Its been over a month since Linda and I spent the weekend at Overland Expo. We went to listen and learn about what it takes to successfully undertake overland journeys in remote spaces. "Keep it light and keep it simple" was the message we heard over and over. If we followed that advice, many of the vehicles and much of the equipment we saw had to be ruled out. I also wanted to select a vehicle that was tough, adaptable and reasonably simple but could be used as an everyday hauler/transporter.
My Honda Element with the E Camper came pretty darn close. It's limitations are size and off road capabilities. Despite some modifications, and some trips into places that were truly pushing its limits, it did not have either the toughness nor the space that we wanted. We went looking for a platform that could be modified with a good selection of equipment, be serviced virtually anywhere, and had a long history of reliability all over the world.
There really are only three manufacturers that fit those criteria: Jeep, Land Rover and Toyota. Jeep's are certainly tough but don't have a great history of reliability. Land Rover's, particularly the old ones, are fantastic vehicles but can be expensive to buy and restore, and with few exceptions, are not designed to travel long distances at highway speeds. That leaves Toyota. Older models like the FJ40 have many of the same strengths and weaknesses as the older Land Rovers. Later models like the Land Cruiser could certainly work but they can be expensive to buy and maintain, and gas mileage is less than stellar.
After a lot of research, I purchased a 2011 Toyota Tacoma with the Off Road Package. It's a tough, proven platform and mileage is not too bad at an estimated 21 mpg highway. I am still working on a camping option for it but have narrowed it down to either a fiberglass shell with a sleeping platform or an AT FlipPac.
The FlipPac weighs less than 400 pounds and when closed, the back of the truck can be used for hauling stuff, like bikes. I've got some other ideas for it as well and I'll post more as they evolve.