Overland Expo 2017: Living Large in Campers and Vans

When the first Overland Expo took place in Prescott, Arizona, nearly 10 years ago, most of the vehicles in attendance fit the same mold. Built on 4×4 SUV platforms, they all included a roof top tent and a bevy of bolt-on modifications designed to maximize off-road proficiency. Not to say those trucks are less prevalent in the overlanding world, but vans and campers have crept in to take a larger share of the segment.

In the last few years, campers and vans have moved into the fore as the go-to for extended travel, or even quick weekend getaways. The convenience of the live-aboard often comes at the sacrifice of off-road proficiency, but many people are more than willing to make that trade-off. The slide-in camper, once only favored by Midwestern weekend campers, has become an integral part of the global overlanding experience. When the Sprinter van hit the scene, a new audience was born, as well as a growing range of aftermarket builders poised to snag some of the potential revenue.

This year’s Overland Expo proved once again that the live-aboard overland vehicle is gaining popularity and not within any particular demographic. From recent college grads hoping to tap into the van life culture, to retirees reaping the rewards of a life of hard work, the van and camper scene shows no signs of slowing.

Lead Image: Nissan has recently discovered the potential of the overland market and teamed up with several key overland players with two new projects. The Hellwig truck, capped with a luxurious Lance camper, was on hand at the event to show attendees the potential of the traditional truck camper. We had the pleasure of joining Nissan, Hellwig, and Lance on a short day trip to the Colorado River at Peach Springs to see how the rig performed on pavement and two-track. More coverage of that project is on the way.

Christophe Noel is Expedition Portal's Editor and the Senior Editor for Overland Journal. 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.