Getting your truck ready for an epic off-road expedition
It is the dream of every off-roader and overlander to take on the off-pavement journey of a lifetime. Whether you want to conquer the gnarliest terrain or take the scenic route from one epic location to another, you spend your days dreaming of the next big adventure. It is your passion and what motivates you.
We know because we are the same way. That is why, when we heard about a trail known as “The Pony Express,” we jumped at the chance to take on the 500-mile off-road challenge. Spanning from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Lake Tahoe, California, this route does not include any gas stations or food stops.
Of course, we could not just jump in our Toyota Tacoma and go. With the remoteness of the trail and the lack of amenities and service stations, we had to make sure the truck was prepared for the grueling off-road trip.
Outfitting Your Truck for an Overland Expedition
When taking on an extended off-road trip, it is vital to properly prepare your vehicle for the challenge. While every vehicle is unique and different journeys have different demands, there are a few basic elements of your truck that should be in tip-top shape before you depart.
Off-Road Toyota Tacoma Suspension
Before you leave the pavement, be sure to check your suspension. You may want to take this time to upgrade your vehicle’s suspension to compensate for the additional weight of prolonged expedition travel and add ground clearance and performance for tackling off-road terrain. For example, we are using King Shocks on our Toyota Tacoma.
Even if you do not have enhanced suspension, you should always check the components to ensure everything is in good shape, no bolts are loose, and the truck is ready for the road ahead.
Communication on the Trail
If you are traveling with a group, being able to communicate on the trail is extremely important. Outfitting your Toyota Tacoma with radios, from HAM to handheld, is a fantastic way to easily relay information to others in your posse, even when there is no cell service.
On-Board Air Compressor
Long days on the trail are more comfortable and fun when you air down your tires. Not only does taking this simple step smooth out rough terrain, but it also enhances grip when taking on tricky obstacles. Airing down is truly one of the best things you can do for yourself and your truck when leaving the pavement.
Of course, you will need to air up when the trail ends. We recommend integrating an air compressor, like the ARB Twin Air Compressor, into your Tacoma build to make reinflation easy and quick. Simply hook up the hose and inflation gauge, and your tires will be at street pressure in no time.
Gear You Will Need for a Long Off-Road Adventure
While the vehicle itself should be your focus, ensuring that you have the appropriate gear for your off-road adventure is also essential. To give you an idea of what gear you might want for your expedition, we have detailed what we used below.
Prolonged off-road travels demand preparation in three primary categories—storage, food, and gas. Carrying enough of each of these demands thoughtfulness and organization, which is where our preferred storage cases shine.
Roam Rugged Cases come in multiple sizes, are weathertight, and include thoughtful features—like self-opening struts—that make life on the road easier. Whether you throw them in the truck bed or mount them to a roof box, the flexibility of storage solutions like these is invaluable.
Smaller but equally as versatile are the Front Runner Wolf Pack boxes. These are fantastic for vehicle travel, as they stack securely and offer incredible durability that can withstand any abuse the trail can dish out. We primarily use them for our cooking and cleaning supplies.
For a more permanent and expansive storage solution, you will want to make full use of your Toyota Tacoma bed. We use the DECKED bed system, as it gives us two massive drawers and two smaller cubbies for storing camping equipment, tools, recovery gear, and more. Paired with the compatible DECKED accessories, this system truly unlocks the full potential of the Tacoma’s truck bed storage.
Overland Kitchen Gear
Being off-grid does not mean you have to eat poorly. With the proper overland kitchen gear, you can cook up delicious meals trailside, then clean up with ease. Trust us; this will make your off-road adventure experience much more enjoyable.
Plan out your food before you hit the trail, so you have enough for the time you will be away from restaurants and stores. Then, you will need to safely store the food. If you are taking refrigerated items, this might involve investing in a high-end cooler or a portable 12v refrigerator. You will also need a stove—likely a camping stove powered by propane—utensils, and other necessary food prep items.
Expedition Water Storage
Hydration, kitchen clean-up, and showering are water-based concerns on the trail. Investing in a water tank with the capacity to fit your water consumption needs for the entire adventure is essential. We recommend having at least one large tank paired with a pressurized system, such as the WaterPORT, to facilitate cleaning, showering, and so on.
Fuel Storage for Off-Roading
Carrying extra gas when venturing off-road is a must. Depending on how you have outfitted your truck, you may wish to use traditional jerry cans, simple fuel canisters, or a specialty product like RotoPax. All of these options have their pros and cons, included capacity and mounting solutions, so be sure to pick the right fuel storage for your needs and your rig.
From bug spray to toilet paper to somewhere to sleep, the list of essentials is long, and there are many other modifications you may want to make to your truck and items you might wish to pack before you embark on your off-road adventure. We hope the information above gives you a strong foundation on which to build, and more importantly, inspires you to go explore this beautiful world.
No matter how outfitted your truck or extensive your gear, the goal is to get out there and experience adventure in your way—just be prepared. For a more detailed look at how we got ready for our 500-mile off-road journey, check out the video. If you have a Tacoma—or are simply looking for some great camping gear—feel free to visit our website, as well. See you on the trail!