Last holiday season, Tom Standish put most of his belongings in long-term storage, leased his Oregon home and, with his wife, children and newborn, traded on the street for a while in suburban life.
The family’s new dig for the next four years: a luxury overland adventure vehicle called the Earthcruiser FX that combines premium accommodations – albeit at 88 square feet – with hardcore off-roading capabilities. Boxing Behemoth Starting Price: $ 439,000.
The Standes have so far traveled 10,000 miles, traveling across large parts of the southwest and Pacific northwest before crossing the Canadian border, where they are exploring British Columbia. Their snapshot of the voyage – the Earthcruiser sitting on a cliff at Vermillion Cliffs in Arizona, or the magnificent white expanse of Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah – looks something like the Patagonia catalog. They plan to take the Earthcruiser down the Baja California Peninsula in December and then ship the 6-ton rig to Belgium so they can use it to cross Northern Europe next year.
“At the moment, we’re in the vehicle full time. We’re all moving in,” said Stanislav, 36, who retired after founding and selling a Los Angeles textile company; he is now a commercial real estate agent. The $ 6,000 transatlantic shipping fee is “a major barrier to entry,” he acknowledged, but the family is making a living from their rental property and saving on hotel bills. “The children are young and still in school. Are not, and we have limited time where we can do it and not be grounded. “
Absolutely not touring in #vanlife (which is more bohemian) or glaming (roots in wealth; no car needed) or in an RV (limited to courier and paved roads) Is defined as a self-contained method and an undeveloped area in a particular vehicle for a continuous period of time.
The criteria, already broad, are expanding as new entrants flood the market: enthusiasts can purchase top-of-the-line turnkey rigs costing 2 million, or their four-wheel-drive submarines. And could turn Toyota into an overland-powered vehicle with roof tents. , Off-road tires, portable refrigerators and suspension lift kits. There are people working on a budget that is constantly improving over the years, and a growing crop of vehicle outfitters that will do just that for you. Some enthusiasts see a long-awaited hobby as overlanding; Others adapt their personal lives – and now, thanks to policies that allow remote work, even their daily jobs – around chasing the next epic adventure on wheels.
Overlanding has been affecting the United States for the past decade, before the epidemic pushed the emerging sector into overdrive, known for decades in Australia and Europe.
“Everyone was on the ground, nobody was able to fly, so what are your options? Where are you going to drive?” Makes $ 4,000 hard-shell roof tents. Boulder, Colo. The company saw its annual sales increase 400% last year to over $ 10 million.
“The combination of everyone who wants to get out and only be able to travel by car was a perfect recipe for overlanding,” Nichols said.
An April report by the trade association for the motor vehicle aftermarket noted that although sales of new cars in the United States fell by about 15% last year, sales of trucks and SUVs remained relatively healthy. A bright spot: Overlanding, which the group called “the last four-wheeled form of social distance.” The report says the sector has “exploded” and industry watchdogs expect consumer interests to remain “strong in the years to come”.
Lance Gilles, co-founder and CEO of EarthCruiser, said: “People are deciding more and more that life is short. Kovid really brought that home – our time is not really what we thought it would be.
With three models starting at $ 289,000 and equipped with queen-size beds, kitchens, water filtration, solar panels, mood lighting, tiled backsplash and shower bathrooms, the EarthCruiser complements the rich overlander. The 13-year-old company produces a few dozen of its high-end campaign vehicles each year from its Bend, Ore, headquarters, but plans to make at least 100 next year to meet that demand. Revenue has increased by 40% in 2020 and is on track to do so this year.
The whole outside world is our bedroom. We are going as far as we can with this.
– Tom Standish, 36, with his family on a multi-year overlanding trip around the world
The epidemic also introduced an unexpected aspect to overlanding: the ability to work off the road. For years, a basic principle was to be largely free from the responsibilities and tools of traditional life; Enthusiasts insisted on being out of reach.
Now, staying on the grid is part of the temptation, especially as more thousands of years of activity take over (overlanding was once considered the domain of rich retirees). That’s why automakers are integrating Wi-Fi and satellite connectivity and integrating their marketing pitch: “We help people gather experiences while earning a living,” said Gillies. The company’s vehicles, designed to fit in shipping containers, can be considered “a mobile office not limited to the continent”.
That’s how Matt Jacobson uses his EarthCruiser, motorizing it in the Southwest and around Montana for the past year and a half while still working his hours as creative director of Facebook’s archived reality.
“We were in the mountains near Bryce, beautiful, and I had my iPad and I was zooming in,” said Jacobson of Manhattan Beach. “It simply came to our notice then. We’re talking about sending it to Iceland or the Florida Keys. We think of it as a land yacht. ”
However, he noted that a reliable signal can be difficult to come by.
“We have learned a very valuable lesson from satellite internet connectivity. It actually gets very expensive very quickly, like, unusually, to the point where I couldn’t shut things down fast enough, “said Jacobson, the eighth Facebook employee. “You can burn thousands of dollars of data costs in one afternoon. This is because, for example, you are on a remote oil rig and someone’s arm has fallen off and you need someone to show you a video on how to restart it. “
Ever since he started overlanding a decade ago, Josh Ashcraft has bought four pre-owned Land Rovers and spent thousands of dollars repairing them for backcountry. He drove through the deep snow on a dry lake bed in southeastern Oregon during a week-long caravan trip with his friends in search of the perfect Christmas tree in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington.
Ashcroft, 42, prefers the solitude and freedom that comes from the availability of a camp site and not being limited by established roads, as well as the ability to work while traveling – however, he said, “I’m a little controversial about that. “
“Part of the overlanding was to get out and enjoy the nature, so you have to be a little more disciplined,” said Ashcraft, who lives in Portland, Ore, and owns an outdoor equipment company. “Otherwise you suck back at the same thing, just in a different environment.”
As vehicles have evolved to become workplaces, and as some epidemiological travel restrictions and restrictions apply, the fast-growing DIY community is targeted with better after-sales products from outdoor-oriented retailers and accessories manufacturers. Creating
“Building your own overland vehicle is an experience,” said Lindsay Hubley, managing partner of Overland Expo, at the annual event series for outdoor adventure lovers. “Customization is a big part of the culture: getting your vehicle ready for what you envision for your off-road adventure.”
Overland Expo 2009 started as a single gathering with only 15 exhibitors and 500 spectators. A decade later, it grew to two shows with 650 viewers and 40,000 viewers.
After canceling all 2020 individual events due to the epidemic, Overland Expo will present three shows for the first time this year – in Colorado, Arizona and Virginia – with a total of 840 exhibitors and an estimated 57,000 spectators. In addition to checking out the latest vehicles and accessories, participants (approximately one-third of expos will be first-timers) can sign up for outdoor classes and learn hands-on training to learn how to properly navigate their rig in difficult areas. How to run with With over 100 brands on the waiting list, booth space sold out months ago.
The combination of everyone wanting to get out and being able to travel by car alone was a perfect recipe for overlanding.
– Tim Nichols, founder of RoofNest, who builds hard-shell roof tents for overlanders
REI has taken a major hit in the overland accessories market in recent months, focusing on new overlanders who do not have purpose-built vehicles and are looking for “hackable” ways to enhance their experience. . “This is a key part of our strategy,” said Paul Calenderella, general merchandising manager of camp products for retailers.
During the epidemic, REI redesigned the overland camping section of its website and saw a surge in related sales, especially for attachable shelters, large-format sleeping pads and blankets, pizza ovens and cookware. Roof tents have grown threefold over the past three years, Calenderella said, and “furniture is off the charts for us.”
He said that while REI is closely following the latest developments in portable Wi-Fi hotspots, satellite devices and large batteries, the company expects the products to be in high demand in overlanders in the coming years.
A show to tell a fascinating story
From the Los Angeles Times.
“Remote work has accelerated this ability to become a permanent nomad,” Calenderella said. “We are thinking about connectivity. Technology is a place we’re monitoring to understand trends and to learn how to best serve someone in that mode. “
So far, the nomadic lifestyle has conformed to the standards. The family of four spends the morning hiking, paddling and swimming before putting their bikes in the back of the Earthcruiser and driving for two hours to their next destination.
The children – 2 1/2-year-old Ivy and 11-month-old Tom – adapted to their new sleeping environment a month later and, apart from a few colds and some difficulties crossing the Canadian border, it was a smooth journey. .
“The whole outside world is our bedroom,” said Standish. “We are going as far as we can with this.”