Toyota Tacoma Camping Rig
My Starting Point
I started with a stock 2009 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road. This is a pretty common vehicle to use for this kind of purpose and has quite a few desirable features.
- Known to be durable and dependable
- Factory rear locker
- 6 foot bed (long enough to sleep in)
- Huge amount of aftermarket support
- Fairly capable off road in stock form (with the right tires)
My Tacoma as it sits today
What is Overlanding?
Overlanding is self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal. Typically, but not exclusively, it is accomplished with mechanized off-road capable transport (from bicycles to trucks) where the principal form of lodging is camping, often lasting for extended lengths of time (months to years) and spanning international boundaries.
My goal is to build up my Tacoma with this in Mind with an emphasis on camping and outdoor sports as well. I will share My experiences good and bad. Hopefully this will help and or inspire you to take on some adventures of your own!
Setting Up The Truck
I will break down my blog into a few categories:
- Things that make your truck more capable off road (larger tires, better suspension ect)
- Things that add to the camping experience (awnings, Canopies, roof tents ect)
- Things that make your truck more comfortable (seat covers, audio upgrades ect)
- Things that make your truck look better (this is subjective, but if youre going to spend a lot of time and some money on your truck. Whynot make it your own)
- Adventures and Trips
Tires are the only thing on your truck that touches the ground. In my opinion this gives them the biggest impact on how your truck performs.
I am currently using Goodyear Duratrac size 285/70R17. If you're going to have less than 3" suspension lift and you dont want any rubbing or trimming most people stick with 265/70R17. I am using Bilstein 5100s set on position 3 for 1.75" lift in front and had only slight rubbing on the back of the drivers side wheel well. I was able to eliminate the rubbing with a little bit of trimming to the plastic wheel well and removing the front mud flaps.
Because I use my truck for work in the oilfield I needed to have tires with a "snowflake" rating. This narrowed down my choices somewhat. I have to say, after about 8 months of use and abuse these tires perform quite well in a wide range of situations.
In my opinion, when it comes to bang for your buck it's very hard to beat the Bilstein 5100 front shock upgrade on these trucks. Up here in northern BC I paid 151.99CAD each plus tax.
They were easy to install with a floor jack and stands in my garage. I had an impact gun and this saved a little time but probably isn't necessary. If you're going to install these yourself do a you tube search on installing coil overs without a spring compressor. If you understand what you're doing you can do this completely safely at home.
The spring pre-load (and therefore the ride height) is adjustable by placing the snap ring in the grove of the shock body that corresponds with the height you're after. The options are 0", .75", 1.75" and 2.5". Many people feel that the ride at 2.5" is too stiff and this height will often mean you need to get new UCAs (upper control arms) in order to keep your alignment numbers within spec. I went with the 1.75" setting and when comparing before and after measurements, that's what I got.
After a few months with these shocks in all sorts of conditions I couldn't be happier. The ride is great, the extra ground clearance is exactly what I was after and with the increased control that these shock provided I felt comfortable removing my front sway bar and have left it off. This further improved the ride and also helps articulation.
The only downside I've found is my truck sits very close to level now (stock rear suspension). With only about .5" of rake it doesn't take much weight the make my truck look a little "squatty". I plan on a shackle flip and longer rear shocks in the future so hopefully this won't be an issue for long.
What size tire do you run on your rig?
2A Canopy (part I)
Adding a Canopy is a great way to expand the capabilities of your rig. They keep your gear dry, clean and safe. You can sleep in them and they are a good place for dirty pets. I picked up a used canopy very cheap ($75). It will require a fair bit of work, paint, new screens, roof rack ect. However because its old and kind of ugly I won't be to worried about scratching it and I'll be more likely to modify things to fit my needs. The canopy will be a work in progress so look for updates.
Where to Sleep?
Where do you sleep when camping?
3C More Ground Clearance
On many vehicles you can gain ground clearance or improve the approach and departure angles by simply moving or slightly modifying some stock components
2A Recover gear box
If you travel off road eventually you will get stuck. When this happens there is no replacement for recovery tools
Where I live (Northern British Columbia) snow and mud can and do happen at any time of the year. I like to always carry a tow strap, jack, shovel, axe and come along with me. If youve ever gotten yourself stuck and then fought with a tow strap that had gotten wet and then frozen itself into an ice cube or had your recovery gear go missing out of the back of your truck, it can be very frustrating. With this in mind I build a box for my recovery gear that also acts as a shelf for jerry cans or coolers.
3A Audio-Head Unit
I'm on my 2nd Aftermarket head unit now. It is a Kenwood KDCX300 Single DIN unit. The audio performance is great and there are a ton of tuning options. There is one short coming with this unit however. Unless you have the color set to bright blue the display is very hard to read in the day time. In bright sunlight or with sunglasses on it is almost un-readable. Some of this may be due to the design of the Tacomas dash, regardless it is a problem.
3B Add Some Bass
The stock stereo in the Tacoma wasn't very good. With an aftermarket head unit it was quite a bit better but still very lacking in the lower frequencies. With the downturn in the oil industry there is lots of high quality used stereo gear for sale right now so I took advantage. I was able to pick up a JL audio XD600/1v2 amp and CP108LG-W3v3 micro sub for under $300 locally. Space is at a premium with an access cab so I had to cut some plastic and be a little creative with my mounting. Overall I think the install is fairly un-obtrusive and has made a huge difference in the sound. I have always liked JL audio products but this is the first time I've had any in my own vehicle. I couldn't be more impressed with their quality and performance!
4A Less Chrome
Looks are personal and subjective. You should make your truck look however you like it. However I am not a big fan of chrome. Here is the result of about $30 at the hardware store and a rainy afternoon.
I have gotten a few rock chips in the black since i did this. Its not bad at all but it bothers me. I may try taking the grille off and re painting and then adding several coats of clear at the end. I live in a place where ridiculous amounts of rock chips are common so I doubt this would be a problem for most people.
4B LED Lighting
With the exception of the headlights and fog lights I've replaced all the rest with LED's. Due to my job I've been able to try a bunch of different brands and so far I like Phillips the best. Installation is pretty straight forward, however if you are replacing any lights that blink you'll need to either install resistors or replace the flasher relay with one designed to work with LED's. I went with resistors, in my case I needed to install 4 (one foe each corner). I would definitely recommend you solder them in and definitely don't use the "vampire" connectors that come with them. Generally I've found the LED's to be brighter than incandescent bulbs. They don't really make any heat (this doesn't apply for headlight/fog lights). They come in more colors. Most of the time they'll last much longer than regular bulbs. They also draw much less power, I'm not sure if that still applies if you factor in the resistors too though.
Here are some pictures from camping trips with the Tacoma, enjoy