Can I get by without 4x4

  • Hi Guest, you may choose a LIGHT or DARK theme that works best for you with the "Style Chooser" button at the bottom left on this page!

Natenite

Rank 0

Contributor I

60
Missouri
First Name
Nathan
Last Name
knight
Ok. We are new to all of this. Have spent years backpacking and camping but I have kids now and am trying to figure out how to do fun adventurous family road trips. Also allowing for cheaper travel... in theory???

We have a 2003 Tacoma prerunner. Love it. Does not have 4 wd. I’m wondering if we can get by without 4wd and still see awesome stuff or is it really essential? We are still learning everything that’s out they’re to drive and explore in vehicle so I’m a bit clueless but I’m thinking things like the Mohave road or white rim trail or big bend. Cathedral valley in capital reef. Even things like the Ozark forest or Mark Twain forest near where I live. Could we get by with the electronic rear locker, some beefy tires (a lift?) and winch and good driving decisions or will the lack of 4wd be significantly limiting. Last thing I want is to strand my family in the middle of nowhere. I understand 4wd is better, my issue is these trucks are crazy priced, we got this one for a steal 9 ish years ago and I really don’t want to try and buy another if I can avoid it. I’m not a mechanic so trying to do the 4wd conversion is absolutely overwhelming to me.

Any constructive thoughts and experience would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
 

Saints&Sailors

Rank IV

Pathfinder I

Lacking 4wd will be limiting but it doesn't mean you can't have fun. You'll just need to be extra wise in your decision making and don't take unnecessary risks. Be prepared, walk the trail to check out obstacles, and, when in doubt, turn around. No trail is worth risking your family's safety.

Ultimately, many things come down to cost-benefit analysis. A new vehicle is very expensive; you are better off spending your money on some minor upgrades and buying gas for adventures. Once you hit the wall and your current vehicle is ready to be replaced, then you may want to consider 4wd. In the meantime, buy some off-road books and stick to the easy trails - generally they are just dirt roads without major obstacles or traction requirements.
 

Jaytperry89

Rank V
Member

Member II

1,615
Winston, OR, USA
First Name
Jason
Last Name
Perry
Member #

16273

Well it isnt that its required. Even with 4x4 I've been bogged and stuck. But I wouldn't get crazy with my family with me. It's a solid piece of insurance to help you get home. Throwing a locker in, bigger tires and a lift won't help by itself. I'd say if your going to spend the money on that kind of stuff just find a 4x4. Your just going to wish you had invested the money into it anyway. But that doesn't mean you can't get out and explore. Just take a few friends with you.
 

sabjku

Rank VI
Member
Supporter

Influencer II

3,278
Alexandria, VA
First Name
Steve
Last Name
B
Member #

13840

Remember those family trips when we(some of us!) were kids in the wood-sided station wagons? No 4x4 there! Like others said, just go where you're comfortable exploring, and don't get into any situations that you'll end up regretting. It's definitely not necessary. More of a luxury than anything else, at least for most of us who don't do any real hard wheeling.
 

sgthusk

Rank I
Member

Contributor I

233
Williamsburg, Brown County, Ohio
Member #

13666

Ham Callsign
KE8IZR
4x4 just lets us get stuck even worse further down the trail and really dig it in good trying to get out. Lol. As with 4x4 take recovery equipment and find out how far it can go. Find your own limits to. You can learn a lot that way. As you find limits then find the solution to get past them. That may eventually be 4x4. “Outfit and explore” Both are a growing experience. Be safe and have fun.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Natenite

Hans Sommer

Rank I
Member

Contributor II

271
Arroyo Grande CA
First Name
Hans
Last Name
Sommer
Member #

8595

If you travel with friends and have recovery gear you can help each other out. I’d say stay on fire roads and do dispersed camping with the family and if everyone loves it invest in 4x4 but always travel with another vehicle to help each other out.
 

Anak

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

2,271
Sandy Eggo
When I bought my XJ it came with the front driveshaft in the rear hatch. Because that was where it fit. The P.O. had fabricobbled a pathetic excuse for a downpipe such that the front driveshaft couldn't be installed. For about two years I put up with only having 2wd. That didn't keep us from going out and having fun, but it did affect my choices. There were still good choices to be made.

If you have a good locker, a good winch and a good air compressor you can still get out there and see more than the average family. 4wd and no lockers can leave you stuck where 2wd and a locker doesn't even have to pause. I am sure plenty of us have been there. And don't underestimate the value of being able to air down for traction and then air back up later. Those are three relatively simple ways you can stack the cards in your favor without having to decimate the family budget.

I will however suggest that you pay attention to what the National Park Service recommends when it says that a particular trail requires 4-Low. That gearing advantage is something you are not going to be able to easily replace, and it does make a difference. Generally speaking it means that just because your Subaru has AWD doesn't mean it is up to the task of this particular trail. However, you are going to be facing the same challenges as the Subaru. Steep situations (either up or down) really do need that low gearing. You will need to accept your limitations on that front. But even with those limitations there are great places you can go. Just choose wisely.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Natenite

Horse Soldier

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

1,798
Louisville Ky
Member #

12114

No 4x4 no problem, I have a friend that has the same vehicle as you and all he has is and 8000 lbs winch and he keeps up with my Rubicon on easy to moderate trails. He is think about a rear locker. Not have having 4x4 is not a game changer. Have fun and Roll Tide.
 

The other Sean

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

2,271
Minneapolis
Member #

2292

I'd invest in a set of traction boards, a shovel, a rear frame mount tow receiver and one of those D ring adapters for it and a decent snatch strap. . THAT will get you out of many situations. 2WD will get you hung up, but normally only to the point of either a quick tug from another vehicle, or where some shoveling and or traction boards will get you back out.

I remember one time taking my wife on this adventure WAY BACK in to the woods for this campsite I had found. miles and miles of trees banging on the sides of my truck and mud holes. We turned the last corner...... Honda Minivan parked there...... Turns out, I wasn't the B.A. I thought I was...... :laughing:
 

Craftman2

Rank I
Member

Contributor I

233
Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Member #

16501

Good tires and a traction aid (like Maxtrax, Gotreads, etc.). You'll be fine.

The Cathedral Valley loop in Capitol Reef is one of my favorites. No 4x4 needed really, as long as you have a bit of ground clearance. When I did it in my old truck the only time I switched to 4WD was the stream crossing, but even then it wasn't necessary.

I did Fins and Things in Moab earlier this year with another couple in an FJ Cruiser. They didn't put it in 4WD at all during the trail.

With practice you'll get to know your limits and how to work around situations that might otherwise require a 4x4.
 

TerraRoamer

Rank V
Member

Contributor III

1,402
Richland, WA, USA
First Name
Stephen
Last Name
Bell
Member #

18023

It's great to see such good advice given! No sarcastic and useless diatribes!

I am really starting to like this forum.

As others have said, shovel, recovery points front and rear, and a source of traction (maybe sourced at the trail or you may need to have something on board. I would suggest an air compressor and deflation device. These don't have to be expensive but will allow you to lower the tire air pressure for greater traction.
Know your route and the requirements.
Even better, hit the trails with others who have recovery gear, and the knowledge to use it.
Familiarize yourself with the gear and safe use. Recover can be risky but injury can be avoided when proper safety is employed.
Important note: Use quality gear for recovery. Anything else may be putting you vehicle, you life, or someone else's at risk.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Natenite

teufel hunden

Rank I
Member

Member I

233
Glendora, CA, USA
First Name
Ken
Last Name
Harper
Member #

17565

Ham Callsign
KK6BCX
My van is 2wd with a rear locker and regularly take my family out. I drive smart and understand the capabilities of my rig. I have however been places I probably should not have been in a 2wd 8k+lb. vehicle and only got stuck when I was trying to test the limits of my vehicle.

Add a rear locker and have fun.
 

Contributor I

60
Ladysmith BC
First Name
Darrin
Last Name
Pritchett
clearance.. (the prerunner I seem to remember is no slouch .. and in some cases better clearance then it's 4wd brothers with no pesky diff or Tcase hanging down) ... appropriate tires ... selectable locker ... you can pretty much go all the same places most mild 4x4s would bother without risking damage ... you just have to plan more. and carry the same recovery gear anyone else would.

back in my highschool days I used to follow my 4x4 friends into the bush with my 2wd 72 Chevy ... it was a straight 6/3spd work truck with I think the equiv of 32's on it and open rear diff (but great gearing, and a beautiful torque curve)... I ofcourse had to take more risks then they did, using momentum and bouncing the nose or brushing trees, and well my winch and strap more then them. but I also didn't care about scratchs and dents popped back out pretty easy.
 

Dilldog

Rank IV

Pathfinder I

1,212
Spokane, WA.
First Name
Dillon
Last Name
W
Bottom line to your query? Your vehicle with an selectable locker in your rear axle will easily traverse a lot more rugged terrain than a four wheel drive vehicle with open differentials. Period. Go for it.
This x10. I will also add get a highlift and practice with it. I think they are one of the best most low tech pieces of off highway gear ever. They will get you out of lots of trouble, and if you have 2 straps and the right clevises can be used as a come along too.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Natenite

Beeftaco

Rank I
Member

Contributor II

271
Rancho Mission Viejo, CA, USA
First Name
Danny
Last Name
T
Member #

18292

I have a 2015 2wd prerunner with no lockers. I put a good set of tires on, air them down, turn on the limited slip and always carry recovery boards. You’d be amazed what you can do with good tires. I get stuck in sand routinely but the recovery boards have always done the trick. Just stick with trails rated “easy” or forestry roads and be smart. I always go out with at least one other person or don’t venture further than I mind walking. I’ve got some videos up on YouTube of trips if you’d like to see what kind of trails can be ridden. And I can’t recommend the Falken Wildpeaks I have enough. Amazing tire and a really good price.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Natenite

Natenite

Rank 0

Contributor I

60
Missouri
First Name
Nathan
Last Name
knight
I have a 2015 2wd prerunner with no lockers. I put a good set of tires on, air them down, turn on the limited slip and always carry recovery boards. You’d be amazed what you can do with good tires. I get stuck in sand routinely but the recovery boards have always done the trick. Just stick with trails rated “easy” or forestry roads and be smart. I always go out with at least one other person or don’t venture further than I mind walking. I’ve got some videos up on YouTube of trips if you’d like to see what kind of trails can be ridden. And I can’t recommend the Falken Wildpeaks I have enough. Amazing tire and a really good price.

Yes please send me a link to your videos! Thank you!
 

OtherOrb

Rank V
Member

Enthusiast II

1,584
Flagstaff, AZ
First Name
Moses
Last Name
H
Member #

18698

Ham Callsign
KE7QIF
I just wrote this in another thread.


While we spend a lot of time talking about the gear, you really only need the following things to truly overland:
1) The desire.
2) The time.
3) Some food and water.
4) Some kind of transportation (feet, beast, or mechanical)
5) A place to go.
6) Some kind of shelter for when you get there.

That's an extreme simplification, of course, but we see bicyclists along I40 all the time. We see hitchhikers crossing the country all the time. We see a hundreds of people on foot, traveling 2500 miles trying to escape war and oppression.

It's not about the gear, it's about getting out there and taking those first steps.

What can you do with a 2WD Prerunner? Pack up that spacious bed with whatever you want to bring with you and travel almost any road you desire. For example, you don't need to crawl over rocks twice the size of your tires to see Canyonlands. Most of the area is accessible with a 2WD, high clearance vehicle. You might have to plan around weather or certain trails, but you've got to plan around something anyway, it might as well be Nature. And if you really want to go someplace specific that your vehicle or driving skills can't take you, you can probably find another way (feet, non-automotive mechanical, or beast) to get there.

 

Dilldog

Rank IV

Pathfinder I

1,212
Spokane, WA.
First Name
Dillon
Last Name
W
I just wrote this in another thread.


While we spend a lot of time talking about the gear, you really only need the following things to truly overland:
1) The desire.
2) The time.
3) Some food and water.
4) Some kind of transportation (feet, beast, or mechanical)
5) A place to go.
6) Some kind of shelter for when you get there.

That's an extreme simplification, of course, but we see bicyclists along I40 all the time. We see hitchhikers crossing the country all the time. We see a hundreds of people on foot, traveling 2500 miles trying to escape war and oppression.

It's not about the gear, it's about getting out there and taking those first steps.

What can you do with a 2WD Prerunner? Pack up that spacious bed with whatever you want to bring with you and travel almost any road you desire. For example, you don't need to crawl over rocks twice the size of your tires to see Canyonlands. Most of the area is accessible with a 2WD, high clearance vehicle. You might have to plan around weather or certain trails, but you've got to plan around something anyway, it might as well be Nature. And if you really want to go someplace specific that your vehicle or driving skills can't take you, you can probably find another way (feet, non-automotive mechanical, or beast) to get there.

This sentament is one reason I like this community so much. Are there gear snobs, sure, is it fun to talk about and dream about all the cool gear, sure. But you will always hear a friendly voice here telling you to just make the most of what you have. I mean theres tons of us out there in unibody 4 wheel independent cars without a real transfer case operating on a shoe string budget. But we get out, we have fun, and we keep each other motivated to focus on whats really important, experiencing this planet.