A Look Back at the Trucks and Campers of Overland Expo West 2019

Overlanding is about the journey. It’s about traveling to new places to experience different views, foods, and cultures while creating memories that will last a lifetime. Yet, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s also about the trucks. Yes, yes, I know we’re never supposed to acknowledge the dirty truth that many of us modify our trucks because we like to, and not necessarily because we need to, but there it is. If Ben Coombs can travel the world in a TVR, we certainly can’t pretend we need a lifted 4WD to do the same. At the end of the day we are automotive enthusiasts, and we choose to purchase and modify our vehicles to go further in greater comfort than would otherwise be possible, and that’s part of the reason we love Overland Expo. In addition to the amazing people and training you’ll find at the event, it’s undeniably the place to check out new vehicles and products. This year was certainly no exception, so we’ve decided to look back at a few of the countless rigs we saw while roaming around Flagstaff.

One of the first vehicles to catch our eye was Go Fast Camper’s (GFC) Raptor. This was partly due to the fact that it was right next to our booth, but mainly because of the fantastic retro paint job. It’s a far cry from your traditional overland vehicle, but perfect for having fun and hammering out miles on week-long trips through backcountry. Learn more about GFC here. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum were New Legend 4×4’s Terrables, a wonderfully honest collection of trucks that we feel are awesome in their own right. Rusted, thrown together, and still running strong, they’re an escape from the expensive and polished vehicles Overland Expo often leads us to believe we need. Toss in a sleeping bag and a six-pack of cold drinks, and you’re good to go.

Plenty of vehicles made waves this year, but none quite so much as the Rivian R1T concept we covered here. For Overland Expo, it was sporting a special Tepui tent, all-terrain tires, a roof rack with plenty of accessories, and even a slide-out kitchen powered off the truck’s battery. Because there’s no motor under the hood, a Dometic fridge was installed there as well. Why not, right?

Even though the truck was met with some mixed opinions, I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with the design, fit and finish, and capability. While they’re still a ways off from production, I hope we see one out on the trail someday soon.

 

There was no shortage of wedge-style campers this year. We spotted numerous examples from Alu-Cab, AT Overland, Go Fast Campers, Vagabond Outdoors and Snap! Outfitters. These practical and relatively affordable solutions are becoming exceedingly popular, and with comfortable beds, a living quarters, and dry storage space it’s easy to understand why.

 

There were still plenty of rooftop tents floating around, often mounted to some very cool vehicles. Here are a few of our favorite combinations.

The Leitner Designs bed rack systems have become exceedingly popular thanks to their quality and modularity, so we were stoked to see them with options for the new Gladiator at the show.  It was sporting a James Baroud tent, Leitner storage boxes, and several fuel cans which fit the white Rubicon splendidly. Even so, the Wayout concept from Jeep still stole the show.

We’ve always loved the Mitsubishi Montero, but Roaming Lost’s build is simply exceptional. It’s clean, with carefully chosen quality parts like a Warn winch, Fifteen52 wheels wrapped in Cooper STT Pros, and a low profile rack with hard-shell tent. They better not leave it unattended, or we just might steal it.

We were stoked to see Yakima out at the Expo with their Outpost HD bed rack and updated rooftop tent. I had the chance to check this system out recently, which requires no drilling and can be taken on and off the vehicle with relative ease. Learn more at Yakima’s website here. 

I can’t forget about this build, which was one of my favorite Tundras in the event. The dark gray and black combination looks stellar with the GFC roof tent, and gives us the itch to get out on an adventure.

One of our favorite vehicles was definitely the Goose Gear F-350 with the 50Ten camper/flatbed combo on the back. This system is lightweight, modular, offers plenty of storage, and more living space than many comparable options. The mattress is cradled by a suspension system which cushions sleepers and isolates movement, preventing partners from disturbing each other at night. The width of the flatbed tucks behind the cab so it won’t drag on obstacles or tree branches, but the open floor plan gives the cabin a ton of living space—enough to move around, work, or cook even with the bed deployed. Goose Gear is the current distributor for this camper, and you can learn more on their website here. 

Defenders are slow and uncomfortable vehicles, right? Well, not this one. Heritage Driven’s show truck this year packed a Corvette LS motor, frame-off restoration, and as usual an interior so quiet and comfortable you’d swear it was a brand new Land Rover.

The off-road trailer industry has been flush with repeats and copies of designs for some time now, but every now and then we get something new and refreshing, and this year it came from Overkill campers. While we haven’t tested either of their models to know how they perform, the concept of a space-efficient insulated trailer that weighs as little as 1,100 pounds really resonated with us. They can be customized to fit each customer’s needs, are made in Bend, Oregon, and were more than comfortable enough to spend time in. I will say that there was room for improvement in the bed liner coating along the tongue, but for the most part, I was impressed by what I saw. Check them out online here. 

 

People like to give 4Runner owners a hard time on Instagram for “driving minivans,” but at Overland Expo, you can find actual off-road minivans like this lifted Sienna.

Four-Wheel Campers had a strong presence as usual, but I was surprised to find that one of my favorite builds was probably the cheapest. Behind the ZR2s, Tacomas, F-250s, and Rams was an old square-body Silverado with a vintage camper. It may not get the best fuel economy, but this would be the one I’d take home. Okay, that or maybe Bound for Nowhere’s tundra with a flatbed camper. Can you blame me?

We can’t talk about cool builds without mention Nissan’s trucks for this event, especially the one they donated to the Grand Canyon Conservancy along with a matching Black Series trailer. This 2019 Titan XD Pro-4X is equipped with a 5.6-liter gas V-8, locking differential,  a 3-inch Icon suspension system, 35-inch Nitto tires, and Method 702 wheels. The frame was extended to handle the custom CM Truck Bed which houses all the gear needed for extended trips around the canyon including a 55-gallon auxiliary fuel tank, Miller EnPak welder, and an air compressor and generator. Other upgrades include a Leitner designs bed rack, Warn winch, Baja Designs lights mounted on a Rhino-Rack, an Addictive Desert Designs front bumper, and a CVT hard-shell tent.

The Ultimate Parks Titan will be used to assist the organization’s Canyon Field School, a partnership between Grand Canyon Conservancy and the National Park Service that offers unique opportunities for youth to experience the great outdoors in the heights and depths of Grand Canyon National Park.

 

Vanlife was strong this year, with great options for people looking to buy ready-to-roll campers down to bumpers and armor for existing platforms. Here’s a look at just a fraction of the vans we saw.

Maltec once again blew us away with some amazing imported vehicles. They brought a 200 like before, but this time they were also showing off a gorgeous Mercedes G-Wagen and a Land Cruiser troop carrier, each with a pop-top and full camper interior.
Nitro Gear and Just Differentials brought an incredible Troopy to the show as well, and I must admit it was my favorite Land Cruiser at the event. This fully restored diesel Toyota is an original Trakka camper from Australia and was completely redone with a full driveline rebuild, new paint, seals, tent, and interior. The camper interior was completed by Goose Gear, with Scheel-Mann seats in the front and a slew of choice accessories. Look for a thorough feature on this truck soon.

 

We’ve saved two of the crowd favorites for last, Buckstop’s Travelall and AEV’s Chevy Bison Tray bed. The Travelall nails that classic style and patina with modern bumpers and a limited edition Warn winch that couldn’t be a more perfect fit. If this truck had a vintage Airstream behind it, we might die and go to classic 4×4 heaven. The Bison, on the other hand, is a perfect complement, modern and fast yet still utilitarian and ready for any adventure you throw at it. The two couldn’t be more different, yet somehow similar. I honestly don’t know if I could choose.

 

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chris didn’t receive a real taste of the outdoors until moving to Prescott, Arizona, in 2009. While working on his business degree, he learned to fly and spent his weekends exploring the Arizona desert and high country. It was there that he fell in love with backcountry travel and four-wheel drive vehicles, eventually leading him to Overland Journal and Expedition Portal. After several years of honing his skills in writing, photography, and off-road driving, Chris now works for the company full time as Expedition Portal's Managing Editor.