Beyond Pavement

Rig Feature: @MountainHabit

What make, model, and year of rig?

2016 Toyota Tacoma Sport: ARB rear locker, 5.29 Nitro Gears, Deaver Custom Leaf pack, Icon Suspension, Stealth Custom Series Ray10’s.

What is your rig used for most?

Off-road travel and daily driver. I nearly live out of it full-time. The truck allows me to trail places not necessarily as a camping destination but for outdoor adventure as well. I typically plan my runs by way of available activities at the destination – climbing, backpacking, hiking, and dog-friendly areas, so I tend to stay away from the crowds and use our PUBLIC LANDS frequently. My rescue dog Bella comes with me most everywhere and I absolutely wouldn’t have it any other way.

How many does it sleep?

  • 6 small humans comfortably

  • 4 average humans + 1 doggo

  • 0 humans + 11 doggos!!

Rough estimate of material cost?

What’s the current national debt at? Amazon, MasterCard and Visa LOVE, LOVE, LOVE me.

In all seriousness, and aside from the gear I have purchased out-of-pocket, I have been very blessed to have had various companies offer partnerships because they like what I’m doing. I’ve turned some down because I honestly couldn’t see standing by their product or customer service; it wasn’t something I would actually use in a functional way; or it just didn’t make sense adding it to my truck build. As an example, I would never use a 4-way tire air up device, so I politely declined the offer, light bar for the roof rack – thank you kindly anyway. The companies and products I have aligned with, I can honestly say I fully support and would endorse if they ever requested it (though they never have). I’ve never really signed a contract for “sponsorship” because I want to remain organic and authentic and be able to freely discuss and promote products of my own choosing…when and if I choose. I appreciate the fact that most if not all those companies hold their business values and products to a high enough standard, where they stick their necks out doing it this way. That says a lot about what the companies stand for and they’re open to constantly improving things based on feedback. I feel like this is something beneficial to the whole off-road, overland/car camping community.

Any recycled or upcycled materials used?

Spare tire is an upcycled 285 with an OEM wheel. Camper was purchased used from one of the owners of Vagabond Outdoors. It’s their Drifter prototype. #1 of 1. The truck bed build includes recycled wood panels and hardware for the storage areas, and misc. gear from my backpacking and hiking days – helps keep things a bit lighter.  I haven’t finished building out the cabinets yet. Adventure beckons- that’s the priority for me these days. 

Favorite add-on?

My favorite add-on isn’t really a tangible object…it’s been the freedom of being able to get places and do things I once dreamed of from the driver’s seat of a 2WD Dakota and Kia Sorento.  Now, I did go some places in those vehicles that I’m certain Dodge and Kia never tested for or would endorse, but having my truck now with this Vagabond Outdoors camper has been an absolute game changer!  I’ve had a few iterations of the truck bed build over the life of this rig, from open bed (ground tent camping), to soft topper, to low-profile bed rack with hard shell RTT. All were great for their time and moments in my life, but the camper…the camper has made my busy and adventurous lifestyle 1000x better.  The biggest thing for me is it provides an extremely comfortable, leak-proof shelter and security. My dog and I can tuck in from any crazy weather and it’s nearly a full living space when the camper’s platform bed is stowed (over the cab). It’s super secure on its own as well as when I’m in it boon docking somewhere, glock at my side.  I have the upstairs, the pup downstairs, and I arranged the buildout so I can still use it as a truck for smaller jobs but still not get called by random friends to help them move their refrigerators! If I could choose a second favorite, it’d definitely be the Dometic CFX-50 Fridge. I had no problem using an ice chest previously…until on a 5-day trip to Mammoth and the town literally ran out of ice.  That’s when I decided it was a necessity for what I wanted to do.

I’ve been able to trail much of the Western U.S. and Mexico with this set up and have much less concern about “how, where, when”, and “what’s the weather forecast like” anymore.  Now it’s just fuel up, fill the fridge, grab dog food and go! That’s the freedom I speak of.

Recommended rig essentials?

Don’t hate me, but I’m a strong believer in ‘knowledge is power’.  You can have every piece of kit on the market, the latest and greatest gear, bolt on everything under the sun to every exposed space on your truck, have the most graphic and eye pleasing vehicle wrap, the most expensive recovery equipment, but if you don’t know how to use it, it’s virtually dead weight and likely just for trend or looks.  I’ve chosen function over form and have adopted a self-reliance and personal responsibility to be able to take care of myself and others. Most everything I keep in my truck has a minimum two functions/uses, some have multiple. I dislike redundancy for the sake of redundancy; you often end up with a lot of “stuff” that way. I am a big believer in being prepared within your skill set and having the gear/equipment on hand to allow others to help you if need be.

Bare minimums for off-road travel:  33” tires, 4wd, full-size spare (and lug nut key!!), proper tires, paper maps, gps device or compass if you know how to use it, a solid plan to get out, a bail out bag, situational awareness, good judgement and common sense.  Those last three are unfortunately often missing. Don’t end up tearing up a pristine alpine meadow, off-trail, because you didn’t see a fence telling you that you can’t drive on it or because it’s your first time there. Ask the Ranger or local visitors center BEFORE you venture out – you may learn a thing or two and actually contribute to off-road ambassadorship vs. being part of the problem. Accidents happen but it’s everyone’s responsibility to seek information ahead of time. Learn and often refresh your knowledge of LEAVE NO TRACE Principles.

Recommendations for someone wanting to start their rig build?

It’s your money.  Spend it the way you want but research, research, research!  Take your time. Online forums can be hit and miss with truthful information.  Ask intelligent questions of your friends and folks you trust in the industry, the off-road community and social media.  Likely we’ve been there/made those mistakes and can possibly save you a headache or two. Most people are more than willing to offer advice or guidance if you ask specific questions.

Take some off-road 101 courses.  These allow you not only to get a better understanding of your rig and how to operate it on trail, but you can get a feel for the kind of travel you may want to do and the gear you may need for it.  You’ll be able to check out the gear they have first-hand and potentially gain knowledge and tips from them as far as application, function, best pricing, etc. Then you can decide what you ACTUALLY need or want.  A little word of wisdom…be prepared, the build is never done.