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  • Episode 64 Jim Markel, Gear Designer and Global Overlander

Episode 64 Jim Markel, Gear Designer and Global Overlander


Show Notes for Podcast Episode #64


Scott Brady interviews Jim Markel, Co-Founder of RedOxx, former Marine, and global overland traveler.

Guest Bio:

Born in Italy to a military family, Red Oxx CEO Jim Markel has lived around the world and around the U.S.A. from coast to coast. Joining the Marines after high school, Jim served parallel to his father until Jim Senior, Capt. retired.

The birth of Red Oxx came to light in 1986 from the hands of his father, building fitness products based in Billings, Montana. When the demand grew beyond the abilities of one person, Jim Senior brought Jim Junior on board and then left for greater pastures.

Jim Jr. diversified Red Oxx into building bags and discontinued the fitness product line when a generic bag he was using in the field failed one day. “I can make a better bag, and one that will never fail.”

Since then Red Oxx Manufacturing has moved its factory eight times while slowly growing without financial interference from outside investment. From Jim Senior’s basement to the modern refurbished factory located a block from the retail store Red Oxx has steadily matured.

First through word of mouth, then through an early adaptation to the fledgling Internet, Jim developed the company’s direct to customer philosophy – cutting out the middleman. This created lasting personal relationships with its customer base, or the “herd” as they are fondly referred.

A believer in supporting Montana based enterprises, Jim grew the online angle working with a Livingston based Ecommerce platform. As the economy fluctuated this has changed, forcing the company to sell its wares first through a New York enterprise, which then sold to a Brazil based platform.

Each transition was marked by the expense and immense effort to move data from one host to another. Said Jim, “I think the look and feel of the current platform is better than ever. While the language barrier is sometimes frustrating, we really like our Brazilian partners.”

Today, Red Oxx has successfully maneuvered through the recent chaos and stands with a solid multi-color product line-up, offering everything from popular travel duffels, to military inspired rucksacks, to handsome laptop briefcases, everyday carry totes, and a nifty line of brightly colored packing cubes, each one designed to work seamlessly with the company’s bags.

Jim continues to labor to improve the formerly blighted north side district in Billings surrounding the property. The past couple years was spent focusing on developing the corner lot next the store into a stunning outdoor Event Lawn. Numerous sold out concerts this past summer brought positive local attention to the company, planting it at last, in the minds of local consumers.

Back in 2010 Jim got his feet wet (literally – but that’s another story) in Overlanding when a friend invited him along for a desert trip. Curiosity piqued, he traveled to visit one of the first Overland Expos.

Deciding this was an opportunity to connect with like-minded off-road adventurers, Red Oxx has been a pioneer in courting this diverse market ever since. A decade and 7 continents later, Overlanding Guru Scott Brady proclaimed the Red Oxx bags he’s travelled with as “Overland Gear of the Decade.”

Host Bios:

Scott Brady

Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady

Poem from Jim Markell

My Ego died

But I am still alive

Walking the warriors path

It’s where I thrive

Traveled the edge

Looked death in the eye

Turned before he looked back

much to my suprise

On a starry night the leopard stepped by.

Fear not the rapture of the deep

Chase your dreams until you sleep

For more information to Red Oxx and Jim Markel, check out his websites.

Red Oxx

This episode sponsored in part by:

RedArc Electronics



Full Transcription below:

Scott Brady: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the Overland Journal podcast. I am your host, Scott Brady, and I am here for day one of the Overland Expo. It is very well attended. There are people everywhere and booths everywhere, but I got to take a few minutes to spend some time with a longtime friend, Jim Markell, and he is the co-founder and CEO of Red Oxx bags. Now these are bags I have used around the world and this podcast is not really so much about that product, but it is my appreciation for them and the fact that I’ve used them on seven continents, that really led me to want to have a conversation with Jim, and we’ve also gotten to know each other from some travels together as well, and I learned a little bit about his story, which I find fascinating, and I think you all will very much enjoy today. So thank you, Jim, for being on the podcast today.

Jim Markell: Awesome Scott, great to be here.

Scott Brady: Yeah. Well, one of the [00:01:00] first things that come to mind is how your company was founded. Your father’s involvement and his involvement in your life and his military career is so interesting. Would you mind sharing a little bit about your dad.

Jim Markell: Well, everybody says who’s your hero? And I think Superman or whatever. My Superman was my father and he led by example. He spent nine years in the Marine Corps and 11 years in the army. He was an officer. He was enlisted. Started out started up through Vietnam three tours. He was with the Green Berets, and then he switched over to the Marine Corps and finished out his career.

Scott Brady: Yeah, amazing. So your dad, he served in Vietnam. What other areas of the world did he serve in as well?

Jim Markell: Well, he was in Okinawa and Germany. I was born in Italy while he was in OCS, so that was in the sixties, and we were all over. So with two branches of the [00:02:00] service under his belt, I ended up transferring to 17 different schools growing up all over the United States. I sometimes forget all the different places I’ve lived and then I’ll see something on the news. I’m like I used to live there.

Scott Brady: Well, and that’s one of the questions that I wanted to ask you is that ability to travel around the world that way, how did that prepare you for your own travels, your own adventures? Think back on some of the skills you gained by living in all these countries and maybe share with the audience what you feel is kind of the fundamentals or the foundations of what you learned as a traveler?

Jim Markell: Well, one of the things is when you’re always a new guy, new kid, you know, you get tested and you learn to be observant, right? So you come into situations, social situations, and you need to make friends quickly and you don’t even need to make a lot of friends, but you better make one. And being observant… I think that that was something that developed naturally within me. So you learn the lay of the land, if you live in the south. You learn how the Southern people live [00:03:00] in the north and Pennsylvania, or, you know, when we were on recruiting duty. Then back out to California a few times learned how to surf and yeah. So you just kind of like accept whatever culture you’re in at the time. So you’re kind of a chameleon, but it also influences the way you think. You don’t realize it at the time, but you’re actually developing skill sets that will serve you later on in life.

Scott Brady: And when you look back… and it’s just so wonderful to hear you talk about your father in the way that you do, because I feel very much the same about my own dad, but what were some of the key lessons that you took away from him? Like when you think back on your dad’s life, or maybe even the things that he sat down with you and shared that were important for him, for you to know. What were some of those key lessons that you feel like you took away from your dad?

Jim Markell: Discipline. Self-discipline. Make a promise, keep it. Make a promise and never quit. You’re capable of way more than you realize and he wouldn’t really ever accept no [00:04:00] for an answer. He’d say, well, why didn’t you clean your room or whatever, to the point where, you know… cause I was always on the go, right? And so if I could get out and go to the beach before cleaning the room… he’d make me stand inspection on Sunday mornings before I could go to the beach. Especially once I got a car, you know, cause I tried to slip out early in the morning. He was like, not so fast. Yeah… Then he taught me field craft and bushcraft and how to think asymmetrically and so he was always challenging me in ways that for my personality, I was a pretty wild child, I should say, but I was very independent and headstrong and so at 17, he shipped me off to the Marine Corps and they tampered that down a little bit, but I was still pretty wild in the Corps too.

Scott Brady: Yeah. Well, same thing for me. My grandfather was in the Marines, he was a chief or an officer. He served Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, and he is certainly one of the heroes in my life and has had such an impact in my life and he [00:05:00] only passed away last year at 95 years old three purple hearts. I mean an amazing guy and that was one of the things that I remember so much from him when I was growing up is that he was tenacious. Like when he went from the military into the civilian world, he realized that people give up too early and I remember him telling me that. I remember that was one of the few things that he shared with me is that you just don’t give up. You just keep… and he built his own kind of empire of his own business after he got out of the military and it made such a difference for our entire family after that happened, so it’s pretty amazing to see the lessons that we learned in the military… how they translate to the civilian space, so maybe that’s the next question for you is how long did you spend in the Marines? What were some of the experiences that you had that you’d like to share with the audience that you think were formative to your life? And then what lessons… what real lessons did you take away from that [00:06:00] experience?

Jim Markell: Well, the overarching lesson from the military for me would be that you learn everything you ever needed to learn about leading people right there. And I served for four years, and you know, crazy as my old man, I wanted to jump out of airplanes and started out as a parachute rigger and air delivery and then I was at the pool one day and doing a shallow water long distance swimming for money and the gunnery Sergeant caught onto it and confiscated the bedding and had a company party and then a month later I got orders to recon battalion in California. He kind of looked at me as like, I got just a place for you and put that energy to good work. Right. I was a pretty mischievous corporal by the time I got out, I was an NCO. I was pretty much, you know, running amuck within the company. Organizing and having parties and then doing adventure trips with the guys, we’d all pile our soropies on our mountain bikes and head off into the boonies for the weekend and so it was kind of like… it was a lot of [00:07:00] fun. I learned a ton… you know, no combat time. I was in from 85 to 89, but the training and stuff is pretty intense, a lot of injuries and stuff like that. People get hurt and things like that definitely shows you it’s not just fun and games. When you’re serving it can, you can be taken out really quickly.

Scott Brady: Yeah, and I think for me, when I look back on my time in the air force, it was just the fact that the military gave me a framework that I desperately needed at 19 years old. I just didn’t… I felt like I was a ship with all of this potential. All the sails were up, I was ready to go into the world, but I had no rudder. So I just felt like it was being blown around in every direction, and I don’t speak for anybody else. It’s just from my experience, the military, it gave… it helped me build that rudder of realizing that if you set a goal and you aim towards it, a lot of times you’ll get there, and to also leave with the GI bill… I don’t know if that was something you also were able to take [00:08:00] advantage of, but for me to be able to pay for my education, that I wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. It paid for my first home. Those kinds of things that made… the military gave me such a leg up in the areas that I needed that I desperately needed.

Jim Markell: Yeah, it was I think the starting point for my life, the four years went by so fast that rather than go to college, I went to the military. I tried to go to college after the military and that’s about the time I started in the business for myself and before I realized that I had employees and big responsibilities and I walked away from college after about a year and a half, and I don’t have any regrets with that.

Scott Brady: I think it’s actually a great choice for most people. There are certainly professions that require education, like if you want to become a lawyer or whatever, or a doctor, that’s a good idea, no trial and error for that, but certainly the pursuit of business. When I look back on my degree, I don’t think that I really took much away from that I [00:09:00] applied to my own business, but I definitely learned on the job when I worked in other businesses, and I was lucky to have wonderful bosses and they taught me so much about being a leader and a businessman. You had that in your dad. So if I remember correctly, your dad founded Red Oxx and then you started working with him. How did that all happen?

Jim Markell: So I was at the, paraloph there and at camp Pendleton and the phone rings and it’s senior on the phone. He’s like I need some webbing, thread, and some other stuff. He goes, you know, go down to the DMRO locker, which is the decommissioning locker and send me some stuff. Send me a care package. So the Red Oxx was founded on petty larceny and so I took a, took a Footlocker, filled it full of thread and webbing and put it on the Greyhound bus to billings Montana. So dad’s last duty station was that he was the NCO IC of training. Non-commission officer in charge of training for the four-three con up there in billings Montana when they had a unit back there. Anyway, and then I forgot all about it and [00:10:00] three years later or so I get out, and then he asked me to come join him. He gave me the talk. I was living in the mountains of Colorado.

Scott Brady: Still feral?

Jim Markell: Oh, I went completely feral. I bought a Harley and moved up to a little cabin that had no hot running water the rent for the year was 1,800 bucks. Wow. You chopped your own wood; you know the deal amazing. And it was a great year I made actually zero money that year and I just lived off my savings and kind of decompression, you know, by that time I’d been in, I would move over to forest recon and so a lot of intense training and like I hadn’t realized the psychological pressure of continuous high-speed training like that. What it does to your mind. It spins you up tight. I didn’t realize how tight I was. So I took a whole year and did absolutely nothing but ride motorcycles and hunt deer and chase women.

Scott Brady: So that year that you were [00:11:00] in the cabin, cause I can see how this translate to your love of Overland travel as well. But talk to me a little bit about that experience, how did you unwind? Like, what were some of the things that you found really made the difference? Was it that you just had moments of quiet or what was it that really helped you unwind to the point that you could take your dad’s call for the next step?

Jim Markell: Solo camping. I would take my rucksack and my dog and load up a handgun and just head off into the, into the Hills, around Mike’s peak area and I would camp for three or four or five days alone with the dog. Yeah… and I continued that practice for quite a few years, and then I bought a Toyota Land Cruiser, a little FJ 40 with a awesome 327 in it and we would by then, you know, we just would have our adventures and my dad at that point… he gave me about a year and he came down to Colorado and gave me the talk sure. Son, you know, you need to get direction in your life again. I don’t mind the long hair, [00:12:00] but so… and I thought about it. He left, you know, and I let’s just say I had an incident with somebody in a fist fight and I was wanted for assault. So I like, I jumped on the bike and booked it to Montana

Scott Brady: Good place to hide out.

Jim Markell: Yeah. Good place to hide out. So… and from that point, you know, the school started, and I started like straightening my life out a little bit. By the time I was 26, I quit drinking which was a big turning point. I always think I was using alcohol to cope with some, probably a form of minor PTSD, you know been through a lot in my life, you know, a lot of close scrapes. When I say I was pretty wild as a child, I was definitely on the outer limits of.

Scott Brady: Keeping it together.

Jim Markell: Oh yeah. A lot of risk taking. Poor impulse control as they say. So dad, at that point… we were doing Red Oxx was founded in the weight training category. We did lifting straps, weight training belts. We worked for companies like Joe [00:13:00] Weeder. It was awesome, yeah. And so we were like this little manufacturing company that started with nothing, and we were servicing business to business. And then that was in the nineties and then as China rose, we got squeezed out and dad wanted to retire and so that’s when I was getting more into like the hunting phase of my life. And so I was sort of making hunting gear and doing hunting shows and then travel bags and stuff like that. Cause I kept breaking everything that I’ve ever owned unless it was military grade. Demand was pretty hard on gear, so just started making my own stuff, and then we eventually exited the fitness category, which we’ve now just kind of brought back for our 35th anniversary.

Scott Brady: Thats kind of fun though.

Jim Markell: Just a couple of things honoring dad. We did a poster of him when he was in his bodybuilding days. He used to be a semi-professional bodybuilder. He was a beast. I mean, big arms and so… but I never put on the size that he did. He got to be, he started me in the gym at like 11 years old and all I did was get scrawnier and like more [00:14:00] wiry.

Scott Brady: That has its place too.

Jim Markell: Yeah, it does. Yeah. So pound for pound. I was very strong, but I never got any size.

Scott Brady: Well, one of the things that I wanted to ask you is like what makes a great bag? Because one of the things that I have noticed is that there are more and more companies that are now also offering soft goods, and some of it is good and some of it is not good. What are some of the things that if you were to give people advice on what to look for in luggage in soft luggage, in bags that you would store your equipment in your vehicle, what are some of the key components that you would recommend people look for?

Jim Markell: Well, I like redundant failure points, number one, it’s kind of a Milt spec, civilian market philosophy. So it’ll start to break here. There’s a backup point in it. So I build things like that. Less pockets is better. So when I was a young rigger, I would make the [00:15:00] officer’s bags and trade them for parachute jumps. And they’d say, you know, I’ll take you up again two more times and so some days I’d get four or five jumps.

Scott Brady: How cool is that?

Jim Markell: You know, bribe the pilots, right? That’s how the military works folks. Less is more, minimalism. And it even goes to the point to what, you know, you think you’d want a pocket for everything until you go hunting through a bunch of pockets and so I’ve gotten into color coding, and I’ve been into it forever and a day and so I’ll color code, interior compartments, like little packing cubes that we do with brighter colors. And everyone’s like, why don’t you make things in camouflage? And I’m like, I literally, even though I served active duty for four years, I was born in the military… I feel like I did my 20. And so things like that is what I look for, you know rugged, reliable, you know, that’s great, and you know, some of the stuff that if you look at some products that are made, they’re built in a way that they’re, how should I put this? They’re engineered for manufacturing, not for use… and what [00:16:00] engineering for manufacturing means is like you lower the cost in a lean way and just keep cutting steps out. Sometimes cutting those steps out, hurts the dependability of the product. And so building and handcrafting in a way makes our products, you know, I believe the toughest strongest products that they can possibly be. Now are they the easiest and fastest to build? No, but we do that for a reason.

Scott Brady: And you do make them in the United States.

Jim Markell: Absolutely. We source, you know, we’re like Berry compliant, which is the Berry amendment. We could sell directly to the military if we wanted to, but that’s not the model.

Scott Brady: There’s a couple things that I’ve noticed on the soft bags is you’ve got to have a way to lash them down. That seems to be really important in the vehicles. Cause we’re talking about putting bags on racks. We’re talking about putting bags in the storage compartment in the back an SUV or in the back of a pickup. So having rings or loops that you can tie the bags down with. Another [00:17:00] thing that I like to do is tie bags together. So carabiner two corners of two bags together, which now becomes essentially a net. If you keep building it across the load surface, and then you lash down at the corners. So now you don’t have these bags flying around in the inside of the vehicle. It’s also, one of the things that I notice is a lot of bags, a small bag will have a zipper, maybe even a waterproof zipper, but then when you get to their biggest bag, it has the same zipper that doesn’t work. I’ve had those failure points where the small bag, you can’t load it up with enough weight to have a zipper failure. It’s the, it’s the right zipper for that bag. But when you get to a 60 liter bag or an 80 liter bag or a hundred liter bag, and it still has this very small. Waterproof zipper on it. That’s where I tend to see failures is, you know, you drop one of the handles and then just splits the whole thing open because they can’t take that kind of pressure. And what I noticed with, with your [00:18:00] bags, cause this is not about Red Oxx, but it happens to be a good example is that you’ll have one of these little belt packs and it’ll have this same zipper on it as a hundred-liter bag. So they’re all really built.

Jim Markell: Well, like I said earlier, I was really hard on gear. I still am. I’ll buy the best and beat it. It’s kind of a philosophy that I live by. I don’t mind spending money on quality. But if, you know, if I want a hammer, a nail with my pocketknife, it better be able to handle it. So I’ve got a nice Chris Reeves titanium knife that I’ve had for 20 years, and I’ve shown it to people and they’re like, that’s really used. I’m like, but it’s not broken.

Scott Brady: Yeah, and I think that that’s one of the things that a lot of us are trying to pay attention to now. I find myself doing that is… if I can buy something that will last long enough for me to give it to my nephews, those purchases start to feel a little bit better to me now. I realized that I just get this overload of equipment. I mean, the industry [00:19:00] that we’re in, we’re always getting equipment, but it’s interesting the things that stay. Like we’ll donate to charities, and we’ll give it to some of our other editors. But the things that I tend to keep personally are those components that should last a lifetime, because I just don’t want the frustration of having a failure in the middle of Africa. I mean, I believe in our conversations, that part of what made you build these bags, the way that you do is because you want to go to the middle of Africa. You want to go hunting and you don’t want to have equipment failure. In the middle of nowhere and when you talk about gear like that, you just talk about the Chris Reeves knife. What are some other pieces of kit that you have just come to know and love throughout the years? What are some other gadgets that you’re just like, this is the one?

Jim Markell: When it comes to like new gadgets. So right now I’m really in love with these new Goal Zero pop-up lantern. So every few years when I want to refresh the kit, I’ll hop on down to the outdoor store and grab some stuff and just see what’s [00:20:00] out on the market. There’s Julie string lights with a phone charger. I bought that as well for this trip because my old stuff… remember the blow-up ones they had all those… those are toast. Then like my standby gear, believe it or not, I still have like a 1940s mess kit. And I don’t hike with it or anything, but I still have it in the, in the rig in the Sprinter. And I’m pretty minimalist though. I mean Nalgene bottles; I love those things. And then we have Seki Edge, which is a brand out of Japan that makes tweezers and personal grooming. Cause field sanitation is very important. I mean, they beat that into us, literally. You have to stay clean in the field.

Scott Brady: Trench foot’s a big problem.

Jim Markell: Yeah. So, and I’ve got a basic tent that I picked up. It’s a green sport tent from South Africa using that for years. A national Luna fridge that I bought from Equipment One when they literally first started. Probably from the first container, because we were using those in Africa and those fridges are amazing.

Scott Brady: They last forever.

Jim Markell: Yeah. So I’ve got a very [00:21:00] basic kit and I think when I was last night, when I lay down to sleep, I’m sleeping on my Butler bag…

Scott Brady: Those things are awesome.

Jim Markell: Yeah, everyone’s like I’ll turn on my heater. I’m like, dude, I don’t need a heater.

Scott Brady: Those are made in Utah?

Jim Markell: Cedar City, Utah.

Scott Brady: Those things are gnarly.

Jim Markell: Yeah. So I I’ll take that bag… Roller cot, which is another domestic product, so you see a little theme here where I’m buying a lot of US, European, or South African made gear. I’ll put that in a big duffle, that’ll go below the plane. That’s my home. Sometimes no tent. I’ll just sleep under the stars; especially cause I really have come to like West Africa. Then I’ll have a carryon bag with no more than three of anything, and usually two. Two pairs of shorts, wear one pair of long pants. I wear my nice outfit on the airplane. Sport Coat even sometimes, and then I put all my other gear in my carryon bag and then I have a personal item which carries a pair of Leica binoculars, which I’ve had for 20 some odd years. Then a couple [00:22:00] of different Surefire flashlights that I scored from an old Marine Corps buddy who worked at Surefire, and other than that, that’s about all I’ll take. You can always find a lean-to, a hut somewhere. Sleep under the truck if you have to and the lions don’t want to kind of tend to come around the smell of diesel fuel. They don’t really typically like that smell. At least that’s what my African friends tell me so I can go to sleep at night. That’s what they tell the tourists. It’ll be fine, man.

Scott Brady: Yeah, those are all great recommendations for sure. Now that we’re getting into the topic of travel a little bit. Let’s talk about some of your favorite places on the planet and maybe share your more interesting stories. What’s Jim’s top one or two most interesting stories of your travels.

Jim Markell: Wow. Yeah, there’s a lot.

Scott Brady: Which one should go in the book?

Jim Markell: Which one should go in the book, there’s a couple there, you know, I would say like the most… one of the most inspiring [00:23:00] trips I had was a trip to Namibia and we went and did some volunteer work and I work with a friend of mine who’s a medical professional, and we bring medicine for river blindness and out to the orphanages and the hospitals and we also raise money for mosquito nets and we’ll go there and we’ll buy the nets in Africa. Load them onto the Land Cruiser and take them to the orphanages and the hospitals. We found that type of distribution system works really well rather than trying to go to individual villages. So you’d give the most where you can and so we went through Etosha and then across to the west through the Honee river valley, which you’ve been through and Hama my friend Hama, he served in the South African defense forces so he knows all these great campsites that nobody knows about and nobody will ever know, cause I’m never going to give them up.

Scott Brady: You’re not geotagging that spot.

Jim Markell: No, sir. And then we came down to the skeleton coast and then run down the skeleton coast and [00:24:00] that’s part of what I really love about traveling, you know, and living in Eastern Montana is a lower population. The population in the world has grown a lot in our lifetimes and so finding the least populated places, where I tend to be able to see the stars and not have any security issues and things like that are more… I would say the more inspiring trips, you know, the elephants cruise, you know, riding along on the roof and elephants at arms distance and in my friend in the cab going, what am I going to tell your wife when you get killed? I’m like tell her I had a great time. And then probably like the craziest story, I guess, not the craziest… but one of the more craziest stories. Early on in my… probably the first time I went on a Land Rover trip with these guys, we had three Land Rover vehicles for a magazine shoot, and I sunk the one in the Dolores river.

Scott Brady: I remember that story with Ben Edmondson on the top. He was on the rack trying to film it or something like that.

Jim Markell: I felt like such a heel, you know, just [00:25:00] cause they screamed stop and I hit the brakes and the vehicle sucked water and died. Totaled a brand-new Land Rover. My insurance company then took special notice of me. Dropped me after 17 years, had paid out. But you know, that was kind of one of the more embarrassing things, but of course, you know, I’ve traipsed all over the Philippines and Guam and Korea and the markets. I used to really love to eat a lot of street food. I love to cook, and you know, you’ve eaten a lot of my cooking on the trail.

Scott Brady: Great cook.

Jim Markell: And so that’s one of the things I always tend to find myself in… I’m good to go ride along like some people want it like, oh, I’ve got to take my vehicle and I can drive okay. I mean, the guys taught me how to drive decent enough and I don’t have to have my vehicle. So that’s why I say the best trips are the ones where I’ve got a duffel bag and that’s it and I just show up and perform like I said, I love to cook in the field. It’s one of, you know, I love to cook anyway, but cooking in the fields always provides some challenge. The wind’s going to blow the rains going to go and so [00:26:00] that’s the aspects of the travel that I really like.

Scott Brady: That’s interesting that you mentioned the cooking, cause we haven’t really talked about that much on the podcast, but one of the things that I remembered from traveling with you is it is a way to bring a bunch of people that kind of know each other, but don’t know each other really well together, is you give them a little bit of food, maybe a couple of cocktails, and people start to get around the fire and they get around this great meal and it is a wonderful way to kind of set the stage for a trip.

Jim Markell: Yes, the logistics of, of having like over 10 people on a Baja trip, when we were filming… trying to film a pilot for a TV show. It was a lot of work, you know, and you’re talking meals, like 45 meals a day, you know, and then you pick up, tear down, move again and do it again and you get to know people and their habits. We had another former Marine with us along Taylor Congleton, he’s a Land Rover fanatic out of Vermont, and that guy is so big. I had to [00:27:00] hide food for him because everybody would.

Scott Brady: He’s a big guy. Quite the metabolism.

Jim Markell: Ben Edmonds is a big dude too so I’d have to like, you know, I keep Ben from eating all of Taylor’s food. It’s like, so, and then the other guys, you know, like Jordan and stuff, I would be like, he’s 135 pounds. You get one serving, but you can’t let him see. You give the big guy an extra slice. That’s funny. Yeah. Those are the little things you learned about cooking and then what foods to buy that last, what to put in the fridge? What can go in like a cool dry box? So there’s a lot of stuff to figure out and there’s great tips and of course…

Scott Brady: And a lot of people, they don’t know that you can, you don’t have to refrigerate eggs. They’ll keep for several weeks. So just put them in the cool dry box and, and then you don’t have to take up fridge space. And another thing too is if you get a 12 pack of whatever, just put the drinks that you need for the next couple of days and then feed into the fridge, cause the drinks don’t need to be kept [00:28:00] refrigerated. Most drinks don’t. So those are those little tricks that allow you to go with a smaller fridge. Oftentimes people go with too big of a fridge, like even sitting here in the scout right now, it has space for an 80 or 90 liter, but I’ve only got a 55 liter in here. Cause I just feed into the fridge.

Jim Markell: Right. I tend to put the delicate things in there, the greens and stuff like that needs to be refrigerated and you know, some of the crew is like, insisted that their beers… like, well let’s put the beer in the Yeti, you know, but I’m like, I bought this fridge for my beer. I’m like, let’s just put the beer in the Yeti and be done.

Scott Brady: It totally works great in there. Yeah, absolutely. Now talking about street food, what is some of your favorite places on the planet that you’ve had street food, is there a memorable meal?

Jim Markell: Absolutely.

Scott Brady: Okay. Let’s talk about that.

Jim Markell: We were in Korea for operation Team Spirit, and we were downtown one night, a bunch of us, and they have these like little egg carts where they take the egg and it’s a coal fired hot plate [00:29:00] and they lay cabbage and egg in there and some sort of meat. Let’s just say it’s meta and they cook it like a crepe and then they roll it up when they put some hot sauce and the kimchi on it. Oh my God… one night, three of us stood around this cart at like two o’clock in the morning we ate everything that lady had. She must have had a flat of eggs and three jar heads, just like… we just scarfed them all.

Scott Brady: I love that, you made her day.

Jim Markell: Cleaned her out and sent her home at three o’clock in the morning with a bunch of money.

Scott Brady: Oh, that’s so great. We had a similar experience in Baja. We get to this little Taqueria and all they did was shrimp tacos, so they were super specialized, and we cleaned them out. They had no more shrimp. Those gringos. We ate every taco that they had. They were so good, and they were a wonderful little family. It was great.

Jim Markell: On a motorcycle trip through Costa Rica, we stopped in some little town down south of… or north of Puntarenas, somewhere along the coast there. I’m like, I [00:30:00] wasn’t going any further. I haven’t ridden a motorcycle in a while, and they had us on those little 125s and I was just hurting. I’m like… The guys are 15 years younger than me and they’re like, oh it’s no problem. I’m like, dude, I’m not going any further. There was five of us and we stayed there until we ate them out of food and they’re like, we have no food. You guys need to leave. So we moved on down the coast, down to a Jaco and after that… but yeah, those are the, you know, the street food… I can consider myself a connoisseur of street food and, and Guatemala and places like that, the chicken that they do where they cook it once and then they get it ready to cook when you order it and they dice it again with a Cleaver and then they infuse it with something. Oh my God. Yeah. That is like heaven on earth. I like to cook like that. I like to cook in cast iron. Out in the wild game, you know, I hunt. So I’m pretty good with wild game. Here in the fridge I’ve got some bison I brought down from Montana, and I’ve been cooking it for our camp mates, and they’re like what is this? [00:31:00]

Scott Brady: Some of the best meat I’ve ever had was game. I mean… I had a bison prime rib one time that blew my mind, absolutely blew my mind and then I had this eland steak in… where was I at when I had the eland steak. I think I was in Namibia when I had the eland steak and I’ve had it a few times, but that particular moment in time where all the stars aligned, I had had a great day in Northern Namibia, and I ended up at this little place and it was just unbelievable. I don’t eat as much meat as I used to, but when I do, I try to find wild game because I always feel good after I eat it.

Jim Markell: Yeah. So I don’t know if it’s you, or if you have the same experience. I don’t sleep in Africa the day begins like before the crack of Dawn, and I go, go, go… and I just, I don’t know. It’s something weird about that place. It’s just I feel so charged up.

Scott Brady: And I [00:32:00] wonder, because I felt the same thing, and there’s a lot of the travelers that we know, talk about how special Africa is to them, that they even feel like that they’ve come home, and I think… you just think about the history of humanity. I mean, it all kind of started there and so I think that genetically, we kind of feel alive. We feel a little bit charged up in that place. I mean, way back in our hypothalamus, we know what a lion is. Like the first time I heard a lion roar, I knew exactly what that was. I didn’t need to ask, hey what’s that sound? I knew that was a lion, like I knew way down in my core that that’s something that wants to eat me right now and that’s fun. It’s fun to feel like you move down the food chain.

Jim Markell: Right, and then of course the snakes, and as I like to joke, you know, curiosity will kill you in Africa.

Scott Brady: So true. That’s so true. Yeah. That’s so true. We forget the fact that we are very easy game in that continent. I mean, we are very easy to eat.

Jim Markell: And well, there’s no rescue, [00:33:00] right? It’s self-rescue, unless you happen to be close to a city, but even then, I don’t know. South Africa’s got outstanding medical facilities, if you can get to them.

Scott Brady: Sure. Yeah. That reminds me of a great book. It’s called death in the tall grass and it’s one, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read about humans, mostly surviving these encounters with wild animals.

Jim Markell: For years I exhibited Safari Club international and a lot of African friends and friends from all over the world, New Zealand and places and every so often I’d meet someone limping through the convention center and I’d be like, oh a leopard got you. And it takes months, sometimes a year to heal after a mauling. Cause their claws are full of nasty, nasty little infections.

Scott Brady: Interesting… It starts, it starts to make your make your flesh die. Oh, terrible man. But I love that. Even that feeling of you go to a little game lodge and you’ve got [00:34:00] to have your escort to get you back into your room and at first, I’m like, ah, it’s just right over there and they’re like, ah… well, you can’t see all this stuff. There are leopards out here and they’ve seen them and so that’s why you have the guy with a gun and the torch.

Jim Markell: And elephants can walk so silently it’s insane. They walk between the buildings, and they’ll tip through to the garden and take vegetables and, yeah, it’s just… so probably not recommended, but I was in Zimbabwe with some friends, and you know, the challenge comes. We went swimming in Lake Kariba which is foolish.

Scott Brady: It’s filled with crocs, isn’t it?

Jim Markell: Yeah, it is. So we’re out in the middle. So they circled the boat. This is after promising not to do this and I jumped into the middle of Lake Kariba on a hot… it was a hundred degrees, you know, I jumped in and I got out pretty quick, but the rush. The rush that I got, oh my God. It was like the first time I jumped out of an airplane. And then, so of course I’m there and we’re at the lodge, we get into the lodge that night and [00:35:00] there’s a hippo on the lawn. My friend looks over and goes, you’re not a real Zimbo unless you can slap a hippo on the ass, and I don’t know if people know this, but hippos are the biggest killers in Africa… and that was the second biggest rush I ever got.

Scott Brady: Were you successful?

Jim Markell: I slapped it on the booty.

Scott Brady: That is the first time I’ve ever heard of somebody trying that. Well, I’m glad you’re still sitting here.

Jim Markell: You know, sometimes you gotta take some risks to have some fun, but it’s not something that I, you know, I don’t seek death. But it it’s definitely… I like being out there on the edge, and I was joking with you about different things that I’ve thought of and through the years, and I don’t know if you want to hear something that I wrote.

Scott Brady: Okay. I’d love to. Yeah.

Jim Markell: My ego died, but I’m still alive. Walking the Warrior’s path, it’s where I thrive. Traveled to the edge. Looked death in the eye, turn before he looked back much to my surprise. On a starry night leopard stepped by. If you’re not the rapture of the [00:36:00] deep, chase your dreams until you sleep. So I wrote that about a year ago at the start of the pandemic. I was sitting in an airport and I just, for some reason I felt like… will I ever go on another adventure? And I think this trip has been the first real trip I’ve taken since the pandemic.

Scott Brady: As travelers, this has been such a challenging time…

Jim Markell: For people who thrive on going and doing, oh, it’s been a tough couple of years.

Scott Brady: And do you feel like, I mean, to that poem you just read… Do you feel like that you are looking back on your life in that way? I mean, what comes next for Jim? Like now that you’ve looked back and you’ve heard this, the footsteps of the leopard and you’re looking forward in your life. What is it that you want to do next? What feels like it’s next for you?

Jim Markell: I’m trying to figure that out. You know, having, you know, reached an age where my body doesn’t take the abuse that [00:37:00] it used to. I still love to snowboard, but I pay for it. Three days of, you know, ibuprofen. And so I’ve been thinking long and hard on that. I have a sprinter van that was our old trade show vehicle, and I’ve been kinda monkeying around with converting it into, you know, a van life thing that whatever… and I really think that exploring more of a Western United States. I know there’s places I’ve never been to and so I’m going to go seek out those less traveled places here for now. And then electric bicycles have kind of caught my eye in a way that I never thought I would. I’m like I used to be a Harley riding, motorcycle loving fool. My friends would laugh at me for wanting to ride one of them, electric bikes, but there’s something serene and peaceful about creeping through the woods and not disturbing the elk. And so I’ve been kind of on the hunt for an electric bike.

Scott Brady: And there’s a bunch of options.

Jim Markell: Oh my God. Now… yeah, just walking through the show, I was just blown away at how fast it’s advancing. And so that’s kind of [00:38:00] where I want to go and then you and I were talking earlier about sailing and I have challenged myself to always face my fears and one of the things, you know, you being a reconnaissance brain, I’m not afraid of the water, but like the deep blue is still like the… the big ocean with the storms kick up on a boat is kind of for me is still kind of like, wow, you know, it’s awe inspiring. I did a dive trip out to Cocos island where we did the crossing, you know, 40 hours and pretty heavy seas. Deep diving Nitrox once you get with the sharks and stuff… so yeah, I miss the ocean. That’s one thing I’ll say. I never thought I would live in Montana as long as I have, I never thought I’d live away from the coast. So I do miss the ocean at times, and I would love to like, maybe put that last fear to rest. Not that I’m totally afraid, but I’m respectful of the ocean. Cause I’ve seen it’s power.

Scott Brady: It’s incredible. When Brian and I did that, that crossing, we were a thousand miles from land at one point and we were becalmed, there was no wind. So we [00:39:00] were just sitting there kind of bobbing in the sailboat thousand miles from land. The closest land was Hawaii, and it was 16,000 feet of water below us. And we decided that we were going to jump in and. The first time… I don’t think I really recognize what was happening so much because it was just the thrill of jumping in the water. But the next time I jumped in I dove in as deep as I could go and I could see all of the columns of light coming down to this point of black, below me and the transition from the warm water on the surface to this very cold, very unforgiving, very foreign place for a human to be. Yeah, I got back to the surface pretty quick, and it was this recognition that yes, we’re on this boat that’s designed to go around the world, but we are very fragile creatures in that space and so you’re right. It is a fear for sure, for many of us.

Jim Markell: Well, you know, when you dive a lot, it’s like you get nitrogen narcosis and that is the rapture of the deep, and it’s very tempting to [00:40:00] swim off into the darkness. That’s why I never dive alone.

Scott Brady: Interesting. I didn’t know that I’ve never done any diving,

Jim Markell: Your blood saturates with nitrogen, laughing gas, and you start to get a little lightheaded and…

Scott Brady: You’re in the moment too much.

Jim Markell: And you can like follow the fish down.

Scott Brady: Wow. Oh, that’s fascinating. A couple of questions that come to mind for me that I like to ask is, are there any significant books or maybe inspirational people in your life that have shared something with you or a podcast that you’ve enjoyed listening to. What are some ways that you get inspired?

Jim Markell: I’ve read a lot of the classic literature and crazy enough when I was younger, I read a lot of Robert E. Howard that. He created the Conan series. It was something that I read a lot when I was in my teenage years. Just great adventure style books, I think he is a forgotten author these days… Edgar Rice Burroughs all those, and then of course the Africa books. [00:41:00]

Scott Brady: What’s one of your favorite Africa books?

Jim Markell:The Sunbird. I can’t remember the author’s name, but it’s a great book. It flashes back between future time and present time in ancient society. He’s a famous author and it’ll come to me after we’re done.

Scott Brady: Oh, we’ll put it in the show notes.

Jim Markell: People will know who it is. So, and then for me, theory books on manufacturing and process. I like nerd out on that and and I love to see all the connections between how things work and it’s one of the reasons why I love being a manufacturer. It’s like process improvement or the whole pursuit of optimization and perfection. But, but for me, I don’t want to compromise quality, right? Like the Toyota production system. That’s why I’m kind of a Toyota…

Scott Brady: Sure. Ties in, lean manufacturing, TMS. Sure.

Jim Markell: So I love theories and, and you know, whether… and I may not understand all of them, but I just love reading the books and trying to find a connection, how I can apply that to real life.

Scott Brady: And I do see that [00:42:00] with you, cause TMS is so much about not only this emphasis on quality, durability, and reliability, which are the hallmarks of the Toyota brand, but it also is towards this minimalism and doing more with less and less waste and I see that. I mean, you’ve talked about that in your manufacturing process, and you’ve also shared that with me about your life is that you travel very minimally, and you don’t bring a lot of redundancy and you try to not get distracted by a bunch of extra gear.

Jim Markell: Yeah, it frees you, right? If you’re a younger traveler and you’re just kind of starting out in the world and… you can get, I’ve seen people get too wrapped up in the whole gear chase and planning and all this and I get phone calls from people. Jim, you’re the only person I know that can go on a week’s notice. You want to go to Italy and blow glass. Absolutely. Passports up to date. I’m out of here. Next thing you know, I’m in Murano sitting with the masters who taught my teacher. That’s rare access, but you have to be able to say yes, and Africa for me [00:43:00] opened up in a much the same way. It was my cooking that got me invited into the inner circle of these trips and stuff, because the safari lodges are always like… labor or whatever, but not everybody wants to be in the safari lodge, and they want to get out to the outlying camps and so my friend Hama’s like you can stay. And I’m like really, as I called home on the satellite phone, hey they want me to stay. How long? Three weeks? Okay. And again, you know, you go through Etosha, you know, and we would camp in places we’re not supposed to, they don’t like you camping wild, but right that’s why the leopard stepped by, you know, and there was a dead Impala. He went in that night and got it back, you know? And I laid awake at night thinking he might come bite me on the top of the skull, but eventually I fell asleep. So be it, you know.

Scott Brady: What an amazing life you’ve lived, man and how can, how can people find more about you and about Red Oxx?

Jim Markell: I’m pretty much an open book. You can go to redoxx.com, [00:44:00] REDOXX, and I’ve blogged some of my stories. The dive stories, the safaris.

Scott Brady: You’ve got some great resources on there.

Jim Markell: And yeah, like I said, I like to share what I know and… or give me a call, you know, we can talk and give you some good tips on what to pack and where to go and I’ve got great friends here and there and you can hook up with them on the trail and visit them and say hello and have a cup of coffee.

Scott Brady: Well, thank you, Jim as always. It’s been a pleasure to know you for the decades that I have. It’s been so impressive to watch you build your business in such a sustainable way. Employing Americans, American manufacturing, high quality equipment, and that’s certainly something for all of us to aspire towards and thank you so much for being on the podcast man.

Jim Markell: Thanks Scott, you guys have done an amazing job with everything at Overland.

Scott Brady: Oh, thank you so much. We’re grateful, and we thank you all for listening and we will talk to you next time.



Lisa Williams is an Arizona native that spent much of her childhood exploring backroads with her family in whatever project vehicle her father was wrenching on at the time. She has traveled the continental United States by foot, by Ford Econoline, and, most recently, by Jeep Cherokee. All her passions center around driving, connecting with nature, and a deep love for adventure. Though a practicing weekend warrioress, she aspires to write, photograph, and eventually rally race around the globe and share her journeys through photojournalism. Upcoming goals include competing in the Rebelle Rally, the Baja 1000, and an immersion into the less-traveled roads of New Zealand in her 2019 Toyota Tacoma.