Throw “overland” at me and I immediately think Willys and the WWII era, but in verb form, it was explained as “self-reliant adventure travel.” So Nissan made an overlanding day-trip a precursor to Overland Expo West.

We would take the just finished Mountain Patrol Armada, the Titan Basecamp and Hellwig’s bumble-bee colored Lance camper/Titan XD from last year, all running Icon suspension – with some obvious help from Hellwig on the bee – and 35-inch tires.

READ MORE: The Coolest Products We Saw At Overland Expo West 2018

Rounding out the convoy was one Midnight Edition Titan half-ton and two XD Midnight diesels, one accessorized and one a Pro-4X, a stock Armada for the executive conference room and an NV200 Envy from Recon campers because a front-drive, compact van is always front of mind for overlanding, right?


Only the camper and NV were running non-stock tire pressure, likely in deference to planned highway legs in summer temperatures, but the stock trucks were basically unloaded, just as the one I’d driven 500 miles to get there with 20 psi missing out back. And I wasn’t plodding along at 60 mph either, unconcerned given in-cab pressure (related to temperature) displays and a real matching spare.

READ MORE: The Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol Looks Ready for Serious Adventure


We jumped into Basecamp for the 89A south leg through Sedona, thinking some G-Wagen or Range Rover pilot might notice real 4x4s don’t come with 22-inch wheels, while in reality the only thing noticed was the paint and wrap on our modified trio. The balance of the jaunt to the Palatki Heritage site on Forest Road 795 was uneventful if not especially quiet, and readily traversed in the average rental Traverse or Versa.


The docents here are wonderful despite insufficient time to see everything. One feels a bit silly with modern gear since 900 years ago the locals had found natural shelter and a modicum of “climate control” using simply terrain and basic astronomy. Then again, they didn’t cover the distance at speeds like we could but I could have gazed at cerulean skies and red rocks all day.

Suitably impressed by native engineering and botany – it appears arid and lifeless but there are fruit-bearing trees among us, we backtracked to the pavement and continued southwest through the Verde Valley to Cottonwood. The “Heart of Arizona Wine Country” according to the city seal, Cottonwood’s a jumping off point for outdoor recreation and we got the three-minute tour. Four for those who missed the light.


Ten miles down the road, another 1500’ higher and clinging to the side of a mountain is Jerome, once a copper mining community (3 million pounds/month) known as the wickedest town in the west before the mine closure rendered it a ghost town. It’s now a National Historic District of buildings that appear ready to slide away, an artsy-fartsy hangout, and worth a stop at the Haunted Hamburger for a shake and “I Got SheetFaced” T-shirt even if you’re not hungry.

Heading northwest on the Jerome-Perkinsville Road we’re finally back off the tarmac bisecting the Coconino forest, tourists left behind, and I’m in the camper with less air in larger tires, a decent payload and enough sunglasses for a Blues Brothers rally. It rides better than anything save maybe the NV Envy and the only reason it ever needed 4WD was for low-range ATF temperature control. Empty pickups and Armadas needed it for traction.

Maps show a “Perkinsville” a third of the way north to Williams yet the only residents are bovine and ignore the stop sign like everyone else. And livestock means water’s not far, a reassuring thought when the Yetis are emptied of their Gatorade and bubbly drinks.


The road gets progressively more interesting heading north, and it’s great fun to be the caboose watching those empty pickups bouncing and the NV2 weaving around the rocks like an ant at a picnic. Eventually we got to a spot where the ant could not skip a step and while a little trail building – which copilot Alyssa was quite adept at – and a little momentum likely would have done it, the Basecamp was backed down the hill for a tug.

However, a tug requires a tow strap (check) and some means to attach it if all your tow points are loops, and that wasn’t part of the kit. So with four people pushing like an old theatre farce, the NV2 was placed up the step and continued onward none the worse for wear. Eventually someone else figured out I hadn’t gotten out of the camper for a while and I was bounced back to an empty XD. Lucky for me pavement wasn’t far away in Williams, the same refrain from the prior day’s excursion.


Some of the Titans had more hamsters in the dash, the camper rubbed a front tire occasionally and would be days away from warranty end if not a Nissan, and the NV2 that covered 30% more ground than the rest of us was filthy but intact.

I’m taking that next time.