ExPo’s Ten Favorite Things of 2013

As 2013 comes to a close, the ExPo team gathered heads to review what we feel were the most significant developments on the overland market. Some of these items are brand spanking new, others are freshly discovered items we feel have improved our travels. Some, are just cool things we’d love to own. Without further delay, here are our favorites of 2013:


Mission Workshop Vandal Backpack

As travelers, we rely on quality packs and bags on an almost daily basis. Finding the perfect pack is a seemingly endless search as no pack is perfect. The Vandal from Mission Workshop of San Francisco comes pretty close to perfect. Made of robust materials here in the States, the Vandal is a weather thwarting hauler that expands from 30 liters to 60 liters with the simple slide of a waterproof zipper. Paired with the optional waist belt, the Vandal is a comfortable carry with any sized load. When fully expanded, it is a cavernous pack. Read the full review HERE.  www.missionworkshop.com


Schuberth C3 Pro

It’s been over a year and seven thousand miles since we first began testing the Schuberth C3 World. We so loved that helmet, we couldn’t quite comprehend how they could make it any better, but with the release of the C3 Pro, Schuberth did just that. Schuberth began making helmets in 1922, which explains why they’re so good at it. With their own wind tunnel and aeroacoustic chamber, they now produce the world’s lightest, most quiet, and aerodynamic helmets. The modular C3 Pro is the best helmet we have ever used, and as corny as it sounds, makes us want to ride more often, and further when we do. The features, comfort, and refinement of the C3 Pro are unequaled. It can also be fitted with Schuberth’s highly regarded SRC Bluetooth communications system.  We didn’t plan to award any one piece of gear, “The Best Product of 2013,” but if we were to pick one product, the C3 Pro would be it. Read the full review HERE.  www.schuberth.com


AEV Four Door Brute

Let’s make this clear right from the get-go: This is without a doubt an overlanding exotic. Just as there are buyers for Italian sports cars, there are buyers for vehicles like this. If it wasn’t so capable, it would be easy to dismiss it as garish and overblown, but that is somewhat the point with a truck like this, isn’t it? And make no mistake, these vehicles are selling. Even this $130,000 Filson edition Brute is selling––and quickly. With offroad capabilities rivaled by few, the AEV Brute is not just an overlanding tour de force, it’s beautiful to behold. Fitted with a bevy of AEV accessories and upgrades, the four door Brute is not cheap, but why would it be?   www.filson.com  www.aev-conversions.com


2013 BMW R1200GS-W

How do you make one of the world’s most prized motorcycles better than ever? Just add water. For the first time in more than nine decades, BMW’s venerable boxer now pumps water. That one advancement was enough to splash the new GS all over the motorcycle media pages, but it’s not the only refinement to the latest big-bike from Bavaria. The 2013 R1200GS is sleeker, better balanced, more comfortable, and with a host of electronic traction and braking controls, is incredibly easy to ride. If I look into the future, I can see our “Best of 2014” list and see our top pick is the Adventure variant of this year’s R1200GS. Read the full review HERE.  www.bmw-motorrad.com


Canon EOS 70D

New cameras don’t come along very often, and few hit the market with as much fresh technology packed into an affordable package as that of the new Canon EOS 70D. While the 70D offers advancements like a fully tilting touchscreen display and built-in WiFi, it is the dual phase detection autofocus that has made it an instant darling with shooters of all abilities. With an autofocus system more sophisticated than many professional grade DSLRs, the 70D is especially adept at shooting high definition video. For the travel photographer, it’s one to keep on your short list.   www.canon.com


Triple Aught Design Stealth Hoodie LT

It’s almost getting embarrassing how much we rave about this jacket. Some of our Stealth Hoodie LT jackets have traveled from Alaska to Siberia, the long way, and never failed. The 3-layer Schoeller stretch fabric is the perfect weight for overland applications, and a full complement of technical features make the utility of the jacket tough to beat. From summer rains to winter’s worst, the Stealth Hoodie LT shrugs it off.  www.tripleaughtdesign.com


Ural Gear Up

You can’t fully appreciate a Ural Gear Up until you see it airborne, or with the wheels tearing at the earth like a rabid beast. The subdued putter of the twin cylinders belies the capability of the Gear Up. It not only scoots along faster than you might expect, it hauls a serious amount of gear in the process. Our Ural has been far more than just an exciting play thing, it has been an invaluable tool. It transports our camera gear and other supplies to remote locations with unrivaled efficiency. With Overland International’s Brian McVickers at the controls, you wouldn’t believe where it will go.  www.ural.com


Salsa Mukluk 2

You’re never too old to appreciate a good toy. In my review of the Salsa Mukluk last winter, I likened it to a time machine as it made me feel like a kid again. Many miles later, that assessment still rings true, but now I consider the Mukluk 2 to be my very own carnival ride. The huge tires trundle over everything in their path undaunted. Snow days have never been more fun, and despite its sluggish appearance, it rips down the trail with more speed than you might expect. Fitted with a full assortment of bikepacking bags, the Mukluk is also a very capable travel platform. If you don’t have one, get one. Read my glowing review of the Mukluk HERE.  www.salsacycles.com


Mummert Knives

In the last year, we started a series we dubbed, The American Overlander. The idea: to find homegrown products of the highest quality. With the masses complaining that America no longer manufactures anything of value, we thought this project might make for a challenge. That couldn’t be further from reality. America is full of pinnacle products like those made by Marc of Mummert Knives. His knives and tools are crafted from only the best materials, and to his exacting standards. Mummert is not just about quality, but ingenuity. His knives, stoves, and tools are proof that forward thinking designs and uncompromising attention to manufacturing detail, are very much alive in the U.S..  www.mummertknives.com


Text Anywhere

This text message received on December 7th more or less sums up why this product rules: “Status-green. Wonderful tour of the South Pole Station. Onward to the Ross ice shelf and western edge of the continent.” Scott Brady, team leader for Expeditions 7, sent that message and many others while on his recent trip in Antarctica. What makes this remarkable, is that this text was sent via an inexpensive device requiring no long term subscription plan. For just $30 a month, the Text Anywhere can send and receive massages from anywhere in the world. www.textanywhere.ca

We had a lot of fun chasing down the best gear of 2013 and can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.