I’m a Jeep guy. That means I wave back. I think crossover SUVs are basically minivans, and I’m probably going to have an eclectic collection of rusting junk in my backyard one day. I blame my father for this addiction, as he owned (only) a CJ-5 when I was born… which didn’t even have a back seat, and was overall a horrible family vehicle. But 1981 was a different time I guess. As a kid – riding around in that topless CJ infected me with some sorta weird Jeep disease that laid dormant until I was 20 years old. That’s about when I sold my Ford Probe SE (stop laughing) for a ’93 Jeep Wrangler. After that purchase, I joined a 4wd club, and like the other Jeep owners there, I started making fun of the Toyota drivers.
Those were the days
As car people know, a loving banter between brands is nothing new, and the Toyota 4Runners and mini-trucks were a breed of their own. They introduced us to strange concepts like Birfields, solid axle swaps, and multiple transfer cases. Those Toyotas turned like battleships, but drove over everything they were pointed at & rarely broke down. So of course, they were mocked mercilessly by the Jeeps. Oh, how smug we were in our Wranglers and Cherokees with outstanding ‘inline six’ engines pushing questionable factory drive train components to the limits. The gunshot crack of an exploded u-joint only eclipsed by a broken Dana 35 axle shaft. Those were the days!
But fast forward to today, when one can buy a Wrangler Rubicon capable of driving toward whatever mountain it’s pointed at, clambering over any rocks that jump out in front of it, then driving back into town for pizza the same night. At present, there’s little that a Jeep owner could lust over.
So I bought a Tacoma.
Mostly because it had a bed to haul all of the things that I started to bring everywhere: mountain bikes, a rooftop tent, water, extra fuel, cooking gear, various coffee making devices, beer, more beer, groceries for a week, PLUS a 75 quart Dometic fridge/freezer combo for trail ice cream! Upon transporting all those things on trails to go camping, I inadvertently found myself participating in the ‘overlanding’ thing… and I admit… I quite liked it.
Just like with any automotive hobby people are passionate about, defining Overlanding is often debated. Posting an Instagram photo of a truck next to a campsite with a picnic table and tagging #overland is sure to rile up the folks who have worn out their Camel Trophy VHS tapes, but let’s consider a definition from Wikipedia. Overlanding is self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal.
It’s in that vein that I’ve started seeking out the coolest destinations to drive to, as opposed to the hardest trails to drive on. Setting up camp in a beautiful, remote part of the world… and knowing that there are no other people nearby is a fantastic feeling. Just those remote views themselves are often rewarding enough for the whole trip, but if there are some fun obstacles along the way, that’s rad as well, and the truck is undoubtedly prepared for it.
So far, the Toyota life has been pretty amazing, with trips on the El Camino del Diablo in Arizona, Mojave Road in California, even exploring Jeep trails in the Sawatch Range of Colorado, not to mention daily-hauling mountain bikes all over my home state of Michigan. I have many other trips planned for the future, and I can’t wait to get lost somewhere with my Jeep friends as they start to discover this hobby as well. And while they make fun of me at the campfire for driving a Yota, I’ll be happy to hand them a cold beer out of the fridge. I’m keeping the ice cream to myself though.
This 2016 TRD Sport is lifted with a BDS Suspension 6″ system, featuring FOX coil-overs and tubular upper arms. The axles are stuffed with air lockers and 4.88 gears from Nitro gear, which help turn 18″ Mamba M19 wheels wrapped in 35″ Falken Wildpeak M/T tires. Victory 4×4 bumpers, rock sliders, and underbody armor surround the truck; and if all chance of forward motion gets halted, a WARN VR8s winch is hidden behind the front bumper.
Inside the truck features a full Kicker audio system with enough watts to scare away any woodland creatures in a 20 miles radius. It’s got a dash-mounted 10″ Android tablet for navigation duty, and communication is handled by a quad-band amateur ham radio. A Genesis dual battery system and a pair of deep cycle batteries keep the power in check.
The Victory 4×4 rack system on the bed is the key to the truck’s flexibility, and can mount whatever is necessary for the next expedition, plus an ax; which is always handy for firewood or zombies.
Text by Daryl Hutson Photos by Cameron Gregory