We’re being told that this year’s Overland Expo West was the biggest ever in terms of attendance, but I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that it was the largest in terms of square footage as well. Food trucks filled the square, off-road test courses dotted the Arizona landscape, and over 360 exhibitors filled in the gaps, sprawling out across parking lots and fields left empty in previous years. It was exciting, but it was also a bit overwhelming. There were just too many cool products to see and too little time in which to see them, which is why we’ve decided to round up a few of the new ones you may have missed. Be sure to let us know what you think.
Kinsmen Hardware 270 Awning and Shower Stall
In the last issue of Overland Journal, I had the privilege of pitting several 270 awnings against each another to see who would come out on top. I’m sad to say that we couldn’t grab one of these Kinsmen awnings for the test, because I have a suspicion that the competition would have really heated up. Let’s start by looking at the basics. This product is handmade in the USA from tubular steel with brass and stainless steel hardware and a durable marine-grade Sunbrella fabric. While the steel makes it heavier than most awnings, we were told about 10 pounds heavier than an Alu-Cab, it also allows it to be slim while retaining incredible strength. The official test rating on their website claims the awning will withstand 35 mph winds or stand up to heavy snow without support, but their demonstration of jumping up and swinging from one of the armatures was far more impressive.
The fit and finish is exceptional, with attractive design elements that perfectly balance form and function. I love that each armature features a pop-up arm which creates a high point in the fabric, eliminating pooling points.
Deploying the awning was shockingly easy thanks to a simple but innovative hinge system. Unlike other products which require you to swing the armatures out and then tie them off to your rack or some other component of the vehicle to hold them open, the Kinsmen uses a lockout which clicks into place as soon as it reaches full extension. This brilliant addition makes the Kinsmen one of, if not the easiest and fastest awnings we’ve ever seen. All of this does come at a cost though, $1,750 to be exact, which is more than almost any competing awning on the market.
In addition to the awning, Kinsmen also offers a rather innovative shower stall. It’s made from tubular steel with waterproof oxford fabric and can be deployed into a shower-ready position in just 25 seconds. It features a full-length zip entrance with a similar bag design to the awning which blends in nicely on a roof rack. The cost of this product has not been released yet, but it’s scheduled to hit the market sometime this summer.
To learn more about either product, visit the Kinsmen website here.
RLD Designs Stainless Steel Truck Canopies
Fiberglass truck caps are pretty common here in the States, but they come with a lot of downsides most people aren’t even aware of. For starters, they’re fragile, prone to sun rot, and despite weighing between 150 and 200 pounds rarely support a roof load without significant reinforcement. That’s why one South African company set out to make something better, and what they came up with was the stainless steel cap you see below.
There’s a lot to love when it comes to these canopies, but it all starts with how they’re made. Each component is CAD modeled, laser cut, and bent on a multi-axis CNC machine. Because any welded seam adds weight and possible failure points, RLD set out to use as few as possible. Their roofs are one piece of stainless steel shaped for strength, the corners are bent in sections over six times instead of just meeting at a 90-degree angle, and the side access hatches are even bent to add rigidity for opening or closing them at one corner. The few seams that do exist, which can be as few as four, are TIG welded before the entire canopy is coated in an industrial-grade, 180-micron powder coat finish in your color of choice. The result is a shell that weighs as little as 160 pounds, but carries a 700-pound dynamic load rating!
If you’re more about the storage and camp features, don’t worry, they have plenty of those. Each shell can be equipped with side access hatches, solid or sliding windows, and a range of storage solutions we can’t help but love. Take the kitchen, for example, which comes fully stocked with everything you see above, or the drop-down interior table holder which fits standard lifetime tables. Not your style? Check out their drawer system, internal cargo tray for boxes, or heavy-duty drawer system capable of carrying 200 pounds per side. Our favorite feature we’ve saved for last. Each canopy comes standard with a pop-up intake on the roof that sucks in air, creating positive pressure in the bed. This pushes dust and water away from the tailgate seals, keeping the interior dry and dust free.
Pricing starts at $3,199, and you can learn more on the RLD Designs website here.
Roofnest Prototype Tent and New Sand Piper Hard Shell
We showed up to the Roofnest booth ready to check out their latest hard-shell model, the Sand Piper, but we ended up seeing a whole lot more than that. Tucked away in their campground far outside the event’s vendor area we were fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at a prototype hard-shell tent that is so new it hasn’t even been named yet. It took some convincing, but eventually, Roofnest agreed to let us give you a look at the slimline beauty below in addition to their all-new Sand Piper.
Although the form of this tent is fantastic, the design is all about function. For starters, the entire thing is just 6 inches thick when closed to minimize its profile in the wind and retain fuel economy. It also weighs as little as 140 pounds, which is 50-60 pounds lighter than most of its competitors, reducing the roof load and improving vehicle handling. The aluminum shell is corrosion resistant, and all the hardware is stainless.
Wrapped around the exterior you’ll find a standardized track system which makes it easy to adjust hinges, add locks, and mount accessories like awnings. It does utilize a clamshell design to eliminate excess structure and reduce weight, but don’t think that it compromises on space. Roofnest built the tent with 6 feet, 8 inches of length inside, with an aggressive opening angle that provides 10 feet of height for your feet within a mere 4 feet of the hinge end of the tent. This means that even tall folks like myself can sleep comfortably without their feet being squished by the end of the tent.
Pricing is estimated to be below $3500 with a release date aimed at late summer of 2019.
The Sand Piper
If you’re looking for a hard-shell tent that you can buy now though, you may want to check out Roofnest’s all-new Sand Piper. Inside you’ll find a 3-inch thick mattress wrapped in a rather plush textured polyester cover that can be zipped on or off for cleaning. There’s a mesh floor beneath the mattress to eliminate condensation, and plenty of storage space for shoes, clothing, and other small items in the interior mesh pockets. Storage outside the tent is nothing to scoff at either thanks to a set of reinforced roof bars capable of supporting up to 100 pounds of dynamic load, perfect for mountain bikes, kayaks, or paddleboards. The real selling point though is the price. Because Roofnest sells directly to consumers instead of through a dealer network, the Sand Piper is listed for $2,795 online, which is pretty darn good for a hard-shell tent with load bar capabilities.
To learn more, check it out on the official Roofnest website here.
COBB Cooking and Baking System
If you want to catch someone’s attention at Overland Expo, cooking food is a pretty good way to do it. If you want to keep their attention though, you might try doing something a little more dramatic. For example, casually picking up a flaming charcoal BBQ by the base, and offering folks a piece of sizzling bacon off of it. That certainly raised my eyebrows and piqued my interest enough to see what COBB grills were all about.
As it turns out, calling the COBB a grill isn’t really fair, because it can also fry, bake, smoke, broil, and warm just about anything your heart desires. Ribs? No problem. Bread? Not an issue. Baked orange brandy apples for dessert? Yes! If you can dream it up, there’s a good chance you can cook it on the COBB. It’s more than what it cooks, but how it cooks it.
The COBB was originally designed for use on the continent of Africa and focused on maximizing efficiency while minimizing the risk of spreading a fire in dry climates. It uses premium materials that won’t degrade over time and utilizes no moving parts so that it can be battered around in the back of a truck without ever having to worry about component failure. The base stays cool thanks to a creative ventilation system, which funnels air through the base of the cooker and the top of the lid. This also ensures even heating and allows the grill to run for hours on just a small amount of briquettes or wood. A drain system funnels fat away from the food for healthier meals, but it also keeps it off of the coals to significantly reduce smoke. Although it’s on the larger side of cooking systems that I’d carry, it only weighs 8.5 pounds and is available in a compact variant, making it an easy choice for anyone looking for a real grilling experience on the go.
We plan to do a full review of this product soon, but for now, check it out on their US website here.
Pricing starts at $149.99 USD
James Baroud Falcon 270 Awning
If you’ve been involved with overlanding at all, there’s a good chance you’ll know the name James Baroud. This company makes some of the best rooftop tents on the market, utilizing shell construction methods too intensive for overseas brands to knock off, and fabrics so advanced they’re manufactured by a company partnered with NASA. Now they’re releasing a new 270 awning called the Falcon, and it’s nothing less than you’d expect from James Baroud.
The Falcon uses all-aluminum construction, which gives it strength and corrosion resistance while limiting total weight to 60 pounds. That may not sound all that light, as the Alu-Cab Shadow-Awn weighs in at 60 pounds as well, but the James Baroud features a second set of armatures which fold forward toward the hood as well as back around the rear of the vehicle. This gives it far more coverage and enables owners to install an all-new, bug-proof/waterproof room beneath the awning. As if that wasn’t enough, this room can be tied into their roof tents with a pass-through for an easy transition from living space to sleeping space and back.
As you’d expect, the Falcon is also packing the proprietary aluminized fabric made famous by James Baroud’s tents, which reflects light to keep the underside of the awning cool, is UV and mold resistant, and is naturally waterproof so it will not lose its ability to shed rain over time. We did note that the awning is only freestanding in “fair weather” and that there was some pooling of water after the rain storm we experienced during the event, common issues with many 270 awnings.
To learn more, visit the James Baroud website here.
Pricing set at $1,499 USD