The hum and rattle of the road is the background noise of adventure. You can never chase down all the creaks, and ticks and rattles a truck makes, even in a new one. If you’re OCD an have to have everything perfect, you’re going to lose your mind. Best you stick to the pavement. But at the end of the trail, when you’ve been driving and hiking and exploring all day, all weekend, all week, those noises sink into the background and all you hear is the sand and gravel scattering in your wake. You’ve got a place to stash your water bottle. There’s cold drinks in the fridge. The ride is nice and smooth. You’re not too concerned about anything going wrong, but if it does, you can deal with that too. You haven’t brought anything you don’t need because you know that what you don’t bring is as important as what you do. Out of your element is your element. You’re an adventurer. You’re a minimalist. You’re an Overlander.
Welcome to installment 2 of the Minimalist Overlander Series. I admit I first thought of this concept as a way to get more views and as a way to justify the budget build on my 3rd Gen 4Runner. But I keep coming back to the same idea when I think about the things I bolt onto my truck and the things I stuff inside it: Do I Really Need This? Is this going to make a difference?
Like when you go backpacking, bike packing or just out for a run. What you bring either allows you to do things, or hinders your ability to do things. So minimalism is about getting the MOST out of what you have, rather than cramming the most INTO what you have.
So my friend Harry Wagner really likes the idea of the Minimalist Overlander. If you know harry and follow his writing and photography, you might have just snorted some beer up your nose. But hear me out. While Harry is a mega off-road enthusiast and has the wheels to prove it, he’s been driving and working on his simple 1st Gen Toyota Tundra for a few years now and it REALLY embodies the ethic of minimalism in adventure. I’ve long admired the Tundra as an adventure vehicle an Harry’s in particular, So I’m stoked to bring you the story of what he decided to add to the already great platform.
Overlanding is about exploring the Earth, but let’s face it, Earth is a rough place to travel if you want to get to the cool places. The one thing that will affect the comfort and performance of a truck more than anything else is the suspension that protects you from the Earth. So that’s where Harry spent most of his money. If you’re spending a few hours or more cruising down dirt roads the bumps and sways will take their toll on your body and morale. 2.5-inch ADS Remote Reservoir shocks take the sting out of those bumps and don’t fade like stock mono-tube shocks will. The Tundra runs these front and rear. “ADS are comparable to Fox and King in my opinion,” Harry says. “I have ADS air shocks on my Tracker and Ben [Swain] has them on his Ultra4 car that I race in. I had Kings on my Tacoma and have Fox on my Ford and my Ram, but the off-the-shelf shocks on my Ram took six months to arrive. These ADS shocks for my Tundra showed up in under two weeks.”
For when the road dials it up to 11, Harry added Timbren bump-stops in the front, which lessen the hard stop when the suspension reaches the end of travel.
In the rear he added Deaver leaf springs, which are a premium high-end performance spring, though Harry is finding they’re not ideal for this kind of truck. “I don’t know if I would purchase the Deavers again,” Harry says. “They ride great empty but they are expensive and don’t like to tow or haul heavy loads.” In my experience managing loaded and unloaded performance is a challenge on these midsize trucks.
For a vehicle like this, I consider tires to be part of the suspension. When airing down tires for better traction, floatation and ride comfort, having more sidewall is better. So Harry went with his trusty bronze TRD wheels that he’s had on two previous trucks. They’re 16″ wheels fitted with 285/75 R16 Falken Wildpeak ATW3 tires. This 75 section sidewall is really ideal for dirt road cruising as that sidewall flex really takes the edge off long drives.
Like me, Harry had no use for fancy bumpers. The truck didn’t need a winch and if all went according to plan wasn’t going to be bashing into anything. He did hide a Baja Designs light bar in the bumper in one of the stock air intake locations since he uses this truck to support off road events night driving isn’t uncommon. Harry also added a Relentless Fabrication front skid plate, because on an IFS truck that’s something that gets used a lot. On the sides, Dylan McFarlane build some cool understated sliders with square tubing set on an angle. They look very cool.
Opting for sleek and subtle, Harry chose for a tonneau cover instead of a bed-rack. His recovery gear and a gas tank are stashed at the front of the bed, and the Bakflip tonneau cover folds up all the way to allow access. “It isn’t super secure, but out of sight, out of mind has been plenty for me,” Harry sayd. ” I like that this cover folds all the way up when I am carrying tires or axles in the back of the truck.” The recovery gear he carries is a Rotopax 4 gallon fuel cell, MaxTrax and a Demos Shovel along with standard recovery gear and tire inflation tools. A standard cargo divider keeps stuff from the front from jamming against the recovery gear.
Under the hood is just the standard 4.7 l iForce V8 that came in 1st gen Tundras, 4th gen 4Runners and Sequoias. This one has the regular maintenance you’d expect for a 200,000+ mile vehicle, and nothing special other than an Air Raid intake tube and washable filter. This setup uses the stock air box.
Bradd Davidson, from B-Radd’s Customs, in Sparks, NV added a Viair Compressor with a on switch, pressure switch, tank and gage. There’s an air chuck under the hood for airing up tires, but no other switches or relays. Harry uses this truck to chase the Rebelle Rally every year. “Airing down is important in the sand dunes that the Rebelle Rally frequents,” Harry says. He keeps a simple Home Depot air hose in the bed for filling tires or running air tools.
There are a lot of products on the market that use military style attachments, steel grids, velcro or straps to add handy storage to the interior of a vehicle. To my eye, and Harry’s, these are more form than function. Having things organized is good, but often having things handy is better.
Sometimes you find your soul mate in the frozen foods section at the grocery store, but Harry found his in the Houswares department at Target. There he found a $14 Home Essentials basket that fits perfectly over the tunnel since it has a column shifter and a bench seat. There he can clip a Rugged Race Radio, paper towels, sun block, face masks (thanks 2020), dog and human treats, and whatever else needs quick storage and easy access. You don’t see a lot of trucks with the column shifter and bench seat anymore, and honestly, it’s the thing I’ve always loved about pickup trucks.
In the back seat he carries an ARB Xero 47 qt carrot and hummus organizer fridge, a Pelican Case with tools, and an Adventure Medical Kit first aid kit. Harry prefers a ground tent since he ends up moving that gear from vehicle to vehicle and even traveling by air. So he goes the backpacker route. Light, compact and simple. “I have a dry bag with all of my camping gear in it that is easy to transfer between vehicles.”
When it comes to minimalism and vehicle supported adventure only having what you need, and what your vehicle is suited to cary, is paramount. And if we’re being realistic, unless you’re rolling a 3/4 ton truck, these vehicles aren’t suited to be operating at their GVWR on a regular basis. Adding more accessories, adds more mass, more mass limits your range, diminishes your performance and compromises your reliability. Why cary a weeks worth of batteries and solar cells, when you’re driving every day? Why load down with bumpers when the stock ones work fine? Why run compressor wires into the cab when you have to get out to fill the tires?
In the end everyone has their own goals, aesthetics and needs when it comes to adventure. If your goal is to seek out places that provide beauty, solitude and adventure, then are many roads to choose from.