Episode 387 of The Outdoor Biz Podcast features Expedition Superstore founder Justin Dowey. Justin has built on his early family outdoor experiences in creating the Expedition Superstore. The blend of an Off-road shop and a Camping store, it brings together all of the essentials you would need to use your vehicle as the base of your adventures … Overlanding!
“If you buy crappy product, you’re gonna have a bad time” – Justin Dowey
Intro to the Overlanding
One of my first forays into the outdoor world was a four-wheel drive store in Newcastle. We would build rigs that were local and Australian touring rigs. At that point, I had a 1989 Nissan Patrol; we had a sticker on the thing that says ‘size does matter,’ and you’ll just laugh at the next comment. It had a three-inch lift on 33-inch tires.
Back then, that was huge. We did a lot of four-by-four touring setup for customers and vehicle maintenance and all that sort of stuff. So that kind of was the start to how I got to where I am now.
Was there a trip or an event that connected you to the outdoors?
It was really that Australian Safari rally. That thing ran over seven days. It went from Alice Springs and drove through to Darwin. It was all off-road. Back then, they didn’t have GPSs. They used at what’s called a terror trip. So someone had already been out and mapped the course down to the meter, and your terror trip said Drive 30 meters, turn left. But you didn’t turn left at 30 meters. You were lost that fast.
Your business is Grasshopper Trading. That’s a distribution company for other brands, correct?
Yeah. So Grasshopper is the brand behind the brands. And really, its job is to initiate relationships between the manufacturer of the products or us depending on what product we pick up. It actually sells to a distribution company in the state. So really, what it does, is it sources products and brings them into the US or makes them in the US depending on where that’s gonna fit.
So tell us about the Expedition Superstore. You said it was built with the influence from Overland stores in Australia; tell us about that.
So again, my background a little bit working for a four-wheel drive store.
In inverted commerce in Australia and then seeing that market evolve over 10 or 12 years, we weren’t seeing that same kind of market. There are a handful of stores in the US that do the overland part very well. There are a bunch of stores that can build ridiculously good rigs, but we’re finding there’s a difference.
You build a, I’m a rock crawler, and that’s the store that you go to, right? I’m gonna build a V8 44-inch tire rock monster. And there wasn’t much that was doing the other end, which was, I’m really just a family camper, but I needed my vehicle as my base cuz I, I’ve got a nine-year-old.
If you’ve got kids, your backpacking days are done, so a lot of stuff is around that vehicle-based camping and that vehicle-based adventure market. And we weren’t seeing that. There wasn’t anything here that did it.
I think the term Overlanding was coined many years ago with actually a sheepskin company.
But the Overland movement, which is the way that you could put it, really started, I think it was like, 2010 to 2012 and don’t quote me on the window. That’s when the first Overland Expo was born. I think that was kind of the birth of our industry in the terminology that we now see.
Was it more authentic back then, do you think?
I would have to say yes. Because to be at that show, back then, you had to really be into it. Cause, again, there wasn’t a choice. You had to be doing it cuz to get there; you had to do it. There was no hotel that was close. There was nowhere else you could stay. No one was showering. You’re all on pot porta-potties.
So now it’s very much more commercial. which is, which is kind of good.
You have three brands that are made there in Salt Lake City. What are those?
We’ve got three brands that we import in Salt Lake City. We do manufacture some stuff in the US. We’ve tried to bring more in, but I tell you, there are some challenges right there that are extraordinarily difficult. Anyone that makes stuff in the US, the first thing you wanna do is take your hat off and say, yeah, well done.
And do you guys offer training courses or trips for customers?
So the store, Expedition Superstore, does do trips. We’ve offered training courses. We actually have a conference room that. Our customers, whether it be a club or a group can actually use. And we’ll actually stay open so they can use our conference room.
So what do you think the big differences between US Overlanders and Australian Overlanders?
It’s a freshness to the market, I think. Aussies are, are really, ‘she’ll be right, mate’, sort of attitude; we’ve all heard that term before. ‘She’ll be right, mate’, means, alright, I see it’s broken, but we’re doing it anyway.
You know what, I’m gonna have fun with it regardless. so I think that comes with the amount of time that Australians generally spend outdoors, I think they’re a little bit more accepting of environmental challenges. That’s about as politically correct as I can get. In other words, if it rains, they’re like, you know what? Screw it; it’s raining, whatever, we’re here. Yeah, yeah. yeah, there’s a bit of rain that’s coming in through that little gap. See that little inch gap? Yeah. Little bit. Rain’s gonna come through that. How do I stop it? You don’t; it’s gonna rain, dude. It’s an outdoor sport. That’s why we’re out here.
Do you have any advice or suggestions for folks wanting to get into overlanding?
if I shared one little piece of advice, it would be . . . be careful f where you take your advice. There are so many, and not to pick on the internet, but unfortunately, there is so much, and I see this because we’re part of Facebook groups and all that sort of fun stuff. If you asked Facebook for a suggestion, take it with a grain of salt.
Do you have a favorite piece of Overland/Outdoor gear that’s under a hundred dollars?
One of my favorites, and we just actually put this into the store. It’s called a “ResQMe.” It goes on my key ring. It has a window smasher and a seatbelt cutter. And it’s one of my favorites, it’s made here in the US. It’s a US-patented made-in-the-US product. It’s under ten bucks.
What, what are some of your favorite books?
I do audiobooks these days cause I’m on the road so often. One that I just listened to, which impacted some more stuff that I did, and there are two that are probably the most impactful.
One Minute Manager. Most of mine are self-help business-related books. So One Minute Manager was the last one. Traction: Entrepreneur’s Operating System probably made the biggest impact on our entire company.
Is there anything else you want to say to our listeners or ask of our listeners?
I think it just repeats on the advice is be, is be mindful of where you seek your advice. Be mindful that a lot of the stuff on the internet, whether it be Instagram or Facebook or all of those, there’s a pretty fair chance that someone’s getting paid. So as you watch that, understand it, take it with a grain of salt that, although the marketing, the all of those things is really good. Someone’s getting paid. Take your time.
How can they find you? Where’s the best way?
The store: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can call the store at 801.871.0569
What’s your current rig? What are you driving?
Ram Chop is my current rig. The evolution of Ram Chop started as a Dodge 2500. So we built it, we put an AV lift on it. We put a RSI smart cap, a 23Zero Kabari tent and awning, and all the goods that went along with that. And we ran that for, I dunno, 15 months. So drag trailers all over the countryside. It did all the things we wanted it to do. This year we made some changes to the store, so we upped the game on Ramp Chop. We actually took the back off it and put a Bowen Custom flatbed on the back, we put a Four Wheel Camper, so it’s got a Hawk flatbed camper on the back. t’s got a 23ZERO awning that that covers the entire back end of the thing.
So it’s got massive amount of coverage. So it sits on 40-inch tires, airbags under the back, as I said, flatbed with all the goodies.
“If you buy crappy product, you’re gonna have a bad time” – Justin Dowey