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When Your Daily Driver is Your Overland Rig

When Your Daily Driver is Your Overland Rig

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We recently connected with Overland Bound Member #0833, Isaac Marchionna about his mega loaded up overland rig that he uses every day as his daily driver in Downtown Portland. He gives us his insight into what to expect when you make your off-road vehicle your pavement pounder on the city streets!

Full frontal 4RunnerThe Art of the Overland Rig Daily Driver

By Isaac Marchionna
Overland Bound Member #0833
@lawndartdesign
Daily Driver: 2015 4Runner TRD Pro (with a lot of mods)
Location: Downtown Portland, OR
All photos courtesy and copyright of Isaac Marchionna

We’ve all felt it. The insatiable call of the wild… but the crushing reality of a day job. These two pulls have lead many of us to build an Overland Rig and then drive them on a daily basis. And with this decision comes different responsibilities and realities that you have to take into account when you daily an expedition rig. 

Let’s be honest for a moment…driving an Overland rig around a crowded population center can be pretty smile inducing. You’ll pull more attention than any sports car could muster; however, you’re also driving around a rather big, heavy, and maintenance intensive vehicle. Here are a few points I’ve learned along the way with my daily driver.

Your Friends

You’ve likely tricked out (or are in the process of building out) your rig to store all your camping gear, drawer systems, fridge, power management, etc etc etc. The downside to this consumption, or “utilization” of space, is that your ability to carry humans (what the vehicle was designed to do) has now been comically “downsized.”

I am familiar with the quizzical reaction by people when asked if I can haul stuff for them or pick up a group of people. I don’t have extra space to offer. Remember that friend who needed your help moving a sofa? Have fun not sounding like a deadbeat when you tell him he’s on his own moving and you have a long bed expedition truck. “Oh I would love to help you…but adventure mobile!”

The Fury Road Factor

Glory shot

One of the things you’ll see on almost all Overland vehicles is the addition of armor, both underbody and front/rear bumpers. Here are the advantages. First off, these systems are invaluable in their ability to take a hit and be beaten back into shape or replaced entirely. Damaging a plate worth a few hundred dollars, rather than causing crippling damage worth thousands, is an entirely fantastic trade off.

Bumpers allow for the mounting of additional lights, winches, recovery points, fuel, spare tires, jacks, communication systems, all while providing additional armor for the trail. I cannot tell you how many times my rock sliders have proved to be awesome investments just in stopping door dings, while mangling the doors of those who are careless around my truck. I shouldn’t laugh, but here I am doing that while writing. But all that metal comes at a cost: weight.

Weight can both help and hinder you on the trail. Proper distribution of weight can provide better traction when scrambling up a boulder field in the mountains. In the city however the additional weight means you have more mass to stop. Urban driving means a lot more stop and go traffic; it also means being able to stop the vehicle when a pedestrian darts out in front of traffic.

We are vastly exceeding the original gross vehicle weights spec’d by the manufacturers. My vehicle for example comes in at a whopping 6600 lbs fully fueled. The original vehicle ranged from about 4700-4800 lbs in stock form. That weight affects everything from acceleration to braking distances. Your brakes become that much more critical on the trail and on the street. Do not ignore them and upgrade as necessary. That might mean stronger pads, and caliper systems.

You can do more damage in a crash due to armor and weight, and it is your responsibility to know how your rig behavior. Every modification you do has a real world implication on vehicle performance, and you are responsible in knowing how those implications play out on the road.

Wide Load

Overland Rig Parked
All that junk in the trunk.

Space is at a premium in cities and you need to know the relationship between the dimensions of your vehicle and how it relates to its place in the physical world. You do not want to be the person who parks their wonderfully reinforced steel bumper into someone’s BMW because you were parallel parking your expedition battleship into a space just barely big enough.

Parking space is going to be your biggest concern. If you think hunting for a parking is bad when driving a midsize car, it’s hellishly tricky when you’re trying to park a vehicle that’s got a swing out tire carrier, bull bars, sliders, etc. Your friends will quickly learn to expect you 5-10 minutes late because you parked 10 blocks away from your meet up point.

Do you have a swing out tire carrier? Take into consideration the need for enough space to open your tailgate, especially in parking structures or on the street. It’s all too easy to be forced to open up swing arms over someone’s hood. Don’t be the guy that drags the business end of a hi-lift jack over someone’s car hood. It’s not cool.

Height

Parked in a garage.
An acceptable parking garage.

Know your vehicle’s height, and know it as well as you know your social security number. Know it so well that you begin to cry a little every time you go to park your vehicle in a parking garage, but immediately turn around because you know you’d tear the top of your vehicle off if you proceeded down that highway to the danger zone.

Parking garages are not your friend. They are no one’s friend. The average height of parking garages in my city range from 6’6” to 7’. My truck is 6’11” when fully fueled. Most parking garages also have weight limits on their ramps. You will exceed one or both of those limits. Again, do not be that guy. You’ve made a conscience effort to build up your vehicle with lights and roof top tents, you put a bed on the top of your vehicle. Now you must lay down in it and live a life of desolation far far away from the comfort of a parking garage.

Lock It Down

One of the more overlooked upgrades you must also do is security. This means where you leave the vehicle and how you leave it. Many of us outfit our vehicles with communication and navigational gear and these are items that are highly desirable by those who might wish to alleviate us of our technological and financial investments. That means being able to stash or secure high value items such as HAM radios, GPS systems, lights, etc. Anything that can be secured via locks or anti-theft bolts is worth the time to do so.

Rear swing out with gas and water

If you carry fuel and water externally it behooves you to keep things locked. I have heard conflicting thoughts on keeping external gas tanks fueled or not, and I am not an expert on this from a legal standpoint. I’ve seen shady people come up and wrap their knuckles on my fuel tanks to see if there was anything in them, or come out of stores to see someone trying to mess with the locks thinking they could steal the cans. Also consider that someone could tamper with your external fuel tanks. 5 gallons of gas can do quite a bit of damage when strapped to your rig, especially in the hands of someone who wishes to do your rig harm. Know when to fuel up and load up the vehicle for travel, and download gear and fuel when back in town.

“We didn’t buy them for the mileage…”

Speaking of gas, all of these modifications come at a severe penalty to miles per gallon. The original manufacturer spec sheet for my vehicle listed 18 city and 21 highway. I’m going to go have a sad moment when I think about what I’m getting now. Okay, the moment has passed. I’m lucky to get 13 in town and 14-15 on the highway at sea level, on a downward slope…with a tailwind.

This is the nature of what happens when you add nearly a ton (that’s not figurative, that’s literal) of armor, cargo systems, roof rack, lights, winches, batteries, and all other forms of expedition knick knacks. You will find that your ability to make it 4-5 days of commuting will become a bit ambitious, especially when you factor in traffic. Know your vehicle, and how thirsty it gets. Gas is more expensive in population centers, and you will pay dearly for your decision to live in a city.

You’re ready.

FJ80 in Portland
Ok. That’s not Isaac’s 4Runner, but he did take this picture of the OB rig in Downtown Portland.

Because all overland rigs vary, what I’ve mentioned may not apply to you.  The takeaway is that every overlander needs to be well versed in how their vehicle performs, how it exists in physical space, and how your modifications affect those around you.

From stopping distances due to extra weight, how additional armor increases the size of your vehicle, and how internal modifications alter usable space… if your vehicle is your daily driver, and thus there is no separation between “work rig” and “play rig” you need to understand there will always be a compromise somewhere in what you’re giving up to take on.

There is something incredibly powerful in having an overland vehicle. It means you are constantly in a rig that tempts you to go and explore. And it means you’re daily driving something that can be loaded up in a moments notice to escape the confines of urban living and find yourself on an adventure.

You’ll get more smiles, waves, and questions than the guy driving his bland and boring sedan to work and back. If you’re prepared for the trade-offs, it’s a wonderful thing to have a vehicle that inspires as much as it can be challenging.

Full rig build out breakdown of Isaac’s Beast here! 

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Corrie

Co-Founder and Lead Editor of Overland Bound. Can often be found behind the camera during trips.


Adventure seeker. Dog wrangler. Writer. Partner in crime to Michael.  Lover of nature and all things outdoors. Here's to forging down new trails, connecting with others, and the unapologetic pursuit happiness! #outfitandexplore

Comment(44)

  1. Corrie, if you could please re-title this awesome article to "So, your Overland Rig is Your Daily Driver?". Hahahah. I'm kidding. This was another great one.

    Thanks. I tried to focus on stuff that regardless of make/model of your rig, would still be applicable. As I've seen the same general issues occur regardless if you're driving a smaller rig or not.

  2. Thanks. I tried to focus on stuff that regardless of make/model of your rig, would still be applicable. As I've seen the same general issues occur regardless if you're driving a smaller rig or not.

    What you've done is touched a heart-string in a lot of us! This is our life!

  3. Great article, I'm just really glad Salt Lake has great public transportation options so I only need to drive a couple miles to the train station and I can take it into the city for work. Keeps the miles off and makes it so I'm not guzzling a tank and a half a week. My wife has a Ford Focus too so when need be we just take that and my truck can chill at home.

  4. I find it hard when I read an article that pulls a couple cords in my heart because I know I fall in that category. I'm lucky to work only 5 miles from base camp 1 (also known as home) in which my backup daily is a motorized bicycle that can hit 30mph. However I hate being cold and we'll Arizona drivers aren't known for being incredibly safe or alert. I'm currently building up a small trailer just so I don't feel like I have to stack all my gear on or in my rig especially since I have several children that need to fit in safe and comfortable. 

    Sent from my SM-N900V using OB Talk mobile app

  5. This thread hits very close to home for me.  I drive, a LOT, for work, sometimes have to drive clients and have a kid who plays volleyball that I get to drive everywhere and two large dogs (Ridgebacks) who need space too.  Because of this, I can't really build my 4Runner into a full-out expedition rig.  That said, when I do off-road, I need to take it more easy than some others because I need to be able to get to work and transport the kid and dogs which is hard to do on my KTM.  Battle scars, while cool, also don't work when picking up clients who expect an attorney to drive a nicer rig and not a beater.

    My plans are to do something like the C4 Fabrications partial front bumper, aluminum skid plates, sliders and a rear bumper.  (Does anyone make a rear bumper where the swing out can be removed?)  I will not be building a drawer system, but will build a low profile platform with tie down racks and store my gear in Pelican cases and keep food, beer, etc. in a cooler.  When I get them, I'll leave the Maxtrax and Hi-Lift in the garage and only put them on the rig when I'm actually heading out for a weekend (or longer) trip. My goal is to make it very easy to "gear up" when the time calls for it, but to leave the rig as road-friendly as possible the majority of the time.  This way, the 4Runner will be road-friendly for work and M-F, but can easily be converted into a off-road rig.

  6. This thread hits very close to home for me.  I drive, a LOT, for work, sometimes have to drive clients and have a kid who plays volleyball that I get to drive everywhere and two large dogs (Ridgebacks) who need space too.  Because of this, I can't really build my 4Runner into a full-out expedition rig.  That said, when I do off-road, I need to take it more easy than some others because I need to be able to get to work and transport the kid and dogs which is hard to do on my KTM.  Battle scars, while cool, also don't work when picking up clients who expect an attorney to drive a nicer rig and not a beater.

    My plans are to do something like the C4 Fabrications partial front bumper, aluminum skid plates, sliders and a rear bumper.  (Does anyone make a rear bumper where the swing out can be removed?)  I will not be building a drawer system, but will build a low profile platform with tie down racks and store my gear in Pelican cases and keep food, beer, etc. in a cooler.  When I get them, I'll leave the Maxtrax and Hi-Lift in the garage and only put them on the rig when I'm actually heading out for a weekend (or longer) trip. My goal is to make it very easy to "gear up" when the time calls for it, but to leave the rig as road-friendly as possible the majority of the time.  This way, the 4Runner will be road-friendly for work and M-F, but can easily be converted into a off-road rig.

    You can always look at the Wilco Hitchgate. Have one on my 4R and I know their is a 5th Gen running one as well that I always see pics of. I like mine as I'm not a huge fan of the big metal rear bumpers…yet. 🙂

  7. Well done.

    I use my truck for way too many projects to be just an overland rig. I will have 2 setups here shortly. I'm picking up a diamondback truck cover this weekend for daily driving. It will keep my stuff secure and give me more loading options with the short bed.

    My 2nd setup will be an RCI bed rack with my RTT and all the camp gear.

    It seems expensive at first but not compared to building a dedicated trail rig.

    Maybe someday I can get my dream land cruiser or 4runner.

  8. Well Done!! Great article. Very informative as I myself use my rig as my DD. This will help me with my future decisions on how I build up my rig for the adventures that I’m shooting for.

  9. Good read, all my previous vehicles have been multi-role vehicles (unfortunately never had the luxury of a dedicated tourer – however some lent more one way than the other), so they've all had their compromises. I'd say the current one is possibly the most road focussed of all in it's standard form, but also has the most ability of all I've owned (except maybe the Defender 110). Which is handy as I have a 90km each way commute everyday and have to occasionally accommodate our little'un.

    However in my line of work it also needs to be fairly capable and able to cover big miles over outback or rough roads.

  10. I need to win the lotto, have a gas efficient vehicle for work and a OB Vehicle for adventures

    I feel your pain. Believe it or not the rangie is cheaper to run than the Suzuki before it (Diesel vs petrol).

  11. My rig is my daily and still pretty stock so im cant wait for these problems/adventures but for the sake of adventure we park blocks away, we are not as hard on the gas and give the space for braking, as much as we want to trust the people around us we lock up. As bad as we want to park on that grassy/dirt and hope a curb we dont ;). We pack out more then we pack in. We are overland off road and urban. Smile speed bumps dont effect us. We build to live we live to explore

  12. awesome article that obviously hits home for many, me included. i feel that usually the best option when daily driving my rig is to leave all the overland stuff that i can at home. obviously things get stolen, but a lot of the plastic stuff stuck on our rigs, like maxxtrax and rotopax are damaged by prolonged exposure to uv rays. save a few (hundred?) pounds and leave the shovels, gas, trax, jacks etc. at home. i know it looks cool, but it shouldn’t be a fashion show. save gas and wear and tear on your rig and gear at the same time. my 2cents. great article.

  13. awesome article that obviously hits home for many, me included.  i feel that usually the best option when daily driving my rig is to leave all the overland stuff that i can at home.  obviously things get stolen, but a lot of the plastic stuff stuck on our rigs, like maxxtrax and rotopax are damaged by prolonged exposure to uv rays.  save a few (hundred?) pounds and leave the shovels, gas, trax, jacks etc. at home.  i know it looks cool, but it shouldn't be a fashion show.  save gas and wear and tear on your rig and gear at the same time.  my 2cents.  great article.

    I agree %100. Here is my rig on our trip…

    Then the week after we got back….

  14. I keep my recovery gear behind the seat all the time.  I strip the camping gear off when not needed.  It's s pain to store but my truck can then be my daily driver, and my utility rig for hunting and chores.  I've found being organized you can convert in an afternoon and be ready for adventure. 

    Sent from my E6810 using OB Talk mobile app

  15. I’m new to OB and really appreciate articles like this. Some points may seem obvious, yet easy to overlook or under estimate. Experience based articles based are priceless. Thank you.

    So on the flip side of the coin, what factors should someone keep in mind when they take their daily driver/work vehicle off-road? Before I can enjoy wandering the great outdoors on Friday night, I need a high degree of confidence I’m going to be able to use it for work at 7:00 am on Monday morning?

    I intend to stay on “softer” trails that still get me to the camp, scenic and fishing spots. I also reasonably know the limitations of my vehicle and current state of build-out, but….? I’m sure there are some nuggets of knowledge and experience out there.

    Thanks again.

  16. I'm new to OB and really appreciate articles like this.  Some points may seem obvious, yet easy to overlook or under estimate.  Experience based articles based are priceless.  Thank you.

    So on the flip side of the coin, what factors should someone keep in mind when they take their daily driver/work vehicle off-road?   Before I can enjoy wandering the great outdoors on Friday night, I need a high degree of confidence I'm going to be able to use it for work at 7:00 am on  Monday morning?

    I intend to stay on "softer" trails that still get me to the camp, scenic and fishing spots.  I also reasonably know the limitations of my vehicle and current state of build-out, but….?   I'm sure there are some nuggets of knowledge and experience out there.

    Thanks again.In TX a patch kit and compressor is a must due to sharp rocks and thick torns…normally tires are the first to get damages and once you use the spare the other option is trail repair…I have used mine in a mall parking lot to "save" strangers without a spare to stay trained and know that my equipment is working properly.

    Sent from my SM-G950U using OB Talk mobile app

  17. Keep plastic boxes ready with cooking supplies and canned/dried food just ready to grab and go…replenish food as soon as you get back to stay ready. I have a Jerry can style container with fresh water ready to go as well. Also a hammock with a tarp can be more practical than a tent in quick situations

    Sent from my SM-G950U using OB Talk mobile app

  18. I solve the DD issue by only having a 4 mile commute to work . Mpg is not a factor for me at all because even on trips the difference in 10-15mpg vs 15-20 is not really that much money if you sit down and do the math   . If I had a long commute I would definitely have 2 rigs , nothing is worse then breaking out on the trail knowing you have to hurry up and fix it b4 work .

  19. I live 2 miles from work, which indeed makes the 15-17mpg in my 4Runner not so bad! Back when I was commuting 16 miles each way, I had figured up that if I bought myself a 250cc dual sport bike (75mpg!), it would completely pay for itself if I rode 3 days a week (not hard in Florida!) If I ever get into a longer commute again, I will definitely go back to looking at such a purchase!

  20. My Jeep is my daily. We moved from 32mi away to 7mi from my office so it’s been great. I get about 15mpg with rack n tent on there. I’d like to take the tent off on Sundays and throw it back on Fridays but it’s too damn heavy for me n the wife. Since I need help I’ll leave it on there until the hurricanes come, then stash it in the garage. I carry my recovery gear, tools and bottled water all the time. Only pack my camp boxes when rolling out. I’m not too worried about breaking stuff since I can borrow my wife’s GX460 if anything breaks. I feel damn lucky to have all this awesome stuff.

    Sent from my iPhone using OB Talk

  21. Great article.

    Should add the benefit of other drivers less motivated to cut you off when they see that small steal elephant in the lane beside them.

    Add a secure main cutoff switch for the winch.

    Heard about and personal had people massing with the winch line on the street.

    The awkward look on drivers’s faces in traffic when they read the “open beer here” on the bumper bottle opener..

  22. I agree with all the comments about what a great article this is. I spent over an hour one way to work between country roads and expressway. So yes my rig is a daily driver and you pay a price for that in fuel but I would not have it any other way. The fact I live in a town with more cows than people and have land and good neighbors around me makes up for the latter. I am still building on my rig and adding more weight as I go so factoring in what tires I want ( have to do well and wear well on the interstate) but still give me good off road capabilities plays in the choices I make. Current ones not so we'll, new ones on the way. Slim down on inside gear but have the necessitys to handle what comes my way. Adapting and overcoming is a every day thing. Thanks to all who have shared thier wisdom on this.

    Sent from my SM-N950U using OB Talk mobile app

  23. There's a thrill in pushing your rig to the limit while knowing you have to get to work on Monday. There's an art in keeping the balance. I run empty on my commute back and forth to work, but always worry about security when I have a load on for the adventure.

  24. Great article, the one thing I always consider is the security.  Always have tried to keep things out sight and incognito, especially when in and out of our cities higher theft areas.  Becoming a little harder to do lol. 

    Another thing is because it is our exploring and daily rig, the mind set of being prepared for the unexpected is intertwined together.  Having a “gobag” and other tools close by can be invaluable.  I have had to help a coworker with their car, basic tools all in the truck, well actually my vw car at the time.  Or like the tracks for the snowstorms up here in the northeast.  Counted plenty of cars that drove off the road and got stuck this past winter.  Having bigger first aid kit on hand, besides your basic edc. 

    Wouldn’t have it any other way, a daily overlander. 

    Sent from my iPhone using OB Talk

  25. I was in the same situation until I realized that I could get a gas saver pretty much for free.  My Fiat 500 Abarth averages 30 MPG even when I have my foot in the throttle and costs about the same as I save on gas with my 70 mile round trip drive to work.  My Jeep will not have 200k miles when paid off and I have a fun little car.  It makes the Jeep feel slow now…the only down side.

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