Road to Overland Expo || Ch. 1 — Trona Pinnacles

Every year our agency works the Overland Expo in Flagstaff, AZ in one capacity or another. I look forward to the event itself (seeing old friends, making new ones) but I most look forward to the adventure the trip itself provides. A few years ago, we partnered with one of our clients in a resolution to slow down and enjoy the adventure, and pick new routes and adventures to explore each year. After all, it’s what the show itself is all about.

This method also creates an opportunity to do some lifestyle filming out in the field for our clientele in the outdoor, automotive and vice industries. It’s work, yes, but we strive to make it feel like play as much as we can. We shoot loose and from the hip. No large crews. No talent throwing tantrums.

On this trip, we were shooting for brands that we we’d be working with on site at Overland Expo — Autohome US, Defenders Northwest, Overland Coffee and American Camp Chair.

Route planning is done in a combination of Google Earth, Maps, and GPX files of the more remote off-road portions are exported for use in tools like Gaia and Backcountry Navigator.

Our partner Brian Hall from Defenders NW is based in Gig Harbor, WA. Brian provides a Land Rover Defender 110 or 130 each year as rugged, yet stylish transport. They are classic vehicles, but they’ve been retrofitted with turbo-diesel engines. This allows us to (mostly) keep up with modern traffic on the highways while maintaining 28+mpg. Even better, they crawl along off road sipping fuel.

The day before we were due to take off, a box of goodies from our friends at MSR arrived. This was quickly packed away into the gear boxes for use on this trip.

Stopping at the Redding In-N-Out is a tradition for many folks from the PNW.
whirlybirds near Tehachapi

Our strategy on these spring trips is often to rip down the highway for the first day or so to get out of the wet and into the sun. This trip was no different. We spent day one largely on I-5, running out of gas (twice!) as we rolled into fuel stations (twice!!!), and then bunking at the Defender Graveyard and Hostel just outside of Auburn, CA. Day two was a mad dash (after a leisurely brunch in Sacramento) down Hwy 99 and across the range near Tehachapi and into the desert. Our goal for camp 2 was to meet Alan at the Trona Pinnacles before sunset for our first shoot.

Arriving under cloudy skies and a few scattered raindrops, it was immediately evident that we’d missed the good light. Instead of shooting, we set up camp, sparked a campfire and enjoyed relaxing under the stars as the clouds cleared.

Photos by Alan Davis | @alandavisphoto |

Stay tuned for future installments….

mangai.rollin works more than three dozen interesting events around the western half of North America each year. We also shoot content on multiple trips each year. If your brand is in need of experiential and content services, or is looking for a young brand to collaborate with, drop us a line.

info [at] |