off my list. I drove about 40 minutes from the Expo to James River State Park because I wanted to see the view from the Tye River Overlook. I got a true taste of what adventures could look like with a Toyota and I didn't want the weekend to end.
As far as event logistics go, the Expo had outdoor showers, Porta Potties, and food trucks. Camping felt a bit luxurious having the option to eat at food trucks; I for sure wasn't complaining. Although I don't have a dog, the event is dog friendly and we saw so many adorable dogs throughout the weekend. It would be a great place to bring a pup if you have one.
If you're looking to attend next year, the Weekend Pass With Vehicle Camping Package provides access for one (1) adult and one (1) vehicle to:
Weekend Pass admission to Overland Expo
On-site, rustic camping in a grassy field amongst hundreds of other overlanders;
Enjoy 120+ general activities: all demos, roundtables, slideshows, and evening films;
Shop the exhibitor midway;
Nightly happy hour events (drinks available for purchase)
Passenger tickets sold separately ($140)
There are more packages and ticketing options available online. 2023 Expo dates are coming soon!