Building my Toyota 4Runner Trail into an Overlander
First of all, What is an Overlander?
A few months ago, when Megan and I decided to build a vehicle into an overlander we didn’t have a proper word to use for this process. That was until I discovered Expedition Overland’s Youtube series and I knew exactly what to call it.
Overlanding is basically driving a vehicle away from civilization and relying on it for sleeping, cooking, storage, etc.
Think of it like glamping “glamours camping” except instead of an RV or trailer it’s a tricked out off-road 4×4 vehicle.
Now, the reason we choose to build out an off-road 4×4 vehicle is because it provides the most versatility for what we want to do, which is to go way off the beaten path. Heading into the backroads of Maine, or eventually exploring other exciting rural areas an RV or trailer just isn’t going to be capable of.
Nissan Xterra to Toyota 4Runner
Originally, if you’ve been following our blog for the last few months we began this journey with a Nissan Xterra Pro-4X, which is an incredibly capable vehicle on its own. But we were finding it very challenging to see a future in this vehicle.
First, the shape of its sides and roof made large expedition sized roof racks nearly impossible, and it would not only look terrible but function horribly if we put a Roof Top Tent on top, which we hope to do soon.
Secondly, in 2015 Nissan discontinued the Xterra line of vehicles which normally wouldn’t be a challenge, but since Nissan is no longer backing the truck anymore, that means its already hard to find after market parts were going to shrink even more.
All of these unfortunate events lead to us selling our leased Nissan Xterra Pro-4X and purchasing a 2016 Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition
Building the Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition
Okay now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get into how we’re building out the 4Runner.
Just like before when we’re building out the Nissan Xterra, we’re going to separate it into Build Phases.
Build Phases allow us to not only separate important (and expensive) purchases, but it also allows us to build and customize as we go along.
Phase One: Solar Power and Kitchen
- GoalZero Yeti 400 Solar Generator — $400
- ARB 47L Freezer Fridge — $924
- Camp Chef Everest 2 Burner Camp Stove — $109
Purchased May 2016
- GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Cookset — $139
Purchased June 2016
- REI Camp Roll Table x2 — $64ea
Purchased a Single Table in May 2016
Phase Two: Roof Racks and Sleeping
- Eezi-Awn K9 2.2 Meter Roof Racks — $1325
Decided not to purchase this Roof Rack, instead we purchased a Front Runner Full Length Custom Roof Rack in April 2016
- Treeline Outdoors Tamarack III Rooftop Tent — $2,100 CAD
Purchased in July 2016, we ended up spending $3000 USD
- Treeline Outdoors Annex — $250 CAD
Purchased in July 2016, we ended up spending $350 USD
- Eezi-Awn 2.5 Meter Awning — $480
We went ahead and purchased a Front Runner 2 meter Awning Instead in April 2016
Phase Three: Vehicle Improvements
- BFGoodrich All Terrain K02 Tires 275/70R17E x5 — $1,250 total
Purchased in October 2016
- Plati-Dip Stock Rims Black
- Icon Vehicle Dynamics 2 Inch Lift Rear Coil Springs — $250
Icon Vehicle Dynamics 2 Inch Lift Rear Coil Springs
The need for new rear springs isn’t so much of wanting a nice lift kit, but instead being able to accommodate the additional weight of a full fridge, roof top tent, bike rack, and all of the other equipment primarily stored in the rear of the vehicle. The 2 inch lift kit will balance out the load, reduce sagging, and help improve the ride when I’m driving heaving.
Phase Four: External Lighting and Auxiliary Battery
- Roof Rack Mounted Rigid Industries 40″ LED Combo Light
- Roof Rack Mounted LED Camp Light x2
- Auxiliary Battery Kit
We decided to do something a little different, instead of purchasing another massive battery for the engine compartment we purchased a Goal Zero 400W Solar Generator for internal use. We added an additional 33 amp hour battery and are planning to build it into a drawer system. This means for anything “on-road” like lights, will be powered off the main battery for when the truck is running, and anything “camping” will be powered via the Goal Zero battery bank. The Goal Zero can also be charged via solar or while the truck is on. Purchased April 2016
- Matching 4Runner Internal Dashboard Switches
Lighting & Power
I have yet to do a ton of research on proper lighting on and around my rig, but what I do know is that I want an Auxiliary Battery so these power hungry accessories are not eating through my starting battery. Some type of combination of forward 40 inch LED bar and auxiliary dimming camping lights would be ideal.
Phase Whenever: Standard Equipment
- ARB Twin Air Compressor (Suitcase) — $830
We went ahead and purchased a Viair 450PA portable Air Compressor instead, we decided that a mountable compressor just wasn’t in the cards and having more flexibility with a portable one would have benefited us more. Purchased December 2016
- ARB Tire Deflator — $40
Purchased December 2016
- Matrix Vehicle Recovery Boards — $325
- Another Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generator — $400
We learned that we did not need an additional Goal Zero Yeti 400; Instead, we purchased an additional daisy-chained 33 amp hour battery that plugs into the Yeti 400.
- Goal Zero 100W Collapsable Solar Panel — $750
Purchased in August 2016
The reason this section has a “whenever” phase tag is because I believe I’ll purchase these things as it becomes needed. If I’m planning a trip to the beach or a long way off road I’ll invest in the recovery gear, air compressor, etc. If I think we’ll be doing a long term stay I’ll invest in the solar panels and additional battery.
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We are super excited to be overlanding this summer in our rig!
If you’re into overlanding / off roading, what would your dream rig have on it? Or what would you recommend us adding to our list?!
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