Toyota Tacomas are very reliable trucks, but if you want to do some serious overlanding, you may need a few upgrades to have the best experience. This guide will tell you all about overlanding in your Tacoma, why we love it, and what you need to get it done and love it too.
What is Overlanding?
Overlanding is a journey to remote destinations across the open land. This isn’t your typical weekend rock crawling. This is a journey where you are one with your vehicle, your lodging is typically camping, and nature is all around you. The destination is the journey. It is one heck of an experience!
Why do Tacoma Owners Love Overlanding?
Ask them! If they are using their trucks for their intended purpose (no, it’s not to get groceries), then they realize how good these trucks can be at braving the wilderness. The guys at Decked mentioned the proven 300,000 mile plus lifespan, inexpensive ownership, durability, and reliability. Others talk about safety, good looks, and the vast amount of selection of aftermarket parts. The Taco, with a little help, is beyond capable for an overlanding expedition. Let’s find out what you need.
What Overlanding Equipment Do You Need?
The Tacoma is a great truck, but if you’re going to be out on the open land for days or maybe weeks at a time, there are a few things that you need to do. What you get will depend on the terrain and how long you will be gone for. Will it be rocky, snowy, sandy, muddy, or flat? Do you have to worry about rivers? Will you be driving at night? There are a few key things to get dependant on the answers to those questions.
Suspension is huge as it’s usually always good to have a little extra clearance. You’ll also want to protect your vehicle, especially if you’re in rocky conditions. Rock sliders, push bars, and cages are excellent additions for that. Snorkels help for river crossing and aggressive tires help for the terrain, but don’t forget about you! Where are you going to sleep and eat? What about gas for your truck and lights? These are all things to consider.
There are tons of suspension options available for the Toyota Tacoma, but it’s important to remember that when overlanding, you’re generally not attending a SuperCrawl event. Clearance is always a good option if you have some bumps or rivers to get through.
I cover this topic heavily in my Ultimate Tacoma Lift Kit Guide, but it would be a good idea to start out with a basic lift kit. A coilover kit would be your best option overall for overlanding.
Coilover kits are one unit (piston and spring) that are plug and play. Simply take your stock spring and piston out, and place the new one in. While these are more expensive over spacer lift kits, which simply stretch your stock spring and piston, coilover kits are far more durable. Durability is what you are after for overlanding, hands down.
Coilovers can be ordered in various heights including adjustable heights, and there are plenty of name brand options to choose from. You can expect to spend anywhere from $1200 to $4000 for a complete kit, but it’s worth it.
Your ride will get beat up and get dirty as your overlanding life continues, but there are steps you can take to cut down on serious damage, especially if you’re dealing with rocky and hilly conditions. Rock sliders, push bars, and cages take the impacts so your body panels don’t have to.
Rock sliders bolt to your frame and are designed for protection. The average cost is going to be around $250 to $550 depending on brand and material. Some sliders offer built-in steps as well, which will aid you in getting in and out of your lifted ride. Keep in mind that when you’re shopping you’re getting sliders and not steps. Steps are usually just meant for your feet and don’t offer the same protection that sliders do.
Push bars/grill guards go on the front of your truck and can be as simple as a small trapezoidal tube in the middle, or a complete network of tubing and mesh designed to protect all your lights and grille. These range from $250 to over $1000, but you’re generally looking around $400.
If you’re at risk of rolling, you may want to look at a cage for your truck. This is most likely a rare occurrence for overlanding, but know your environment. This generally has to be custom made, so do a search around your area for someone who offers that kind of service.
If you think you might be crossing some rivers, a snorkel might be a wise investment. Snorkels move your engine’s air intake closer to your roof. While you will need to cut holes in your truck’s body to make the modification, it’s better than hydro locking your engine (seizing your engine because water gets sucked in). These will run you about $300 to $700.
Tires and the amount of air in them depend on where you are going. Mud, snow, sand, and dirt might all need different tires. A while back, I did a post called The Ultimate Toyota Tacoma Wheel and Tire Guide that covers all this in depth. Know where you’re going, and plan accordingly. A typical set of off-road tires will run you around $600.
There will be no streetlights where you are going. Stock headlights and high beams work well, but you’ll need more in the pitch black darkness you’ll experience. I cover lighting terms and options in my Guide to Tacoma Light Bars, but in short, it would be wise to invest in an LED light bar. LED light bars are extremely efficient, durable, and bright. They will flood the area in front of you with bright and clean light, which is terribly important if your overlanding trip requires you to drive at night.
Carrying Your Gear
If you’re going to be gone for a long time, you need supplies: spare truck parts, food, water, first aid, survival gear, and extra fuel. While our trucks can hold a lot, space runs out fast when you’re getting all of your supplies together.
Bed racks are one of the best options for carrying more gear. These mount onto your bed and either give you a full length “roof rack”, sidewall storage, or both. Prices range from $250 to over $1000, but you’ll be able to pick the one you need for the amount of storage that you require. Some come with modular panels and containers designed to attached to the side. They are great ways to store spare water and fuel. If you're looking for a great bed rack for your Tacoma, we carry a great one from Cali Raised.
While these take up more room in your bed, they are a good way to organize your gear, and keep it out of the way. These install in your bed, and raise the floor of your bed by adding a row of drawers underneath the new bed floor. The price range is the same as the bed racks.
Headrest Pouch Kit
These don’t hold much but are a great way to keep small things in a place you know they will be. A great option is a first aid kit. Blue Ridge Overland Gear actually makes a complete headrest first aid kit. Prices range from $30 to $80 depending on what you get: empty, first aid kit, size, attachment, and so on.
Keeping Yourself Comfortable
When overlanding, there are no resorts, no hotels, and no cabins. You are on your own, so you want to be comfortable. Regular old tents are an inexpensive and easy option. They are tried and true, and they don’t take up much space. However, if you want to be fancy and camp in style, there are options made specifically for our Tacomas.
If your trips are short and your bed isn’t loaded down with equipment, a bed tent can be a good option. These are designed to fold out in your bed to give you a, well, a bed. Compared to other options, these are relatively inexpensive. Prices range from $150 to $500.
Roof Top Tents
When you want the ultimate amount of personal space, luxury, and room in your truck’s bed for storage, roof top tents are the best option. While they can be pricey ($250 - $2000), they are amazing options if you’re serious about overlanding. You sleep up high, which not only gives you better views, but it keeps you safer from any lurking creatures. Some come with an annex room that goes from the ground to the sleeping section. They are great for a multi-person party, or a “living room” if you want it. Some of these annex rooms have “backdoors” that allow you to access the inside of your truck (through your side doors) giving you an incredible setup.
A good note: many roof top tents also have supports that can double as bed racks.
If you are going on a long trip on flat land, you might need a trailer. Trailers are a great option to carry a bunch of other gear for an extended journey, but only on flatter land. You can get a specific overlanding trailer, and while more expensive, they are designed for harsh off-road environments.
Trailers can be your tent, leaving your bed available for more storage, or they can hold all of your extra gear and leave your bed available. A good overlanding trailer will cost you over $2000 and can be as high as $12000. If you’re all about the overlanding life, it could be a wise investment, but most weekend warriors won’t have a need for the extra space.
While fuel mileage isn’t the main concern while overlanding (beyond making sure you have enough), pulling a heavy trailer will result in the use of more fuel. You will also limit where you can go.
Where To Find Overlanding Groups
Going out on your own or with people that you can fit in your truck can be a lot of fun, but sometimes hanging out and going on an adventure with a convoy of like-minded people is a lot of fun. Not only can you form bonds with people who share your passion, but someone could save you or your truck with if you’re in trouble. If you’re a novice, or this is your first time, I would highly recommend going with other people.
Facebook is a great way to find like-minded people/groups. There are many overlanding groups, and some Tacoma/Toyota specific ones for New Jersey and Pennsylvania (USA). Forums like Overland Bound, Tacoma World, and even Reddit have diehard fans when it comes to overlanding with Tacomas. Reach out to these people through these mediums and find out what’s happening next and where. Go out and have some fun with some like-minded people!
While an incredible experience and lots of fun, overlanding is a serious and potentially dangerous adventure. However, rest assured knowing your Toyota Tacoma can be up to the challenge with some light modifications. Remember, a good overall, mid-range priced package to get your truck ready would consist of the following:
Moderate height coilover lift kit ($1200)
Rock sliders ($350)
Push bar/grill guard ($350)
LED light bar ($200)
Bed rack/tent ($500)
Fuel cans, water cans, and other incidentals/extras ($250)
All in all, you could be looking around $7500 for a complete kit. Keep in mind that this is mid-range. You can get much more expensive gear, or cheaper. Most of these things are one time investments as well. The only things you would need to replace are your tires. Anything else just needs to be replaced if it gets damaged.
You also have to determine what you need. If you’re driving through the Sahara, you probably don’t need a push bar or rock sliders. That’s $700 taken off right there. If you are only going on weekend trips, you probably can get away with an inexpensive tent set up independently from your truck, and you won’t need a bed rack. That’s $500 gone.
There is no this-is-how-you-have-to-do-it way for overlanding. There are two rules to overlanding: get from Point A to Point B, and have fun doing it. How you accomplish it depends on how much money, time, and effort you want to put into it. Determine where you want to go, find out the best way to do it, and build and plan accordingly.
The Toyota Tacoma is a safe, durable, and reliable truck. Use it, be safe, and have fun.
Cover Picture - TRD USA
Lift Kit - Defcon Brix
Sliders and Bumper - C4 Fabrication
Tires Snorkels and Lights - Rigd Supply
Bed Rack - Leitner Designs
Roof Tent - Offroading HQ
Trailer - Defcon Brix