Picture this. You’re in one in all America’s beautiful national parks along with your family for the weekend. With the family hauler packed and the sun starting to set behind the mountains, you start piloting the winding roads back to civilization. The radio suddenly gives off an intrusive shrill. Your gaze goes back to the road while within the background you faintly hear that calm voice reciting a message from the Emergency Alert System, only this time, it doesn’t say, “This is just a test.”
Highways are at an entire stop. All lanes in each directions jammed with cars going nowhere fast and for ever and ever. After an hour and a half with no information coming over the radio, people begin abandoning their cars to go on foot, carrying with them what they will. There are chirps and flashes of lights as automotive alarms are armed. Worried owners perform quick walks around their vehicles, ensuring every little thing is secure. As they walk away, some look back warily at their parked cars as if to say: “Don’t worry. I’ll be back to get you when whatever that is all blows over.”
Rather than get stuck within the impromptu parking zone, you discover an element of the shoulder that results in an elevated parallel dirt road and pull off to gather your thoughts. The phone network is down, judging by the telltale busy signal, in addition to the information connection, and the browser won’t refresh.
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As you look off miles and miles away within the horizon toward the town, where house is, you see the unmistakable orange glow of fireside, and it will probably’t be anything good. The pulsating glow and clouds of smoke is far too large to be localized.
This is widespread, you’re thinking that to yourself. As you contemplate what to do next, a thick dark haze begins to form over the highway almost like fog. You squint to get a greater leaf through the dying light and see several figures running toward your direction on the highway below. Seconds later a swarm of terrified people emerge from the haze darting in between the parked cars. Running for his or her lives. They are those who had abandoned their cars earlier.
Although the aforementioned scenario is fictional, almost harking back to a current popular cable television show, some can not help but wonder, “What if?” For Sean Jennings, as unlikely because the scenario sounds, he is not one to take probabilities.
An adventurer at heart, Jennings drew upon his experience within the U.S. Marine Corps and his two tours in Iraq, which put him in a mindset that being prepared is not a suggestion, it is a lifestyle.
While this 2013 Toyota Tacoma was built for recreation, Jennings added that he selected the Tacoma’s midsize truck platform for Toyota’s unsurpassed reliability and felt that it might be a greater than adequate bug-out vehicle if the necessity ever arises. Considering the modifications done to this Tacoma, we’re in agreement.
Since “Go anywhere” can literally mean just that, the Tacoma’s independent front suspension was outfitted and modified for long travel. Both factory upper and lower arms were swapped for the Total Chaos +2 Long Travel Race Series Kit complemented by Fox 2.5DSC coilovers. A Total Chaos secondary shock hoop was added to properly install the Fox Triple Bypass system. With the front suspension sorted out, suspension travel was now not much of a difficulty. The rear suspension was upgraded with Fox 2.0 DSC prolonged travel shocks and bumpstops with Pelfreybilt shock relocation hoops welded onto the frame. The factory leaf packs were swapped for All-Pro Expedition units to resist heavier loads.
Crucial to any overland construct are tires. Having the precise size tire — in addition to the precise kind — is vital if you’ve got to run for the hills or when you’re just occurring an off-road tour with friends. Meaty sidewalls and the precise track were essential to Jennings, who opted for 35×12.50×17 Toyo Open Country R/T tires mounted onto Method Race Wheels’ 105 beadlock model. Although 35-inch tires are an amazing size for any overland rig, getting them to suit properly on the Tacoma is a slight challenge.
To achieve the right clearance, a cab-mount chop was required. What this modification consists of is cutting a portion of the frame positioned on the backside of the inner fenderwell, allowing the tires to show lock to lock without rubbing against the body and potentially causing damage to the tires and the truck itself. Further trimming and massaging of the front fenders, including the Bushwacker over-fenders, were required to be sure that the tires would clear under full suspension travel.
Four-wheel-drive enthusiasts have all the time relied on their rig’s drivetrains and their driving skills to get through any tough situation the trail throws their way. Jennings, having traveled together with his Tacoma through many a trail, desired to make sure the chips were stacked in his favor when out within the rough. Installed on each axles are ARB Air Lockers activated by an onboard ARB Twin Air compressor. When activated, the Lockers will lock each axles 100%, achieving even greater traction when the factory 4-Lo setting won’t do.
Jennings knows keeping the shiny side up on his rig is all the time ideal, but he also knows having body armor for the Tacoma was needed for his construct. Pelfreybilt Offroad was called on to outfit the truck with their line of products consisting of their aluminum front bumper and Hi-Clearance rear bumper. These components drastically improve the vehicle’s approach and departure angles while providing ample protection from the terrain and road hazards. The Tacoma’s undercarriage also received protection with an aluminum front IFS and transmission skidplate and Pelfreybilt’s rock sliders round out the Tacoma’s road armor.
Inside, the Tacoma is decked out for long trips. The factory seats were redone with comfort in mind. Up front are heated and cooled leather seats with suede inserts by Katzkin. The rear bench also received the identical leather and suede treatment.
Since a road trip would not be a road trip without music, a trick custom fiberglass enclosure was built for the audio system, consisting of amplifiers and a slim subwoofer, all tucked away neatly behind the rear seats. A trio of switches control different functions on the truck resembling the onboard ARB Twin Air Compressor to actuate the front and rear ARB Air Lockers. What really caught our eye inside this adventure rig was the sPOD SE Touch Screen controller. This unit can act as switches for eight different auxiliary lighting systems; this one was wired as much as the bevy of Rigid Industries LED lights outfitted on the truck. From the rock lights to the lightbars, they’re all controlled through the customizable touch screen.
Storage was addressed with Truck Vault’s All Weather series two-drawer locking cargo system installed within the bed, along with a Line-X coated Cargo Glide 600XL shelf. The Truck Vault was essential for Jennings’ storage needs, as it might carry every little thing from his rifles to his recovery gear. The addition of an A.R.E. Z-Series truck cap keeps every little thing under lock and key.
True to the overland theme, Jennings then added an XVenture XV-2 Off-Road Trailer complete with an 89×18-inch folding Galley table, which incorporates a three-burner range stove and sink. He then took it a step further and outfitted the trailer to be a sustainable shelter with a CVT Mt. McKinley Roof Top Tent. Capable of fitting 4 people, this tent ensures his family will stay out of the weather. A CVT 55-inch awning provides shade and the XV-2 can be outfitted with a 20L water tank with an electrical pump and a propane water heater allowing the posh of a hot shower.
The trailer also sustains it’s own power via a deep cycle battery and an onboard power distribution center, easily allowing Jennings to hook up additional lights or appliances resembling the ARB 63-quart fridge/freezer tucked within the XV-2’s storage compartment.
Anyone who has fished likely knows that going out right into a body of water allows you access to a wide range of fish and fishing grounds versus being on the shoreline. Luckily for Jennings, he’s got that covered together with his Flycraft inflatable fishing craft. The two-man vessel may easily be an escape vehicle on water should options on land run out.
But say options on land call for 2 wheels as a substitute of 4 or on foot, this Marine has yet one more trick up his sleeve. Jennings took a 125cc Honda Grom and outfitted it with knobby Maxxis Moto-Off Road Tires, giving the mini street bike a complete latest level of capability. However, Jennings wasn’t finished there. From his experience being out within the woods, he knows it gets dark, real dark. With this the halogen headlight on the Grom was dropped in favor of a single custom-mounted ARB Intensity LED Spot light. This single light is capable of manufacturing over 8,000 lumens and throwing light over 900 meters giving this Honda Grom enough light to ride confidently throughout the darkest of nights.
Now, it’s obvious this Tacoma didn’t get to this level of preparation overnight. There have been several iterations of this construct before it got to where it’s today. Many different parts were installed and removed in a game of trial and error. But ultimately, Jennings found that this current setup was the precise balance of what would encompass his needs for recreation and survival. While we have seen an overland rig or two in our time, Sean Jennings’ Tacoma definitely reinforces the saying, “It’s higher to have it and never need it, than to want it and never have it.”
But don’t count on Jennings being done just yet. He still has plans for more upgrades to his ultimate survivalist rig.
Bug Out Tacoma Stats
Tacoma Double Cab 4×4 Double Cab Shortbed
4.0L Six-Cylinder (V-6)
Bug Out Trailer Stats
Schutt Industries XVenture XV-2 Off–Road Trailer
75 In. (52 In. W/Tires)
Camp Chef Triton 5L
About the Author
Mike Shin is a business photographer, outdoors enthusiast, and an occasional author. When not photographing assignments, he and his wife enjoy four-wheel trips and camping throughout California. mikeshin.com