AdventureMobile: Toyota 4Runner

This post is from the AdventureMobile Series.

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Early last year I was stuck. I wanted to get out further and further into the woods but all I had was a Honda Civic. I was getting a ride with friends that had trucks or more robust cars every time we went for an adventure. I didn’t want to wait on anybody else any longer and started to look into my own AdventureMobile.

I knew there were many options available. Any truck or SUV could pass as a pretty good AdventureMobile. Heck, even a 4 wheel drive car could do the job on a lot of adventures that I go on. I wanted to something that could handle as many different situations and conditions as I could throw at it and still keep truckin’. Maybe that should be SUVin’? I ended up going with a Toyota 4Runner. Here’s why.

The Requirements for my AdventureMobile

The vehicle that I ended up with needed to be able to do a bunch of different things. First the basics. It needed to get me to where I wanted to hike and mountain bike. It needed to carry the gear that’s required for those sports and it needed to carry the people that I would be doing those things with. I also wanted to be able to sleep in it. Having a place to sleep on wheels gives you a lot of flexibility with where you go and what time you do your travelling. That was really all I wanted it to do. Not a tall order at all.

The Options

Initially I was looking at a Toyota Tacoma’s. The Tacoma’s are beautiful trucks and would do almost exactly what I wanted to do save for one problem. The long box I wanted to use for sleeping and carrying gear was only available on trucks with a short cab on them. So I could get small seats and the long box or I could get nice seats and 4 doors but a short box. That just wasn’t going to do.I was almost sold on the Mitsubishi Delica. An import vehicle from Japan, the Delica is like a raised van, perfect for the outdoorsy traveller that takes a lot of gear or people wherever they are going. The have a ton of space inside like vans do and are raised a bit. There are videos galore on youtube of Delica’s going through some pretty crazy 4×4 areas. They’re a little top heavy but as long as they don’t get too high angle, they’re ok. The downsides to the Delica’s is that they’re imports. On Vancouver Island where I live there is really just one importer who can service them as well. If you’re here and you schedule your maintenance often then there shouldn’t be a problem. Leave the island and then where do you get your parts? Who does the servicing? How expensive is it going to be to service a 15 year old vehicle imported from Japan? No idea. Not the best route for me.

The Final Decision

I ended up on the 4Runner because it was a combination of both the 4×4 capabilities and reliability of the Toyota trucks but the interior space of an SUV.

I can comfortably fit 4 people and a whole bunch of gear or a weekend camping or a weeklong road trip. In a pinch, there are seatbelts for 5. For an even better setup, the 4Runner came with a Thule roof box for skis which fits even more gear or a bunch of skis and snowboards. I was never really sold on the idea of attaching a box to the roof to put more stuff in it but after using it for a year, I can tell you that I’m completely sold on the idea and won’t give mine up!The seats in the 4Runner fold forward and flat to let 2 people sleep comfortably inside. The disclaimer here is that the space isn’t very long and it’s not great for taller people. I’m 5 foot 7 and have a great night sleep. Anyone taller would feel a bit cramped. I’m working on a solution for this including raising the sleeping surface up a bit which will create a bit more length over the bottom of the folded seats. I’m hoping to figure something out that’s not permanent so the option to drive with 4 people still exists. 2 could sleep in the truck with 2 outside in a tent.In terms of 4×4 capability, the 4Runner is unmatched. In its stock form, it can take a lot and keep on ticking. Want to make a 4×4 Monster? No problem (just a little bit of money). Some of the gnarliest 4×4 machines I’ve ever seen have been Toyota 4Runners. They’re able to rip through and over anything from mud pits to rock walls to fallen trees. For the more practical, slightly larger tires and a winch kit can go a long way.

Downsides

Although the best vehicle I’ve ever had as been the 4Runner, it does have it’s downsides. The 6 cylinder engine isn’t the most fuel efficient and while I would have opted for a 4 banger if given the choice, it is certainly nice to feel that power under the hood when the truck is full of gear and people. I certainly haven’t had any problems heading up hills full loaded.

The 4Runner is an SUV and not a truck which limits the hauling capabilities. The open box of a truck allows for many more possibilities when carrying gear and things in the back. I haven’t run into anything I haven’t been able to carry but I know stuff like dirt, bark-mulch and gravel are going to pose problems. If you’re not doing any gardening and are just hauling gear then it’s all good!

Final Word

The Toyota 4Runner is one of the best AdventureMobiles I’ve adventured with so far and I’m extremely happy with mine. It has no problems going wherever I want to take it and it hauls friends and gear with ease. There’s a bonus of being able to carry all those people and gear and still be able to sleep inside if you need to!In the coming months, we’ll be looking how it stacks up to a few other types of vehicles including the Toyota Tacoma and the Mitsubishi Delica.