What an amazing event and the first of it’s kind in the USA for many reasons, most important to us was the value the event gave to handicapped person’s ability for backcountry travel. Many events make sure they meet minimum legal requirements for any disabled that might attend. But this event was different in how the disabled were encouraged to travel the world and immerse themselves in other cultures and sights. Every step of the way the organizers where keeping the disabled in mind regarding location, class attendance, after hours events and more.

The event included vehicles and owners of rigs like the Turtle Expedition. The Westcott’s have been traveling the world for years and were more than willing to offer their thoughts on world travel by the disabled and to show how a setup like their could easily be adapted to almost any mobility need.

Rare is an event where you get to spend so much quality time with people who are actually traveling the world and who are writing the books the rest of us are studying before leaving home. The Greene’s where on hand to sign a copy of “Americas Overland” for our Silent Auction. They also were a treasure trove of knowledge and like so many other travelers were willing to help anyone who showed an interest.

Sportsmobile had quite a number of vehicles on display since the Overland Expo was also an owners gathering for them. This company already has a long history of building rigs for handicapped owners and you can check out some of them on their website. From the company owner down to folks who had just bought a Sportsmobile I found each of them more than happy to talk about disabled access to the backcountry and they were very encouraging of the idea. Andy T. who has a white Hi-top van was even willing to let me take it out on the demo course. This was a great experience as I had been driving that course for hours each day in our FJ Cruiser so I really got a feel for the Ford Van, its space inside and it’s off highway manners, very impressive in all aspects.

Other companies on hand regarded the disabled community highly enough to design accessibility in from the start. We have been working closely with Adventure Trailers on their new folding trailer but this Teardrop was a surprise to everyone. Yet even on that design they had considers the door height for chair transfers and the rear storage cooking area from a wheelchair perspective. Too many companies try to make a product work for the handicapped after it is on the market; Adventure Trailers wants to serve all it’s customers before a product gets out the door.

The “yet to be named” folding trailer was a real hit of the show. The super lightweight composite material means they can make it a powered open/closing design and the low deck height makes it easy to use with a portable ramp. Even lower limb amputees like me find this trailer design very welcoming. From having enough floor space for hygiene and easy movement to the under bed storage that means less walking around there are many features on this trailer that were designed with accessibility in mind.

The final product should be going into production soon and it will be easy to tow behind cars, vans, trucks or 4wds. Regardless of your desire to stay on mild gravel roads or rough 4wd trails this trailer will make the journey and give you an easy to setup camp experience.

Of course the mega-rig where on hand with Global Expedition Vehicles like this one and some Unicat designs. As these are hand built and feature many custom touches it would be easy for the companies to meet anyone’s mobility needs and often times you will find they already have built something close to what you would want.

The venue was great as it already was handicapped friendly and allowed easy mobility and high vantage point viewing for those who wished to go up into the grandstands. And the campsite was a feast of different setups with owners more than willing to talk about ways to make remote camping easy for people with mobility issues.

Overland Training. was present to talk about how to meet the needs of the disabled who want to learn more about backcountry travel and the skills get out and home again. We have been working closely with these folks ever since I received my Overland Certification. In the future we hope to partner together to meet the driving instruction needs of the disabled while OT covers the concepts and other aspects that are universal regardless of mobility issue.

And if your desire was to keep your body closer to home but still let your spirit sore Overland Journal. was on with a variety of travel books, their magazine and even videos ranging from vehicle recovery to past events. The Editors of Overland Journal embrace the idea of vehicle based world travel for everyone and through out the pages of each issue there are adventures that are possible for nearly anyone to partake of.

Of course we were there in force, with our FJC on static display so we could explain our mission to get more disabled folks independently traveling the backcountry, find the gear to help them and take an Epic Adventure now and then ourselves. The reception to our message was welcomed by both the able bodied and disabled alike. The number of everyday folks who signed up for more information on how they could help, the numbers of raffle tickets sold and the number of people who were thinking about how the aging process is effecting their mobility was tremendous.

Showing off the gear, photo by Dan De Lisle-CB16 Photography Copyright 2009

In addition to a display space the organizers also gave us other opportunities to work with the disabled community. We put on “Hands on gear demos” so that folks could see the gear and life solutions we strive for to make the backcountry safe and enjoyable. These demo’s gave us a question & answer time with folks and allowed more involved demonstrations of the solutions using tools like the Pull Pal, ARB X-Jack, Total Vision Camera System, Extreme Outback air compressor running tools & so much more.

We also were able to go out on the demo track with the disabled & abled alike to show the Sure Grip.hand controls and Total Vision. Spotting Cameras in action. This is a real difference between this event and others, at the Overland Expo we were able to take folks out and explain in real life scenarios how the disabled can access remote areas with the proper attitude, training and gear. We were also able to show off some of our newly acquired Overland Training knowledge which helped reinforce the importance of being prepared before ever leaving home.

And if our demo of a self spotting camera system wasn’t enough Total Vision. was also on hand with an over the top setup that allowed Don L. to drive the course with his windows covered! While our system was meant to be an everyday example it was great to see just what can be done when the fires of creativity and imagination are raging.

I have to say I was overwhelmed with the support DE received from the overland community, this show just how important everyone’s access to the amazing sights and experience of the backcountry is to the manufacturers, vendors and everyday travelers. Autohome donated this Overzone Tent for raffle, and Camping Lab donated their side awning also. There are so many other companies to thank please take a moment at the end of this story to check out their logo and website.

Roseann and a great group of kids helped with the Silent Auction, Drew, Casandra, Koby and my sons Nathan & Martin. I would also like to thank Kristina from Overland Training and Wil from Sierra Expeditions for his help putting the Silent Auction together. And for all those excellent folks who put done bids. Thank You!

Even though the event was covered many full days & nights of programs there was still tremendous energy and happiness in the banquet hall. There was a ton of laughter and conversation that made you feel it was much more a gathering of friends than strangers who had not met before. The welcome the disabled community received and will continue to receive in years to come was overwhelming.

Here is a list of everyone who supported us with either a product or cash donation. Please keep these folks in mind as you are shopping for new gear. There were a couple of others that I still need to get information from so please check back before too long to see more names.

Autohome Tents. cover the full range of hardshell to soft and they have the years of experience to make sure their products take care of you & your family. Disabled Explorers is very grateful for the Overzone Tent donation!

Campig Lab supported us way back on the Continental Divide Expedition with one of their roof top tents and they are still supporting us with the donation of a very nice side awning. Thanks!

Big thanks go out to Aluminess for their donation of one of their new aluminum bumpers for our FJ Cruiser. Very strong and light, a perfect overlanding combination.

The Muskoka Foundation was kind enough to donate a set of tires to the Silent Auction and even have a first bid ready on them before the event even started. You really should go to their website and read about the cool things they are up to and that you can take part in. You can make a difference in the world and they are ready to help.

Alan of Sportsmobile was the high bidder on one of the centerpieces and the banquet dinner and he was very helpful to the disabled folks who stopped by to chat during the event. Since his operation has already built a number of rigs for various mobility needs he understands the community and is ready to help.

Paul of Equipt was another high bidder on some Silent Auction goods and more. He is the go to guy for Eezi-Awn, National Luna and Front Runner. You can always trust Paul to be looking for the next great overlanding product from South Africa and elsewhere.

Thor of Viking Winchline was super helpful in donating some top quality line to the silent auction. They also have a full line of recovery gear, splicing kits and other winch related items worth checking out.

Mombassa has a very creative donation with their line of mosquito netting for various size sleeping setups. Few travelers in the USA really understand the threat of diseases from mosquito bites in parts of the world.

Tat from Off Road Trail Tools has a creative mind that just keeps coming up with new and innovative products. And since he designed much of what he sells you can trust he will back up the products 100%. There are quite a few items in the ORTT lineup that we are looking forward to testing out for folks with mobility issues.

I have to give a big thanks to the folks at Sol Tek for their cash donation. Not only did they put on some great night time demo’s of quality lights but they were more than willing to listen to the special needs of the handicapped community. Great people, great products.

While it would be easy to assume that TRD Parts 4U. is Toyota only, you will be mistaken. They carry a great lineup of overland gear and are excellent people to work with.

Doug from the Alberta Conservation Assoc. was kind enough to donate a couple of things to the silent auction. These folks are leading the way in promoting recreation and conservation together.