by Daniel Thorton
Artemis Overland has been a curator of overland gear since 2018
Aaron Matkowski and his wife Keri Franklin are the owners of Artemis Overland Hardware which started in March of 2018. Since that time they’ve been committed to offering high quality gear for vehicle-based and overland adventures, and we recently had an opportunity to sit down and visit with them as part of our Around the Campfire series.
OX4: When did your passion for the outdoors start? Who or what was responsible for your interest in outdoor adventures?
Aaron: Growing up in Minnesota and then Missouri, my best memories as a child were family campouts. I loved driving with my family, looking out into the woods, and being so excited to explore. I had several pivotal outdoor adventures in my youth. One happened in Prescott, Arizona. My grandparents were there, and I just wanted to get out into the mountains. My parents gave me a backpack and a down sleeping bag, and I was on my way. The second experience was Boundary Waters. I went with my brothers and my dad. We portaged all the way into Canada, reading maps, a total unknown, and all the gear we needed for 10 days in our backpacks. I loved being outdoors. It felt like a sense of accomplishment when I got home. In the 90s, my roommates and I went camping in the Ozarks every weekend, going to local conservation areas in our 4WDs and making it back just in time for class on Monday. I loved every aspect of these times: nature, self-sufficiency, and camaraderie.
OX4: What was the spark that occurred when you decided to create Artemis Overland Hardware?
Aaron: In 2016, after a corporate layoff and working at a company for 10+ years, I found myself losing my company truck I had been driving for 7 years. I was searching for a vehicle. My wife mentioned that I should buy a Land Rover. Soon after, I purchased a 2004 Land Rover Discovery 2. That’s where it all started. Having an off-road capable vehicle came at the perfect time in my life. I wanted more than a state park or an off-road park. I wanted to camp like I did back in college. In 2017, I started watching Mountain State Overland and XO. They had really unique gear. I’m a hardcore buy-local guy, but none of the local stores were carrying what I was looking for. I wanted a store that I would want to shop in. So, it just started as a person who loved the outdoors and saw that we need a place to find our gear in one place. I pulled together the stuff I loved on a website. Six months later we had a retail space the size of a bathroom and 100 people coming by for Rigs and Coffee before I had even heard of Rigs and Coffee. Four years later, we bought a building in an older downtown area that is being revitalized. We will have a larger location, a full showroom, and a massive amount of installation room. We are stoked. I saw the other day that over 10,000 people had viewed a picture we had posted in 2018. That’s amazing. 40,000 people a month visit our website. I’m just humbled. I love the people. I love the products, and I just want people to be happy and get outdoors.
OX4: What is your advice to folks who come to you about getting more involved in vehicle-based camping and general outdoor adventure?
Aaron: I want people to remember that getting outdoors is the first step. See what you might need and what you might like. Look for communities of other people. Sometimes that’s based on what kind of rig you have. Find the Jeep community, the Landcruiser community, the Land Rover communities online and make some friends! Now, you can find groups of people going out on trail rides. When you are ready, you need a 4WD, a place to sleep, a stove to cook with and make your coffee, and some water. Start small, and most importantly, have fun. Get outside.
OX4: What gear do you find most people are buying as they jump into the world of overlanding?
Aaron: A lot of people start by finding a way to sleep comfortably outdoors. sometimes it’s a roof-top tent; it could be a ground tent. The next thing is the stove. Cooking outdoors is half the fun. So, figuring out if you want a stove or Skottle is another important purchase.
OX4: What brands do you supply?
Aaron: We carry over 100 adventure brands. We love 23Zero, SnoMaster, Goose Gear, Leitner Designs, Front Runner, AFN, Howling Moon. My favorite part of Artemis is getting to know my customers and what they are looking for and getting to know the new up-and-coming brands to bring in.
OX4: What can you tell me about your line of roof top tents and specifically the brand Howling Moon?
Aaron: In 2020, during Covid obviously, we had a hard time finding tents to sell. I was looking for a quality tent that we could readily source and noticed that Howling Moon did not have a US representation at the time. Howling Moon is a South African company that is one of Africa’s top-selling brands. When you think of overlanding, you think of South Africa and Australia. The difference is Howling Moon uses a 380gsm poly-cotton canvas made in Africa that is sturdier than most of the leading tent canvas brands we sell.
OX4: What are your customers saying about Howling Moon?
Aaron: To get a sense of the true durability, you have to see it in person. They are so sturdy. Customers are surprised when they see the quality of the fabric. But that makes sense because they are used in some of the harshest climates in the world. Customers love the quality and are extremely happy.
Learn more about Artemis Overland and visit their website by visiting www.artemisoverland.com.
Editor Note: The Around the Campfire series is brought to you in collaboration with our friends from 67 Designs, proprietors of the finest mounting solutions for your mobile devices whether in the backcountry, around town, and at home. Learn more about 67 Designs by visiting www.67d.com.
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