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.
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.
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.
Michigan Overland isn't just about running trails in whatever four-wheel drive vehicle got you there. It's about experiences. It's about the people you meet. It's about having stories to tell. It's about getting outdoors and doing what you love whether it's off-roading, camping, hiking, hunting & fishing, biking, kayaking, or skiing. It doesn't matter the season. It's about adventuring in any form.