Having just returned from serving in the role as lead navigator for the first half of our shooting of Season 5, The Nordic Series, in Scandinavia, Kurt Williams sits down with X Overland Podcast host, Jimmy Lewis, on location at Cruiser Outfitters in Salt Lake City, Utah to share his field-tested approaches to overland navigation and route planning.
Behind the wheel of a Land Cruiser since he was 15-years-old, Kurt is now a successful business owner of Cruiser Outfitters, an accomplished off-road racer, off-road driving instructor, and certified Tread Lightly Master Tread Trainer (MTT).
His travels overlanding with Expeditions 7 and Expedition Overland have taken him around the world, working on these teams as both lead navigator and mechanic.
In this episode, Kurt shares his extensive knowledge about route planning and navigation whether you are embarking on an international overland journey or having fun with any kind of vehicle-based adventuring at home or abroad.
Detailed Episode Summary
Part 1 (1:30-8:00) Intro to Kurt Williams and Cruiser Outfitters: How did Cruiser Outfitters get started? Kurt explains the origin of his business along with some of his own background that led him to start his successful business specializing in Toyota Land Cruisers. I Hate Mud
Part 2 (8:15-15:00) Kurt’s Passion for 4-Wheeling and Off-Road Driving and his Role as an Off-Road Trainer: Born and raised in Utah, Kurt spent his childhood going on 4-wheel-drive-supported camping trips. Kurt discusses his racing experience and current participation in the Baja 1000 along with his work with Overland Experts and in corporate and military training. International Four-Wheel Drive Trainer Association
Part 3 (15:15-21:35) How did Kurt Williams Begin Working with Expedition Overland? Kurt discusses his role as navigator with both Expeditions 7 and Expedition Overland, along with the story of how he met Clay Croft and joined the XO team for the Central America Series.
Part 4 (21:35-26:10) What is it like to navigate while filming with Expedition Overland? Kurts shares the unique experience of traveling with Expedition Overland and how, as the team’s lead navigator, he meets the challenges of filming while overlanding. Kurt describes the “healthy tensions” that arise between filmmaker and navigator, sharing stories of the team’s journey while filming the South America Series.
Part 5 (26:10-30:20) What are some tips for planning an overlanding trip through Central and South America? Kurt explains best practices for planning an overlanding trip through Central and South America or anywhere you’d like to go on a vehicle-based adventure, even addressing the application of overlanding trip planning approaches to everyday recreation back home.
Part 6 (30:20-33:00) How to Prepare for International Border Crossings While Overlanding: With dozens of border crossings to his credit, Kurt explains the logistics around managing International border crossings and how, as an overlander, you can prepare for this often time-consuming aspect of the trip. Kurt discusses the value of having a problem-solver’s mindset when it comes to border crossings and the benefits of respecting and cooperating with the approaches of local governments.
Part 7 (33:00-34:50) How valuable is “local knowledge” when route planning and overlanding? Kurt shares XO’s experience with seeking out local knowledge while on expedition to help him find quality campsites and routes along the way. Kurts adds to that the benefits of using the iOverlander app., and the team’s contributions to this resource while filming in Central and South America.
Part 8 (34:50-37:15) To Share or Not to Share? iOverlander and Overcrowding: Kurt and Jimmy discuss the ethics behind sharing campsites and routes with an app like iOverlander and how to balance the tension between sharing a place and keeping it off the radar to avoid overcrowding. Park for Night/Camp for Night
Part 9 (37:15-42:25) Finding Campsites and Route Planning While Overlanding in Europe and Scandinavia: Kurt explains the methods he used to find campsites and attractive routes while overlanding with the XO team throughout Northern Europe and Scandinavia to film the Nordic Series, getting into the benefits of the highly engineered road systems along with how to find wild camping opportunities in this area of the world.
Part 10 (42:25-45:50) What is the “TET” or Trans Euro Trail? Kurt goes into detail in explaining all about the “TET” (Trans Euro Trail). He also shares the European concept of “Off-Pavement/Highway” vs. “Off-Road” and the cultural differences that make the overlanding experience in Europe different from that in the Americas.
Part 11 (45:50-53:50) Staying Legal While Overlanding and the Need to “Know before you go!”: “Know before you go.” That’s Kurt’s mantra when it comes to legally preparing for any of his vehicle-based adventures, whether that is overseas or in his home state of Utah. To that point, Kurt shares effective approaches to vetting out the laws of where you’ll be traveling and staying on the right side of the law and other users while traveling and recreating. Be aware of the “Tread Lightly” approach to motorized recreation.
Part 12 (53:50-56:30) Recap of Best Practices for Planning Overlanding Routes and Navigating: Kurt recaps his approach to planning and executing overland routes and how best to navigate while in the field, addressing the value of large paper maps such as “Benchmark Atlas Maps” and app-based navigation tools like Hema, Gaia, and onX Off-Road.
Part 13 (56:30-END) How do you balance the tension between a feeling of where to go vs. what the map says? Kurt and Jimmy discuss that tension that arises between a direction you feel you’d like to travel in, a road or trail that looks inviting–and what the map or navigation tool is telling you. Kurt shares his own approaches to sorting out this dilemma and finding a healthy balance between these two approaches.