Excitement builds as you prepare to embark on your next adventure. Running through your mental checklist, you question if every little detail is in order; is fuel topped off, are tools packed away, is food and clothing loaded on board? Now with that aside, are you ready for what lingers down the road? Sidewall punctures, winch line breaking, getting stuck, border crossing, visas and that pesky carnet. Whether it be a weekend trip or a year long jaunt to a long lost corner of the world, preparation is an essential step to a successful overland expedition. Many obstacles seem daunting when confronted suddenly, yet when equipped with the right knowledge those obstacles can be easily conquered. While organizing my around the world expedition I found myself pinned by numerous logistical challenges, of which I would soon be given the tools to overcome.
In December, Scott Brady invited me to join Overland Training’s comprehensive course. Without hesitation I jumped on board. With a quick flight to Salt Lake City for retrieval of my fully functional vehicle and a long drive returning to Arizona, I was ready. Early morning at the meeting spot, familiar names of the overland community were abound. These fellow experienced travelers were all geared up for the training week ahead. After everyone introduced themselves we drove a short overland trek where training would commence. Without exposing the inter-workings of , I will outline my thoughts and some of the basic experiences of the course. I’ll save the details and the tons of extra information I’m purposely leaving out for you to explore yourselves. After all, it is a training course.
First on the schedule was a pre-trip inspection, driving position and sand hill traversing. Before departure on trips small or large, one should inspect their vehicle and equipment. Our instructors showed the class what to look for and the proper routines to follow when conducting a pre-trip inspection. Checks included the typical engine oil and transmission fluid. Then they spanned to highly critical parts to check such as suspension springs, wheel bearings and many other important items that are commonly overlooked. At first glance, driving position didn’t seem very crucial. Aside from being comfortable while driving, we were taught enlightening new things, such as how foot placement comes into play when trying to control the vehicle in rough terrain. With an impromptu emergency, the whole group headed out to help someone who flipped their truck while attempting a j-turn. The driver had a different result than in the movies. Luckily no one was hurt, but did turn into a great learning experience for us on how to winch over a rolled vehicle. Returning to our original location, we resumed by jumping into sand driving and sand hill traversing. Tire pressure is just one of many key elements to tackling sandy terrain. Being comfortable leaning sideways on a sandy incline was a bit nerve racking as well. Exposure to the unfamiliar is part of the course, teaching us to stay in control during sketchy situations. After our sandy exerciser we retire for the day.
Rolling out of bed brought our second day of training. First order of the day, an ego check. Despite how good we think we may be, we can’t do everything. Our first activity brings on why we need spotters then how to spot correctly and effectively. There’s more than meets the eye. Further on we begin spotting each other over rocky terrain. We split into groups for this, automatic and manual transmissions. I had my Explorer for the course, so I ended up in the automatic group. Since my primary expedition vehicle is manual Mr. Brady took me aside to teach me some fancy footwork with his Land Rover. Very cool experience and definitely shows how important it is to the instructors to teach everyone the skills they need. The remainder of the day was spent on a the trail practicing hill ascent and decent methods. After which we traveled on a short overland trail to the snow covered mountains of Prescott to setup camp.
Snow training, not planned although a great experience for the desert dwellers. Crawling out of bed was difficult this morning with an additional six inches of snow to contend with. Breaking fresh tracks, we begin the days driving practice on cross axle terrain. Fundamentals of snow driving were taught, including how to control the vehicle on slick surfaces, the importance of adequate tire placement and various crucial skills. Completing the driving segments, we moved onto winching and the specialty equipment associated with winching. I myself have never used a winch, so this was a valuable bit of training. Getting to see first hand how to use
snatch blocks, line extensions and the infamous Pull-Pal came with valuable techniques that only experience can offer. Safety was the premise of the day, keeping keen on what, where and when to be and do. Additional assorted advanced recovery gear where demonstrated and explained in detail.
Moving into the next few days we enter into the classroom. I would love to tell you all the fun stuff. However, if I did. Well, you know. All kidding aside, the curriculum received in the classroom alone justifies the cost of the course. Experience has always been the forefront of my education throughout life and Overland Training brings a robust
scope of knowledge to the table. All that is needed on your part is to absorb. Essential elements of overland travel are taught here of which involves; cultures, border crossing, shipping, documentation needed, carnets de passage, equipment, clothing, camp living, loading and lashing, specialty tools, communications, navigation, security, advanced tire repair and then some. All of which are deep routed in conversation and respectful values. Proper food and water storage procedures are accompanied by how to clean and filter using formulas and resources available in third world countries. Honestly, there is simply no way for me to talk about everything. There are years of travel wrapped into a few days. Away from the abundance of information, hands on training included, suturing a sidewall puncture, synthetic winch line splicing, gear lashing and equipment usage.
All in all, I had a great time and would recommend the course to other overland travelers. The seasoned overlander may already know some of the material being taught, though hearing information from a third party is a good way to refresh and potentially catch new bits. Personally I grasped the most new knowledge in the classroom rather than in the field. Although, having knowledgeable people nearby allowed myself to push my driving skills further in the field exercises than I would of had I encountered the same obstacles alone. Beyond concepts the course, hard numbers, science and detailed examples are given. Experience from both the contributing instructors, Graham Jackson and Scott Brady, are a valuable and irreplaceable source. There are many beneficial aspects to Overland Training’s comprehensive course, namely the logistical information received in the classroom and the peace of mind to try more challenging driving techniques.