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.
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.
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 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.
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?
Mostly posting on @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.