Category Archives: trail talk

What happens off-road stays off-road… But we’ll tell you anyway. We cover cooking, why we installed certain mods or discuss first aid for wilderness adventures and more. This is life on the road less traveled after the driving is done.

defender 90 rear bumper

You Get Way More Than You Pay For

One of the best known names in the outback, ARB, makes cool stuff such as air lockers, expedition fridges, recovery equipment and all sorts of 4×4 goodies.  Their new on-line magazine also has good information on driving, vehicle prep, recovery techniques, off-road adventures… The new ARB magazine 4x4action, I write of is not the bland, sales oriented, mainstream USA version.  The good stuff is located on the Aussie site.  While you’re there sign up for their email news letter.  Every quarter you will receive an update on their products along with some great articles on global overland exploration.  Their spring news letter covered the Outback Challenge Morocco, Aussies In Africa – Part 3 and wet our apatite for the Rainforest Challenge 2008.  They also have contest stuff for the little drivers as well as the big ones.  Not bad for free.

Tread Lightly Information Graphic

Wheeling With Responsibility

We have a great time on our off-road adventures and enjoy spending time in the great outdoors. With these activities comes responsibility. The responsibility of maintaining a healthy environment for everyone to enjoy. That means packing it out, leaving no trace and treading lightly.

Tread Lightly!, Inc. is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to proactively protect recreation access and opportunities in the outdoors through education and stewardship initiatives.

Tread Lightly! Awareness is a great place to start if you are looking to learn about taking care of the places we call special or to teach others the benefits of wheeling responsibly. This online course really delivers a solid educational experience. It is free and you can complete it in your PJs… TMI?

When you are ready to take the next step, sign up for a Tread Trainer course where you will learn outdoor ethics focusing on motorized, mechanized or water recreation. The trainer program is an instructor lead course where students are given a crash course in outdoor ethics and taught to deliver tread lightly presentations to local schools, clubs and organizations.

Treat Lightly! puts out a great Newsletter so you can keep up on their events and stay on top of using our trails and water systems responsibly.

There are few things more rewarding than giving back to whatever it is that makes you smile. Participating in Tread Lightly! is on opportunity for anyone who enjoys wheeling in the great outdoors. Take a few moments to gain perspective on our environment and spend time at a site where rig, cycle and water craft owners come together to protect and ensure the national inheritance of our children.

hi-lift jack mount fj cruiser

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall…

Everyone knows the old joke… A tourist pulls up to a man on the corner and asks: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The man on the corner says “Practice… practice… practice”

That is good advise and especially important when you are stuck on the trail. This is not the time to unwrap your shinny equipment for the first time and try to figure out how to use it. More than likely when you get stuck it will be dark, rainy and muddy or sandy, glaringly hot and windy (isn’t that what you went out to find). Stuck in these conditions is exactly what recovery equipment was designed for and when used correctly, will make easy work of a tough situation.

One of the most versatile and low cost pieces of off-road adventure recovery equipment is the hi-lift jack by the Bloomfield Manufacturing Company. The hi-lift jack can be used to lift or pull a rig out of the mud. It can be used to break a tire bead or push a panel into place. The hi-lift jack can even be used to change a tire. However, it can also put the rig into an unstable and unsafe position if the directions and safety instructions are not followed.

If you understand and practice how to use the hi-lift jack properly it can be one of the best pieces of recovery equipment you have with you on the trail.

fj cruiser packed up

Project Managers Make Lists

Everyone who backpacks in the wilderness knows about the ten essentials you should always carry. Every backpacker I know also has their own formula for those ten items that minimizes weight and meets the requirement. When your adventure is expecting to see temperatures from 20 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and is looking at long stretches where no one else frequents, you have to be strategic in what you bring. That is especially true since we are not pulling a trailer and not looking to over load the rig with the kitchen sink while still trying to remain self-sufficient for most situations.

We are getting closer to the list of our ten… ok 142… essentials. While I’m sure the list will change… still seems a little long for a guy who backpacks on a minimalist mantra. As the project manager in me comes out… we make punch down lists to check off. The punch down currently reads:

Emergency stuff:

  • assorted tie downs and bungees
  • rolls of 100 mile an hour tape (duct tape)
  • Hand held Flashlight, a car spot light and a few head lamps along with extra batteries
  • Wool army surplus blankets
  • A utility tarp
  • First aid kit
  • Set of flares, safety vest
  • Tool kit, wires, zip ties, work gloves ….
  • Fire starter
  • Fire extinguisher (the irony is not lost on me)
  • Extra food
  • 6 gallon can of H2O
  • MSR stove w/ fuel
  • Water purifier
  • Maps and compass

Rig Stuff:

  • ARB Bull bar
  • Toyo Open Contry M/T 295/70/17 tires: Two spare full size tires
  • RaceRunner Sway-A-Way Coil Over and rear shocks w/ Springs
  • IPA fog lights
  • K&N High-flow filter and Airchanger
  • Wilderness FJ Cruiser Adventure Rack
  • Head Light Armor
  • Cobra 75 WXST CB Radio w/ Firestik antenna
  • Warn 9.5 XP winch w/ synthetic winch line
  • Three 5 gallon jerry cans of fuel
  • Hi-lift jack
  • Shovel
  • Couple of tree straps 10′ and 25′
  • Two snatch blocks and D-ring shackles
  • 50′ synthetic winch extension cable w/ hooks
  • Tire chains
  • Wheel chucks and jack stand

Personal Stuff:

  • toiletry usuals: toothbrush, soap, toilet paper, meds, lots of deoderant…
  • Waterproof Gortex shell
  • Pile pull over and vest
  • Cargo shorts
  • Levis jeans
  • Hiking socks & underwear
  • Tee shirts (last great road trip T of course)
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Boots for hiking
  • Shoes for driving
  • No-see-um mosquito jacket and pants
  • Baseball hat
  • Fly fishing gear
  • Folding camp chair
  • Sunglasses and binoculars
  • iPod
  • Current copy of 4WD Toyota Owner
voodoo 2007 toyota fj cruiser

NASCAR Called… They Want Their Stickers Back

2007 toyota fj cruiser dirtSo today we stickered-up the rig. We had Steve over at Anderson Brothers take the web site banner and turn it into a vinyl graphic for the rig. The guys there did a great job creating a 70″ long vinyl sticker. The sticker gives the rig a real one-of-a-kind look.

2007 toyota fj cruiser in fieldAlong with Last Great Road Trip sticker, we added our sponsors stickers as well. Sway-A-Way, are the guys who make the coil overs and shocks we are running. The 2″+ lift the SAWs added and the great ride have convinced us that we made the right choice. These have performed well on the trails so far. The Haul Road will really put them to the test and I’m sure they will make the 800 miles of dirt and gravel much more bearable.2007 toyota fj cruiser field arb bumper

Mark at Metal Tech installed those SAWs and put on the bull bar, winch and fog lights along with a very nice custom fabrication that keeps those big tires from rubbing (aka body mount chop).

If you spot our rig driving around, honk and let us know you’ve seen us on the web. Honk for Diversity.

2007 toyota fj cruiser arb bumper

Road Trip Adventure Talk

Their is no cell coverage on the Haul Road and many stretches of roads along the way to the Arctic Circle. On these roads and most off-road adventures the life line is maintained by CB radio with the truckers watching out for each other on channel 19. To keep in touch, hear warnings, and provide assistance if needed we picked up a CB radio with the weather channels.

The CB mod was one I did myself based on the posting of bigbill25 on the Thanks to bigbill25 and others on the thread selecting the right equipment and installation was straight forward. I did take one major deviation from the postings. I ran the coax cable through the inside, rather than under along the frame. My route followed the tail light wire bundle. By following Toyota’s cable route I was able to take advantage of the protection put in place to ensure wires don’t get crushed, stripped or pulled out.

The CB is a one hand unit so it can be installed without much room. In fact with everything tucked into place, no mounting was required and we kept the OME look. The antenna is now tuned for the radio and tuning a CB antenna turned out to be pretty straight forward once we picked up the SWR meter.

The mod tally is now at five with:

  • Sway-A-Way coil over shocks
  • ARB bull bar
  • Warn 9.5 XP winch
  • Wilderness rack
  • Cobra 75WXST CB
travis lt metal tech arb bumper install

Build A Better Mouse Trap For An Off Road Adventure

lifted toyota fj cruiser arb bumperWhat makes me think I can build a better Toyota FJ Cruiser than the engineers at Toyota? Well I’m not hampered by the need to please a large demographic and ensure the rig meets marketing, budget and focus group requirements set forth by the starched shirt corporate bean counters. No, I just need to ensure the mods register high on my cool meter… and they do!

mark hawley metal tech sway-a-way coiloverAs I mentioned we made a run down to Portland to see our friends at Metal Tech. The guys at Metal Tech are great and by guys I mean Mark and LT the owners of Metal Tech. They put on a new Sway-A-Way Coil-Over Shocks, ARB bull bar, IPF fog lights and a Warn winch. And for a guy like me it was great because Mark knows and enjoys chatting about everything FJ from 40s, 80s and Cruisers . He also let me hang around like I was a real motor-head.

Now those of you who remember, I started out looking to get an Old Man Emu coil-over shock set. Everyone I talked to said they are good for the type of terrain and driving we plan to do on this off-road adventure. Mark had even pre-staged the font shocks in perpetration for the install. Then when I got there I had to ask about the Sway-A-Ways (SAWs for those in the know). He explained how they are hand build and exclusively tuned for the FJ. The SAWs have 7/8” shafts, 2.5″ diameter shocks and they are completely re-buildable. Of course once I started asking Mark explained he did have one last set I check out and that was all it took. Ok let me be the first to admit it… I upgraded to the SAWs because they are high on the cool factor and I get instant off-road trail cred showing up with these bad boys. On the performance, as a result of adding the SAWs, the ride is great. Stiff enough to make handling a dream without jarring my teeth loose. The increased travel is very visible with the rig now sitting two and half inches taller. The cool SAW logo visible at the top of the shock is bonus.travis LT metal tech lift install

The ARB bull bar Mark and LT added rides nice and straight with the SAWs in place and holds the Warn 9.5 XP winch. In order to reduce a little weight the guys swapped out the winch cable for a synthetic line. The synthetic line is the same stuff I run for the dogs tug lines when we go mushing in the winter.

2007 toyota fj cruiser arb bumperThe whole set of mods really work as a package. The grill and front will now be protected from any deer, moose, bear or big foot that jump out in front of us. This is a big plus over the five pounds of plastic that was replaced. The little IPF fog lights will hopefully allow us to see and be seen a little better and avoid hitting the critters all together.

tavis lt toyota fj40 flexingWith all the new travel and lift there is always the temptation to test out the next bolder path or sand trap. To make sure the rig doesn’t get stuck the Warn winch should be just the ticket to pull our way out. But as everyone knows the winch is probably your last resort. Often a few shovel fulls of dirt moved from here to there can do the trick and get you unstuck. But just in case the shoveling doesn’t work we now have the winch.

Ok the rig is moving up on the cool factor meter, but take a look at LT’s rig. He and Mark really know their stuff and put it to work on their Toyota trucks as well as everyone they help. Thanks Guys.