The Best Gear at Overland Expo Mountain West, from Tool Rolls to Shower Wipes
Seven pieces of gear to upgrade any adventure rig
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It’s been a while since we got to roam the booths and gawk at the incredible rigs featured at Overland Expo, one of our favorite annual trade shows. Thankfully, the Expo series is back in full swing this year, with three shows happening across the country. The events bring together overland-vehicle builders and enthusiasts looking to buy their next adventuremobile, and they never fail to spur ideas on how to make current ones better.
If you’re into adventure rigs, the expo can be overwhelming—your head feels like it’s on a swivel for the duration of the weekend, and just when you think you’ve seen all there is to see, you find something else to drool over.
Last month’s event in Loveland, Colorado, was the first Overland Expo Mountain West, and while it was considerably smaller than the flagship Overland Expo West that takes place each year in Flagstaff, Arizona, there was still plenty to admire. Instead of focusing on the coolest rigs at the venue, I went on a search for the best new gear that will work for anyone, no matter what kind of setup you’ve got. Here are of my favorite finds.
Dometic Go Collection ($80 and Up)
You likely know Dometic for its excellent powered coolers (I’ve run the CFX3 55IM in my camper for years), but the brand is stepping up its camping and outdoor-living game even more. The Dometic Go collection includes furniture, storage solutions, lighting, and a fantastic hydration system, all designed to make packing for camp and staying out longer easier.
Dometic’s camp table ($200), chair ($150), and bench ($100) seem incredibly sturdy but fold down small enough to fit into the trunk of a car. There’s even a personal 12-volt camp heater ($80) that can double as a seat heater if your vehicle doesn’t have one. The new Pac H50 Hard Storage aluminum case ($150) houses removable, soft-sided inserts to help keep your gear organized and protected, and you can even get an insulated one if you want to keep snacks cool on the drive. The collection will be available in spring 2022.
Dometic Hydration Jug and Water Faucet ($70 and $100)
The hydration-jug and water-faucet combo is the crown jewel of the Dometic Go collection, and I think it deserves its own mention. Here’s why: when it comes to camp comfort, the two biggest game changers are refrigeration and running water. After playing hard in the outdoors all day, coming back to enjoy these two simple necessities goes leaps and bounds toward feeling like a human. This pairing makes such comforts more accessible to everyone.
The faucet has a built-in, rechargeable battery that powers the pump, an LED light for nighttime use, and a magnetic base that allows it to adhere to other surfaces. That means you can turn the back of your car into a mobile kitchen and have running water for washing your hands, dishes, or whatever else wherever you are—no hand-pumping needed—just by tapping the top of the faucet. It pairs with the 11-liter hydration water jug, which is easy to pack (it’ll fit behind your vehicle’s wheel well) and carry to the campsite. Two openings help facilitate easy cleaning.
Steelhouse Fabrication Culinary Module ($2,419)
The Overland Expo shows aren’t just about looking at new camper and adventure-rig options; they’re also a great resource for DIY-oriented folks to generate ideas on how to build out their own rig. Steelhouse Fabrication, a new company out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is aiming to make building out your own camping trailer or Sprinter van easier than ever with its innovative line of camp-kitchen modules. The concept is simple: buy a 6-by-12-foot cargo trailer, then purchase one of Steelhouse’s Culinary units and $650 dinette sleeper, and you’ve effectively got a fully outfitted camper for less than $8,000. In a world of $30,000 teardrop trailers and $80,000 off-road travel trailers, that’s an incredible bargain.
The Culinary module is designed to be completely modular, and it’s easily removable should you need to use your cargo trailer for hauling. It can hold up to five gallons of fresh and gray water, utilize a 56- or 100-amp-hour lithium battery, 90-watt solar panel, and a 1,500-watt inverter; it also has a sink, LED lighting, two or three shelves, and USB charging ports and outlets, depending on how you configure it. If you’re looking to build your own camper and you’re on a budget, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better or simpler turnkey solution.
Pakmule Bike Bit ($85 and Up)
We’ve written about Pakmule before, and the benefits of carrying extra gear behind your rig versus up on a roof: it’s more convenient, keeps your center of gravity lower, and lets you haul heavy stuff like firewood or a loaded cooler.
The problem with a hitch-mounted carrier like Pakmule’s is that you can’t use a hitch-mounted bike rack—but the Bike Bit changes that. It’s a welded, fork-style mount that attaches to the Pakmule and lets you load bikes directly on it. There are options for road or mountain bikes, and you can fit up to four at a time. The real beauty of it, though, is that you don’t have to choose between carrying a cooler and bikes, and with some creative arranging, you can haul all of your gear down low via your vehicle’s hitch, where it belongs.
OnX Off Road Premium ($30 per Year)
Chances are you already use some kind of mapping app for human-powered adventures like mountain biking or hiking, but OnX Off Road is the best navigation app I’ve used that’s specifically for off-road driving. When you open the app, a Nearby Trails section pops up and lists various options in your area, along with a technical rating and detailed information.
While it’s not brand-new, the company recently added 3D mapping features to its desktop site and for iOS users, which is incredibly helpful when you’re planning your route and trying to visualize what a trail will look like. (I learned that firsthand while en route to Overland Expo Mountain West this year, driving trails in the mountains while towing my teardrop trailer.)
Shower Pouch (Five for $25)
One of the most popular pieces of gear at Overland Expo wasn’t a part for your rig but a giant wipe for cleaning yourself at camp. Credit the 90-plus-degree heat and dusty campground for making it so popular at the show, but anyone who’s taken a “shower” with baby wipes in the past will appreciate the Shower Pouch.
Its size—two feet by one feet—means you can wash hard-to-reach places, like the middle of your back, and wipe your whole body down with just one cloth. It also has several fancy ingredients, like witch hazel water, organic white willow bark extract, and tea tree leaf oil, to leave you feeling refreshed and smelling good at the end of a long day. And the Shower Pouch is reusable; its makers suggest throwing it in the washing machine when you get home and then reimagining it as a cloth to wash your dishes, clean your car, or anything else you can think of.
Step 22 Gear Pangolin Tool Roll ($145)
If you’re not familiar with Step 22 Gear, the brand makes some of the nicest bags and organizational tools for overlanding and general adventure travel that I’ve ever used. Its booth was full of cool products, but my favorite is the Pangolin tool roll. I’ve been testing it for the past several months, and it’s become one of the essential items I keep in my truck at all times.
Made from 1,000-denier nylon, it’s built to last; better yet, it ensures that all my tools can be found in the same place. That proved useful at the expo when my camper’s awning bent from severe wind and I needed to fix it quickly. At 2.4 pounds, this tool roll is lighter than a standard toolbox, and all of its pouches and organizational units are modular, so you can customize it depending on what tools you want to carry.