The Australian Invasion and Overland Innovation

The United States and Australian nation states both boast wide open spaces and populations with a general love for the great outdoors where, for many, overland travel is a way of life. The Americans, however, have mountain ranges and annual snow, both of which most Australians have heard of but many have yet to really experience, certainly not on the scale of the mighty Rockies. Thus, Australian overland gear is often designed and manufactured with blue skies, a burning sun, sand, biting beasts, and the dry Outback in mind. Due to the geography of their incredible country, the Australians have a very specific style of overland travel (think flatbed trucks, swag bags, trailers, and tents). Unlike Americans, the Aussies do not have any international borders to cross, while Americans have Canada to the north, Mexico and Central America to the south, and every type of terrain within that land mass, from deserts to jungles to high-elevation mountain passes, glaciers, and the frozen Arctic circle. These distinctions are important when considering and purchasing gear. If you plan to spend the majority of your time in hot, dry environments such as Baja and the southwestern USA, Australian outdoor gear is absolutely perfect for you (this does not mean that you can’t travel to Alaska in summer with an Australian roof tent, but there are environments to which that tent will be better suited). It is worth bearing in mind that, naturally, not all Australian gear is limited to a hot climate, and there are many excellent products available that can be used year-round, wherever your travels may take you.

At the recent Overland Expo PNW, we noticed that the majority of foreigners we encountered were not travelers but instead traveling “salespersons”: Australians with cheeky accents, athletic builds, and a sunny disposition earned from years of soaking up the sunshine (not even the recent devastating loss to the South African rugby team could visibly dampen their spirits). If you are to be invaded, let it be by Australians! There were five Australian companies flying the green and gold at the Overland Expo, two new and three very well-established in the North American market, and they all have something quite special to offer.


Kakadu Australian Invasion and Overland Innovation

The Australians are all about living outdoors as they travel overland, and a live-in, hard-side camper is generally less desirable than canvas, acres of canvas, whether that be canvas tents on the ground, canvas tents on the roof, or canvas tents on a trailer. Australian children likely grow up with the sound of canvas flapping in the breeze; it is their first core memory. New to the North American market, Kakadu does canvas, and they do it well; its canvas products are available in any color as long as that color is grayish-blue. From awnings with wall kits to hard shell and soft-sided roof tents, ground tents, swag, and bivy tents, the focus is on portability, ease of use, and protection from the sun and dangerous creepy crawlies (after spending months traveling the USA with an old Range Rover, sleeping outside on a stretcher, we understand how important an impenetrable fabric fort can be. Skunk anyone?). Another stand out of the Kakadu range is the Ozpig Portable Wood Fire Stove, which is modular and perfect for those Outback base camps whether you are smoking, grilling, broiling, or frying your protein. Justin Casey, the Kakadu CEO, explained to us that the various modules of the Ozpig can be bought for Dad (or Mom) over the course of a year; the base stove module for Father’s Day, the smoker module for his birthday, and the rotisserie kit for Christmas.

The company launched in the US at Overland Expo West in May 2023 and offers a Kakadu fridge, a compact portable shower system, and sleeping bags. Not to be confused with the other Kakadus out there, be sure to visit their US website linked below.

Kakadu USA


Australian Invasion and Overland Innovation 23Zero

While we are on the subject of cheeky Australians, the wonderful 23Zero team has been faithfully serving the North American market for around a decade now and are regular and recognizable faces, household names on the overlanding scene. Based in Salt Lake City, the 23Zero team has grown from strength to strength over the years to become a leader in their market segment, and their range of products remains attractive, practical, and innovative. The fabric utilized in almost all new 23Zero outdoor gear is made entirely from certified recycled 900D polyester oxford. Despite its recycled origins, the material retains an identical appearance and texture to its non-recycled counterpart. By employing discarded PET plastic bottles in its production process, each square meter of this fabric incorporates the equivalent of 13 bottles.

A “one-stop shop” for almost all your overlanding gear needs, the 23Zero range includes hard- and soft-shell rooftop tents, awnings, gearboxes, swag tents, chairs, and a broad range of “Camp Life” accessories. Stand-out products are the attractive rooftop tents, available with canvas “annexes,” convenient floor extensions, and roof bars for the hard shell roof tents and the 23Zero gearboxes that look sturdy and tough enough to take on the competition and the toughest environments. These Aussies came in strong and stayed strong.

23Zero USA


Australian Invasion and Overland Innovation Norweld

A list of Australian companies making an impact in the North American market would be incomplete without the inclusion of Norweld, who made their debut at the Overland Expo East in 2016 and almost single-handedly revolutionized the American overland market. The Norweld flat bed tray and canopy system introduced the North American market to a load-carrying system with industrial origins, which not only increased storage options but also enhanced the strength and appeal of an overland vehicle (the Norweld flatbed is now the base of choice for the ever popular Four Wheel Camper). Norweld Australia was established more than 50 years ago and has now firmly established its presence in the United States. Customers based in the US will, in late 2023, be able to purchase directly from Norweld USA and have their vehicles equipped with a flat bed tray or canopy at a Norweld facility or an authorized fitting location. Norweld also supplies products to international customers, including South Africa, Europe, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, and South America, which is great news for international overlanders who will benefit from a global network in the unlikely event that they may require spares or repairs.


Australian Invasion and Overland Innovation Australian Invasion and Overland Innovation

We all know and respect the Redarc range of products, which have been available in the USA for a number of years now. With expertise spanning four decades, Redarc offers a range of power management systems “that keep your fridge cold, your lights on, and your batteries fully charged.” Designed, tested, and manufactured in Australia, Redarc products are crafted to withstand the most challenging environments, of which Australia has plenty. The company offers a range of high-tech products, from solar panels and battery chargers to inverters, vehicle management systems, gauges, isolators, and battery management systems. The company continues to innovate and has recently released a 150 amp-hour lithium battery for the North American market, and if their other products are anything to go by, this new fast-charging and self-heated battery will be a hit. One of the stand-outs of the Redarc range is the TVMS Prime RedVision System for larger vehicles, camper trailers, and RVs. With six tank sensor inputs, a dedicated inverter channel, and a maximum current of 80 amps, the Prime RedVision System is equipped with all essential components and provides everything necessary to energize your vehicle.

Bear in mind that Redarc products are generally not cheap, for a good reason, as you are paying for reliable quality that will take you there and bring you back, backed by a company with a long history in North America, an extensive network of installers and dealers throughout the US, and an excellent reputation globally.

Redarc USA

Shady Overlanders

Australian Invasion and Overland Innovation Australian Invasion and Overland Innovation

The last Australian company on our list is also the youngest company, fresh off the boat. We met the Shady Overlander crew at the Overland Expo and discovered that these guys are not shady characters at all, but they do love shade! We spoke for a minute and soon realized we had more in common than a fear of the midday sun; they both spoke with twangy Australian/South African accents while we spoke with twangy American/South African accents. Us Saffas do get around! Both Australian and South African overlanders love canvas (South Africa produces excellent canvas), and the Shady Overlanders are budding canvas connoisseurs. Their show vehicle sported two free-standing awnings, providing a massive umbrella of shade; beside the vehicle stood a giant tent designed to be twinned to the awning for an ample outdoor living space. The company offers a range of rooftop tents, awnings, swags, and accessories and is so new to the market that its website is still being tweaked. Regardless, you will be able to view and order most products with an installment payment option.

Shady Overlanders

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Read more: Gear Round Up Overland Expo PNW 2023

Graeme Bell is an author and explorer who has dedicated his life to traveling the planet by land, seeking adventure and unique experiences. Together with his wife and two children, Graeme has spent the last decade living permanently on the road in a self-built Land Rover based camper. They have explored 27 African countries (including West Africa), circumnavigated South America, and driven from Argentina to Alaska, which was followed by an exploration of Europe and Western Asia before returning to explore the Americas. Graeme is the Senior Editor 4WD for Expedition Portal, a member of the Explorers Club, the author of six books, and an Overland Journal contributor since 2015. You can follow Graeme's adventures across the globe on Instagram at graeme.r.bell