FLAGSTAFF, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Thousands of off-road vehicle camping fans descended on Flagstaff over the weekend for Overland Expo West 2019. It is the largest gathering of vehicle-based campers in the country.
Attendees took classes in off-road driving, listened to lectures about camping and wandered through a maze of hundreds of exhibits, which included deck-out vehicles and the equipment that turns them into self-contained homes away from home.
"Mine is a 1979 BJ 40," said Steve Ploog, standing next to his vintage Toyota Landcruiser. Ploog says he is driving his vehicle to Panama this week, as part his work with his non-profit, The Clean Cruiser Project.
"We'll be planting over 1,000 trees, and we're using bio-diesel blends (to power the vehicles)," said Ploog.
Overlanding, as it is called by vehicle-based campers, emphasizes ethical camping, which includes leaving behind no trace of garbage and sticking to areas that are open to vehicles.
It is also a growing hobby and lifestyle, which has opened a new market to new and established companies that cater to people who like to be "ready for anything" while traveling.
Exhibits included vehicles, tools, tires, rooftop tents, and steel bumpers. Every vendor had an adventure story, from the folks at Pelican talking about how their new ice chest survived a Grizzly bear attack for 60 minutes, to John Marshall from Moab-based Coyote Adventure describing how his Unimog U500 handled the winter on the beach on Padre Island.