Are you an adrenaline junkie?
Our guests on the show this week definitely are! Savannah and Val from Xplr Create join us today to discuss how they went from racing to overlanding as a family.
The story of how they met at an international racing event – yes, for real – is so cool. It’s no wonder that they love the adventure of overlanding!
Needless to say, we’re stoked about this conversation. We chatted about so many awesome things including:
- What really IS overlanding, anyway?
- How to get started in the simplest way possible.
- Their favorite way to cook when overlanding.
- How to find out where to go…
- And many more lessons and pro-tips along the way…
One of my favorite moments from our conversation was when Savannah shared a story from one of their first trips.
They had reservations their first night at a campground and the next night planned to “just figure it out.”
Spoiler alert – they had an amazing time and they share how different the two nights were and why it sealed the deal for them.
Read the Transcript
TSF Podcast Ep 4 | Savannah & Val | Mr. & Mrs. Xplr
[00:00:00] Tiffany: Welcome to The Stoke Fam, the podcast designed to help families adventure more and stress less. On this show, we give you the confidence and inspiration you need to find your stoke by sharing interviews from real families doing amazing things, conversations with brands who make adventures easier and all the things we wish we’d known sooner.
Kids: Come on. Let’s go!! .
Tiffany: Welcome back Stoke Fam. Today we are talking with Savannah and Val from Xplr Create. Savannah and Val are both weekend adventurers with their two boys and Savannah in her day job is a professional marketer. And Val is literally a rocket engineer. No, yes. Did I get that right?
Now I’ve thrown myself off. Okay. They enjoy the challenge of a good DIY project, share a love of adrenaline and a passion for nature. And we’re stoked to have them on the podcast today here with us to talk about one of their favorite ways to spend a weekend – Overlanding! So, thanks again for joining us today.
We’re so excited to talk about this .
Savannah: Thank you so much for having us we’re super jazzed. [00:01:00]
Val: Yeah, thank you.
John: Awesome. So let’s start off a little bit. Tell us a little bit about your adventure story. Did you grow up adventuring? Did you start in as adult?
Val: So really the way we started was Savannah dragged me out there. I had no interest in any kind of camping. I had a terrible college experience, setting up a tent that I’d never seen in the middle of the night with a whole bunch of guys that, you know, should not be setting up a tent. Um, and I just had zero interest and Savannah just kept dragging and, uh, trying to get me out to go camping with the kids. And
Savannah: Truthfully I’ve probably been looking for camping buddies my whole life. I remember I used to try to get my parents to always go camping when we were growing up and they were not super into it. Um, and I would always beg to go camping for my birthday because then they couldn’t say no. So I finally talked Val into it. And now I think he enjoys it and our boys enjoy it. So now I finally have my, my three camping buddies.
Tiffany: [00:02:00] That’s awesome. And your, one of your, your grandfather, was a park ranger , is that right?
Savannah: Yeah. So my grandfather was a ranger with the National Park Service. And so my mom actually grew up in various National Parks across the United States. And so we spent a lot of time in the National Parks growing up. I used to joke that my mom could never drive past a brown sign without pulling off the road to see what it was. Um, so I’m pretty sure we’ve seen most of the scenic overlooks between like Colorado and California. Um, but we didn’t do a lot of camping, but it definitely kind of started my love for nature and hiking and just being outside as much as we could.
Tiffany: That is awesome. So I also wanted to, before we get too deep into our conversation, I wanted to hear a little bit about the story of how you guys met. Can you, can you share that with us?
Val: Yeah. let’s see. So really, It comes back to racing. So both Savannah and I, we were really into motor sports. We were both, racing cars, kind of growing [00:03:00] up. I’d say she was probably always faster than me. Uh, yeah. But I also think that she had been doing it longer than I had.
John: And repetition.
Val: There’s an event in Colorado , called the mountain of Pikes Peak and it’s called the Pike Peak International Hill Climb. So it’s a once a year, they close down the mountain and let any kind of race car, all the pro guys, international fastest cars, you can come up with – race up the mountain and it’s from 8,000 to 14,000 and 109, 14 feet.
John: It is a gnarly race. Yeah.
Val: So we met there in 2011. That was the first year I ran it. Savannah ran it before then. And that was back when it still had some dirt on it. So it was partially paved and partially dirt. So you really kind of had to get tricky with the car set up cause you couldn’t optimize to one or another, but for sure, uh, long story short , we kind of met in registration line and uh, [00:04:00] nothing really happened there. And then at the end of the race -and I I’m as naive and as, uh, oblivious to everything as it gets. I walk up to her at the time. I’m like, Hey, yeah. So like, uh, where’s your boyfriend ? What does he think about you being up here right now? Fully thinking that she had a boyfriend. Cause she had to have, you know, but turns out she didn’t. And then I, you know, that was my first year up there. I didn’t really think that 14,000 feet would need anything warm. So I just had my race suit and it was snowing and freezing up there. And so she gave me a hat. Yeah. Kind of taking care of the newbie.
Tiffany: She gave you a hat and that was that.
Savannah: We were married a year later, so yeah.
Tiffany: So it really was!
Val: Yeah. I, uh, proposed to her on a rock kind of where we were watching the race from the top and
[00:05:00] Savannah: where we had met.
Val: We were going to go do some reconnaissance Reiki runs to practice for the next year and then had a little something stashed on my jacket and wouldn’t let her wear it.
Savannah: I know I was cold that day and I was like, can I wear your jacket? And he’s like, Nope, I’m good.
Tiffany: He was trying to keep a secret.
John: It’s really hard to hide those things. You’re trying to be discreet.
Tiffany: That’s awesome. That is a great story. I love that.
John: All right. So let’s go into what you guys love, which is overlanding. So for those listening at home that maybe don’t know, or have heard of overlanding, but not necessarily know everything about it. Tell us what overlanding is.
Savannah: I think at its most basic definition overlanding is self-reliant vehicle travel. So it’s exploring different places with just you and your vehicle. Um, I think there’s a lot of debate about what exactly overlanding is, but I think anyone who’s [00:06:00] out there for, you know, more than a couple hours just relying on their rig they’re overlanding.
John: All right.
Tiffany: I like that definition
Val: Yeah. There’s often kind of a skew between like overlanding and off-roading, there are people that really just go out there to bash on their rig, go over some gnarly rocks and really kind of get that feeling. And then there are people kind of looking for a destination that is a little bit off the beaten path and the wanting to find some cool scenery to hang out at and kind, kinda relax.
John: Definitely. I think we’ve run into that running through the forest out here. There’s definitely some spots where everybody goes out with their Jeeps and quads and they go out and at some of the stuff that they do is amazing and it looks like it would be a lot of fun. Tiffany doesn’t know that I want to take our truck there, but she does. So you heard it first here
Tiffany: Geoffrey is not ready for that.
John: He will be. So then there’s other spots where we go, where it’s just forest service roads, and we’re just out going for the view, the spot where we can hang out camp. And then, you know, there’s a lot of places you can continue on from there. Um, [00:07:00] it’s a lot of fun.
Savannah: Absolutely did.
Val: I mean, for us, I’d say if there’s a really awesome spot with a beautiful view, I don’t care how rough the road is, what you have to get there to get there. If you’re going to get pin striping down the side of the car, just from bushes, that’s, you know, that’s just what needs to happen to get there. But. If it’s just a trail for no reason, plowing through bushes, that that’s not our jam
Tiffany: I can understand that completely. I can understand that completely. So then when you guys, you guys started and you met and you were racing, so how did you like make the transition to overlanding? Was this something -you hadn’t overlanded before? Or how did that happen?
Savannah: No. So we started, you know, racing as a couple. We did endurance racing for a few years together after we got married. and after the kids were born, we really were just looking for something that we could do more as a family. And Val at the time had an, Ford F150 and we went on a few camping trips and then he had come to me and he’s like, I want to buy this $800 tent. And I was like, that [00:08:00] is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. We are not spending that much money on a tent. And now looking back at it, I realized how cheap and $800 rooftop tent was.
John: That’s usually how it goes.
Tiffany: That’s a good deal.
Savannah: And so, you know, we eventually decided like, Hey, this would be a good idea, to keep us, you know, especially living in the Arizona, desert, scorpions, snakes, all that kind of critters that we don’t necessarily want to be sleeping with. And so I was like, yeah, let’s, let’s do it. We can go out and camp more. And then slowly, you know, once we had the tent. Other things came with it. Other modifications in our trips, we kind of started venturing a little bit further, a little bit further added on a couple of nights and it kind of grew from there.
Val: Yeah, kind of being an engineer, overlanding kind of gets the camping in there with the gadgets.
John: That’s what I was going to say. She tricked you into camping. Like that’s really what happened is she tricked you with gear and tools and let’s go racing and she morphed it into camping. She got it.
Val: Oh, you need this special, cool little do Hickey to make coffee. Oh, [00:09:00] Sweet. Awesome. Yeah, let’s do that.
Tiffany: Genius move.
John: Gear gets us every time.
Val: How can you do this more compactly or with less things or, that there’s a term sometimes overlanding is called overloading cause you end up bringing so much stuff with you, just because, especially in our truck, we can just load up the back and as a result, there’s just always way too much. So we’re really working on going down a little.
John: I notice that every trip we take is that if there’s space, we’ll fill it, trucks are dangerous that way.
Tiffany: So true. So true. So, I wanted to know if you could tell us about maybe either your first overlanding trip, the first one you remember, or one that was like the most memorable as like a learning experience. Like, were there any trips in your early overlanding days that were like, Oh, we learned a [00:10:00] lot in this time. We need to change this. We need to change this. Or, or, Oh shoot. We almost got ourselves in trouble or anything like that.
Savannah: I think definitely, you know, For me, especially when we were just starting out, I was a little bit more hesitant, in like finding spots, knowing where it’s okay to camp, where we can actually pitch the tent. And we had gone on one trip to Southern Arizona and we had planned the first night to stay at a campground in Chiricahua National Monument and then the second night we didn’t have reservations at a campground. We were just going to figure it out. I think for me, that was like kind of significant cause that was like, and then the second night we found a great spot and it ended up, I think even a few weeks ago I was telling you, it was like, that was probably one of my favorite nights.
The spot was just gorgeous. We just had such special family time. We didn’t see anyone else the whole entire time. And it kind of made me realize like the two nights, you know, posed against each other, how much more enjoyable the second night had been. And that was kind of when I was like, okay, we can [00:11:00] do this. We don’t necessarily need the, in my mind what had been previously like the security of a campground, um, having other people around us, like we’ve got this. So I think that trip in particular kind of opened my mind.
John: There’s always a spot out there to be found.
Savannah: What were you thinking about?
Val: I was thinking kind of a similar cause really we started off pretty slow and kind of mellow branching our way out, but I’d say the trip we did to Utah and Colorado, last summer, uh, it was one of our first, longer trips.
Savannah: Two summers ago.
Val: Two summers ago now. Yeah. Okay. Time flies. It was one of the first longer trips. We went to the Valley of the gods. No the Valley of the gods was last summer, then we went to Telluride and then we were planning on going somewhere New Mexico. Well, When you look at those climates in August – Valley of the gods was 90 degrees and hot. Didn’t realize that when we get to Telluride, we’re camping at 12,000 feet and it is snowing and [00:12:00] 32 degrees out.
And then going down to a New Mexico, everything was closed. So we ended up in Colorado actually, and kind of that uncertainty and being able to improvise on the fly and not really being ready for it really kind of, helped plan for future trips and kind of knowing what are some critical items that need to be overloaded.
And, uh, also kind of, what’s not as critical. And the other big item is kind of that’s when we learned how to determine what kind of lands are which. Colorado was particularly difficult, even though lots of stuff was marked BLM land or public land. There are so many mines out there that you, anywhere you go, all of a sudden you start seeing private property, no trespassing signs, even though you’re on pretty clearly marked BLM land.
Savannah: It’s all privately leased from BLM or the forest services.
Val: So yeah, after that [00:13:00] trip, we got a really good hang of, Kind of looking ahead and figuring out where okay spots are. Because the last thing we want to do is be in somebody’s backyard, have them come out, click, click, you know,
John: That’ll wake you up real quick. That’s not the overloading you want.
Val: Right. So it’s, uh, knowing how to be comfortable with the land use maps, I think has helped a lot.
Tiffany: So let, I want to talk about that a little bit more. Cause you mentioned that, you know, there’s private land on the BLM and that’s something that honestly. It’s not something you learn right away. Like that’s not something you’re gonna think about. You’re gonna think it’s BLM. So it’s open, it’s dispersed camping.
It’s no big deal. So what do you use or how do you figure it out? Was it just is it just that you drove up to it and saw it, saw the signs or was there another, is there another way when you’re planning now that you can look ahead to find out those private.
Val: Yeah. So now, so we use Gaia GPS for just about everything. I think it’s very nice and versatile. And there, [00:14:00] there is a layer for a public use that we did not know about before. So it’s got a public use lands, and then there’s also a layer for a Native American lands, which is another big one in Arizona. You don’t want to be. Stepping on their property really. but looking ahead at those and then really studying the laws of the different States that you’re going to ahead of time, the majority of the time, if you’re in the national forest, anything is fair game. That’s kind of what we figured out.
You can’t camp within a quarter mile of water. Um, but anything else dispersed camping is fair game. Tread lightly as always, BLM lands when you do come up on, um, public property, oftentimes we actually found out they’re just phony signs from a Home Depot that say private property, no trespassing.
Really what it means is yes, there might be private property over somewhere over there, but the road is okay to use. So you’re allowed to go down roads that are marked [00:15:00] as public roads, as long as you don’t stop and get out of your vehicle. The idea is that it’s kind of an easement and it’s something that the state has left public to allow people to get through somebody’s private land, to, further out public land.
Um, that, that was kind of the biggest one. In Colorado, we stumbled across a lot of those kind of fake private road signs .
Savannah: We were assuming it was fake, but they were, you know, they were blocked and I kind of always err on the side of caution, I’m like, if someone cares enough to put up signs, if we can avoid causing an issue, we will, you know, if we’re able to turn around and find a different access roads, it’s usually my vote.
Val: Yeah. In that particular case, I let her looked it up and that road would have been perfectly fine to drive down on. You just can’t stop on it.
John: It’s always so confusing. We’ve had those situations too, where you look and say, can I go here? Am I going to get in trouble? I don’t see anybody out here, but you don’t want to, like you said, end up at the end of a barrel somewhere else.
And then you’re backing out real [00:16:00] quick.
Savannah: And it’s especially hard to, when you’re trying to find answers to those questions often when you have limited cell service and everyone’s a little hangry and you’ve been on the road for 10 hours. So I think what we try to do now too, is like, when we look at preparing options for camping spots, making sure they’re not all kind of nestled in the same area.
So if we get to an area and it’s a no-go for whatever reason, making sure we kind of have backup plans, you know, that aren’t necessarily far away, but might have different posted signs are kind of a different area.
Tiffany: Yeah. And like, I know that we’ve, we run into some of that too, like John said, but we also have found that Avenza Maps, that app has been really helpful for us because you can download like the U S forest service maps.
So like the land use maps for them and it’ll have on it. The like which roads that’ll have. It’s usually like little dots, I think alongside the road where it will tell you, yeah, you can disperse camp. If it has the dots, you can disperse camp on this road. So then it [00:17:00] takes out that question of is this an okay road or not an okay road to, to camp on.
Um, and yeah, we, uh, the other thing we’ve been really enjoying doing is going out and scouting locations ahead of time and like are in the semi-local areas, right. For like the quick weekend type stuff. So we are, I think we have told you guys, we have just mentioned it in another episode that I recorded earlier today that we have a overlanding camper on order, um, a truck top camper. And so when that comes in, we’ve been scouting all these locations for our, for our scout camper for later this summer. So we go out and we’ll use Gaia and pinpoint them and come back to them so that we know that they’re already safe and, or like they’re already okay for us to be there. We’ve already kind of done some scouting, which obviously, if it’s a 10 hour away trip, we’re not doing that, but the ones that are closer to home for quick trips are really nice.
Savannah: We definitely do that a lot too. Um, you know, for out just off-roading for the day, which is getting more rare [00:18:00] for like looking for a hiking trail or something. And, you know, and I definitely know that sharing spots is kind of also a debate within the Overland community. You know, a lot of people think that you sharing spots can put nature at further risk or, you know, invite it to, to be less respected to some degree. But I, you know, we have definitely leaned on having good friends or, you know, good peers within the community that are willing to kind of give us some insight and some spot ideas when we were, especially when we were just starting out.
I think that is an important part about the community, definitely when, when used in the right context. But I think not forgetting that, that there are other people doing this and they can be a resource as well.
Tiffany: Yeah. That’s super, super good. Super good. Tip that to come back to because I think sometimes you’re almost afraid to ask, right?
Because you’re like, Oh, I don’t know. They’re not going to want to share with me. And I think even we do that sometimes that even on just like hiking locations and stuff, right. You’re like, you’re not going to share if they didn’t post it. They didn’t want us to know. But [00:19:00] sometimes people just forget to, like, it’s not like they intentionally didn’t tag or intentionally didn’t share.
It was, you know, that they were sharing about something else from the trip and didn’t necessarily share the location. It doesn’t mean they’re happy to share some of that information and help you find a cool spot too. So thanks. That’s really, really great reminder. Val you were mentioning too, that, that last or that big trip last year kind of helped you hone in on some of those items that were essential to make sure that you did overload with. I just wanted to go back to that for a second.
And can you talk a little bit about some of those things that you guys are like, okay. We learned our lesson on this trip and these things have to come with us every time.
Val: It might sound simple, but an epiphany we had was ziplock bags for food. And we, we used to bring all this food out with us and naturally you have some leftovers and we had nothing to do with it.
And so a lot of it went to waste until we’re like, wait, we can save this [00:20:00] for lunch tomorrow. And like I said, it’s one of those silly things, but just having spare ziplock bags around to help that out a lot. And then, uh, trying to reduce the overall amount of food we have to bring, um, various items. I mean, figuring out the right type of sleeping bags, we’re still kind of trying to find ones that work best for us.
We, we built a, portable kind of heater set up, it’s a diesel heater, uh, running off of a battery that we built. So that keeps us warm at night, but I’m always trying to be prepared in the case of like, Hey, if this thing breaks, are we going to be okay? What’s my backup. It’s great to be cozy at like 65, 70 degrees with a heater on, in the tent.
But if that goes out and it’s 32 or 25 out, do our bags support that.
Savannah: We’ve definitely gotten on a few trips and realized we forgot our pillows. Um, but luckily I am guilty of not capping the number of stuffed animals our children can bring. So there were enough [00:21:00] stuffed animals to make ad hoc pillows for all of us.
Tiffany: You’re such a good mom. I’m like you got one, you’re good.
John: Yeah. Does it fit in your backpack too bad or something like that? I’m paraphrasing.
Val: Well, a lot of it is just simple little things that. We travel with tubs. So we’ve got a pillow tub, a sleeping bag tub, and then we’ve got all that of our, everything else, tub, which has cookware utilities, whatnot, and just slowly realizing what we do use what we don’t use.
There’s no reason to have five different lanterns. Any one night we’ll probably have one up and then the rest will be just kind of using your phone for light and then have a flashlight available in the truck. There’s no reason to take up this much space just for these lanterns that don’t get used.
Savannah: We found we use headlamps more than anything. So instead of bringing a million of the big ones. And we’re actually, our tent model has an led light strip on the bottom. And inside that runs off of [00:22:00] like a portable battery pack. And so that has helped us reduce that. But when we were using like lanterns and flashlights, a lot more, making sure you had extra batteries, cause I know that’s something, you know, we’d put them in the tub and then throw the, you know, throw the tub in the garage and not revisit it. So I eventually threw in like a pack of batteries so that we kind of always had that as well.
Val: Yeah, no like things like making coffee. Naturally, we kind of go through different things that we try to use. We used to have, this kind of French press Stanley set up. That needed its own burner and all this stuff.
It took a lot of space. We finally splurged and got a jet boil, which has half the size and. Boils the water in a minute. Literally amazing. It’s amazing what the other burner would take five or six, seven, eight minutes to just get the water going. And by that point, you’re already up and ready for coffee. It just took forever.
John: I love our jet boil
Val: And I’m making more efficient use of the space that [00:23:00] way.
Savannah: And one of, I did a recent girls’ trip last November, and one of the girls had just a big bulk box of hand warmers in the back of her rig. And I was like, that’s genius. And it ended up snowing on us that night.
And I like cuddled up all night with my little hand warmer and I had it like on my chest all night long. And so now we, you know, always travel with hand warmers and just kind of things like that, that I think you pick up and it’s like obvious. When you are like, yeah, I’m going to order a box off Amazon for super cheap, but now we have extra warmth whenever we do need it but we didn’t initially think to pack of box of hand warmers – we’re guilty, desert folks.
Tiffany: So you guys were mentioning too, you were saying you travel with tubs and I know what you’re referring to, but not everybody who’s listening might. So when you say your travel with tubs, can you talk a little bit more about that?
Val: If anybody’s ever stepped foot in Costco, they’re like the big black tubs with a yellow
John: …lid? We have those same bins.
[00:24:00] Val: Right. I think there was like 60 quart or something. They’re pretty decent sized. And, um, the thing that we found is that we’re able to fit all of our gear in just three of them. So whenever we’re wanting to go out on an adventure of anything, all we need to do is we pull those tubs out of the garage and throw them in the truck.
And we’re basically ready to go on all the essential, critical stuff. I love that method. The only downside is that being a big tub and you end up with this thing full to the brim, which means you’ve got layers.
Savannah: So finding a fork in the middle of the night, or whenever you’re trying to set up camp can be hard.
So we’re trying to figure out a way to better, you know, kind of refine that now that we’ve used the tubs for a few years. The other challenge too, is we have two trucks, we have the Raptor and then we also have the 4runner. Um, and we don’t often travel as a family in the 4runner, but the back of the [00:25:00] 4runner fits one tub on a good day.
So our three tubs do not fit. So we ended up kind of when I either got with just the boys or when I go by myself or if we do take the 4runner, we kind of have to adapt our system each trip. So we’re looking for something that might be able to go between the two rigs, a little bit easier.
Tiffany: Hmm, that makes a lot of sense.
Yeah. We, we definitely use the tubs system too, and it’s one of those things where we’re constantly like adapting. And I think that’s just one of the things that I’m hearing repeatedly too, and other conversations, it’s just, that’s just the way it is. Right? Because every time you go out, you’re like we brought this five times and we’ve not used it.
It doesn’t need to come next time. And so you can really start to hone down what you actually need for your family, and then like the things that you really missed that you’re like, why did – I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me years ago – we’ve gone camping so many times and we just finally purchased a second can opener.
I’ve been stealing the one from our house for years and I’m like, why have I been torturing myself for a can opener [00:26:00] because inevitably we forget it. And we would forget it half the time. I’m like, we’re buying a second can opener. It’s not that big of a deal. Like why?
John: I messed up a few pocket knives, opening cans
Val: 3.99 well-spent.
Tiffany: So those little things, man, that just over time definitely, make a difference.
Savannah: Yeah. And I feel like, you know, just like with life, your, your kind of interest change, your priorities change. And so I feel like, you know, we often get asked about our kitchen set up and I’m like, well, we don’t really have a kitchen set up.
Like, it just changes. Like we have the jet boil for coffee. We had, a little grill that we used for a while then we’ve been using the Skottle, which is like kind of wok type device. And I really like cooking on the cast iron Skottle, but sometimes, we want something else. And so we actually just got like a Camp Chef stove.
So we’re going to try that out, as well. And so I feel like there’s just kind of multiple chapters that you kind of go through and what works for awhile might not necessarily work the following year.
[00:27:00] Tiffany: Well, and that’s actually, I love hearing you say that. Cause I was actually, we’ve actually been doing the debate of whether to pick up a Skottle to go with ours.
Cause I’m like, Oh, that’d be so nice when we want to cook outside versus inside the camper. That’d be super nice. But I hear you on the like wanting something different, um, to cook on too. So I think having some versatility and figuring out what, what really works for you and like you said, difference, I think sometimes two different seasons of the year too, right?
Cause sometimes you’re going to want to be- like when it’s cold and you want whatever’s fast, right? Like you just want to get it and get it and get the food made and like not have your hands turning to ice while you’re making food. So, but if it’s summer and you got, you know, it’s not a big deal to spend, to take your time and cook over whatever.
John: So I just learned about the Skottle the other day and it’s super cool.
Savannah: It is cool.
John: But how long does yours take to cool down? Like, is it, do you always take it with you?
Savannah: Yeah, it’s better. [00:28:00] It’s the only thing that we’ve cooked on for about a year now.
John: Oh, wow.
Savannah: Yeah. And so it honestly cools down much quicker than I would expect.
And it is, cause it is just, it’s big and it’s cast iron, but I found pretty quickly when you turn off the heat, it cools down and you know, at least by the time everything else is packed up in the morning. So, um, yeah, in that sense, it’s pretty easy to use there.
Tiffany: I feel like you were going to say something else you were like in that sentence.
Is it pretty easy to use.
Savannah: I, and I’m not like the one that anyone should be taking, cooking advice from. I will say that. Uh, say what I’m going to say with like that big asterisk.
John: Wait, so you’re a real person.
Savannah: I’m a real person. Um, but I feel like with the Skottle, I have to utilize a lot more oil or butter or like a cooking fat that I used to cooking with.
Um, and I cannot, for the life of me make eggs on the Skottle and I’m sure [00:29:00] it’s more than likely a Savannah issue than a Skottle issue. I’m a very impatient person. So I like to cook on the high, um, and the Skuttle can be a little touchy with certain things like that. So I typically always like burn my eggs. And so we just gave up on eggs and I just warm up sausage now.
Tiffany: Well, if it’s cast iron cast, iron is not always the easiest to make eggs on any way. Like the only cast iron I, and I think I’ve ever successfully made eggs on was like, my grandma’s perfectly seasoned, like for 30 years, right? Like, and I’m still working on mine at home. I still can’t quite make it happen.
Val: The Skottle definitely becomes the grungy dirty dusty cast iron.
Savannah: It’s not perfectly seasoned anymore. We forgot. Well, on a few trips, I picked up like the, you know, corn oil from the nearest gas station. And I’m like, this is fine. This is definitely totally fine. Um, and so I like it like that, but also, you know, like if you, our kids love baked beans when we’re camping and things like that, you can’t necessarily do on [00:30:00] the Skottle so we either have to do it on, like we’re doing it on the single propane burner previously. Now we’ve been using the jet boil, which is nice, but it definitely, you are limited in what you can cook on a Skottle.
Tiffany: Gotcha. That makes sense. Um, so more of like a nice to have in addition to something else, especially if you’re going to make bigger meals, but maybe not like a standalone.
Savannah: For sure.
It was definitely like a splurge for us. And, um, we’ve enjoyed it. Like I said, it, it cooks a lot of really good food.
Val: Really good fajitas, really good sausage, great. Warming up chili soup? Not going to happen.
John: I was waiting. I was like, how does he do that?
Savannah: Unless you’re creative than we are. I’ve seen some people put like racks on them and then, you know, they can set a pot on it.
Like at that point you’re bringing the whole Skottle. You’re bringing the rack, you’re bringing the pot, like,
John: Or, just bring a stove..
Tiffany: So now I want to kind of go back just a second and talk about [00:31:00] somebody who is getting started with overlanding. What advice might you give someone who is just like, Oh, I would really like to start doing this, but I don’t know where to start?
I love how simple you had started with the definition. So like how can it, how can we make it so people feel like they can actually do it and make it accessible?
Savannah: I think just really honing down and thinking about like, what does my family need? And focusing on that, like for a while, when we started, you know, doing several night camping trips with the truck and the rooftop tent, I was even hesitant to call ourselves overlanders because I didn’t feel like we overlanded hard enough because I didn’t feel like we had, like, we didn’t have the built in drawers and we didn’t have the shower attachment.
We didn’t have 12 awnings. And like, you don’t need any of that stuff to Overland by my definition.
John: But, YouTube says you do!
Savannah: Yeah, YouTube does, Most of the
people you see on Instagram say that you do. And if you think that you need all of that stuff before you can get out with your family, um, you’re going to [00:32:00] need a lot more money than, than we have to get started.
And it doesn’t have to be that complicated, you know, think about breaking it down to the basics. What do we need to sleep? How are we going to sleep safely? What do we need to eat? How are we going to warm up food? Or are we going to be great with Uncrustables and turkey sandwiches all weekend? Which we’ve definitely been there.
Um, how are we going to be safe? You know, do we have lights? Do we have fire? Do we have emergency communication? If we need it, you know, thinking about those issues and then like, what are we going to do for fun? You know, kind of just breaking it into those buckets and not over-complicating it.
John: I like that. I like that. It’s very easy. Oh, go ahead.
Val: Oh, I was going to say that I’ll even backtrack a little bit and, uh, really emphasize, I’d say for the first year or so we just did day trips.
Val: We would just find places on Google earth that we wanted to go to check out. Cause like, Hey, this looks like it was going to be on a really cool cliff edge.
That’s going to have a great view. Let’s go check it out.
[00:33:00] Val: And all we would do is bring our little $16 target or Walmart, uh, grill that was pretty compact, bring hot dogs because those are precooked. So if you everything completely goes wrong, you could still just eat the thing cold. The kids like them with ketchup and then we’d bring shovels for the kids and just let them be kids without anything else.
Val: And that was kind of the biggest driver for us is that right now there’s so much tech, there’s so much just so much stimulation for kids that we wanted to go and teach them how to be human without any of that. And you’d be amazed how much creativity a kid can have when they just have a stake and they’re building a fort, just running around, they’re getting creative, letting their mind do the work, rather than all these props and everything else that you can get.
And really kind of what got us into it is just these day [00:34:00] trips to go out and hang out in the middle of nowhere, far away from people where it’s quiet, peaceful, sometimes hot. Often hot in Arizona, but, um, there are lots of lakes out here, uh, surprisingly, and, uh, those are great to kind of just let the kids splash around on the shore
John: Oh yeah.
Tiffany: That’s awesome. And I love that you brought that up. That it, doesn’t always have to be everything, right? Like it, it’s so easy to look and be like, Oh, well I need the four wheel drive truck, and I need the rooftop tent or a camper, or I need all of these things. Right. And then it does start to feel like we can’t afford that, or we can’t do that.
But, um, it’s exactly right. And we like to do this thing. We call it sometimes like we like to “go out for dinner” and we just pick a spot and take our dinner and go cook it. Right? Look for somewhere with a view. Sometimes we go to the beach. Sometimes we go up in the mountains and just like, pick a spot, take our dinner and go.
And I love that time of day too, because that’s when all the other crowds are leaving. So it’s like, even if we’re going up the forest roads or to the beach where there [00:35:00] might be normally a bunch of people, it’s all, they’re all going the opposite direction, except for the ones that are staying there for the night.
So it’s so much such, it’s like my favorite time to go do those – well except for when it’s getting really cold.
Val: That’s awesome. Yeah,
John: We had a few, a few trips that, uh, I told Tiffany, we’re going to find the sun. It was at the top of a mountain. And so then it was much colder than she had anticipated. It was warm here at the house.
She was ready to stay in the sun and there was probably a good 20, 30 degree difference at the time I got her to the, the sun that was so “wonderful.”
Tiffany: I’ll be like, why did we leave the 65 degrees and the sunshine, and now I’m bundled up in my puffy and my Rumpl just to stay warm. And by the fire, explain this to me.
But that’s that’s me and springtime though. I’m ready for a sunshine come spring time. But
John: The one common theme though, that I’m hearing is that trip after trip, after trip after trip, I would imagine a lot of those YouTubers [00:36:00] that I am, or influencers or Instagrammers or whatever, whatever you want to call them, they’ve taken a lot of trips to get to that point.
And that’s, that’s one thing that I think, it always needs to be said is that don’t stop yourself from going, just because you don’t have fill in the blank. Start. I love you guys started with a Walmart/Target, whatever grill and hotdogs. That’s that’s it. That’s all you gotta do. Start somewhere is get out there first.
The rest will follow.
Savannah: We ate the same thing for a year because I’m like, I can’t like, I’m still figuring out everything for camping. I’m not going to over-complicate it. I would say we’re just now getting to the point where like, I’m starting to be more creative with dinner and having more fun with food because you know, the first couple of years we were doing this, I didn’t have the brain space to think about that – we were focused on everything else.
And so I think it’s really easy to think you have to, you know, cook these four main meals out of your fancy kitchen set up and this and that. It’s whatever you want it to be. That’s the fun of it.
[00:37:00] John: I would say probably one of the boy’s favorite out to eat dinners that we do when we do that is. Rice beans, salsa – the end.
Tiffany: I totally cheat, too,for these kinds of trips.
And I buy the Costco, like quinoa rice mix and we use that , canned beans, and salsa and I’ll throw some veggies or a salad on the side. That’s like pre done. Like it’s just easy. And, and yeah, it’s not. Cause there there’s like what you said. There’s so much, only so much mental bandwidth to like as a parent anyway, that you have to hold up space. And when it comes to food planning, sometimes it’s the tipping point. Like, so whatever you do to make it simple, I love that. Um, because yeah, we just don’t have the brain space sometimes.
John: Kids add a few extra variables every time.
Tiffany: Yup, They do.
And then. I think we’re, we’re getting ready to the – or getting to the point where we need to kind of wind things down.
I need to let you guys get back to your kids speaking of. And, but I [00:38:00] want it, we always ask a couple of questions to our guests. And so one thing I wanted to ask is what is something you wish you knew sooner about overlanding? Something that, you know now that you wish somebody had told you before you guys ever started?
Is there anything that you can think of? That’s like, Oh, that would’ve been really nice to know.
Savannah: I don’t know if this is the final answer. But one thing, we got a Garmin InReach about a year ago. And that for me as a mom, as someone who typically is very anxious and very much a worrier, um, I appreciate having- knowing that we have emergency communication should, and if anything were to go wrong, when we ended up having to camp at 12,000 feet in Telluride last summer, um, we were able to pull full weather radar and have all that information.
And I think, you know, for me, it’s -it’s not cheap, but it was definitely well worth the several hundred [00:39:00] dollars and the $12 I spend a month on it. Just to know that like, yeah, we’re going out here with kids and I’m not someone who, you know, I’m not going to shy away from adventure. I grew up racing and you know, my kids ride dirt bikes and all that stuff, but I, I want to be wise about what we’re doing.
And the Garmin definitely. I didn’t even know satellite phones were like a thing anymore or like something that normal people could get until recently. And I just, it’s definitely been something that I enjoy having when we’re on the road, knowing that, you know, if anything does go wrong, we at least have communication.
Tiffany: That peace of mind can, can be worth a lot.
Sometimes he’s, he’s been giving me looks this whole time. You’ve been talking, did you notice this? Because I’m probably the one who’s like. Well, but what if this – and mine, my concern stems from the fact that, um, we, I mean, we have kids. So as a parent, there’s always some natural concerns, but we also have a child with a food allergy.
And although we take every precaution to make sure that [00:40:00] everything we bring with us is safe. That doesn’t mean that there’s no chance that anything’s ever going to happen. And so it’s more of those. Like what if the worst case scenario happened? How can we be prepared and how do we have, do we have a plan to get -to get us out of there. Do we have, we have to drive ourselves out and do we have enough epinephrin to get him to the nearest hospital and having something like the inReach is another great tip because it’s one extra layer of security if the unthinkable happens, right. We always hope it doesn’t and you hope you never need it, but if it’s, if you need it, it’s there. Right?
Savannah: Yeah. And I would definitely recommend spending the $300 on the inReach before spending the money on the Skottle.
John: All right. All right, here we go. Real talk. No, I love it. I love real talk. Perfect.
Savannah: But I think just, you know, I definitely feel like I wish someone, like three years ago would have sat me down for like a hour long seminar on like reading land, use maps and like how to find spots and what laws are and things like that.
And I think it’s just not always easy and you just kind of sometimes [00:41:00] have to spend the time and, you know, research as best you can, um, and have many options. But I think that I would say is the thing that I’ve been least confident about as we kind of have ventured further and especially as we get out of Arizona, because now at this point I’m so familiar with kind of Arizona’s rules and how they do things.
And then all of a sudden we end up in New Mexico or Colorado and it’s a whole different ball game. So. I think, you know, utilizing those resources. I also recently, discovered like trail guide books, like going back to basics and those are really awesome, but there’s a lot of, lot of great information in there as well.
Tiffany: Books are still made in paper?!
John: In books? So it’s like a thing you hold, is that right? Well, you have one more right there.
Tiffany: Believe it or not.
John: I love it.
Savannah: So, but those are definitely, um, you know, like just not being, just spending a little bit more time researching and not being afraid to ask questions. I know the community can sometimes seem a little [00:42:00] intimidating and like, people don’t want to share, but there are definitely are great people in the overlanding community and people who are willing to share advice and tidbits.
Tiffany: I love that. Um, Val. Was there anything additional for you that you think or wish you had known?
Val: Um, the first one that comes to mind honestly, is how cool the Milky way is out of the city and out. I mean, that’s one of my favorite things is just when you got, a little bit of a campfire going. And if you’re far enough away from any city lights, you just can’t experience that at home.
John: That is so true. I was actually just texting with a buddy this week, talking about some of the dark sky places that have been secured and seeing these areas it’s phenomenal. The stars that, that show up there that you don’t even realize you’re missing out on. I remember growing up in the country and even now going back to my parents’ house, uh, from being here in the city and I feel like we can still see some decent [00:43:00] stars.
Um, and not getting too far out, it’s pretty easy to find. And then I go to my parents again and I look up at the, you know, out in the country and it’s like, wait a minute. How have I been missing all of these? And then when we go camping, like you said, when you get out, it’s mind blowing.
Val: Right. It’s twofold because you got the visual aspect and he also got kind of the comradery and the stories that get told at the campfire around.
John: I love campfires. Campfire time is great.
Val: People really open up and it’s like, what happens at a campfire stays at a campfire and it’s well-known, but you can really learn a lot about whoever you’re with.
John: That’s absolutely right. Actually. Okay. So I have to, I had a teacher in high school who told us this, when actually we were going on camping trips for school, and we were headed out. And while we were out there, he said, before you get married, make sure that you go and take a camping trip with your future spouse and their [00:44:00] family.
If you really want to know what you’re getting into and how that family dynamic is, take them to the woods and just watch what happens. And you will see who that person really is. And it’s true, especially like you get around the campfire people open up, you know, you get more out of somebody sitting around a campfire just in terms of discussion.
Uh, it’s so wonderful.
Tiffany: Yeah. You also see who can handle it, handle their stress. Right.
Val: Who’s not having fun.
Tiffany: So true – well I think in that question, you guys kind of answered the next one I normally would ask, which is like, what, what’s something you couldn’t do without, but I think…and maybe it’s not the same for you, so you can tell me. But is there a piece of gear that you couldn’t do without the one thing that you were like, Oh my goodness.
This is the best thing ever. The best thing since sliced bread. I know we’ve talked about the Skottle and I know we talked about, your InReach and so if it’s those things, that’s totally okay. But if there’s anything else that you’re like [00:45:00] this pillow or this, you know, sleeping bag or …
John: For Tiffany, it’s her Rumpl, it’s always with her.
Tiffany: It’s so warm with that thing. I take it in my sleeping bag when it’s really cold.
Val: I can say two things, in Arizona, I, never go camping without a multi-tool because within minutes the kids are guaranteed to come back with a cholla cactus stuck to their leg, guaranteed. And if you don’t have something to grab it with that thing, going to get stuck to your fingers, and then you’re going to be in pain.
The kids’ jerking his leg and it is in pain and yeah. So you just got to grab this thing quickly and go with pliers and be ready for that. Yeah. And everybody’s always like amazed how quickly I’m like, I’m on the scene. I got your kid. Don’t worry.
Yeah, and getting a little geeky on me, uh, like just access to [00:46:00] Gaia and modern map technology.
John: So amazing. Like I am so dumbfounded by what the early, the early settlers, whoever went before us, um, just with, you know, maps or, you know, even if you want to go all the way back to Oregon trail, but rewind back to just even 20 years ago, how did it it, I still can’t figure out how people figured out, you know where to go. And it’s just find this map. Look at this one library map.
Tiffany: It was real paper maps, babe. Which is still it’s a good idea for a backup, but like it’s so much easier. It’s faster. It’s easier with the amount of information that’s at our fingertips.
It’s so true.
Savannah: And one thing that is like a $7 item that we always always bring camping is glow sticks. When it gets dark, I like throw them on each kid and then I don’t lose them in the forest. And they like, think it’s fun, especially if it’s like [00:47:00] somewhere and there’s a fire ban, and you can’t have a fire.
It at least adds like something. Um, and so that works. I think it’s a safety thing. I think it’s a fun thing. And then it also is really convenient cause they usually bring it up to the tent with them. And so then when we go to bed, there’s like just enough light in the tent for us to like get settled in with the glow sticks.
So that’s like handy. I dunno how long our kids will find them entertaining. But for now it’s something that like has a permanent spot in our camping box.
John: Our kids still love there’s, uh, we take them off and we actually found some, uh, that are an LED. So it’s like a, it looks like the actual glow stick and it’s kind of the same size, but it’s green or blue or red.
And so they’ve been playing with those, but we’ve definitely had, um, when we did a couple of family camping trips, we had a friend that brought out a whole pack of glow sticks and we’re like, What are you doing? What, what, where’s the party, you know? And then he made little necklaces and bracelets for the kids.
And then all of a sudden, all around this youth group [00:48:00] campsite, you knew where all the kids were. It was perfect because they were all, how old would you say they were two to….
Tiffany: The age range? We had everything from an infant to like eight, I think in that group. And there were probably like 15, 20 kids. So like, it was one of those, like at least watching
John: these plastic bracelets, just all over the place.
It was perfect. You knew. Oh, okay. They’re fine. They didn’t go too far. Yeah,
Tiffany: yeah. Yeah. Super cool. Well, I love that tip. And before are we wrap up can you tell us where we can find you?
Savannah: So you can find us at our blog, which is xplrcreate.com, Xplr Create, but spelled funny. Um, and then on Instagram as @mrs.xplr and @mr.xplr on Instagram.
Tiffany: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on again today and sharing all of your expertise and your experience and, the Skottle and all these [00:49:00] cool things and the inReach. Yes. And we know what it was more important to spend our money on. So thank you so much for coming on and joining us today.
Savannah: Thank you so much for having us. It was a blast.
Val: Of course, yeah, thank you guys.
Tiffany: Yep. Thanks again, Savannah and Val for joining us today on the podcast. Before we check out, we wanted to leave you guys with a few of our favorite takeaways from the conversation.
John: Number one, you don’t need all the things. I want all the things,
Tiffany: but you don’t need all the things.
So break it down to what you actually need to have for food for sleeping and to be safe and then build it from there. You’re going to adjust as you go anyway. But as long as you have those essentials, you’re going to be fine to get I started.
John: And the internet will always be there.
Tiffany: And so will we.
John: Number two
Tiffany: Buy your inReach, before you buy the Skottle, even if you really, really want the Skottle.
John: Oh yes. Yes I do.
Tiffany: Yes, but it’s probably smarter. If you have [00:50:00] to choose to buy the inReach first.
John: Number three, everybody’s fun favorite
Tiffany: They are a win-win for the kids
John: That was so cheesy…
Tiffany: But should I leave it?
Tiffany: Or should I take it out?
John: Yes, leave it – of course.
Tiffany: So even though it’s cheesy, the glow sticks, they are really a win-win for everyone.
John: Oh no, I meant us.
Tiffany: Anyway, I’ll make sure to also share a link from the reasonable ones that our kids like in the show notes.
John: They use them all the time. In the tent, in their rooms, in their hammocks. Check the show notes.
Tiffany: Thanks again for joining us today, Stoke Fam.
John: We are so excited to be showing up in your ears each week. And if you’re enjoying this show…
Tiffany: We would be so grateful if you would take just a minute or two and give us a rating or review on iTunes,
John: It helps us grow so we can help reach more people and help them find their stoke.
And we can bring more awesome guests to you.
Tiffany: Adventure more, stress less. We’ll see [00:51:00] you out there.
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Additional Resources Mentioned in the Show
- Meet Savannah & Val on their Instagram accounts: @mrs.xplr and @mr.xplr
- Cool gear mentioned in the show: the Skottle, reusable glow sticks, and Garmin InReach.
- Find more details about the apps mentioned in the show (Gaia GPS and Avenza Maps), plus more helpful camping apps we love in this post about the best apps for camping.