Adventure Van Expo Comes To Lake Tahoe
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
1st Annual Tahoe Adventure Van Expo - #adventurevanexpo
On September 15, 2018 a bunch of adventure vehicles gathered at the base of Homewood Mountain Resort for the first annual Adventure Van Expo in Lake Tahoe. This was the brainchild of Neil Morse. After visiting the growing Overland Expo, Neil realized the potential of a similar event in Lake Tahoe. If you go to any trailhead, any ski resort parking lot, or any of Lake Tahoe’s awesome campgrounds, then you’ll find a great number of adventure vehicles. So, why shouldn’t Lake Tahoe host an Adventure Van Expo of it’s own?
We looked forward to this event the first moment we heard about it. And, like so many events these days, we heard about this one via Facebook. We immediately hit the “interested” tab, then delved deeper to see if this event was exclusively for vans. Thankfully, we learned that the event was originally planned for vans, but many other adventure vehicles would be welcome. Should we show up with our AT Overland Habitat, Little Guy Teardrop, & our 4x4 Trailer with the CVT on top? Or, should we just check it out and enjoy the event as just another interested guest? We chose to see it as voyeurs checking all of the awesome rigs. After all, I still remember in 1992 spying my first Sportsmobile and sparking an interest that seems to grow more and more every year.
When we first arrived at the expo, the abundance of adventure vehicles lined up and down the street and all throughout the parking lot was a great indication of what we would expect to see. Sprinters definitely dominated the venue. But, we also saw modified ambulances, truck campers, and all sorts of rigs dialed for adventure. This was just the introduction we needed. My mind was already spinning. How would each of these vehicles personalize their vehicles? Would there be ski vans, surf vans, mountain bike vans, and even just vans for the growing number of digital nomads taking advantage of the mobile lifestyle?
The organizers had suggested to arrange for tickets beforehand, so we “purchased” our free tickets and dowloaded them via Eventbrite. Upon arrival, we noticed that the Homewood parking area was roped off, but nobody was really checking for tickets. Maybe we snuck in the back door. But, nobody really seemed to care. So, our first stop was at Salsa Momma’s for some yummy tamales and a couple cool beers to wash it all down. Everybody knows that events are more fun with food and drinks. Thankfully, our food was enough to fuel our batteries for exploring and the Adventure Van Expo was off to an amazing start.
Have you ever pulled into a campground, seen a beautiful rig, and wanted to get a closer look? Well, that’s what the Adventure Van Expo is all about. All of the expo’s vehicles were arranged with a great layout for getting the most out of every exhibit. Some of the vehicles were strictly a shine and show. But, other companies showed up with exhibition vehicles and well-stocked accessories available for purchase. Two of the usual suspects were present, Aluminess and Sportsmobile. Talk about a match made in heaven for anyone interested in adventure vans.
Anybody familiar with adventure vans is almost always familiar with Sportsmobile. As I said, they were my first love. They took the original VW campers and made them better. Now, a lot of their focus is concentrated in the 4x4 market. Through the years, they’ve also transitioned from the original VWs to Sprinter vans and their popular Classic version based on an E350 cutaway. Their popularity has helped Sportsmobile be one of the first and foremost names in adventure vans.
Well, adventure vans need accessories to help protect and provide storage in order to be fully functional. That’s where Aluminess comes in. They’ve taken a lot of the weight out of the equation, yet still provide a durable product. Plus, aluminum has the benefit of avoiding all too common rust. It was great to see their chuck boxes, bumpers, ladders, and roof racks in person. And, I recently saw a video on YouTube that inteoduced their founder and explained the synonymous history of Sportsmobile West and Aluminess. These days, both companies do a great job standing on their own. But, it’s also great to see two early collaborators at an inaugural event.
As a Toyota Tacoma/Habitat owner, I was immediately attracted to Vagabond Outdoors and their show vehicle. We shared our experiences over what each of us have learned works and where we may need a little assistance. Of course, these stories took place with a couple beers in hand. Thankfully, Vagabond Outdoors offered me a souvenir can coozie to help keep my beer cool in our “locals Summer”, sunny day. One of the best things was checking out their King Shocks suspension setup. As I had recently decided to upgrade my suspension from Old Man Emu to King, I had a LOT of questions. This was exactly the experience I was looking for.
While I was chatting away, my girlfriend got bored and continued her loop. I caught up with her and discovered her new treats. She found a reusable, metal, four pack of straws with a brush and storage bag. The price was great. And, we loved the idea of providing the kids straws with their smoothies and saving the waste of plastic straws. Needless to say, we bought a few more for gifts.
There were definitely quite a few vehicles up for sale. Chevy, Ford, Dodge/Mercedes/Freightliner Sprinters and even some that were more exotic. This was when we met a company out of Gardnerville, NV that makes Hunter MRVs. These are “extreme” vehicles built for living and traveling the globe. They reminded me of some of the first Unimogs I had seen while driving through Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona. Talk about a dream vehicle. But, it’s great to see these dreams capable of becoming a reality.
Many of these vehicles are so well built that they also have to be conscious of their weight. Great carpentry is not for the dieting adventure van. But, End Of Earth Vans had their own take on a great build, but without all of the extra weight. Their two great contributions focused on lighting and their copper accent pieces. I heard the detailed account of the craftsmanship and commitment involved in these pieces. I loved hearing the energy and work that was put into each panel. That’s part of the dedication that these next generation builders have for their craft. And, that’s how they separate themselves from the hordes that are just trying to make a buck. These guys pour themselves into their projects and create art in the process.
Well, we all know about Murphy’s Law. And Roam Built, out of Portland, builds their accessories with a purpose. The purpose is to “enable a life of adventure, exploration, & discovery”. I enjoyed seeing their line of racks, ladders, bumpers, and especially their lockable jerry can holder and even their sturdy shovel that was available. It was great to talk with them and learn that they were going to explore our great trails around Tahoe and learn more about the area that we call home. That’s just another example of the type of people involved with the Adventure Van Expo.
Let’s face it, #vanlife is a lot more than just a hashtag. It’s a community of like-minded adventurers sharing their experiences. And, somewhere along the way, it has also spurred a new way of life. Technology enables many of those adventurers to work from anywhere. Businesses are not necessarily tied to an office. Many entrepreneurs are out in the field product testing and seeing how their products perform firsthand. Others have become digital nomads. And, others are just trying to show their children that there’s so much more out there. In fact, education is so much more than a brick and mortar school. Life on the road is one of the greatest teachers. So, I hope to see the Adventure Van Expo be an annual event in Lake Tahoe. I hope to see people get educated, inspired, and empowered to find their own #vanlife experience, even if it isn’t necessarily in a van.