Building the ultimate mobile basecamp for hunting, fishing, and family fun.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY JOHN J. RADZWILLA
America the beautiful, America the rugged, America the wild.
Stemming back to the early 19th century, overlanding has a long history (think Oregon Trail), but now, it is a relatively new trend among modern off-road enthusiasts. The sport has seen exponential growth since the beginning of the pandemic, drawing parallels to the spike in RV sales. According to Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, the nation’s leading coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations, RVs have experienced some of their best sales in four decades. Camper sales were up 49 percent year-over-year in 2020. Moreover, first-time buyers represented 55 percent of these sales, with the fastest-growing segment being people under age 45.
What does all this mean for the sport of overlanding? It means, RVs are in short supply, and nature is still calling. But not to worry, what if you could take your daily driver, add a bunch of cool yet functional mods (still cheaper than buying a new camper), and turn it into the ultimate mobile campsite? I mean those campers are kind of nerdy anyway… But wait, there’s more! What if you could also use the same overlanding rig you take the family camping in as the ultimate hunting and fishing basecamp for remote free-range hunts and/or seeking out the perfect off-grid bend in the river for amazing fishing?
Well, thanks to off-roading aftermarket brands, you can. Here’s how!
WHEELS & TIRES
First, you need to roll out on superior tires. Wrapping newly released Kansei wheels (more to come on them in a bit), I chose the BFGoodrich KM3 because they deliver off-road performance unlike any other mud-terrains out there. Built with a rugged carcass and an aggressive tread pattern, this mud terrain tire puts down serious off-road traction and durability. In short, these are the toughest tires ever made. Plus, with its aggressive tread pattern and Linear Flex Zone, which envelops and rolls over rocks and other solid objects for serious traction in aired-down driving conditions, obstacles add to the fun instead of standing in your way.
Inside of those extreme tires, I chose a super-clean classic wheel design from Kansei Wheels. Well-known in the drifting community, but new to the off-road world, Kansei is owned by Raceline Wheels— a brand you may be much more familiar with. Raceline, for years, has been the official wheel of SCORE International, the owner of the world’s most extreme off-road race hosted in Baja California—the Baja 1000. To note, BFGoodrich is the official tire of SCORE. So, to say they both know a thing or two about off-road wheels and tires is an understatement.
The Kansei KNP wheel takes cues from its drifting heritage, which has had major impact on the design and even somewhat on the overlanding community. The KNP sports a perfectly balanced five-spoke design wrapped in a classic stepped lip. Each wheel features a concave face and is big-brake compatible while maintaining strong and lightweight construction.
You will notice that the wheel looks a bit different from the off-road wheels you have grown accustom to. Over the years, a faux bead-lock look has dominated, but trendier drivers in the truck community have moved beyond it. And why not? Everyone has them, and from a functionality standpoint, the faux bead lock does nothing. This year, you will see a cleaner wheel trend as well as the matte bronze color way making its mainstream debut.
BFGoodrich KM3 Tires, from $179.00, 4wheelparts.com
Kansei KNP Off-road wheels, $285.00, kanseiwheels.com
Suspension is a major component of any off-road build, and King Suspension is king. King’s OEM performance kit is custom tuned to provide your truck with unparalleled levels of performance and ride quality. Each kit has been subjected to punishing real-world testing to develop the optimal damping curve and spring rate for your vehicle.
PRO TIP: Installation is easy for gearheads, but I would suggest saving yourself a weekend of work. Take your truck to a local shop to get the suspension installed by a professional.
These shocks easily adjust from the inside of each wheel well, giving drivers a range of suspension-dampening options from firm to soft depending on terrain. On pavement, I like to run mine at just under max stiffness, but on trails and dirt roads, I bump that way down to provide a smooth ride over rocks and through washouts.
King OEM Performance Suspension, 4wheelparts.com, prices vary by vehicle
STORAGE & SHELTER
Next, the hallmark of any overlanding vehicle is storage and shelter. Using my bed as the starting point, I selected a bed drawer system from Decked. The system offers secure, weatherproof, and organized storage as an easy-access, ergonomic storage solution. Made 100 percent in the USA, the system features two secure, full bed-length drawers capable of carrying 200 pounds each that glide effortlessly on industrial-grade wheels beneath a 2,000-pound, payload-rated deck. Constructed from rugged High-Density Polyethylene and a steel subframe, I can access gear while maintaining use of my vehicle bed’s footprint.
Inside one of the drawers, I added a Kaizen Polyethylene foam insert for shock absorption and vibration dampening to protect my gear (a.k.a. an AR and mobile Tequila bar).
Decked Drawer System, $1,349.99. decked.com
Decked Drawer Inserts, $42.00, kaizeninserts.com
PRO TIP: If adding a foam insert, make sure to buy the Cut Kit as well. You’ll thank me later.
The most noticeable part of the build is the Yakima bed rack, awning, and tent. Designed to handle heavy loads on backcountry terrain, the OutPost HD rack is built for rugged overland adventures. I added Yakima crossbars to hold a GEN2 RotoPax 2.5-gallon spare fuel can and a 2.5-gallon water container on the driver’s side and a pair of RotoTrax recovery boards on the passenger side for situations where I find myself stuck in mud, sand, or ice.
Atop the rack, I added Yakima’s SkyRise HD tent. A ruggedly constructed tent with 600D Ripstop polyester fabric and a waterproof PU coating paired with the weather-shedding waterproof rainfly, the tent provides complete protection against the elements. The extra-large windows and doors provide grand views and great ventilation—while the thick wall-to-wall foam sleeping pad provides cushy, all-night comfort.
PRO TIP: If you chose to purchase RotoTrax, you will run into an issue where the boards are too long and will interfere with the spacing of the rack and the tent mounts. Hard to describe here, but if you do what I did, you’ll run into the same issue. A simple modification of drilling four new bolt holes for the mounts through the bottom of the tent platform, solves this issue, allowing you to move the tent mounts out further to accommodate the recovery boards.
Rounding out the Yakima system, I mounted the Slim Shady awning to the side of the rack, which extends to provide 6.5 feet of shelter. Super easy to use —just roll it out and set-up the poles—its light, strong polyester canopy has a waterproof coating to shed water and serve up plenty of shady coverage on summer days.
Slim Shady Awning (6’), $329.00, yakima.com
RotoPax GEN 2, 2.5-gallon Fuel, $69.95, rotopax.com
RotoPax GEN 2, 2.5-gallon Water, $44.95, rotopax.com
RotoTrax Recovery Boards, $139.95, rotopax.com
Outpost HD Rack, from $749.00, yakima.com
Skyrise HD Tent, $2,199.00, yakima.com
And what is a tent without a sleeping bag. The Alps Mountaineering Aura 0° Mummy Sleeping Bag offers lightweight, compactable sleeping with premium thermal efficiency. This sleeping bag features synthetic TechLoft Micro Insulation, consisting of multiple denier staple-length fibers that have a siliconized finish for maximum insulation, loft, and compactness. It also has zippers with multiple ventilation options.
Alps Mountaineering Aura 0° Mummy Sleeping Bag, $129.99, cabelas.com
LIGHTING & ACCESSORIES
Lighting is a huge aspect of off-road builds. I started ahead of the game with an existing Rigid Industries 54” RDS-series lightbar boasting a blinding 85,000+ lumens, but being the over-kill king I am, I decided to add 3 Pro Comp 7” LED waterproof Spot/Flood combos on the bumper for an additional 35,400 lumens, and to top that, I opted for Pro Comp’s 2×2 Square Pod ditch lights, adding a final 3,660 lumens—totaling a whopping 124,600 lumens before I even turn on the headlights.
PRO TIP: To those who decide to go this route, the 7” round lights do not come with wiring harnesses, and the pod lights do not come with mounting brackets, so plan on getting those before you install. I bought the ditch light brackets on Amazon.com and the harnesses from 4 Wheel Parts.
Pro Comp Pro Comp 7″ LED Round Motorsports Light, $254.99, 4wheelparts.com
Pro Comp 2×2 Square S4 GEN3 LED Flood Lights, $141.99, 4wheelparts.com
Next, every off-road vehicle will experience a flat at some point, so be prepared. There are no better off-road jacks on the market than Pro Eagle Jacks. For my Tundra, the two-ton Big Wheel Jack, or “The Beast” as they call it, more than suits my needs. Built upon strong solid axles and large non-pneumatic wheels, I don’t have to worry about dragging it through the dirt.
Pro Eagle Jack, $409.99, proeagle.com
Finally, I backed my seats with 5.11 Tactical’s Vehicle Hexgrid. The system is a vehicle-ready seat panel for accessory arrangement and modular pouch management. The panel features a full loop face and provides placement for an assortment of hook and loop attachments.
Vehicle Ready Hexgrid, $44.99, 511tactical.com
FINAL PRO TIP: Remember what I tell my wife: “Cool ain’t cheap.”