KOAR Thank You

Gratitude is a KOAR principle

“To travel, to experience and learn: that is to live.” — Nepalese mountaineer Tenzing Norgay

I swear it was September yesterday. It can’t be Thanksgiving already, can it? I mean, I am still sifting through photos and memories. Thinking back to this past September and the amazingly awesome weekend I spent with some equally awesome people in the middle of nowhere in an area of Michigan with a name that no one can quite remember how to spell or pronounce. 

If you are not familiar with the Keweenaw Overland Adventure Retreat, let me give you a brief synopsis, a bunch of car camping enthusiasts from all over the Midwest converge on a base camp for a weekend of fun. We have vendors, swag giveaways, clinics, campfire gatherings, and probably too much food and beer.  We spend a large part of the days wandering around the Keweenaw peninsula, exploring backroads, beaches, waterfalls, forests, abandoned mines, ghost towns, and sleepy villages. We hike, fish, swim, bike, rock hound, and stargaze. This event was born out of the desire to bring like-minded skottle nerds together and to introduce them to the stunning beauty and recreational activities available in the Keweenaw peninsula. 

Looking back to the first event we did in 2018; I am especially grateful to host facility Northwinds Adventures owners Carl and Michelle and recreation director, Rob. Without their support and trust, this event never would have happened (I had to convince the owners that our crowd was more the fry donuts for breakfast than spin donuts in the mud kind.) This location was the right place at the right time, and many great memories have been made there.

Our vendors deserve a special thanks for their support and patience as KOAR got off the ground and into its second year. Thank you, TC Teardrops, Xventure Trailers, Venture Overland Company, Auto-Pros Glass & Tire, Brickside Brewery, ChiTown 4×4, and Artemis Overland Hardware for your commitment to a Midwest overland event. We love that you guys all joined in on the fun and appreciated the time, effort, and generous swag donations. Also on the list to thank are our media sponsors, Overland Pioneers, and Voss Adventures. Jeremiah, Brian, thanks for so beautifully sharing your experiences at KOAR, I never tire of watching the videos you make (this is where you pause reading and follow them.)

I don’t feel like I have thanked the KOAR team nearly enough. Jack, Chris, Mandy, Taylor, Jake, Carly, Cody, Peter and Megan, YOU ROCK. From leading trail rides to stuffing swag bags and everything in between, I am so thankful for every one of you. The improvements over last year were a direct result of you all stepping forward and making the event better in every way with your talents, enthusiasm, and love of this community. I heart you all.

Finally, thank you to all the KOAR attendees. Nothing is quite exciting as seeing you roll up the dirt lane in small rigs, big rigs, BIG rigs, filthy or clean, full of dogs, kids, smiling faces, it is a humbling validation that this community, this family, needed a place to gather. Thank you for trusting us and our vision, thank you for sharing it and adding your touches to the story. It is so rewarding to see this event turn into a friend’s reunion and to be able to make new friends that we can’t wait to see next September again. 

Is it here yet? I can’t wait.


UPDATE- the dates for the Keweenaw Overland Adventure Retreat will be announced soon, along with other exciting news. Sign up for email notifications on our site, so you don’t miss a thing! https://keweenawoverlandadventureretreat.com/

Plantnet: The App Every Forager Should Have

If your family is like mine, then you enjoy going for a hike. One of my favorite things while out is looking for wild edibles. I can identify some plants, but I’m no expert. This makes my wife nervous since she doesn’t always believe me when I say, “I know what I’m putting in my mouth.” That’s where Plantnet comes in.


How Does It Work?

Plantnet uses the camera on your smartphone to take a picture of the plant you want to identify. Then it searches its database to find the closes match. Once the plant has been identified, you will have access to different pictures, a direct link to the Wikipedia page and a list of other familiar names.

I know what you’re thinking. What if I’m deep in the UP driving up the backside of Mount Arvon and I need to know if the leaf I used as toilet paper was poison ivy or something else. Well even if you don’t have signal, Plantnet will save the picture for you to look up later when it is available.

The app is split up into eight categories. Five of which are continents with sub-sections.

  • Europe and West Europe
  • America with, Canada, USA, Central America, Caribs, Amazonia, Tropical Andes, Martinique
  • Africa includes North Africa, Tropical Africa, Reunion, Mauritius Island, Comoro Islands
  • Asia and Eastern Mediterranean
  • The islands of Oceania-Pacific, New Caledonia, Hawaii, and French Polynesia

That means no matter where your adventure might take you, Plantnet will be with you.


Plantnet is available for both IOS and Android users.

Overlanding With An Infant: Tips For New Parents

In April of this year, I was blessed with my first child, Magnolia. Being an active family in the past few years, we didn’t quite know how to include our now three-month-old. After asking around for advice and not getting much, I decided to share our experience so other new parents can have something to look to for ideas.

Plan a Short Pre-trip

Typically every summer we plan a trip to Michigan’s UP. But we didn’t feel comfortable taking a five to eight-hour car ride with an infant. Luckily my parents are seasonal’s at a campground only two hours from where we live. This provided an excellent opportunity to get away for the Fourth of July weekend and see if Maggie would be okay.

The trip going north went smoothly. When we were about forty minutes from the campground, we had to pull off the highway for a feeding. This was expected since she didn’t want to eat before we left. Once we got there, It was nice to have friends and family to help watch her. It gave us both a chance to enjoy the sunshine and water. Being able to escape the heat into the A\C was really helpful. (Also a nice change for us.) It made it easy to keep her from overheating, and made a great spot for naps. Going home went alright, we left late after a day of fishing. While stopping for food before jumping on the highway, she started crying. After we calmed her down, she was okay for a while. Then she got hungry. Pulling over in a rest area to feed her, we noticed a storm in the distance. No matter what we tried we couldn’t get Maggie back down, and had to push through the storm with a crying baby for one hour. Something we’d like to try during a more extended trip is, doing a big feeding before we leave. That, combined with frequent planned stops, should (hopefully) make for a smoother ride.

Pack Lite

Even though we didn’t use everything we brought, it doesn’t mean it won’t be packed for the next trip.

  • whole pack diapers
  • two packs of wipes
  • sunscreen (used)
  • hats (used)
  • five outfits (used)
  • pack and play (not used)
  • bouncy seat (used)
  • playmat (not used)
  • sun tent (not used)
  • frozen breast milk (used)
  • nursing cover (used)
  • blankets (used)
  • baby monitor (used)
  • baby Tylenol (not used)

Know Where You Are

Going to the family campground was a great first outing for us because we know where everything was. No matter where you are at, it is always good to know where the closest hospital is. Another thing I would say is useful, is to know would be where the closet store is. Even though we brought a full pack of diapers and wipes, I wouldn’t want to chance running out.

Babies are unpredictable. When it comes to taking them out on the road, always prepare for the worst. As long as you are prepped for any occasion, you and your family can still have a fun and relaxing time outdoors.

The Minimalist Approach To Overlanding

I’ve always liked the idea of having less stuff and living a minimalist lifestyle. The problem is I like things. It doesn’t matter if it’s gear, clothes, movies, books, or whatever thing I might be into at the time. I like the physical items. Over the years, I’ve learned to get rid of certain material items that take up too much space in my small house (books and movies being the primary items). After a few trips into the woods, I wanted to see if I could take a minimalist approach to the gear I overland and camp with. This article is going to focus on strictly my camping gear and what I feel I can manage with for a weekend. In the future, I may expand on some other items.

The Background

One of the first outings I took as an “overlander” was with a bunch of equipment I did not need. It was just my oldest son and I going so I packed my three primary camping tubs into the back of my truck. Once we were on the trails, making camp, and needing to get to the gear, I realized this was an absolutely terrible idea. Not only did I not need all the equipment but it was continually rattling around as we traveled. The primary lesson learned from that trip was to travel with as little as possible and take more of a minimalist approach to hauling and using gear.

Pack too much and you’ll find you don’t need it.

Now there is no denying that if I had been out with my entire family (5 people), I probably would have needed most or all of the stuff in those bins. After that initial trip, I started looking at what I needed versus what I took. Most of the stuff didn’t even get used, and it ended up being more of a hassle to dig through bins to get to what I did need. The outcome was an article on having an adventure-ready set up in your rig.

The New System

I paired down everything I needed into a spare cooler I had. Other than some larger items, most of the gear fit. This included a weekend’s worth of dehydrated meals as emergency food, or if I wasn’t feeling into the groceries, I bought along. A second cooler was used to house all of the food that was needed for a weekend trip. This included all of the cold and non-cold items.

organization cover photo
The little amount of gear I try to carry.

I got a chance to test out my adventure ready set up a couple of times during a Manistee trip and then during a trip in the Grayling/Kalkaska area. It turns out I could whittle down my gear loadout even further than what I had. And to be honest, I added in my camp table and full-size stove to what I have. They fit neatly behind both coolers, so they were not a hassle to get to. Once again, I was able to determine I could remove and substitute some things.

Lightweight vs. Minimalism

There are two ways to look at gear reduction: the weight of items versus the number of items. Weight reduction is not necessary as an overlander because we can use our vehicles to carry heavier weight items. I think the definition of lightweight is pretty understandable, but I’ll give it to you anyway. Merriam-Webster gives one definition of lightweight as “of thin material or build and weighing less than average.”

Minimalism doesn’t focus on weight necessarily but rather “extreme spareness and simplicity,” again the definition comes from Merriam-Webster. The minimalist approach is what I want to focus on when dealing with packing gear for a trip. Some of that gear happens to fall into the lightweight category as well. Even after cutting my gear load out down to a third of what it was, I still found I had more than necessary.

I think there is a balancing act to be had between lightweight gear, approaching packing with the minimalist mindset, and functionality of the equipment you bring. For example, I have an MSR Pocket Rocket as part of my gear loadout and it works great. Functionality wise though I’d much rather use my two burner Coleman stove. So, in the end, I’ll probably transfer the backpacking stove to my survival bag. The survival bag travels along with me so it’ll be there regardless,  just not used as the primary cooking stove.

The Minimalist Approach

While the two cooler system works, the next project on my mind is a modular cargo system for the rear of my rig. I’ve got rough plans drummed up for a cubed drawer system that can work in one of two ways. If my third-row seat is either out or folded up, the cubes would lay flat, giving me drawer access to the rearmost cubes and top access to the front most cubes. If the rear seat is up, which is how it tends to be, then the cubes would stack one on another giving me access to all the available drawers.

When I planned out my idea, I started thinking about what I wanted to have stored in the drawers full time, so I didn’t have to keep packing things. What I took with me on my last trip would end up being more than what I could probably fit in the drawer space, so I had to start listing what the most used and essential was.

  • Cookstove and fuel canisters
  • Cook set
  • Utensils
  • Recovery gear
  • Medical kit
  • Tools
  • Lighting
  • Fire starting kit
  • Hammock/tent
  • Chair(s)
  • Camera

This ended up being what I came up with as full-time stored items. I didn’t include a table because the plans called for either storage for my table or a built-in slide out table. This list isn’t dependent on building my drawer system though. Until that project is done, I’ve taken the same approach and repacked my adventure box with this setup.

Approaches To Packing

There is any number of ways to go about packing light with a minimalist mindset. For me, I don’t mind having heavier items that serve a purpose, which is why my cook table still travels with me. If space claim in your rig is a problem or you’re just looking to run as light as possible, the following packing options might help.

Consolidation Is Key

It might seem like a good idea to carry around a bunch of kitchen gear or cooking gear, but realistically you can consolidate it down. You don’t have to buy each piece. I would recommend investing in something like the GSI Destination Kitchen and a nesting GSI Pinnacle Camper Cookset. Both pack down or nest together into a small footprint that can be stowed easily.

Take The Lightweight Approach

I know my approach is to go the minimalist route without much of a concern for weight, but if certain gear is needed consider going the lighter weight approach. Instead of taking a large foldout table, consider a smaller, more packable table. Pack clothing into a lightweight duffel bag instead of a hard case. Again with clothing, buy something that will stay fresh for days as opposed to packing multiple shirts or underwear. The cost is more for these items, but in the long run, you may only pack one t-shirt versus three or four.

Take The Ultralight Approach

Consider people who ride their bicycles or even motorcycles around the world on trips. The amount of packing space they have is considerably less than what someone with a four-wheel drive is going to have. Most of their stuff could probably fit in one pack in the front seat of any overlanding rig. I would venture to guess most of us could pack everything needed for a three day weekend into one bag and manage just fine.

Don’t Pack It

The last option is not to take it. If it hasn’t been used in a while or never, don’t pack it. Take it out of your kit and leave it at home. If you find you need a certain item, figure out if something you’ve already got packed can pull double duty. I’ve found I pack more camera gear than I probably need so I’m working towards carrying what I use in a smaller, more manageable bag.

Going Forward and A Crazy Idea

In the end, I’d like to have a loadout that can be used for just myself and also for my family that fits in my future drawer system without having to stuff things in. The most change will probably happen with my camp kitchen gear. I have about four different sets that I use items from. Eventually, I’ll possibly replace all of it with a nested cooking set like the GSI mentioned above.

Another idea I have had is to pack everything into a single bag and see if I can sustain myself for a weekend just out of that. This would include all of the necessary cooking items, food, tools, and clothing for a weekend. Because I like to hammock camp, it would also be easy enough to include this as well for sleeping in. Granted this doesn’t include certain items like drinking water, but a well set up rig would include water storage of some kind. While I currently do not have this, a 30 pack of stowed water bottles have worked well in the past.

Maybe this idea will materialize into a Michigan Overland trip of some kind; maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll just end up testing it out myself on a trip. Who knows. Either way, I’m going to continue to ween down the gear I carry into as little as possible. I’m always interested in feedback, so feel free to leave a comment with some suggestions.

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Going Solo On An Overland Trip

Going solo on an overland trip is not something we recommend. We enjoy the camaraderie of having other people with us on top of the apparent safety net other rigs provide. However, we know it gets done, and given proper planning, it can be done with no problems.

A solo trip could be sought for any number of reasons. In this article, we are going to cover some things to consider when planning a solo trip. This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to doing it, just a rough outline of what to consider.

The Benefits of Going Solo

There are benefits to go solo on any adventure, not just an overlanding trip. Going alone allows you to move at your own pace. You aren’t going to be held to a schedule or even a set route. You get to choose your timing and your route and move as fast or slow as necessary.

Being solo also means you are only responsible for yourself in every aspect. Want to break from a pre-planned route? You only have to convince yourself. Want to make something weird for dinner? You’re the only one who has to eat it. This also means you are responsible for your health and well-being. Do something dumb? You’ve got to patch yourself up.

Reasons For Going Solo

There is any number of reasons for venturing out solo on your own. Either way, you need to make sure you are prepared and have planned accordingly, something we cover later on in this article.

Bug Out Planning

Having contingency plans in place in case of emergencies is important. One reason for potentially going solo is to test a bug out plan out of town. You’ve got your rig loaded and ready to go, so you just head out on your pre-planned route. This gives you the chance to see the route and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Testing Your Skills

This falls in line with planning a bug out scenario. A particular set of skills (read in best Liam Nesson voice) is necessary when venturing out on an adventure. Similar to the bug out planning, testing what you know helps you determine where you may need more training. We highly recommend getting trained in specific areas before going solo. There is no need to get stuck only to find out what you thought you knew about recovery is wrong or dangerous.

Clearing Your Head

The last option may be more in line with what most people are after — a chance to clear your head with no other distractions. Getting into the middle of nowhere in the woods can do wonders for mental well-being.

What To Consider

Just as with planning a group trip, there are several things to consider when planning a solo trip. The difference here is you are entirely self-reliant. Planning becomes more important to ensure you have the right tools and information to successfully and safely complete your trip.

Plan Accordingly

The best thing you can do is plan accordingly. Track the weather before going to make sure you aren’t going to run into anything bad. Check on trail and road conditions in the area to make sure nothing is closed or impassable. Knowing what you are getting into can go a long way to keeping things running smoothly.

Plan With Redundancies

The saying one is none; two is one, etc. is popular in the preparedness community. Planning redundancies are going to be beneficial for a solo trek into the woods. Make sure the gear you carry can serve a dual purpose. Try to think of some scenarios where things might go wrong and plan what you take around those.

Have Someone Else Go Over Your Plan

You may think you have thought of everything, but it might be a good idea to let someone else go over what you’re the plan is. They may find a flaw with what you are doing or know the area you are planning on being in.

Share Your Plans With Multiple People

Let more than one person know you are going. Give them your route and itinerary for the time you will be gone. Exchange contact information so you can get in touch with them or vice versa in the case of an emergency.

Check-Ins and Contingency Planning

Establish check-in times and frequencies with the people you gave your plan to. You may need to establish a contingency plan if you have passed a check-in time. Establish a hierarchy of who gets contacted first, second, etc. If you are traveling in a remote area with limited signal, messages may only go to one person.

Take It Slow

Most likely, what you drove in will be what you have to drive out as well. Take things slow and ensure you are not causing damage that cannot be trail repaired. Don’t put yourself in positions that are dangerous. If you do, take your time and do not rush through them. This goes for simple tasks that seem mundane but could lead to injury.

Dress Brightly

This may seem like a silly thing. If you get stuck or lost being in bright clothing can go a long way for you to be found. Don’t pack earth tones or camo patterns that will make it difficult for someone to see you.

It’s Completely Doable

While we aren’t fans of going solo, it is completely doable and has been done. People go out alone on adventures all the time, whether it’s backpacking or biking or kayaking. All of these are done with less gear than what we as overlanders would carry. The key to being successful and safe is to plan and let people know what your plan is.