Andy Palmer from The Adventure Portal made a visit to the Eastern Sierra recently and we wandered around the Upper Owens and East Walker Rivers for four days or so creating content for NIMBL Vehicles and Slumberjack.
I did my best fly fishing modeling and fortunately landed one fish. Unfortunately, it was not one for the record books.
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What’s going on these days at The Adventure Portal?
We were probably our first year into commercializing the business. So it was very much . . . okay Where is this gonna go? What is the marketplace gonna do? People didn’t really understand over landing still. It wasn’t in the Vernacular.
I’d even walk around SEMA Automotive Show and Outdoor Retailer and I’d use the word Overlanding and people would look at me and just go blank. They were like, I have no idea what you’re talking about. So it was a risk. I thought I saw an opportunity in what was happening in the marketplace.
But Overlanding, nobody knew what it was. It was just this brand new thing. And it was all about expeditions and whereas in reality, it’s car camping. In the early days, I was writing an article that pissed off a few people. “Let’s face it, we’re just car camping”, was the title of the article. And some people embrace that and thought it was very true and very funny. And then others were like screw you, you’re you. You are not taking it seriously.
So in the years since we talked before, in addition to the business being more directly connected to camping and more people talking about doing this thing called Overlanding, what other shifts have happened?
Certainly what I’ve seen happen, which, what I hoped would happen, has come true. Either through luck or foresight, I’m not sure, but I saw the opportunity and I don’t like necessarily calling it Overlanding and I think it’s an overused term. Overlanding to me is a very core, specific thing. And that is using your vehicle to go on a journey. And it’s about the vehicle and it’s about the journey of where you go. Very few of us are actually doing that.
Most of us, and that’s why I always frame everything as a vehicle-supported adventure, that’s using your vehicle. For example, here we are we’re fly fishing and we’re on a river. Are we Overlanding? No, we may call ourselves fly fishermen first with a very nicely built-up capable rig to support our passion for fly fishing. Or we might be surfers going down to Baja. We’d never call ourselves an overlander. We’d call ourselves surfers with a really built-out rig. So to me, the vehicle supports the adventure of what you want to do, and that could be multifaceted. Whatever it is, the vehicle is supporting what your pastime is. And that’s where I feel I wanted to go with my business. And that’s where I thought the bigger market was, that confluence between where the traditional outdoor market meets the automotive four-by-four market, and there’s a comfortable space in the middle where people get that.
And the Overlanding term is more descriptive of the journey and would probably better describes the equipment you take with you because it’s self-reliant travel in the backcountry. It’s different than camping.
That’s a very cool part of the marketplace. But it’s a fairly small part of the marketplace. And to me, the bigger side of it was always that middle ground where the vehicle supported everything you wanted it to be. The vehicles are still equally as built out.
Equally as capable and certainly could go on any of these expeditions and journeys, but the emphasis is not necessarily on the vehicle. It’s on the activity and the experience of where you’re going. You’re camping, you’re fly fishing. You’re surfing. You’re mountain biking. It’s the fuller experience and the self-reliance piece too because I think a lot of, yeah, you take, when you go every time I hear people talk about over landing or I see you come up to go over landing, you have all the equipment to, to do a self-rescue as well.
So in addition to commercializing your business, what other things have you done?
But what I was really doing was looking at spreadsheets and sitting in meetings, like a lot of you out there listening, that’s just, we’ve been there. That’s just life. So for me personally, the whole thing about TAP originally was it was a joke.
I was sitting around a campfire back in Anza Borrego back in probably 2014. Going, how do I make a living out of going camping? How’s somebody gonna pay me to go camping. And it was the joke around the campfire and then I went home and I thought about it and go, okay, how do I do that? So that’s really, what’s changed for me and my wife, my partner within the business. We’ve managed to live in a world where we are actually going out and doing these things and enjoying our jobs. Now living the dream, so to speak, and living less of a corporate life.
And you’re like all the other Digital Nomads you’re going out digital content for various forms of publication. What are those forms you’re publishing through?
Our platform is basically we have a website which is very gear oriented and that would be featured gear where we do a feature on the product that was sent to us and it would be “TAP Trail Tested” where we go and use the product and we give our viewpoint on that product.
And then there are the typical press releases. We do a lot of resource guides. So if you wanted to buy a rooftop, We would be a platform that you’d go to and there would be a buyer’s guide of basically every rooftop tent on the marketplace.
We have something called The Ultimate Guide to Overlanding and Vehicle Support Adventure, where there must be 30 categories and over 150 brands. I’m dating myself, but it’s the yellow pages of Overlanding. If you wanna find out anything about Overlanding or vehicle-supportive adventure, you can dive into this resource guide and at least have the ability to channel your internet search to various brands. So that’s what the website provides.
What I find more for me personally, the more interesting side of my business is the new digital magazine that we’ve launched. We launched the first issue in May and as I said, digital, it’s not print. It’s a flip book platform and that’s all about the inspiration and where you use this gear. So it’s very trip oriented. And those are the trips that we take with our own vehicles or with other people’s vehicles that sponsor the trip, much like this one that we’re on now. It’s very inspirational and photogenic. There’s not much verbiage.
So what have you seen in the gear realm, that’s new in the last handful of years, what have people focused on? Is it all categories, all products or is there something unique?
To be honest I would say it’s everything. In the Overland market, what I’ve seen in the last few years is a proliferation of bigger rigs. Now that’s very Southwest-oriented. If you go onto the east coast where you’re in trees, more, very few people use V8s. We were dodging trees with this rig yesterday.
We have a lot of wide open space here, so I’ve seen a lot of very big rigs like this one, we’re in. We’re on this trip now sponsored by NIMBL Vehicles, which is a big expedition vehicle. It’s on a platform of Ford, F 550 with 43-inch tires. It’s a big rig. And then when you raise the camper shell top up, it’s a beautiful rig. It’s the sort of thing that you look at and you go, yeah, I could travel around the world with this thing. If you get a flat though. I don’t think you and I could change a flat.
I could be criticized for making this statement, but one of the things I’ve seen is that the whole industry has become in my opinion, too much about the gear, as opposed to the experience.
So we’re talking about the magazine, you recently launched that’s and a lot of gear focus. How do you work with brands or how do you get the gear? What’s that program look like for you?
Typically very much like the outdoor industry. PR companies work for brands and they’re desperately looking for coverage all the time. I’m constantly getting bombarded with brands, wanting us to go out and test their products, which is great.
Typically, we’re going out on these types of trips a minimum of once a month, we’ll do a full week trip once a month. So usually around eight of these types of trips a year, and these types of trips tend to be anywhere between three days to a week long. And they’re generally sponsored trips by like a trailer company or like at this trip, NIMBL Vehicles who are looking for content creation. But there are a lot of ancillary products that come along on these trips. It could be. It could be Goal Zero and they want us to test out their new gear, whatever’s coming out. Or it could be, as I said, sleeping bags, it could be clothing. And quite frankly, we’re not doing anything different than Gear Junkie or anybody else in this space, we’re all doing the same type of reviews. What I try and be though is genuine about the reviews, there’s never a perfect review.
You mentioned earlier about the training side of things, is anybody doing anything?
So there’s a, you go for a week and you learn how to drive, and you learn to leave no trace and all that. And I’ll call out Todd Rogers who runs Four Points Adventures outta San Francisco, or actually, I think he’s moved up to the Northwest now, but Todd’s been doing it for many years. And Tom Severin from Badlands Off Road Adventures out of LA and Bob Wohlers – Off Road Safety Academy they’re doing one on one or they do groups. It’s very much a menu of you, you tell ’em what you want. And it’s beginner training to elite training. We don’t do any of the training articles. I feel we’re very skilled, but we’re not qualified trainers So I always rely on people like Todd or Tom to write articles for me because I want the experts to write them.
Let’s talk about trade shows for a minute. So we sat around the campfire talking about the Outdoor Retailer Show and The Big Gear show. And Grassroots Connect and all the activity going on around the morphing of the outdoor industry trade shows. I know there are a couple of really good East-West Overland shows. There’s no trade show within this marketplace as of the moment?
No, it’s all consumer shows. There’s no trade organization. It’s ripe for it. And I believe when you have a fast-growing burgeoning category like this, it’s not about controlling the masses around it. It’s about putting in the things that make it go in the right direction. That we’re all comfortable doing the right thing. But no trade show exists. It’s all consumer, Overland Expo is the main one. There are four of those shows, one on the East coast.
What’s your next adventure? Where are you going next time?
In two weeks’ time, I’m up into the lost Sierra for three days doing a photo shoot with Opus Campers, and then July, probably somewhere up in Sierra on the Eastern side, it could be Kennedy Meadows, it could be Coyote flats. Then we’re looking at a trip to the San Juan’s down in the Durango area. And then there’s just multiple smaller ones throughout the year. We’ve got a big one we’re doing in December is the El Camino Del Diablo trail.
Oh. Which is miles across Southern Arizona to the new Mexican border along basically on the Mexican. Anything in the east, I’ve got nothing planned in the east. The only time I’m gonna be out in the east is next year for Moore Expo in April will be the first time that I’ve ventured east.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to our listeners or ask of our audience?
Tread Lightly. I’m a big believer in that. Please take a look at our website there are tons of resources there for people it’s all free, it’s just to help you understand the market. And certainly please take a look at the new magazine, I hope you like it. You find it all at theadventureportal.com.