Instructor Spotlight: Walt Middleton

Overland Expo is thrilled to announce Walt Middleton as an instructor for our 2022 series. As an accomplished and highly in-demand professional photographer, Walt will share the expertise he has gained while working as a team photographer at the Big Ten Conference Championships as well as hundreds of NCAA National Championships over the past 17 years.

Having heavily modified his 2009 Jeep Wrangler, Walt will also teach two classes covering DIY builds and vehicle modifications. Given that he has 403,000 miles on his Jeep, it’s safe to say that the testing of his overland-specific upgrades has been quite thorough. Attendees will also see Walt contributing as a panelist on several of our roundtable discussions. Having camped in all 50 states, traversed the Rubicon Trail multiple times, and explored F Roads in Iceland, his experiences are sure to contribute meaningfully to related discussions.

To learn more about Walt and his dynamic and fascinating background, including his responses to our Instructor Interview, read on:

Working as a Team Photographer for many of the top 25 Division 1 Universities, odds are you have seen Walt Middleton’s work if you follow collegiate athletics. Athletics aside, Walt has photographed three different Presidents, countless celebrities, way “too many athletes” (according to him), has been embedded with response teams during natural disasters, and from time to time, dabbles on the commercial side of photography.

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When not shooting, Walt likes to adventure as much as he can. Be it exploring back roads or random trails he finds during his travels or taking his family on their annual month-long summer road trip, Walt is always on the move.

At the ripe old age of 9, he began camping all over the country and even backpacked parts of the Appalachian Trail with his uncle. Today, work has taken Walt to all 50 states more than once, as well as around the world several times.

While Walt had been camping, backpacking, rock climbing, skiing, and, as he puts it, “generally doing everything you can think of outdoors, for years,” it wasn’t until 2009 that Walt started taking overlanding trips. That year, Walt purchased a new Jeep Wrangler. Ever since Walt says, “he has tinkered with and built out his jeep into what it is today.” Finding a love for fabricating and doing it himself, he has modified his Jeep into a capable overlanding rig that has seen the Rubicon trail multiple times, traversed many Jeep badge trails, and served as his daily driver. Today Walt proudly sleeps in his one-of-a-kind rooftop tent that he built into his stock hardtop and takes his wife Megan and two daughters, Grace and McKenna, along whenever he can.

Walt answered a few questions for us so that we could get to know how he became involved in overlanding and

Q: Tell us about your rig:

A: My first four-wheeled vehicle was a 1986 F150 4×4. I camped and slept in the bed of the truck on many trips. When the odometer hit 200k, and the body of that truck was losing its battle with rust, I gave it to a friend. Then I bought my first Jeep, a 2000 Cherokee Sport. I drove that vehicle till the odometer hit 200,000+ miles as well.

Once I had my first daughter, I realized how small the Cherokee really was. I decided to go larger with my current rig, a 2009 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that I bought new in April of 2009 with two miles on the odometer. It now has over 403,000 on it.

I’ve also upgraded to a 5-inch lift, upgraded most of the suspension components, installed full skid plates, added a Warn winch, and added additional lights. I’ve also added wheels, hood vents, and bumpers from American Expedition Vehicles. After trying multiple trailers and rooftop tent setups, I decided to build my own. My tent design is integrated into the original factory hardtop and only adds 3 inches of height to the Jeep.

Q: All-time favorite campsite?

A: My all-time favorite campsite is the next one. I love to explore, so I rarely visit the same place twice. That being said, I’ve stayed at Winter Camp on the Rubicon Trail quite a few times. And, If I were to be asked my most memorable campsite, it would be on the northern side of Iceland, on the shore of the Greenland Sea. On the F road F899.

Q: What’s your go-to overlanding meal?

A: This one is easy, Trail Jambalaya. Ok, it’s not really jambalaya, but it’s my trail version of what I make at home.
It consists of andriole sausage, diced tomatoes, bell peppers, some onion, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Toss it all in a pot, and let it cook for 20 minutes or so. After about 10 minutes on the burner, toss in a cup or two of rice. Then let it cook with the food for another 10 minutes or so.

Image by Walt Middleton Photography | All Rights Reserved

Q: Best silver-lining story?

A: A few years ago, I was leading a trip with 14 other Jeeps through a rather technical trail. While spotting one of the Jeeps on a rather large obstacle, the mud gave way on one side. This caused the Jeep to slowly slide onto its side and wedge itself in a downhill V notch. This began an almost 5-hour recovery. At the end of which, we had utilized four winches, three snatch blocks, numerous straps, and a lot of sweat. The silver lining to this whole ordeal was that no one was injured, miraculously no vehicle was damaged more than a few scratches, we all gained valuable experience performing a safe recovery in the real world, and we came away with a good story to tell.

Q: What is an area of overland travel that you feel you could use some improvement in?

A: I would like to become a more knowledgeable mechanic. I’m a decent shade tree mechanic, and I know enough to realize that I don’t know enough.

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