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Tacoma & 4Runner Grill

How to Prepare Your Toyota 4Runner for Overlanding

Overlanding has become increasingly popular worldwide in recent years, attracting gearheads, campers, explorers, and off-roaders alike! This activity involves going on trails in small groups to isolated locations with only your car and the supplies it can hold. It blends aspects of camping with off-roading. Overlanding, in contrast to other motorsports, celebrates the journey, the scenery, the challenges, and the experiences you'll build along the way rather than the destination, such as the finish line or the end of the path.

While full-size pickups have recently gained popularity among overlanders, midsize, 4WD pickups and SUVs remain the most common option. There are several popular chassis for overlanding. And among these midsize choices, the Toyota 4Runner reigns supremely, but why?

In this post, we explore overlanding with the Toyota 4Runner, including the qualities that make this chassis so appealing for exploration and our best-suggested modifications to turn a bone-stock 4Runner into an official Overlander! 

What Makes the Toyota 4Runner a Good Overlander?

The Toyota 4Runner is an excellent option for overlanding due to several factors, including its size and capability. Let's talk about the main factors contributing to this midsize SUV overlanding success. 


By no means is the Toyota 4Runner a vast car, even if it's not tiny either. With plenty of space for your gear, tools, and camping supplies without having a full-size footprint that would make crossing narrow trails difficult, this medium chassis strikes the ideal compromise. 

4WD Availability

The Toyota 4Runner's widespread appeal is primarily attributed to its four-wheel drive system, significantly enhancing off-road traction. Given that most overlanding occurs in narrow, isolated terrain with challenging obstacles and river crossings, having a four-wheel drive is a handy and essential feature! 

Sprawling Aftermarket Support

The aftermarket for the Toyota 4Runner is incredibly active, offering anything from heavy-duty bumpers and lift kits to tents and roof racks! Because of this, finding and obtaining every item required for an overlanding 4Runner build is simple. Additionally, several Tacoma parts—particularly those related to the front suspension—have some cross-compatibility. 

Legendary Toyota Reliability

When properly maintained, numerous Toyota drivetrains have endured well over 300,000 miles! The brand is well-known for its unmatched reliability! With its powerful 2UZ V8 and 1GR-FE V6 powertrains, your 4Runner is no different. Additionally, bolt-on upgrades like air intakes and exhaust systems work well with these engines. 

Turning Your 4Runner Into the Ultimate Overlander

After discussing the reasons the 4Runner is a good foundation for overlanding, let's look at the best modifications for a viable build.

Suspension and Drivetrain

Since you'll be spending most of your time on the trail, upgrading your 4Runner's suspension and powertrain is essential! Traveling to isolated locations is necessary for overlanding; typically, this entails hiking over rough terrain, rivers to cross, sections of rock, and other difficult hurdles to get to your campsite.

We're not talking about worn-out stock shocks and cheap coil spacers when we say that a lift or leveling kit is the most excellent option when it comes to suspension. You'll need a capable suspension configuration, such as the Eibach PRO-TRUCK 2"-3" Adjustable Lift Kit or the Icon 0 - 4" Adjustable Coilover Lift Kit, especially when traveling to isolated areas. With the heavy-duty, application-specific dampers and lift springs included in these kits, your 4Runner will have the maximum amount of articulation, ground clearance, tire clearance, and overall off-road performance.

You can also upgrade your 4Runner with locking differentials, like the Yukon Zip Locker, depending on how frequently you travel overland and the terrain you encounter. Lockers replace the open or restricted slip differential that comes with your 4Runner with a locking device, which ties the axles together with a single button press to increase off-road traction significantly.  

Wheels & Tires

Though they undoubtedly help, aftermarket wheels and tires are more than just fashionable! Tires and wheels are included on this list for several reasons, the most important of which is traction. To provide optimum grip and endurance on the trail, oversized all-terrain, mud-terrain, and hybrid tires—like the Toyota Open Country R/T Trail—have deep tread lugs, aggressive sidewalls, and significantly superior puncture resistance than equivalent highway tires.

The small factory wheels on your 4Runner don't accommodate sizes wider than stock, so aftermarket wheels are a desirable addition to bigger tires. You can run much wider tires to improve grip with an 8–9 inch wide wheel, such as the Method 705 wheel. Additionally, the 705 has Method's exclusive Bead Grip technology, enabling you to air down to pressures often reserved for beadlock wheels. 

Bumpers and Body Protection

Some dents, scrapes, and dings will inevitably be on your 4Runner when out on the trail. Even while cosmetic body damage is inevitable (consider them battle scars), it's crucial to safeguard your 4Runner's body and structure from significant harm by using the proper body protection, such as sturdy bumpers and sliders.

The Fab Fours Hidden Winch Mount High Pre-Runner Front Bumper is an example of a heavy-duty bumper that offers several advantages, such as accessory installation, body protection, and good looks. This bumper gives your 4Runner a stern look, comes with mounts for a winch, auxiliary lights, and recovery shackles, and is made of heavy-duty steel for outstanding impact protection!

Sliders, such as the N-Fab TrailSlider Step System, shield the rocker panels on your 4Runner from knocks and scrapes, avoiding damage that might cause the doors to misalign, rust, and corrode the panels. Even after adding the raising kit and larger tires, sliders still serve as steps, making getting in and out of your 4Runner easy! 


When problems and delays arise, you'll need the proper lighting to make the journey to your base camp safe by illuminating the path ahead. The best off-road lights, LED headlights, and tail lights are all available from Aventuraeoffroad for optimal light output and visibility—even on the darkest trails.

Who wants to camp in the dark until you get to your destination? Using high-efficiency LED chips, products like the Baja Designs Grill Light Kits and the RiGID Industries 360-Series A-Pillar Light Kit provide remarkable output, casting enough light to set up a tent, build a fire, and cook dinner. 

Racks & Exterior Storage

Even though the cab and cargo compartment of your 4Runner offer you abundant storage space, you can only have a little space for tools, gear, and recovery supplies! It's a good idea to equip your 4Runner with auxiliary storage and a roof rack to free up extra room for accessory mounts, storage bins, and even rooftop tents and awnings!

Roof racks typically come with two parts: an accessory mount, such as Rhino-Rack Pioneer Accessories, that lets you mount different tools, equipment, and even ladders for convenient access to your supplies, and a base rack system, such as the Rhino-Rack Backbone, that mounts to your 4Runner's roof or original rails! 

Interior Storage, Organizers, and Protection

Your 4Runner's exterior isn't the only thing that can sustain damage from all the time spent traversing filthy and frequently muddy paths. The frequent abuse on the trail can cause stains, rips, and tears on the inside, including the seats, carpets, and cargo area. Choose high-quality floor mats and seat covers, such as Covercraft Carhartt Seat Covers and Huskies WeatherBeater Floor Liners, to safeguard your interior rather than put up with wear and tear!

When traveling long distances, it's imperative to have your interior well-organized so that all your equipment and supplies are at your fingertips. Items with streamlined designs and numerous compartments for organization, such as the Covercraft Carhartt Seatback Organizer, also shield your 4Runner's seat backs from deterioration. 

Winches & Recovery

Experienced wheelers and overlanders know that the question is not if they will become stuck but when. It's always ideal for carrying plenty of recovery options, such as winches, straps, and shackles, if you made a poor line up an obstacle, paddled through a deep stream, or snapped a tie rod on a rock section.

Any off-road vehicle would benefit significantly from winches like theWarn VR EVO 12, which enable you to pull yourself out of, over, or across a difficult obstacle. Naturally, you'll also need the appropriate recovery equipment, so why not get a complete set like the Warning Heavy-Duty Epic Recovery set? Furthermore, nothing compares to traction boards—like the Rugged Ridge Traction Recovery Kit—for increased traction. 

Tents, Awnings, & Camping

Overlanding, of course, is just half the war won. When you arrive at a flat, isolated area, it's time to camp! After a tiring day of off-roading, consider investing in high-quality camping equipment, such as the Smittybilt GEN1 Overlander Tent, to make setup easier. With its lightweight aluminum frame, sturdy 600-denier ripstop polyester material, weather-resistant rainfly, and universal mounts that fit most bed and roof racks, the Overlander tent is the ideal complement to any overlanding 4Runner!

But campgrounds aren't just for sleeping; you'll also need somewhere to unwind and have food and drink. Nothing compares to a high-quality retractable awning like the Thule Hideaway for shade and weather protection. This device has an easy-to-use retractable design and mounts to most roof rack systems. Lastly, we usually suggest a high-quality cooler, such as the Pelican IM 30QT ELITE, to keep your food and drinks cold.

Your 4Runner will be more than prepared to hit the trails and pitch a tent with all these improvements. For all additional queries about our products, general inquiries, or assistance, don't hesitate to contact our friendly sales team. 

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