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Sometimes you find yourself in a place
that has you beat. For overland explorer Clay Croft, his geographical
crucible came to fruition 40 miles into what was supposed to be a
120-mile crossing of British Columbia’s unforgiving Alexander
Mackenzie Trail. “We had run out of fuel. We had a broken shock. We
had two punctured tires. Our freshwater supply had been volcanically
contaminated. And short of that, we had run out of time,” he says.
That was in 2013. Impelled by the unfinished business at hand, Croft
and his team at Expedition Overland returned to Canada two years
later, finding redemption on the historical trail that was first cut
in 1790s. By definition, overlanding is the practice of
long-distance, self-sustained travel, primarily by off-road vehicle.
In the name of that pursuit, Expedition Overland produces a web-based
series that follows Croft and his crew, in their outfitted vehicles,
as they traverse an unpaved world in “4Lo.” Here we check in with
Croft, who tells us more about the people, the vehicles, and the gear
that bring a sense of achievability to the seemingly impossible.
One way traffic
The view from the office window
Clay Croft: Well... we’ve been
up to Tuktoyaktuk, in the Northwest Territories, and we’ve been
down to the Darién Gap near panama. We’ve traced the western spine
of South America, all the way from Colombia to Ushuaia [the capital
of Tierra del Fuego], and then went back up to Buenos Aires, in
Argentina. But Bozeman, Montana is home. I grew up fishing here, with
my dad and brother, and several of us at Expedition Overland are into
Clay Croft: The common thread is that
we’re all people who love storytelling. The people who’ve been
involved with us over the past seven years want to see the world, and
they want to tell a cool story.
We travel at about a third of the pace
of someone else, because we’re working so hard at the filmmaking
process. Making the episodes is part of the joy for us. It’s a big
part of the overall experience.
Clay Croft: I think the first and most
important thing is character—a high level of it. If you have that,
you can move to step two, which includes the kinds of specific
skill-sets we need on the road; from photography and cinematography
specialists, to people who excel at logistics, to those who are
mechanically inclined. Some of us are jacks-of-all-trades, people who
can fill in the gaps between all the major roles, which can become
just as important in the end.
Clay Croft: Yes, it’s a big part of
it, because it plays into things like efficiency and overall comfort
levels. During our South America trip, we logged about 70 days of
travel. We faced some challenging weather, and that’s when the
right outerwear can really impact the success of the expedition.
We’ve been wearing hard and soft shells from Simms. It’s been a
great match for us.
Clay Croft: Fishing has really played
into our river crossings. Having spent a lot of time on rivers in
waders gave us that insight to be able to bring vehicles across
them—especially understanding water hydraulics in relation to
riffles and deeper buckets. That all comes from fishing.
The commute to work
Clouds clear to frame the view
Getting the shot
It's hard work, but somebody's got to do it.
Over water, then over land
The team celebrates.
Clay Croft: That trip was relatively
tame. The deepest and most aggressive river crossings we’ve done
were in Alaska. There’s a lot of fording that happens there, and
it’s really where we got good at it. But the most grueling test for
our crew has definitely been the Alexander Mackenzie Trail, in B.C.
Clay Croft: That’s kind of a thing of
the past. And it’s really not possible without permits. This is
more or less about keeping trails alive. We’re also using ‘tread
lightly’ principles to travel with the most respect to the land as
Clay Croft: You’re working as hard as
we can to not tear up the trail… not spinning tires and making deep
ruts. And when you do, you fix it behind you.
Clay Croft: Thanks, we typically put
about 1,000 hours into each one before we set out on an expedition.
The funny thing is that most of us already have overland-capable
vehicles parked in our driveways. If it’s a 4X4, and if it has
enough room to haul you and your buddies, you can go overlanding. A
lot of activities, like shooting or fishing, can be included along
the way. In fact, some of you may be overlanding already… without
even knowing it.
Clay Croft: Don’t be overly consumed
by the gear. Do be consumed by the experience. As you get more
and more experience, that right gear will become apparent for your
preferred methods of travel.