Every good explorer has some means of transport. For some it’s as simple as a good pair of hiking boots and a pack. For others it’s a fully equiped Unimog capable of carrying them and their belongings around the world. While I love a good hike through the wilderness of America when it comes to covering long distances and difficult back country roads I prefer the comfort and capability of a good off road vehicle.
Over the years I’ve owned quite a few capable vehicles. A 1999 Ford Ranger in sonic blue and sporting 4 wheel drive carried me through areas of Vermont and New Hampshire when I called St. Johnsbury home. My family’s return to Georgia saw a few 2 wheel drive vehicles in the driveway before ordering a 2011 F150 FX4. The F150 came loaded to the gills with technology and equipment that carried us through the forest roads of Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas. It’s locking rear differential was a welcome addition to it’s 4 wheel drive capability, but the overall size of a quad cab, long bed full size truck prevented it from getting everywhere we wanted to explore.
In early 2015 the F150 was traded in on a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport. Grand plans were made to upgrade the Jeep as we went along. Visions of aftermarket bumpers, larger tires, air lockers and roof racks danced through my head. However over the brief 8 month time frame that we owned the Jeep we quickly found that it just wasn’t for us. My daughter found the rear seats uncomfortable, Chryslers CANBUS technology made even basic electrical additions a nightmare, and while towing a trailer was ok frequent trips to the hardware store had me missing a truck bed. The final straw was when electrical demons, that hadn’t been caused by modifications, began to creep in and the transmission started to slip. An 8 month old vehicle with less than 10,000 miles on it should not have transmission problems.
While tracking down 4runners for my wife we came across a newly released 2016 Toyota Tacoma 4×4 Sport. With dealer options including a lift kit, aggressive BFG KO2 tires and the striking Quicksand paint color we quickly fell in love. Arrangements were made and we traded in the Jeep on the Tacoma. The plan is to keep this vehicle and slowly modify it as our needs see fit over time. Already capable off road and comfortable on, we’re planning several trips to break it in and assess our needs.