Special report: Adventure Overland UK Show

Those of us in the U.S. overlanding world have always assumed that our English counterparts were well ahead of us. They invented the Land Rover, after all (not to mention those awesome MOD water cans with the little brass chains to secure the cap and breather). And they can take the Chunnel to Calais, turn right, and be in Morocco in about 24 hours, or continue straight on to the Silk Road. Plus, South Africa—which was of course a British colony for ages—is the source for much of the premier overlanding equipment on the market, from such stellar names as Howling Moon, Front Runner, Eezi-Awn, National Luna, and a host of others. 

It seems, though, that while the English did get a head start on us Yanks in terms of access to proper equipment, their overland community has until now lacked any sort of real cohesion. Four-wheel-drive shows have tended to focus on hard-core abandoned-quarry rigs, the corollary to rock-crawlers here. The venerable Horizons Unlimited meets were dominated by motorcycles.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Overland Expo—which will celebrate its fifth anniversary in 2013—has brought together an extended overlanding family that now views each year as much a reunion and a chance to catch up on each other’s news as an educational and product show. (And our number one source of foreign attendees? Great Britain, of course.) 

That’s at least partly why Tom McGuigan, who owns Off Road UK and has promoted several other vehicle-related shows in Great Britain, decided to put together the Adventure Overland Show, an overland-specific event in Daventry, a few hours northwest of London. He generously invited Roseann and me to attend, and put us up in a tent at least as big as our cottage at home—it could have effortlessly doubled as a garage for one of the dozens of nearby Defenders. [And Tom's partner Shiela made sure we had extra comforters and pillows against the cold—much appreciated.]


We felt right at home situated between Overland Expo regulars Austin Vince and Lois Pryce on one side and Toby Savage on the other. Just behind us was Jens of Wohnkabinencentr.de, who is importing Four Wheel Campers into Europe, modified slightly in interior decor and names (the Wildcat is the Fleet in North America).

Not far away was another friend and Expo alumnus, Chris Scott, who’d borrowed a car to bring boxes of his latest Overlander’s Handbook, samples of which were laid out on—could that really be?—yes, an ironing board wrapped in a bit of colorful cloth. Chris, we know you’re skint, but . . .  

If what we saw in this first event is any indication, the Adventure Overland Show has a bright future. There were dozens of vehicles set up for long-distance travel, vendors of equipment (including those MOD water cans—tragically no room in our Kenya-bound luggage), tour companies (including Transylvania Tours, whose logo is—what else—a smiling cartoon Bella Lugosi with fangs), and, set off in a corner, a booth for the Parrot Rescue Association (no idea, but a worthy endeavor). One delightfully British genre is the bushcraft community; there were several vendors of volcano kettles and proper scandi-grind knives, and a spot where kids of any age could learn how to use flint (well, okay, magnesium) and steel to start a fire.


Much on offer at the Adventure Overland Show was identical to what we see at the Overland Expo, happy confirmation that dedicated overlanding equipment has made a nearly complete transition to U.S. suppliers—in fact I’d venture to say we might just be edging ahead in terms of variety. But there was some interesting exotic kit. Did I mention the MOD water cans? Right.

Long-distance travelers wanting a compact home on a Land Rover chassis could look at the L’Azalai campers. Built of a 20-millimeter-thick composite, the L’azalai fits either the 110 or 130 Defenders, and incorporates a complete galley with sink, stove, and fridge, a dinette, a hanging closet, and a large bed. Since it’s chassis-mounted, there’s even a (tight) pass-through into the cab. The L’Azalai just manages to avoid the Queen Alien look of so many add-on campers; especially on the 130 chassis.


David Bowyer of Goodwinch claims to have taken the Chinese-manufactured winch to a higher level, with better waterproofing, stronger motors, and cone brakes that eliminate the overheated line that can be caused by a drum brake. He’s one of the few—no, strike that, he’s the only winch importer I’ve seen happy to display the internals of his Asian-made winches.

If I had to pick a favorite product at the Adventure Overland Show, it would be the Cap Lander camper made for Defenders and Japanese pickups. Constructed of a honeycomb composite that’s not only light and rigid, but also insulative and partially translucent to brighten the interior, the slide-in unit comprises an astonishingly space-efficient portable home—bed, sink, shower, stove, porta-potti, etc.—in a 600-pound package. Look for a more in-depth review of the Cap Lander soon in Overland Tech and Travel.


Overall, Tom McGuigan did a wonderful job bringing together the British overland community in this first event. We wish him all the best in the future, and we look foward to being at the Adventure Overland Show 2013 in an even greater capacity. 

[We also just heard from Iain Harper that HUBBUK will be hosting an expanded show in late May 2013 in Leicestershire, incorporating more 4x4 overlanding as well—great to hear!]