Best Overland Rigs at Destination Outdoor

In just the past five years, overlanding has grown from a fringe outdoor activity into a multimillion-dollar industry. Between Covid supercharging interest and social media spreading the word, more automotive/outdoor enthusiasts are going on overland adventures. These excursions involve driving to extremely remote campsites with all of your gear readily usable inside or on top of your vehicle.

In fact, the 2022 North American Camping Report shows that nearly 51 percent of urban campers tried overlanding. One increasing popular event getting overlanders together to show off their vehicles is Destination Outdoor. I headed to Blue Ridge, Georgia, this past weekend to see some of the passion projects for myself.

Chevrolet Tracker

chevy tracker

Matthew Crisara

You’re probably wondering why a Chevy Tracker made it into our list of coolest rigs at Destination Outdoor. Hear us out.

While it may look like a children’s bath toy, it’s actually an incredibly capable off-road automobile. Under the skin, it has proper body-on-frame construction—allowing for better articulation over uneven terrain. It’s also one of the smallest vehicles that I’ve seen with a proper selectable four-wheel-drive system and automatic locking hubs at the front axle. The Tracker’s short wheelbase and fairly burly 29-inch tires make it a weapon off-road.

chevy tracker tires

Matthew Crisara

chevy tracker closeup

Matthew Crisara

The owner bought the car used with some of the exterior modifications already installed. Thus far, he’s only added a lift kit from Old Man Emu to replace the existing springs and dampers, which were pretty tired. Everything else came with the truck when it was bought—snorkel, beefy tires, and all.

Toyota 4Runner Starlink Setup

star link interior

Matthew Crisara

While most Destination Outdoor builds boasted exterior mods, this one was all about what’s inside. Mobile internet solutions have traditionally been difficult for overland enthusiasts. The pre-Starlink days involved pre-paid internet plans that were notoriously slow and expensive. Thankfully, Starlink internet has been the last piece of this puzzle for many digital nomads, as we see here with this built-out Toyota 4Runner—also pictured in the thumbnail.

The vehicle’s owner (who asked to remain anonymous) mentioned that finding a great signal is actually pretty easy with the system. Internet speeds via Starlink at the Toccoa Valley campground in Blue Ridge were fairly solid, at 45 Mbps. The reception at camp was able to provide a clear HD stream of the Georgia Tech vs Pitt football game with no interruptions.

Lexus J201 Concept

j201 build

Matthew Crisara

The Lexus LX570 platform has an excellent reputation as a base for overlanders to begin their builds. Based on the same underpinnings as the Land Cruiser, it’s comfortable, reliable, and virtually bomb-proof. Regardless, Expedition Overland—the curators of the build—say the J201 embodies “Omotenashi,” a Japanese expression describing hospitality and mindfulness.

The J201 callsign is a reference to the LX570’s chassis code: URJ201. To the casual observer, it probably just sounds like jumbled up letters and numbers; however, overland enthusiasts will know that it signifies an off-road monster.

Myriad accessories like beefy all-terrain tires, after-market bumpers/skid plates, and many other off-road goodies make the J201 quite a behemoth. Though overlanders often customize gear ratios to optimize performance, the team at Expedition Overland (EO) plopped a Magnuson supercharger atop the LX570’s 5.7-liter V8, adding 170 horsepower—bumping up the grand total to 550 horsepower.

j201 closeup of exterior

Matthew Crisara

j201 wheel

Matthew Crisara

Power is great, but it’s nothing without control. Thankfully, EO added all of the off-road accommodation you could ever imagine to the J201. This includes 33-inch Toyo Open Country A/T III tires (which can be re-inflated with the onboard air pump), a pair of locking differentials, and comprehensive upgrades to the suspension. This capability is matched with Cbi rock sliders, skid plates, and off-road bumpers to protect vulnerable components.

Firestone Toyota 4Runner

firestone 4runner

Matthew Crisara

This 2016 Toyota 4Runner sporting a rather fetching Firestone wrap has a surplus of off-road accommodation to suit the owner’s particular requirements. In fact, it actually belongs to Isaac Van Essen, one of the curators of Destination Outdoor itself.

The wheel-and-tire package includes a set of forged 17-inch Black Rhino wheels wrapped in 33-inch Firestone Mud-Terrain tires. These are burly and complemented by a Dobinsons MRR three-way adjustable lift kit; the new setup is just big enough that a mild lift is a good idea to make sure the tires don’t rub on any surfaces inside the fender well.

Up front, you’ll notice the aggressive Cbi bumper, along with a Warn winch and a Baja Designs light bar and fog lights. Cbi skid plates and rock sliders flank the sides and undercarriage of the vehicle to protect critical components from trail damage. Then, at the back, is a full-clearance bumper put together by C4 fabrication. The end result is one of the most striking 4Runner builds I’ve seen.

firestone 4runner upclose of mudguard

Matthew Crisara

upclose of the firestone 4runner grill

Matthew Crisara

It’s no surprise that all of these modifications add quite a lot of weight to the vehicle. Without the ability to add power, Essen says that re-gearing the vehicle was the only other option. That’s why this 4Runner sports a much shorter 4.88 gear set (the stock 4Runner comes with 3.73 gears). Higher numbers here signify “shorter” gears, which offer more torque.

J80 Toyota Land Cruiser

j80 land cruiser

Matthew Crisara

We often hear automakers rambling on about fitting standard vehicles with up to 37-inch tires. And that’s great. But this Land Cruiser has 40-inch tires.

Sporting a big old set of Maxxis Razr M/T tires, the vehicle is nothing if not striking. However, most of you will know that modifying a Land Cruiser (or really any vehicle) to accommodate bigger rubber is not a small job. Just look at the front of the car that appears to have been chopped within an inch of its life. Instead of a front bumper, there are simply just some bits of metal supporting a Smittybilt winch.

Rather unsurprisingly, the vehicle has a Dobinsons lift kit installed to allow the monster truck rubber to fit under the fender wells. Other mods include a Precision Steering Components electro-hydraulic steering assist kit. This is a massive deal, as 80’s series Land Cruisers are notorious for leaking power steering fluid. That’s not to mention the standard power-steering pump would never have been able to compete with 40-inch tires.

shocks on the j80 land cruiser

Matthew Crisara

j80 land cruiser wheels

Matthew Crisara

Apart from the tires, my favorite part of the build is the fact that it manages to be aggressive while staying faithful to the elegance of the original vehicle.


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