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Introduction to Vehicle Outfitting

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will walk you through the decisions you will have to make if you choose to modify your rig. It’s also the introduction to the Outfitting course I’ll be teaching at the Overland Expo East.

Overland travel has many styles. These styles are dictated by your vehicle, route and personal preference. They are all guided by the imperatives of this style of travel; be comfortable, self-sufficient, remain mobile and enjoy the experience.

My style of travel is not for everyone. Clearly it’s not the style of a massive motorhome that limps from one set of hookups to the next. Nor is it the minimal outfitting of a backpacker. It’s something in between.

Traveling to the Arctic Circle demands a certain level of mechanical reliability. Repair shops are few and far between and the cost of repair in dollars and delay are unpleasant at best. That’s why I chose to outfit a new vehicle. My 2014 Toyota 4Runner, Bunky. Another factor in choosing the 4Runner was that it’s one of the few 4WD SUV’s built on a ladder frame. This design is time proven and rugged. Just the thing for Alaska and the Yukon.

The Base Vehicle

Clean BunkyBunky came configured as a Trail Premium edition. That’s a designation that’s given to Toyota’s most trail-ready version of the 4Runner. It’s a 4 wheel drive vehicle with a high and low range of gears, locking differential and settings that provide more suspension articulation. In short, it’s a good start.

What Bunky lacked was armor, height, extra fuel capacity, a winch and more storage. I started researching my options for the equipment I needed. When I was able to sketch out my modifications, I found a local mechanic who specialized in modifying Toyotas and Jeeps. We went over my plan and he started contacting vendors and working out pricing.

A few weeks went by and I was eager to get started. I called the mechanic and his assistant answered the phone. Turns out that Ben, the mechanic, had been in a bad motorcycle accident the previous Friday. He fractured a number of bones and was going in for more surgery that week. Ben would not be back in action for some time.

Prepare for the unexpected. That’s the first lesson. The corollary to that is that things take time. Overland outfitting does not happen all at once. It’s a piecemeal evolution that happens over time. Every journey you make alters your view of what works and doesn’t work.

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