Editor’s Picks: Best Gear from Overland Expo East

October 17, 2019 by Amanda Ellis, @WanderRedFox

Overland Expo East is the premier event for off-road and adventure travel in the eastern U.S. The event took place at Infinity Downs in Arrington, Va., backdropped by picturesque, rolling, blue hills. Expo East showcased the latest overlanding gear from more than 150 vendors. Established and emerging brands aligned amid a display of drool-worthy DIY and company-outfitted adventure rigs.

The event included a weekend of camping, educational programs, and the latest vehicles and accessories. Brands demoed an impressive array of rooftop tents, camper trailers and conversion vans. Trucks.com spent two days exploring the expo to compile our picks of some of the event’s best gear.

Best Vehicle Extraction Accessory: Go Treads

Go Treads Vehicle Extraction Accessory

Why we picked it: Go Treads are tire traction mats that also function as recovery boards and leveling blocks. Compared with the commonplace, rigid extraction products, Go Treads fold up into a compact package you can carry inside your vehicle.

Go Treads offer traction in mud, sand or snow and require no tools for use or assembly. The product’s high-grade polypropylene copolymer construction allows for use in temperatures down to minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit. A 9-inch wheel track lined with patented arched grooves keeps the tool in place under heavy loads. The brand claims GoTreads function beneath the weight of a fully loaded semi-truck and work for smaller vehicles.

We had the opportunity to test the product at the Expo after forgetting our own boards at home. The Go Treads were easy to unfold, position and drive onto. They effectively self-centered and leveled our Ford Transit 250 campervan, providing 4 inches of lift when fully folded. One pair retails for $120.

Best Camper Trailer: Black Series HQ12

HQ 12 Black Series Camper Trailer

Why we picked it: Black Series’ HQ12 is the company’s most compact model, targeted at weekend warriors and serious off-roaders. The HQ12 features the revolutionary independent suspension sported by the brand’s larger trailers and a more streamlined construction. A unique pop-top design gives added interior space, while its smaller dimensions make for easier towing and storage.

The 12-foot camper fits a family of four and incorporates familiar Black Series amenities, including an interior kitchen, toilet and shower. Its flagship rugged exterior complements modular components like the pop-up roof, outdoor kitchen and an awning. The HQ12 retails for $40,000.

Best Budget Camper Trailer: Hiker Trailer

Hiker Trailer

Why we picked it: Hiker Trailer claims to offer the world’s most affordable teardrop trailers. The base models range from the Highway Basic to the Extreme Off-Road Deluxe in varying sizes with plenty of customization options.

The midrange Hiker Highway Deluxe model features a 2,000-pound frame, leaf spring axles and a 17-inch rear galley. Customization options include the number of doors and windows, cabinet packages and camping accessories like roof racks, awnings and fenders. The 4-by-8-foot Highway Deluxe base model starts at $3,700.

Best Camp Kitchen Accessory: The Omnia Oven

Omnia Oven

Why we picked it: The Omnia Oven is a simple, lightweight stovetop oven with Swedish origins. It’s touted as a game-changer for those who live and eat on the road. The Omnia Oven makes otherwise impossible meals easy to cook on a stovetop — including fresh-baked bread, pizza, cake and brownies.

The product features an aluminum ring baking pan that sits on a round steel base with an interior silicone liner and a lid. Its conical design allows it to function as an oven by drawing heat up through the middle hole and warming the contents from the top down. The base is traditionally heated at the same time, resulting in the even heating you’d expect from an oven — without an oven’s bulk or weight. The Omnia Oven measures 9.8 inches by 5.5 inches, weighs just over one pound, and costs $67.

Best Overlanding Accessory: National Luna Legacy Series

National Luna Legacy refrigerator

Why we picked it: There are tons of portable refrigeration options on the market, but National Luna’s Legacy series caught our eye. Unlike other brands, National Luna fridges are metal inside and out — including a stainless-steel exterior and aluminum interior. Metal allows for the injection of denser foam, resulting in more effective insulation and maximized interior space.

While traditional plastic fridges feature a separate “refrigeration plate,” National Luna integrates copper cooling piping to create an even temperature throughout the interior. An advanced compressor system boasts an automatic shutoff feature that makes for a lower power draw than competitors. Legacy models range from 40-liter to 125-liter capacity, with dual control and separate fridge/freezer compartment options. The newest 52-liter single-compartment model retails for $995.

Best Rooftop Tent: Bundutec BunduTop

Bundutec BunduTop Rooftop Tent

Why we picked it: The unique BunduTop is an open-air-style rooftop tent that allows for 360-degree views and interior access. The aluminum shell provides durability and mounting versatility. With the push of a button, a 2,000-pound winch motor lifts and lowers the tent using a Dyneema rope on a pulley system. The large doors and windows are canvas on the outside and mesh on the inside, providing for adequate weather protection and ventilation.

BunduTop rooftop tents come in three sizes. Each tent includes a high-density foam mattress, aluminum sliding ladder, two interior pockets, a cigarette lighter plug and interior LED light. A standard-sized BunduTop costs $3,775.

Best Off-Roading Accessory: The onX Off-Road App

onX Off Road App

Why we picked it: You can forgo purchasing that expensive navigation device. The onX Off-Road app turns your phone into the premier off-road mapping tool for finding trails and marking custom waypoints. The app is designed for motorized enthusiasts of all kinds, allowing you to select your ride and view relevant accessible trails.

It functions by allowing you to pre-download maps from more than 958 million acres of public lands, including 240,000-plus miles of trails. OnX uses your phone’s GPS when you’re out of cell service to provide you with full-detail satellite imagery of your downloaded maps, highlighting trail technical difficulty, open/close dates, nearby campsites, points of interest, fuel stations and local weather conditions.

The onX Off-Road app provides access to an unlimited number of maps and waypoints, including hunting-, fishing- and hiking-specific features. Membership is required and costs $3.99 per month or $29.99 per year. The app is available for Android and expected to launch for iOS in December.

Best Adventure Accessory: Kokopelli Recon Packraft

Kokopelli Recon Packraft

Why we picked it: For 2019, Kokopelli debuted the Recon pack raft — the latest in its aggressive Whitewater Series. The Recon boasts a 210 Diamond-Ripstop Nylon inflatable floor and integrated seat — touted as the toughest material on the market to date.

The Recon features the same shape as the brand’s original Whitewater Series Nirvanas. The pack raft is self-bailing and weighs 18 pounds. The Kokopelli Recon starts at $900.

Ryan ZumMallen July 19, 2019
Rooftop tents, portable GPS guides and high-class cooking tools provided a touch of luxury on a 140-mile off-road adventure through the Mojave National Preserve.

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