Welcome to Overlander Builds where we profile some of the coolest and most innovative rigs around. This week, Jared Johnson from @txhillrider shares why he chose his vehicle, a 2016 Toyota 4Runner, how he built it out, and where he's headed next.

The 4Runner is an evergreen overland platform, loaded up with capability, durability, and reliability straight from the factory. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. The aftermarket for these vehicles is as robust as it comes, and the sky's the limit for what you can do and where you can go in these tough-as-nails trucks. 

You can check out some of Jared's overland gear and upgrades right here at Overlander.

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Toyota 4Runner

Jared Johnson

Home Base: The Republic of Texas

Vehicle: 2016 Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition

Overlander: How did you land on a 4Runner as your adventure rig?

Jared Johnson: My first car in high school was a 1997 4Runner SR5, which I drove over 300,000 miles. When it came time to buy a new car after graduating from college, I wanted something reliable, functional, and four wheel drive with off-road capability, just like my first car. Before moving to Texas, I lived in South Louisiana, where overlanding isn't very prevalent, so I used it as my daily driver. It wasn't until I lived in Texas a few years later that I discovered the world of overlanding. My 4Runner has been great not only as my daily, but for overland travel, such as cross country trips to the mountains of Colorado, the forests of Arkansas, the deserts of Utah, and everywhere in between.

4Runner in Colorado

Wow! 300k miles on your original 4Runner is impressive, but also par for the course for a lot of those older Toyotas. What would you say are the strengths of your current 4Runner?

JJ: That good ol' Toyota reliability! I always feel comfortable taking my 4Runner as far from civilization as my fuel capacity will let me, and not having to worry about breaking down. This is largely thanks to the 4Runner platform barely changing since its inception in 1984.

Other 4Runner strengths include the size and capability. For example, the wheel-base is short enough to tackle rough obstacles. My 4Runner is also large enough to carry everything I need, both in the city and for long trips through the backcountry. With only a few minor modifications, such as a lift, larger tires, and rock sliders, the 4Runner can traverse most trails without difficulty.

Toyota 4Runner

So what kinds of upgrades have you made to your rig?

JJ: Noteable OEM features for the 4Runner Trail Edition trim (now sold as the TRD Off-Road) are: rear electronic locking differential, manual transfer case with low range, A-TRAC, crawl control, and multi-terrain select.

Exterior modifications that I have made to the 4Runner include: 3" ToyTec Boss Performance lift (2.5" shocks w/ remote reservoirs), Icon 3" Overland rear coils, Cooper Tires AT3 XLT 285/70/17, Fuel Off-Road Nitro 6 wheels in bronze, SSO Slimline Hybrid front bumper, Smittybilt X20 10,000lb synthetic winch, Factor55 Ultrahook, 20" Heise light bar, CBI Off-Road Fabrication dual-swing steel rear bumper, Baja Designs Squadron Sports fog lights and backup lights, S2 camp light, Rago Fab ditch light brackets with Extreme LED side shooter pods, Frontrunner Outfitters Slimline II roof rack, 23Zero Walkabout 62 rooftop tent, Odyssey Extreme group 34R deep cycle battery, and Rad Rubber Designs splash guards.

Interior modifications include: Expedition Essentials T4RPAM dash mount, Midland MXT400 GMRS radio, Garmin InReach Mini, Ram Mounts, Dometic CFX3 55IM fridge, and EcoFlow River Pro portable power station.

OL: That's a comprehensive build, what's your favorite mod?

The CBI dual-swing rear bumper has been my favorite modification. Not only does it increase my departure angle, but the steel construction can take a beating from anything I throw at it. Also, it has the capability to carry accessories that I previously stored on the roof rack (fuel, Hi-Lift jack, and my Maxtrax) on the rear bumper. With this modification, it has created more room on top for my rooftop tent, cargo box, and normally a bundle of firewood.

Toyota 4Runner

 What are your future plans for the 4Runner? Any more big upgrades in the works?

JJ: Currently, I am working with a local wood shop to build a custom set of drawers for the back of my 4Runner. The design will feature a double pull-out kitchen with storage, stove, and fridge on the driver side, and storage for recovery, camping gear, spare parts, and tools on the passenger side. Some other future plans are to regear the drivetrain with 4.88 Nitro gears to help the added weight and future increase in tire size to 315/70/17.

Stephan Edwards with David Lewis
Photos: Jared Johnson @txhillrider