Going Viral — For All the Right Reasons

The novel coronavirus has drastically changed our way of life. The many manufacturers and business owners in the overland industry are feeling it too. The day-to-day of running a business has given way to navigating the world of unemployment benefits, new labor laws, and leave requirements. For essential business owners that are staying open, their attention has shifted to protecting their workers from exposure and just trying to stay afloat.

As Director of Sales for Overland Expo, I’ve had the opportunity to have some amazing conversations with our exhibitors over the past couple of weeks about the things they are doing locally and nationally to help combat the pandemic. Many shifted their manufacturing to making personal protection equipment for first responders and healthcare workers, others are already producing necessary products like first aid kits and hand sanitizer, while others are thinking outside of the box and doing something completely different. I thought it was important to highlight some of those companies that exemplify the spirit of our overland community; innovation, self-sufficiency, and stewardship: 

  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), which includes Jeep and Ram, will provide help to police, EMTs and firefighters, as well as to workers in hospitals and health care clinics by manufacturing and donating more than one million protective face masks per month. Distribution will initially be across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

CBP Agent using Showerpouch Hand Sanitizer

CBP Agent using Showerpouch Hand Sanitizer

  • Showerpouch is known for their massive body wipes. However, after the Coronavirus outbreak, they’ve had a huge surge of orders for their Adventure Hand Sanitizer. They’ve had multiple police departments, fire departments, EMS, border patrol officers, nurses, doctors, and general health care providers throughout the US procure their hand sanitizers in bulk quantities. They are helping those who are putting themselves in harm’s ways to protect the most vulnerable – those infected with COVID-19.

  • Yukon Outfitters pivoted from making hammocks, rain flys, and waterproof bags to producing face masks, face shields, and isolation gowns full time. They are working 12 hour days, six days a week producing 52,000 face masks, 4,000 face shields and 2,000 isolation gowns a week. They expect that number to grow another 25% next week. They are only charging for overtime labor and materials used in this process. Preston Powell, founder of Yukon Outfitters said, “We are fortunate to have the opportunity to keep our employees ‘in work’ while assisting folks in need all over the country.” 

Thule Group creates face shields

Thule Group creates face shields

  • Thule Group, makers of Tepui tents and Thule outdoor/ active lifestyle bags and car racks, is utilizing some of its resources at their regional headquarters in Connecticut to help fight the spread of COVID-19. Using 3D printers on site at their headquarters normally used for rapid prototyping and testing, Thule Group staff are now using the machines to create plastic components for face shields to aid hospital staff during the current pandemic.

  • The Team at VanDOit has been busy making homemade masks according to CDC guidelines. Once made, they are being distributed to local hospitals and throughout their community. 

  • BOSS Strongbox/ BOSS Safety Products started making cloth masks for purchase by the general public. For every mask purchased, BOSS will be donating $1 to Feeding America to provide meals for people affected by school closures, job disruptions, and health risks. If you need a mask, check them out at https://www.getclothmasks.com/.

  • Adventure Travel Sport Rentals suspended their rental program and is offering their campervans to first responders, medical professionals, and front line workers in Colorado who need to quarantine away from their families. 

Zeal donates to Goggles for Docs

Zeal donates to Goggles for Docs

  • Zeal Optics, an eyewear manufacturer based out of Boulder, CO partnered with Goggles for Docs, to provide goggles to health care workers. Goggles for Docs is a creative grassroots program that materialized in the medical community in response to the lack of eye protection for doctors and nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was originally started by an ER physician from NYC who was unable to source enough eye protection for his team. His aunt is a race coach at Catamount Ski Resort, and they had an “aha moment” that resulted in a system that allows hospitals to request goggles based on their needs. Zeal sent their first shipment the week of April 6 to multiple hospitals and health care facilities across Southern CA and the Denver, CO Metro Area.

  • Metal-tech 4×4 is designing an easy-to-fabricate open-source hospital bed. The design is intentionally simple so it can be manufactured anywhere in the US by the very community that may need them using commonly available materials. When the design is finished they will be putting it online as a free, open-source CAD file including instructions and bill of materials per unit. If a community immediately needed to add more hospital beds they could hire local welders to build these quickly, at a relatively low cost. This will keep the money in the local communities since their local fabricators can build these.

  • At their Phillipsburg, NJ location, vehicle outfitter OK4WD is giving free labor toward vehicle maintenance, at-cost replacement parts, and deep discounts on tires to healthcare professionals and front line workers to help them keep their cars and trucks on the road so they can keep fighting COVID-19.

  • TO Extreme Off Road is a 40-year-old full-service metal fabrication shop and adventure trailer builder (Twin Oaks Industries, Inc.) located in Salina, KS. The other part of their business makes parts for agriculture, medical, construction and forestry companies. They are devoting all of their trailer building hours to making sure all these essential businesses have the parts that they need to continue normal operation without an interrupted supply chain. This also keeps their staff 100% employed.

  • WARN, AT Overland, Equipt Expedition Outfitters, and many more essential businesses implemented CDC social distancing guidelines in their factories and shops and have extra cleaning, sanitizing, and logistics procedures in place to protect their staff and customers. These cleaning guidelines are no small feat and can add up to two hours per day to already full schedules.

  • STEP 22 Gear is thinking long-term and giving a percentage of their sales to conservation organizations that are focused on stopping the wildlife trade that is so often the cause of the spread of diseases like COVID-19. They’ve partnered with 1% FOR THE PLANET and the Wildlife Conservation Network. A portion of every dollar spent at STEP 22 Gear are going to conservation efforts that make our planet better for today’s adventurers and the generations to come.

  • For the month of April RIGd Supply will give 10% of their profit to Feeding America and CORVA respectively. Because of the crisis and job loss many have been placed in situations where food shortage is a reality. Feeding America provides food banks and services to those affected most by COVID-19. Services include food delivery for the elderly, local food banks, and providing food for children who normally rely on meals from schools. With many businesses suffering and regular fundraising events canceled or postponed CORVA fundraising has taken a hit. Luke Wronski, CEO of RIGd says, “When this thing is over, we’ll need our precious public land access more than ever. It is vital that CORVA continues to receive our support to fight for public land access.”

United logos 2 (002).jpg

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it is a great example of how the overland and outdoor industry is mobilizing to help the greater good. We’re so proud to call them our partners and clients. Most of all, we’re inspired by the many stories we’ve heard over the past few weeks coming out of the overland community. If you have the means right now, be sure to support your local shop, your favorite retailer, or just hop online and order some parts to work on your vehicle while you’re stuck at home.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands. We look forward to seeing you on the other side!

Photo by Brett Willhelm


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