Overland Expo Trainer Interview: Jim West

Photo By: John Allen

Before we dive into this excellent interview with Jim West, we wanted to introduce you to our new series, “Trainer Tuesdays.” Through this series, we’ll have the opportunity to get to know the members of the excellent Overland Expo Training Team, and we’ll also connect with Chris Walker, Director of Vehicle Training, and Mark Farage, Assistant Director of Vehicle Training, to take a deeper dive into what attendees can expect from the Overland Expo Training program. 

Photo courtesy of Jim West

For our first trainer interview, we grabbed a few minutes of time from Jim West. Jim is an accomplished off-road trainer with 30-plus years of experience under his belt. During this time, he’s logged miles across five continents and 30 countries. Jim represented the United States in the 1992 Camel Trophy that traveled through Brazil and Guyana, and he was a part of the training and selection team for the Camel Trophy for a number of years. He’s also a retired firefighter/paramedic who now calls Phoenix, Arizona, home.  

Overland Expo: When you were just starting to dive into the world of overland travel, what kind of training did you receive?  

Jim West: My training started informally, learning to get a vehicle places to camp or hunt without damaging the car. Most of the time, this was in a 2X4 pickup. While on the Fire Department, I became an EVOC (emergency vehicle operation course) Instructor. I’ve attended the Land Rover Driving Academy twice at Eastnor Castle in England. I have credentials from both City and Guilds (Global) and the British Columbia Forest Safety Council (Canada) as an Offroad Driving Instructor; all of this training has given me different perspectives on how to both operate and teach vehicle operations in harsh environments. 

Photo courtesy of Jim West

Overland Expo: Why do you think it’s important for people to receive proper training before heading out on overland adventures?  

Jim West: People new to the world of vehicle-based adventure tend to lean toward the tangible things. Modifying the vehicle, adding equipment for everything from performance to recovery. What is often missed is the training to make good purchase decisions and to operate this equipment safely and efficiently. Improving the person gets exponentially more results than just improving the machine. 

READ MORE: New Training Opportunities at Overland Expo

Overland Expo: From your perspective, what is the value of the Overland Expo Training?  

Jim West: Overland Expo Training offers the layperson or experienced adventurers the opportunity to get high-level training, in most cases tailored to their specific needs, from Instructors with hundreds of years of combined experience and a passion to teach people the best and safest practices. 

Photo courtesy of Jim West

Overland Expo: What can Overland Expo Training attendees expect to learn on the driving course? 

Jim West: The course is quite literally where the rubber meets the road. This year’s format will be more freeform. Through a quick conversation, the Instructors will be able to figure out the specific goals of the guest and then use the course to give the specific training required. This will be bespoke training based on the guests’ needs. 

Photo courtesy of Jim West

Overland Expo: And why do you think it’s important to use your personal vehicle during Overland Expo Training? 

Jim West: There is no substitute for learning driving/recovery skills in your own vehicle. Brand to brand, model to model, and even different modifications have a huge impact on the dynamics of a vehicle in varying terrains. Plus, it gives you a chance to evaluate modifications that you have done or are planning to do. 

Overland Expo: Thanks Jim! We look forward to seeing you at events throughout the year and seeing how the Overland Expo Training has evolved. 

Photo by Brett Willhelm

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