I’m Mike Klemish and This Is How I Overland

The How I Overland series is a semi-deep dive with Michigan and non-Michigan based overlanders, adventurers, and outdoors enthusiasts. It’s an almost 20 questions in their own words rundown of how they overland, the gear they use, what works well for them, and what doesn’t. If you’re Interested in participating in This Is How I Overland? Click here to fill out the form.

This month we get some insight from Mike Klemish. You might recognize Mike’s Discovery from our website banner. There’s a reason we keep it there. We’ve met Mike and had the chance to get a close up of his Discovery, and we can definitely say it is one of the coolest rigs we’ve seen.

Background Info

I’ve called West Michigan home all my life and worked a whole gamut of trades to end up where I am now working with computer interfaces for manufacturing machinery. Not the
most active line of work compared to others I’ve had in the past, but it affords me the freedom and energy to get outside and enjoy my pursuits.

How Did You Get Into Overlanding?

I think it’s matured from simple family camping trips in my early years, to nonsensical hooning around trails with various beaters as I grew up, then on to involvement in multiple types of offroad racing. All of it just intensified my curiosity in building vehicles, self-sufficiency, exploration, preparedness, & an increased appreciation for the out of doors. The film “The Long Way Round” may have played a part in pushing me over the edge from daydreaming into actual planning. And the more related forums and YouTube channels I discovered only helped to fuel that fire.

Personal Definition Of or Philosophy On Overlanding

I’ve personally found all the online debate over the word itself a bit odd because it always seemed terribly simple to me, it’s just a more concise way to say “vehicle-based travel involving offroading & camping.” Much like how we use BBQ to wrap up “cooking meat over an open fire with a gathering of people” into a neat linguistic package. As far as a philosophy I’d say I like what I’ve seen with Michigan Overland and Overland Bound’s practice of including any & all interested, regardless of vehicle or budget, so long as you’re respectful & are seeking adventure.

What Do You Like About Overlanding?

The vibe. Don’t care if it sounds corny; being surrounded by like-minded freedom seeking individuals is my kind of company. I don’t buy into “energy” in the sense of putting out vibes, not like that, there’s just something to be said for being around others with a venturesome mindset. Also the vehicles, as a disciple of the mechanical arts I can’t help but appreciate the creativity in all the overlanding builds I see these days!

What Do You Dislike About Overlanding?

The social media and commercialization. That being said I fully understand the point of each at their core’s. The former is unmatched in its ability to spread information, so aside from the dirty self-absorbed side of social media, I do recognize that it’s also a tool to introduce overlanding to many who could use the escape and reintroduction to the outdoors. The later has its merits too because I’m well aware that popularity and attention to something like overlanding can drive innovation. And that it has. I also get the aspect that commercialization might encompass people who are just looking for a hustle, a way to make a living themselves and be their own boss. I remain hopeful it won’t jump the shark and go the way that many genre’s of car culture have in the past with huge Sema paddocks full of trucks with wifi driveshafts and Bluetooth brakes, or your local parking lots littered with rooftop tent laden wagons that will never experience a forest pin-striping.

Current Rig? Please Provide Any Modifications and Future Modifications You Have Planned

My recent obsession is a 2002 Land Rover Discovery II that’s in the midst of a huge powertrain upgrade. Not exactly known for their engine’s reliability, but otherwise mechanically impressive underneath that “grocery getter” looking exterior. And that was my plan all along, just limp the Rover V8 along as long as I could manage before installing a 4-cylinder Cummins mechanical diesel that’s unmatched in its reliability. Spent a year tracking down a low mileage and unmolested base model to start to bring the harebrained ideas to reality.
Modifications: In between engine rebuilds I managed to lift it, stuff 35’s with Humvee double bead locks underneath, add some armor, install a giant roof rack, create custom steering links, LED all the lighting, fashion manual windows, and build a full custom sleeper/camper set up behind the front seats. Currently, I’m installing a crazy simple old 3.9L Cummins diesel, custom mounted with a mountain of power and surprising MPG capability, in front of a new 5-speed manual and strengthened Rover full-time 4×4 transfer case.
Planned Modifications: More armor, winches and better recovery gear, bigger American axles with lockers, custom linked suspension, 37″ tires, big brakes, additional tanks underneath, more lighting and communication gear, solar charging and house batteries.

Money Isn’t a Problem, What Rig Do You Buy?

My default response tends to be a Pinzgauer, but they’re rather small. So after a rethink, I’d say an M997A2 (or the newly announced A3) Humvee ambulance could be a brilliant platform for a dream build! Has to be new or used for administration, because those in combat roles end up seriously haggard and in ill repair. Replace the sluggish 6.5L engine with a built 6BT Cummins, a bulletproof Allison auto, and a monster TWF Hero transfer case. Upgrade everything and utilize all the plentiful interior space to build an incredible adventure home on wheels. Pair its upgrades to the matching lightweight military trailer, and it would be a beautiful thing.

Favorite Piece of Gear?

Cutting tools! Whether it be axes, hatchets, fixed blades, or folders. Even with new knives coming into the picture I think my favorite is still my Buck Hoodlum. A well designed 10 inches of 1/4″ thick steel weighing in at nearly a pound and a half makes for a serious implement around camp.

Least Favorite Piece of Gear?

My Casio G-Shock GD400 wristwatch. It is a great device though, odd as it may sound. I am far from any sort of “watch person” so having one wrapped around my wrist drives me a bit nuts. But lately, I’ve been trying to go out of my way to identify and confront personal deficiencies head-on, which in this case is my less than ideal time management from day to day. Having that clock strapped right alongside my hand is irritating, albeit useful.

Favorite Place You’ve Been To In Michigan?

That’s a tough choice between the Keweenaw peninsula or Drummond Island. If I’m looking to go off the grid almost completely and not see people for some time, then Drummond is a great place to wander offroad. If I want a great selection of trails with food and drink that’s not too far a drive from said trails, then the Keweenaw and Houghton are where I’m headed.

Favorite Place You’ve Been To Outside of Michigan?

Easily the western slope of Colorado. Spent a week wandering the Rockies seeing the wild variety of wildlife, mountains, rivers, canyons, deserts, forests, and deep snow all within a few hours range from where I stayed. Can’t wait to go back with my Rover and properly explore!

Bucket List Place(s) to Visit?

I’d love to see the Northern British Isles via overlanding style travel, namely Ireland and Scotland. Honorable mentions include Scandinavia, Tasmania, New Zealand, & Ukraine.

Current Favorite Podcast, YouTube Channel, or Instagram Account to Follow?

I’ve long struggled to find any offroading or overlanding podcast that is consistent, has better than awful audio quality, or doesn’t put me right to sleep. So the next nearest thing I could come up with is the “Jocko Podcast,” the master of discipline and extreme ownership. There are a plethora of youtube channels in the genre, but my favorite lately has been “Bug Out Vehicles UK.” Good friends, good rigs, good times.

Where Can You Be Found On Social Media?

All my social media went the way of the dodo some time back. Perhaps youtube counts, more media than social, but in any case, I can be found on YouTube as “Tinker” here.

I’m Nick Howell and This Is How I Overland

I'm Nick Howell and This Is How I Overland

The How I Overland series is a semi-deep dive with Michigan and non-Michigan based overlanders, adventurers, and outdoors enthusiasts. It’s a twenty questions rundown of how they overland, the gear they use, what works well for them, and what doesn’t in their own words.

Background

My name is Nick Howell and I am one of the founders of Michigan Overland. I am a married father of three kids aged 16, 6, and 4. We also have two dogs, a Goldendoodle and a 1-year-old German Shepherd, and one cat. I grew up in the Tri-City area, specifically Bay City before moving into the metro Detroit area for work at the end of 2007. My real job is as a logistician/publications manager, my non-paid job is running and keeping Michigan Overland up. I enjoy both of them equally, and if I had to choose between the two, given they both paid, it would be tough to decide.

How Did You Get Into Overlanding?

I was introduced to overlanding by Expedition Portal. At the time, I was very much into having a bug out capable vehicle with some of the events that have happened in and around the metro Detroit area. While doing some research on bug out vehicles, I happened across Expo Portal as someone who loves the outdoors, camping, and gear, overlanding, expedition, and adventure travel seemed to fit perfectly with me. At the time I had a 2002 Tahoe that I was laying out my plans for. After Expo Portal, Overland Bound was the next site I found. At the time, it wasn’t the huge thing it’s turned into. Back then, they had some good videos up on YouTube but no real presence with people other than offering the badges. I liked what they did and threw some support their way by grabbing an early number (0194). And then, of course, Expedition Overland happened and I was hooked. I binged their entire series as soon as I found it and haven’t looked back since. The great thing about all of it is it still fits with my need to have a way out of the city. The two ideas of having a bug out capable vehicle and an overlanding rig go hand-in-hand.

Personal Definition Of or Philosophy On Overlanding?

My definition and philosophy on overlanding have changed and evolved since I learned about it and started Michigan Overland. In the beginning, it was all about the canned definition that you could get by running a Google search. I still think it’s a good definition, but overlanding is different things to everyone. If you read the description of overlanding on the Michigan Overland site, it’s about inclusion and using overland as a means to an end. I want Michigan Overland to be a place that people gravitate towards for all outdoor activities and adventuring. Some people agree with it, some don’t, and that’s entirely okay with me.

What Do You Like About Overlanding?

The people. I’ve talked with and met some awesome people while running Michigan Overland. The gear and the rigs are great, but nothing beats meeting someone who you have stuff in common with and can continue to talk with even if they’re across the state.

What Do You Dislike About Overlanding?

The elitism lately has really bothered me. To the point where I think I don’t want to run the socials, the website, or introduce new pieces to Michigan Overland. We run Michigan Overland as a very open and welcoming group. It doesn’t matter what you drive or where you come from, you’ll be welcome. We’ve been fortunate enough to not have any issues with the people who are in our group.

Current Rig?

I currently run a 2004 Suburban LT. It fits the bill nicely to be able to haul the family, the dogs, and gear anywhere we need to go. As mentioned above, I had a 2002 Tahoe but ended up selling it when I had two more kids. I purchased a car after that to save some gas going to and from work but never really felt comfortable in it. So the hunt started for a Suburban. I looked for months and really only found one that I liked. Unfortunately, the posting for it had been taken down, so I thought I missed my chance. I waited a few months before searching again and there it was. I didn’t even hesitate and purchased it after seeing and test driving it that day.

My current overland/daily driver.
My current overland/daily driver.

Modifications

My Suburban came with a small key lift in the front and Z71 springs in the rear. The factory wheel and tires had been replaced with Nitto Grappler tires and ProComp wheels. There was some exhaust stuff done to it, so it has a throatier exhaust, but I’m not 100% on what it is. Other than that, it’s stock inside.

Planned Modifications

A laundry list of ideas that I don’t know I want to invest money in to. My Suburban is pretty capable right now as is. I can sleep in it fully stretched out, and it carries my gear in a few cases. I’m not looking to go out rock crawling or get myself into sketchy situations. I’d like to have a storage solution in the back, which means a custom drawer system. My rear bumper is rusting out, so I’m going to price a swing away sometime soon. Of course, I want the standard overlanding stuff as well: rooftop tent, rack, winch, bumper, etc.

Money Isn’t a Problem, What Rig Do You Buy?

I really like the 4Runner, but it would end up being too small for my family right now. I’ve got myself convinced that a Tundra is my next truck, so I’d probably go with that. And a trailer. It’s still functional as a daily driver for me and can get me off-road when I want.

Favorite Piece of Gear?

My iPad and phone so I know where I’m going, have music, podcasts, or a book to listen to, and can take some photos or videos. I also really like my cooler because it keeps my beer cold.

Least Favorite Piece of Gear?

My iPad and phone. Mostly because I hate having to rely on them for maps. I carry paper maps in my truck and could use them for navigation, but I don’t usually because I’m by myself or my older son is with me, who doesn’t know how to read a map.

Favorite Place You’ve Been To In Michigan?

We have family property in Sidnaw in the Upper Peninsula. There’s no cell signal, and it’s quiet beyond belief. You have to drive at least 30-45 minutes to get to the next major town for supplies. It’s great.

Favorite Place You’ve Been To Outside Of Michigan?

Honestly, I haven’t been to many places outside of Michigan to camp. I’ve been up to Collingwood in Canada recently in the middle of winter, that was an experience. We weren’t camping at all but saw the need to make sure I had the correct gear and supplies in case of an emergency. We drove through a blizzard going up and almost got cut off from coming back because of the weather.

Wishlist Place To Visit?

Iceland and New Zealand. The pictures and videos I’ve seen of both countries are just staggering.

Current Favorite Podcast, YouTube Channel, or Instagram Account to Follow?

Currently, I really like the Fieldcraft Survival podcast and YouTube channel. They do a great job of blending the topics I love together into easy to understand the content. I also really like Jason Koertge because I think his videos are fantastic. They’re so well put together.

Where Can You Be Found On Social Media?

I’ve got a few social accounts, but the Michigan Overland related ones are @nick.michiganoverland and of course @michiganoverland. I don’t really use Twitter that much other than for a news feed really but I can be found @nickchowell. And of course, I’m on Facebook.