In their effort to complete the trail that they could not during their Alaska / Yukon Series, Expedition Overland has released three videos covering their Return to the MacKenzie.
While out storm chasing in his own 4Runner, Senior Editor Phillip Jones came across this well-built 4Runner and met the owner, who is a seasoned storm chaser. Phillip invited Brandon to submit an article about his build and his chasing experience.
4Runner Build List
-2014 4 Runner Trail Premium
-Nitto Trail Grapplers tires
-Custom front/rear bumpers/skid plate
-LED lit steps in back
-10,000 lb waterproof winch
-Rigid LED’s in front/back and underneath
-ChargeGuard (for electronics)
-Optima Yellowtop battery
-RAM Laptop mount
-Kicker sound system with new L7 QB8 in back
When I went in search of a 4Runner, I found an Oklahoma City-based dealership that did a lot of modifications to the dealer’s 4Runner inventory. Seeing those decked out rides got the gears in my head turning. My 2014 4Runner already came with the big wheels, tinted windows, and nice powder coating on the logos. It was the rolling definition of blacked out! After purchasing my 4Runner, I definitely knew I wanted an LED light bar. They were growing popular on off-road vehicles and I wanted to fit in! Getting one put into the grill wasn’t going to be easy. I considered a grill guard, but it seemed grill guards really offered no protection. If I was going to spend money, I may as well do it right! I located a steel fabrication shop in Lubbock, TX named Fearless Fabrication and let them have it for a week. They put together the plans for the bumper, lighting, and other items.
During the previous week, I was storm chasing in Colorado. My friend got stuck in the mud as a tornado was barreling down on us. I had him jump in my 4Runner, and we were able to escape. That was the day I knew I had picked the right vehicle. We later tried to extract his vehicle with a simple tow rope we found at a gas station, but it didn’t work. This incident served as motivation to purchase a winch, which has come in handy.
The original plan was to only do the front bumper, but the shop owner talked me into the rear bumper as well. I am certainly glad I took his advice because shortly afterward, I was rear-ended by a drunk driver. My 4Runner experienced zero damage.
I have always been in some sort of off-road vehicle for storm chasing, mostly out of necessity. We encounter terrible road conditions in rural areas where dirt roads can instantly turn into mud pits due to flash flooding. Fallen trees and downed power poles sometimes require going through a ditch to maneuver around. Debris and/or high water require adequate clearance. Sometimes, there isn’t even a road. Sometimes we turn around and the road we were just on has transformed into an obstacle course. A coating of hail can make for slippery traction.
Before my I purchased the 4Runner, I had 2 different Jeeps, and a GMC Envoy. The 4Runner by far has received the most investment in modifications. I know it will hold great durability and value.
At a young age, long before I was interested in off-road vehicles, I grew interested in weather. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I became interested in storm chasing. In 2008, at the age of 17, I went on my first big chasing trip. We drove from to Kansas from Illinois and spent a week chasing tornadoes. After that, I was hooked. I enrolled in the University of Oklahoma in 2010 to study meteorology and earned my degree in 2014. That educational experience only took me deeper into chasing, because I could see all of the classroom and textbook knowledge unfolding in the field.
My wildest storm chasing adventure was in 2013, during the El Reno, OK tornado on May 31st. We got caught in the outer circulations of the tornado, and a barn was destroyed in front of us, sending flying debris into my car. My windshield was shattered, a hay bale tossed into my car, destroying my front end, and all the paint wiped off the passenger side of my car. It was both a horrifying and humbling experience.
I’d love to do go off-roading with my rig. So many times I see other Toyota owners who drool over my ride and ask if I go off-roading, and I have to let them down! I’d love to go somewhere super remote and scenic, like Utah, climb over some rocks, and get to some places that nobody else could really get to!
You can follow Brandon’s Storm Chasing adventures on social media:
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Five years ago, the Tacomas and Company group started “a Moab adventure created by wheelers for wheelers” later to be called Rock Therapy. The gathering is based on their love for Moab and wanting to pull together other likeminded Toyota enthusiasts to help strengthen the off-road community. With the help of hard working volunteers, loyal attendees and generous sponsors who have shown a common goal to help build relations around the off-road community, Rock Therapy 2016 was again a huge success and will continue to be a must-attend gathering for the ever growing Rock Therapy Family.
In an effort to provide a memorable experience for the attendees, Rock Therapy’s platinum sponsors stepped up to host two nights of dinners for those who could make it back to camp at Area BFE. Toytec Lifts, Bay Area Metal Fabrication, Pelfreybilt Off-Road, All-Pro Off Road, Low Range Off Road, CBI Off Road Fab, InSain Fabrication, and Cascadia Vehicle Tents each pitched in to make sure the hungry wheelers did not go to bed with an empty stomach with backyard style BBQs both Friday and Saturday night.
Unlike years past, the carnage during Rock Therapy 2016 was on a much lower scale. Less carnage meant more time spent on the trails for all attendees, sponsors and volunteers. Many of the sponsors and volunteer trail leaders took out attendees on the trails to show off the variety of trails that Moab has to offer. Rock Therapy has encouraged attendees over the years to mingle with other attendees to form their own groups to roll with each day which has helped to strengthen the Rock Therapy Family and build relationships that last for years to come.
A concept that Rock Therapy has pushed over the years is to get the sponsors out and enjoy themselves alongside their many loyal customers. Gold sponsors, SDHQ Off Road, and Trail Toys were both in attendance this year showing off their incredible Tacoma builds. Cliff brought his 2008 Tacoma that is built to handle high speed desert passes as well as crawling through the rocks with the best of them. Cliff was able to show off the truck’s true potential during the annual Dunes run on Friday night.
Nathan had his 2011 flatbed Tacoma out to his the trails in fashion with his newly installed crawlbox and always impressive travel gained from a Chevy 63 swap in the rear. Trail Toys also brought another game changer to this year’s Rock Therapy with the addition of a limited run of Rock Therapy 2016 glow in the dark patches.
Also in attendance this year as sponsors was Trails Offroad spreading the word on their new web-based nation-wide trail knowledgebase, Hefty Fabworks showing off their new line of aluminum bumpers on their Toyota fleet, Brute Force Fab dominating the trails in Billy’s solid axle beast of a Tacoma on 42s, Adventure Offroad Fabrications displaying his solid axled 2nd gen overlanding Tacoma and Front Range Off-Road Fab with their 1996 4Runner with an 8” 30 spline IFS swap rolling on 37s.
Saturday night came too soon this year as attendees did not want memorable times to come to an end. However, the sponsors were able to pull together some amazing items again this year to giveaway and help raise some money to support two amazing organizations that have done so much to promote the off-road community over the years. Stay the Trail Colorado over the many years has encouraged the responsible use of the roads and trails that are open to motorized recreation in Colorado. Although their focus is primarily in Colorado, their message is one that should be spread all over to help us keep trail access open. Area BFE helped to rethink what an off-road park should be with their 320 acre recreational park. Open to a variety of outdoor activities including many iconic off-road trails and camping with unmatched views of the La Sal Mountains, Area BFE is open to the public 365 days at no cost to the public.
On behalf of all those in attendance, thank you to all those who helped to put this amazing gathering together and to the generous sponsors mentioned above as well as Addicted Offroad, RCI Offroad, Rokmen Offroad, Anti-Dark, Toywerx, Rorck Apparel and IH8MUD. Without your efforts, Rock Therapy would not be what it is today. See everyone next year!
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We are in a golden age of outdoor and camp cooking, with each year seeing new companies starting to produce quality cookware at great prices. The problem is, with all of these new companies pining for us to buy their products, buying a new set of camp cookware can be confusing. Let’s cut through the hype and dig deep into the material science behind many of these cookware designs. Doing so will allow us to see the pros and cons of each material and help ensure you choose the cookset with the right material for your cooking needs. I am going to apologize now for, as you will soon read, my geeking out about this topic. I will freely admit that I am a nerd and, if you have attended one of our cooking classes, tend to get overly excited about the science that is going on behind the scene.
Resistance to heat transfer also means they are prone to hot spots. This is due to the material’s inability to conduct heat through itself and away from the heat-source. Cookware manufactures can combat hot spots by increasing the material thickness. The increased thicknesses essentially dissipating the heat over a larger area. This is a double-edged sword, however, as the greater the thickens the more energy is needed to heat the cooking surface.
Now that we understand how heat transfer from the flame-side to the cooking side of a pot or pan we must think about how that heat is retained in the material. A pot or pan’s heat capacity is a function of the its material density and the specific heat. The material’s specific heat can be thought of as the amount of energy needed to increase the temperature of the material. When multiplied by the density we get a variable that helps us differentiate between the different materials.
Now that we understand how a material’s thermal properties can affect cooking performance we must turn our attention to an often overlook aspect, a material’s reactivity. Highly acidic ingredients or alkaline ingredients, tomatoes and onions (respectively), can create a chemical reaction with cookware material. This can cause the material to degrade and impart metallic flavors into the meal. Although the amount of metal that reacts with food and can be ingested is very small, there are some health concerns from prolonged exposure.
One way camping cookware manufacturers work around reactivity concerns is through the use of coatings like TeflonTM or enamel. These coatings generally serve two purposes when applied to the cooking surfaces. Firstly, they create a barrier between the reactive material and the food, preventing a chemical reaction from taking place. Secondly, they create a non-stick surface which allows food to brown without sticking.
Although widely used, coatings do have their limitations and are only as good as their adhesion to the base material. Excessive localized or prolonged exposure to heat can degrade this adhesion.
Additionally, coatings can be degraded by repeated abrasion. Once a coating is compromised, foods can begin to react with the base material, essentially eating underneath the coating. Eventually enough of the coating is detached from the base metal that if flakes off into the food. As with death and taxes, coatings are guaranteed to fail.
Conversely, nonferrous metals like aluminum and titanium can undergo a process called anodizing. Unlike coatings, which require adhesion to stick to the base material, the anodizing process converts the base material’s surface into an anodic oxide layer. Because the anodizing process chemically alters the base metal’s surface, it is less susceptible to mechanical and thermal degradation. This molecular alteration of the base material reduces the metal’s reactivity and improves the nonstick properties. Although the anodic oxide layer can eventually be compromised, anodizing is a great alternative to simply coating reactive materials with enamel or TeflonTM.
Now that we understand the science behind each of the material options let’s take a look at how the four most popular camp cookware materials measure up against each other.
The vast majority of our camp cooking is done using GSI’s Pinnacle line of cookware. It’s anodized aluminum body distributes heat uniformly across the cooking surface, even when cooking over the small burners found in modern cook stoves. The Pinnacle line also utilizes new Teflon coating technology on the cooking surface to produce a great nonstick surface. The aluminum’s exceptional thermal conductivity more than makes up for its relatively low heat capacity.
Although the majority of our camp cooking is done with the anodized aluminum cookware, there is still a special place in my heart for cast iron cookware. It is the style of cookware I grew up camping with and the material of choice for generations before me. Although it takes longer to heat up, and is prone to hot spots if heated too quickly, cast iron’s heft and heat capacity still makes it my go-to cookware material when I want to perfectly brown meat or saute vegetables.
So I guess, in a sense, there really isn’t one material that is the be all and end all for camp cookware. It would be easy to say, based on material properties, you should go and buy cookware made from a certain material but it isn’t that easy. Each one is really suited to different cooking needs. By selecting a material that best suits your cooking needs you can guarantee years of enjoyable camp cooking.
I would like to send a special thank you to Lodge Manufacturing Company and GSI Outdoors for answering all of my questions related to this article. We own, and continue to enjoy cooking with, equipment from both of these companies.
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Why do you attend off-road events? It’s a question that I often ask people who frequent organized events.
By Jonathan Harris: FJ Summit CoDirector. Special thanks to CoDirector Matt Robb for demographic information and CoFounder Time Terleski for historical background.
Photos by Rusty Childress, Main Event Imaging
Is it to experience off-roading in a safe, organized, environment? Is it to get new ideas for vehicles upgrades? Is it to spend time with old friends and meet new people? For me events are always for the later. Over the years, many off-road events have sparked meaningful relationships and some of my best friends came out of chance meetings with people on the trail, at vendor booths, at the group dinners and of course, at the raffles. This desire to connect with people was what brought me to the FJ Summit, and what has kept me coming back for more.
The FJ Summit started like many other events, on an online forum. A “national get-together for Fj Cruiser forum members” was first conceived in July 2006 on FJ Cruiser Forums. Jason Gottlieb (Bostonian1976) first proposed the idea and solicited inputs from forum members as to where to hold a “National Get-Together”. A spirited debate as to location ensued with the East Coast. Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, the Black Hills, Moab and Colorado being considered. “Cruiserpalooza”, an early working name, was starting to gel. Forum members including ( but not limited to ) Bostonian1976 (Chairman), CO-Jeff , Castle Rock FJ, VTFJC , FJR Colorado (Trail Boss), GsGmac, Valkyrie, T2Cruiser, Shane4x4, Miss FJ and The Nookie were the first participants in organizing what would later be named, by forum vote, “FJ Cruiser Summit”.
Five individuals. Jason Gottlieb, Seth Kovanic, Jeff Thompsen, Tim Terleski and Ty! Boyack made up the official Co-Directors year one. A not-for-profit corporation was formed, FJSummit.org, Inc. and the FJ Summit was born.
Year one could have been the last, if not for the terrific support and participation of the Toyota Trail Teams. Taking on the responsibility to be Trail Leaders, their experience and expertise made for a safe and successful event the first two years. In following years their expertise and mentorship was passed through the ranks and the FJ Summit eventually was able to take on these responsibilities. This process of passing the torch has continued every year since.
Fj Summit 2007 had approximately 375 participants with close to 200 vehicles. Ouray, Colorado, dubbed “The Switzerland of America” and the surrounding terrain proved to be the ideal location! What was discovered that first year was that FJ Summit not only brought together the drivers and their vehicles, it included their families as well. So many friendships were made and the realization that the event became a family oriented vacation destination resulted in the this unique off road event. Those first year participants spread the word and the foundation for the incredible growth, the incredible camaraderie, the generous charity and the continued fun that FJ Summit has become!
Over the year’s the Summit has grown to become one of the largest Toyota 4x4 events in the nation. Summit X had a total of 409 registered vehicles with 860 adults and 150 children 11 years of age or under for a total of 1,010 total participants. For perspective, the population of Ouray is about 1,100! Summiteers came from all across North America with representation from 43 states and Canadian provinces.
My favorite aspects of the Summit are the family friendly environment and the opportunity to introduce new off-roaders to the activity as a husband and father myself, I can say the Summit is hands down the best off-road event for families. With easy to moderate trails available, great accommodations and activities in ouray and activities for kids, there is something for everyone. Each year we have attendees ranging from those who have never shifted into 4x4 to world renowned expert drivers. For the former, we provide a 4x4 101 class, by Trail Teams alum, Brian “Woody”, Swearengen. We also provide recommendations for new drivers on easier trails and have our wonderful trail leaders work with them throughout the day.
Although the Summit is managed by four CoDirectors (Matt Robb, Chris Davis, James Krieger, and myself, we receive tremendous support from many of the founders who still attend each year. The event could not happen without our volunteers. All of those people that you meet, leading trails, folding shirts, stuffing swag bags and selling items at the store do it for the love of the event and the people around them. I am always blown away and humbled to have each and every one of them as part of the team.
If you have never attended the Summit in the past or are an old timer, we would love to see you at Summit XI. I think you will enjoy what you see. Until then, see you on the trail!
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Like a lot of people, I am disappointed Toyota does not offer the Trail Edition with a 3rd row seating option. We decided to settle on the SR5 because seating for more than 5 people was mandatory for our family. One option is to get a Trail Edition and add a 3rd row, but safety for my family is of the utmost importance. The SR5 includes additional air bags and safety equipment designed for the 3rd row. Being the engineer that I am, I decided to look a little further into the Crawl Control Circuit and see if it was somehow possible to put this into my SR5. Why not just go straight for lockers? I am a technology guy, and Toyota has really developed some great off-road Technology and I really wanted this over lockers to start with.
This year during the FJ Summit, Toyota invited journalists from around the country (including our Editor in Chief Beau Johnston) to join them on a multi-day Toyota Overland adventure. The route was planned, guided, and filmed by our friends at Expedition Overland.
Last year at SEMA Show, Senior Editor Dennis Lloyd and I were racing through the show, like we do, when suddenly I was stopped in my tracks. In front of me was a 2014 Tundra with a full truck tent + add-on ground tent. We were looking at the Napier Outdoors Sportz 57 Series with their new addition, the Sportz Link model 51000.