bajarackBaja Rack has introduced a new basket insert option for your FJ Cruiser. It’s not a full length basket, which means you’ll have a little room at the rear of your rack to use as you like. It ships with an airdam and has tabs for up to four lights.
This basket does not increase the height of your FJ, so if you fit in your garage now you still will after this basket. A stretch net is also included. Look for a full review in an upcoming issue of FJC Magazine.

More details & info at

Published in October 2009

When it comes to expedition style travel many of us have that classic image of the solo explorer traversing dissolute dunes or fighting through dense jungle. In reality, it is more likely to be that other classic scene with dad screaming "don't make me pull this truck over" while the wife sits with her arms crossed and the kids in the back pinch and punch each other. Well truth be told, with a little pre-planning, some habit changes and a bit of post trip debriefing your family will transform into a laughing, talking memory making machine.

Published in October 2009

{tab=AirLand Roof Top Tent}
My intentions with my FJ are setting it up for daily driver, off roading, overlanding, and expeditions. In this article I’m going to discuss the the Maggiolina AirLand medium tent, which was purchased in March of 2008. Most of the mods I have done to the rig are to make it self sufficient when away from home, so the AirLand is a very necessary item. This roof top tent allows me to camp on a whim so to speak, since it only takes a few minutes to set it up once you are parked.

I did an extensive amount of research online and in various outdoor forums, and came to the conclusion that this tent was the right one for me. Since it will pretty much be on the rig full time, a hard shell model was the best choice. I decided that other options that have canvas tops may not hold up quite as well  to the elements. This style is also easier to setup than most others on the market, and it is a well proven model used by many overland/expedition teams around the globe. Setting it up is as simple as inserting a hand crank in the side and turning it to lift the lid up and raise the canvas. Storing the tent is also very simple, just reverse the crank and stuff the canvas inside of the unit. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. (Video Demonstration)


Published in April 2009

{tab=Expedition Economics}



From the TV news to the radio talk shows and even the guys at the bar, everyone says times are tough and the economy is in the tank. Well, from the expedition travel standpoint things are as good as they have been in a long time, and they just keep getting better. Simply put: for a family of four, overlanding is a great way to save money while packing in a tremendous amount of history, scenery and experiences.

Before you go anywhere the savings start by going to the library for your research and surfing the web for sites and trip reports. History comes alive when you see it for yourself, and borrowing a few books on the areas you plan to visit will give a unique historical perspective. You can also engage your kids since the stories of gold mines, gunfights, battlefields and more can turn a pile of rocks into a king’s castle with a little imagination.


Published in April 2009
Discipline makes the difference.

Those of you who have followed my “Expedition Wheeling” articles know that I have tried to lay out the contrast between overlanding and recreational 4wd use. There is one area that really illustrates those differences. Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with snorkels, fridges or even a roof top tent.  The simple daily routines of vehicle dependent overlanding that sets it apart is the discipline to record your route log, backup the camera memory, charge the batteries for tomorrow, look over that rig and fix the little things and most importantly assessing your plan that keeps the “expedition” from falling apart.

When we venture from home on a day trip or long weekend, the risk of getting stranded or having a major breakdown is not really any different than if we are crossing the desert southwest for three weeks. The difference is shown in regard to our remoteness or distance from home & rescue. When overlanding, your trust is put in your rig and your self repair ability. The best way to keep things running smoothly is to fix little problems before they become big problems. And that requires daily checks. These checks are best done in the daylight and with time for repairs. Obviously, that is not in the morning when everyone else is ready to hit the trail or you are still hugging that steaming cup of caffeine.
Published in January 2009

We each take a trip when we pull out of the driveway, and those trips sometimes become adventures, but what does it mean to embark on a true expedition? While it's fun to use the term 'expedition' to give our trips or adventures a cool sound, it’s important to know the difference and understand why overlanding is gaining in popularity.

Published in October 2008
When the word expedition is used, many people think of grueling treks across the barren Sahara or the wild harshness of the Outback. In reality, overlanding is usually as comfortable as a picnic in your backyard. You have a crisp salad, a cold beverage, a comfy bed, and plenty of time to relax around the fire at night.
There are many pieces of equipment that set overlanders apart from the crowd running day trips or weekend jaunts. From the fridge, the roof top tent, to the hot shower at the end of the dusty trail, it is the thought process of expedition travel (and the gear to keep you going day after day) that makes the difference.

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Published in July 2008

Racing legend Rod Millen has said “Preparation is key, the event is just a formality.” This holds true for a race, a job, or a long distance trip. Another great anonymous quote is “There are no big problems in life, just small ones that didn’t get dealt with”. I am quickly learning the difference between a week-long, free spirited, camping trip and an expedition that is time-line dependent, goal oriented, and multi-vehicle. Jump in the passenger seat and come along for the ride!

It's hard to know where you're going and what you should be doing along the way without a “why”. When it comes to a weekend trip you might just want to get out of town for a bit. However, when it comes to a longer expedition style trip there is usually a goal in mind. That goal is your “why”. It could be to transverse Death Valley, visit Copper Canyon in Mexico, or even retrace the Baja 1000 route. No matter what the goal, it influences time-line, fuel needs, food choices, water supply and more. The goal will direct your planning and without a clear goal there isn’t a clear plan.


Published in April 2008

{tab=Expedition Ready FJ Cruiser}
When I tell people my FJ Cruiser is an expedition style 4x4, they often ask “Exactly what does ‘expedition style’ mean?”“Expedition style is the idea of multi-day, off-highway, destination-bound, vehicle-dependent travel.”  I know your scrabble boards and crossword puzzles are packed away, and I shouldn’t have jammed all that into one phrase, but that encompasses our purpose. Maybe it would be easier to tell you what expedition style 4x4 is NOT and work backwards from there.{mosimage}

Not A Day Trip
The vehicle is not a single seat buggy built for day trips or to be trailered.  Instead, it is able to safely and comfortably take you and a companion many hours down a paved highway before you get to your chosen trailhead.  Not to forget, it has to be capable of taking you on extensive off-road terrain to complete your journey.

The vehicle is not a wide-tire running, mud bogging, tree branch slashing, swamp stomper, but self-recovery from mud, swamps, or obstacles may be necessary.  The driver of an expedition vehicle should have gear on board and the knowledge to assist with vehicle recovery.

The vehicle is not a long travel equipped, sand dune bashing, light up the night like a stadium, Baja racer. However, it should be able to cross sand dunes, traverse washes, supply enough light to travel safely at night and usually provide side or rear light for setting up camp.  As you can see, many things are desirable to help in your expedition wheeling experience, the difference is, not doing each thing to extremes, just being equipped for each situation. 

The mention of camping brings us to the most obvious “not” of all, the vehicle is not just to take you to another asphalt car campground full of giant RV’s and electric hookups. Instead, the vehicle is equipped with the intention of getting to those long lost or even recently forgotten hideaways of historic or scenic beauty. We find places that would inspire anyone to build an expedition style 4x4 capable of staying a few days to make it all worthwhile.

Of course, at this point in the conversation most people start asking questions about lifts, lights, winches, roof racks, gear, fridges and fantastic solar power setups. Before we go there, I would like to touch a bit more on the issue of why and what is different about the expedition style build.

The question of why to build in the expedition style is usually answered when a person finds that they either want to go farther than a day trip away from home, or they hear about a ghost town that would be incredible to visit first hand or they read a magazine article about some back country area that not too many folks visit. People that enjoy expedition wheeling  wish to combine the adventure of off highway 4x4 travel with a destination or desire that a single seat buggy or day run through the swamp just doesn’t fulfill.

What Is Different?
While much of the gear used by an expedition equipped rig is the same as other off-roaders, it’s the thought process behind the build that makes the rig an expedition vehicle. An expedition vehicle is more concerned about overall weight since it has an effect on handling, fuel consumption, power and recovery. The expedition builder has to know both the curb weight and gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of his rig since that equals the maximum payload that should be carried. In the case of the FJ Cruiser you are looking at 4x4 with a curb weight of 4290 lbs and a GVWR of 5570 lbs which means a payload 1280 lbs. Figure in a couple of 200 lb people, food, fuel, water, gear; and you may very well already be at the max payload.

An expedition vehicle also has to give much more thought to space. Even a solo traveler on a multi-day trip who believes in the idea of Tread Lightly, will need to pack in and out camping gear, food, water and trash. Now, think about having enough gear to travel for three days in the back country with a family of four. Space, weight and safety become obvious concerns.

So now that we’ve covered the “lens” that the expedition minded builder looks through, we can start to talk generally about modifications and gear. Don’t worry, these will all be discussed with great detail in future articles.

The Basics
Your suspension does not have to be lifted and if it is, it should only be a slight lift. You can always pick the terrain or adventure that suits the vehicle rather than trying to overcome any obstacle. All four sides of the rig should have jack and recovery points to help you get out of trouble.  You'll need basic under armor since a cracked oil pan far from home would bring your expedition to a halt. You’ll need just enough lighting to drive safely and maybe something extra to help illuminate camp.

Speaking of camp, you'll need gear to make your stay comfortable. Your sleeping options are,  setting up the inside of your FJ with a sleeping platform, using tents, hammocks, or the ever coveted roof-top tent. Since you will likely want to eat on your adventure, make sure you have a higher quality cooler that will keep ice a couple of days. For longer trips, start looking into off-road ready fridges. Nothing beats traveling in the heat with ice cold drinks and snacks without anything soggy at the bottom.

{mosimage} Before an expedition, you'll need to be set up with gear to help foresee, avoid and get out of trouble. Items to start with include: navigation aids, such as a quality topo map, compass, GPS or laptop system, as well as extra food, fuel and water. Equally as important is communication gear, anything from cell to satellite phones, CB or amateur (HAM)  radio so you can talk to others and get help if needed.

So while an expedition style 4x4 can and will do most of the things any other 4x4 will do, the focus is on the journey and the desire to travel over multiple days.  These specific goals are why the build of an expedition rig is different than a rock crawler, swamp stomper, or a desert racer.  In future issues of FJC Magazine, I will help you to build your expedition 4x4.  We hope to see you out in the back country!

Lance works with The Expeditioneers , located near Phoenix, AZ.

{tab=Photo Gallery}

Published in January 2008

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