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What do you do when you’ve explored every FJ Summit trail in the Ouray-Silverton-Telluride area multiple times? Find something new.


Hema Explorer-Clear Lake

The Hema Explorer system helped to scout a high alpine lake that we’ve never explored. With a route planned in the cloud, I synced the tracks to my phone & tablet and downloaded the proper maps. We hit the pavement south of Ridgway, headed for Red Mountain Pass. 

After turning off the highway, we found a standard forest road complete with a washboard surface. We aired down to 22psi on the new tires, hit record on the app, and headed for the hills. 

Despite the cloudy & rainy day, we were able to find some really great views throughout the ~8 mile journey which included over 3,000ft in elevation gain. We spotted the Golden Horn a few times, along with several lakes, waterfalls, and great potential campsites. 

Hema Explorer-Clear Lake 

The end of our trip revealed a socked-in yet still beautiful Clear Lake. At an elevation near 12,000ft the lake is actually....quite clear. It’s also cold, and a really great place for lunch. Alas, the rain caught us so we enjoyed our sandwiches in the comfort of the GX. 

This trail is suitable for any stock 4x4 or SUV with low-range and you should plan 2-4 hours for a round trip, depending on how often you stop to capture the views. You can see our track on the Hema Explorer Cloud: http://hema.li/clrlkco

Hema Explorer-Clear Lake

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    The goal was to escape the August Texas heat and land me in an ideal spot for the solar eclipse. My plan was to start in Colorado by hitting sections of the Enchanted Rockies Trail, stop off at Canyonlands National Park for an early morning sunrise photo at Mesa Arch (bucket list item), head north into Glacier National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, then finish the trip by meeting a group of fellow Toyota off-roaders in central Wyoming for the solar eclipse.


    I already had a long list of things I wanted to get done for my 2007 4Runner, but planning didn’t stop there. I had just sold my XVenture trailer in hopes of buying a teardrop style enclosed trailer rugged enough for medium difficulty trails. This meant getting a new trailer ready. For eclipse preparation, telescope and lens filters had to be researched and ordered. Wildlife photography was my primary goal in the national parks, so I bought a few guidebooks on where to locate wildlife. Books don’t do much good if you don’t have time to read them, and time was quickly working against me as the trip date approached.

     

    Singer 240-amp Alternator and NorthStar 27 AGM Battery  

    My 4-year-old 31 group Marine battery had already toasted 2 alternators, and was struggling to stay above 50% after 3 days of being parked. The need for a new battery and a higher output alternator prior to the trip was the top priority. I jumped on a group buy for a NorthStar 27 group AGM battery. Having edited Brian Patton’s dual battery article in the Spring issue of TCT Magazine, I knew about Singer Alternator. Knowing I would be charging a 2nd 27 group battery located in the trailer while driving, the higher amperage was a requirement. After spending an hour on the phone with Mike Singer, I was confident the recommended 240-amp alternator with lifetime warranty was the right solution. Toyota specialist Pablo Moreno, owner of Tandem Automotive in Fort Worth, TX, did the alternator install and testing. During the alternator swap, he noticed my belt tensioner was in bad shape and possibly wouldn’t make the journey. Glad he discovered it before I hit the road.  

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    Kenwood DMX7704s and Kenwood CMOS-230 Backup Camera 

    My 4Runner came with the JBL audio system, which sounds pretty good. However, at 173,000 miles, the head unit was suffering signs of potential failure. For a replacement, I wanted a large screen, but the units with built-in navigation cost nearly double of those without. I also didn’t want a CD/DVD player. The Kenwood DMX7704s seemed like the ideal solution:  priced at $500, 7-inch screen, no CD/DVD, digital equalizer, and it comes with a GPS antenna, but no navigation software. Instead, it relies on a smartphone to provide the navigation software via Apple Car Play or Android Auto. Coupled with the TYTO-01 amp interface, the Kenwood unit utilizes the JBL amp and the result is an improved sound quality. Even Sirius XM sounds great. I added the Kenwood CMOS-230 Backup Camera for safety.  

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    4x4 Labs Rear Bumper with Dual Swingouts

    My previous rear bumper had a single swingout, which became quite heavy when spare tire, HiLift Jack, and 2 cans of fuel were attached. I struggled to get it closed at times. Worse, I couldn’t open it when a trailer was attached. I sought out a dual swingout solution that would meet my needs and decided on the 4x4 Labs model. In addition to designing the rear bumper to my specs, Luke at 4x4 Labs suggested I go with the optional drop-down aluminum table and drop-down cutting board. I placed the order and started psyching myself up for the install—there were 2 install steps that had me a bit nervous:  cut off the rear crossmember, and cut 3-inches off the rear frame. Doing so allows the bumper to be positioned further into the truck while serving as the new rear crossmember. The swingouts come with small shocks to prevent slamming them shut. The table and cutting board drop-downs are mounted with bicycle quick-release axles, and can be removed when not traveling. The bumper angles offer superb clearance and the fabrication pieces offer excellent protection. 

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

     

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    GOBI Roof Rack and Front Runner Monsoon Bag

    I always wanted a GOBI. My previous 2 roof racks were lower cost solutions, but lacked the ability to haul gear securely and were noisy. I joined in on a group buy and 3 months later, I had the roof rack I should’ve purchased years ago. My aluminum travel boxes fit snuggly in the rear while the Front Runner Monsoon Bag fits securely in the middle. I used a pair of Front Runner Stratchits to keep the bag to the rack. The newly released bag (see the New & Noteworthy section of this same issue) is waterproof, rugged, and carries a sizeable amount of cargo. The bag has an air release valve, which is necessary to open when sealing the bag. Once the bag is tight, close the valve and everything inside stays dry. I was in the Colorado Rocky Mountains for 2 days of solid rain, while the bag was mounted on the roof rack. All of the bag contents remained dry.  

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

     

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    We have had an on-again, off-again relationship with Cooper Tires ever since we purchased our 1998 4Runner in 2006. We initially ran a set of their Adventurer A/T and a set of their Discoverer S/T tires before embarking on a five-year, 82,000 mile fling with remolded tires. That fling ended tragically last July with a sidewall failure and blowout as we were traveling through Montana. It was then that I reachedout to our readership to ask which tire you would want us to review. Much to my surprise, you overwhelmingly asked for us to review the Cooper Tire Discoverer S/T MAXX. So, we reached out to Cooper Tire, and three weeks later I had five brand new 285/75R16 tires sitting at my house.


    As with its more aggressive sibling, the Discoverer STT Pro, the Discoverer S/T MAXX utilizes Cooper’s patented 3-ply “Armor-Tek3®” construction, which consists of a full 3-ply carcass. The third ply is overlapped at an 8-degree angle to produce a 66% stronger and 2.5 times more tear resistant side wall compared to the Discoverer S/T. The S/T MAXX also features a new, and proprietary, cut and chip resistant blend of natural and silica-based rubber compound for the tread. Cooper Tires’ goal with combining these two elements into the S/T MAXX was to produce a tire that is “built for demanding off-road use to give you the confidence of having a tire that is built to last.”

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    I explained the backstory at the beginning to set in your mind where I am coming from when writing about my experience with the Discoverer S/T MAXX. Over the last year our set of Discoverer S/T MAXX tires have seen just under 10,000 miles of mixed driving. They have seen everything from hot pavement to muddy back country roads and snowy winter driving. So now that we are a year in to running them, I would like to take the opportunity to reflect on how well the S/T MAXX tires have performed.

    Dry Pavement Traction
    I am starting with the dry pavement traction first because I believe this is the only area where I found the S/T MAXX to be, well, underwhelming. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad. I say this after driving for over five years on softer remolded tires. The S/T MAXX’s cut and chip resistant tread compound, I believe, makes for a harder/stiffer tread which provides less grip than I am used to. This is not to say that I slid all over the highway while driving but did have to slow down while cornering on roads I have been driving for the last five years.  

    Rating - 3 tires

    Wet Pavement Traction

    I was surprised when, after driving on dry pavement for a few weeks, we experienced our first monsoonal rainstorm. Much to my surprise the S/T MAXX performed beautifully. Even in a heavy downpour and standing water on the roadway, I experience little to know hydroplaning. I attribute this to the tire’s 4-5 rib tread pattern and the natural and silica rubber compound.  

    Rating -  4 tires

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    Off-Road Traction

    Off-road traction is really where the S/T MAXX shines. Whether driving on dirt and gravel roads, sand, or muddy water crossings: this tire chews up the terrain. It is a far contrast from my experience on dry pavement. Without a doubt, these tires either find traction or they somehow make it. Even with open differentials, I have only struggled to find traction twice in the last year. The first was when I buried the 4Runner to the frame in snow and had to use our MAXTRAX to get out. The second was an off-camber corner where one back tire slid into a gully and I had to be pulled out.

    Rating - 5 tires

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    Winter Traction

    As with my experience driving on dry pavement, I found the S/T MAXX to provide average traction during the winter. I believe the cut and chip resistant rubber tread compound limits the tire’s ability to find grip when driving on snow and ice. We experienced several weeks of sub-zero weather here in Central Wyoming and the cold weather only proved to cause the tread rubber to become even stiffer.  

    Because I run these tires year-round I chose to not run studs in the tires.

    Rating -  3 tires

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    Ride Quality

    After running a remolded copy of the Goodyear MT/R for over five years, I had forgotten what it was like to not hear the MT/R whine. It boggles my mind that the S/T MAXX are so quiet driving down the highway and interstate, considering the aggressive tread. All of our tires balanced beautifully with minimal counter weights which is a great test of build quality. Our four primary tires remained balanced until I installed the ARB internal TPMS kit, which forced a rebalance.  

    Rating -  5 tires

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    Tread & Tire Life 

    As I mentioned earlier, we have driven just under 10,000 miles on this set of four Discoverer S/T MAXX tires. In that time, I have had the tires rotated three times and have experienced zero issues. A quick survey of our four primary tires revealed zero chipping or other tread damage. A quick measure showed that the tires have lost 3.5/32nds. If this wear rate stays consistent, we should easily see this set of tires lasting 45-50,000 miles before they would need to be replaced when the tread reaches a depth of 2/32in.

    I am also pleased overall with how well the tire has lasted. The sidewalls, despite rubbing up against curbs, rocks, and tree roots, still look great and show no signs of damage.   I am also pleased overall with how well the tire has lasted. The sidewalls, despite rubbing up against curbs, rocks, and tree roots, still look great and show no signs of damage.   

    Rating -  5 tires

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    Conclusion

    I came back to Cooper Tires thanks to you, our readers, and I am glad I listened to your request for this tire review. Despite my gripes with its dry and winter traction, I have really enjoyed driving on the Discoverer S/T MAXX tires. I would, without reservation, recommend this tire to anyone looking for an aggressive all-terrain tire that is capable of tackling demanding backcountry trails and doesn’t compromise a daily commute. This is not to say that the Discoverer S/T MAXX is the perfect tire. As with everything, there are tradeoffs. I believe the MAXX sacrifices some on-road performance in favor of off-road performance, and that is something I am okay with. 

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    Vehicle & Tire Specifications

     Tire specifications

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    Specifications
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    "You know you’d love another project, you need one."

    —Angie Williams 

    More true words have never been spoken.


    To New Beginnings - Our GX-460

    If you’ve followed our publication for long you’ll know that we've always tried to focus on interesting topics, vehicles, and ideas to help get you out into the great unknown with your Toyota truck or SUV. Our journey has been covered in great detail within these pages.... now the next chapter begins. 

    To New Beginnings - Our GX-460

     

    To New Beginnings - Our GX-460

    As our lives change, so do our needs for daily transportation and weekend exploration. Our original TRD FJ Cruiser served us well for nearly 10 years, however as our family grew, we had to move on. Our 2007 GX-470 was a great vehicle, but came along around the same time that we needed to do a 'flagship' build (See TCT Explorer 2015-2016). The Tundra is still by all accounts almost the perfect exploring vehicle, and will be missed in our stable. Alas, daily driving, mileage, and my 'need' for a new project all resulted in our latest vehicle. "Project 4"  

    To New Beginnings - Our GX-460

     

    To New Beginnings - Our GX-460

    The Lexus GX 460 is by no means an unknown or unproven vehicle. In most parts of the world, this platform is known as the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 150. It's closely related to the 5th Gen 4Runner, and enthusiasts throughout North America already have great builds for inspiration.

    To New Beginnings - Our GX-460

    So why is the 460 the best fit for our next project?

    To New Beginnings - Our GX-460 

    First, its Land Cruiser & Toyota heritage means that we know it will be a solid truck for many years. Ours is a 2012 model with just over 70,000 miles on the clock. Just barely broken in from a Toyota perspective.  

    To New Beginnings - Our GX-460

    Also, the newer version of the GX includes the more efficient 4.6L 1UR-FEV8 engine, the same that powers small V8 Tundra trucks. At 301hp and 329ft lb of torque we have plenty of power to get us anywhere we want to explore. That power also hauls or pulls whatever gear is required for just about any adventure.

    To New Beginnings - Our GX-460

    Finally, since the 460 debuted in 2010 as a luxury vehicle, they are just now starting to price down to what we consider a 'normal' level for an off-road or overland build. Finally, since the 460 debuted in 2010 as a luxury vehicle, they are just now starting to price down to what we consider a 'normal' level for an off-road or overland build. 

    Unlike the TCT Explorer, which was essentially a show truck with a thirst for dirt, the GX will be more of a 'sleeper'. We're two months in and so far, we've only added tires (See Economical A/T Sidebar). Next on the list are sliders from Metal Tech 4x4, followed by a fully tuned suspension with minimal lift from Toytec Lifts. We’re also looking at a Pioneer rack system from Rhino Racks, USA as a great lightweight option. Beyond those basic modifications, we'll see where the wind takes us.  

    To New Beginnings - Our GX-460

    Our goal for the GX-460 is to show how with very little effort, a luxury SUV can be configured to travel anywhere a North American family wishes to explore. 

    Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and within the pages of this magazine to see how the GX-460 is an amazing family overland explorer! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and within the pages of this magazine to see how the GX-460 is an amazing family overland explorer! 

    Economical A/T (Sidebar) 

    We expect to own the GX-460 for many years, so we'll likely try many sets of tires for the truck, which is primarily daily driver along with very little towing, and some trail use. 
    The choice for our first set seems like it was 'meant to be'. Let me explain. Less than one week before FJ Summit XI we suffered a small hole in an old tire, so we needed something quickly. Price is always a consideration, but we also knew we needed to move from a standard passenger tire to a slightly more aggressive all terrain, while maintaining as much efficiency as possible.

    A search of available options in our area led (as it almost always does) to Discount Tire. I found the economical "Trailfinder" A/T at the local store, but couldn't find any information about it online. More of an entry level tire than other options, this tire is exclusive to DT and is offered as "dependable performance and excellent value", and comes with a 45,000 mile warranty. That equals about two years of daily driving and a few off-road trips. Also, since this is a very new offering with little information published, it presents the perfect opportunity to test an entry level, economic option. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as we post updates on this tire over the next few months and years. 

     

    Tire Details:  

    Size: 275/65R18 

    Load Rating: 116 (2705lb) 

    Weight: 9lb/tire heavier than OEM (36lb total)

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    With sunlight fading, we pushed the accelerator closer to the floor. Our perfect campsite was still several miles away on the shores of Lake Powell. We needed to get there before dark.  The narrow, overgrown trail allowed for good speed but hid rocks and ruts that could cause serious damage at speeds.


    Slinky Stage 4

    I was clipping along in my 80 series, at almost 70 mph through the sage and yucca, when cresting a rise I found myself nearly on top of the next big bump with no time to scrub speed.  I got light in my seat. The truck left the ground briefly.  There was now a long straight section of trail mostly obscured by desert grass.  I mashed the throttle and the needle passed 70.  Just as I felt confident to keep accelerating a deep, sharp ditch across the trail came into view through the grass.  Again too late to drop speeds, I accelerated to try to get the truck to carry across the gap instead of hitting a low point.  I prepped myself for a big hit.  I was clipping along in my 80 series, at almost 70 mph through the sage and yucca, when cresting a rise I found myself nearly on top of the next big bump with no time to scrub speed.  I got light in my seat. The truck left the ground briefly.  There was now a long straight section of trail mostly obscured by desert grass.  I mashed the throttle and the needle passed 70.  Just as I felt confident to keep accelerating a deep, sharp ditch across the trail came into view through the grass.  Again too late to drop speeds, I accelerated to try to get the truck to carry across the gap instead of hitting a low point.  I prepped myself for a big hit.

    As time slowed my mind considered all of the parts in the front end that were going to be broken. Bang! The distinct noise was not as bad as I expected. Even more shocking: other than the noise, the truck didn’t disintegrate.  I slowed to a stop to check the damage.  No bent steering. Control arms still straight.  Nothing leaking.  The suspension seemed to just grin at me, mockingly saying, "is that all you’ve got?"

    A year earlier I had upgraded the suspension on my 80 to a new kit coming out of Australia.  The Stage 1 Slinky Long Travel kit.  I was intrigued by the tapered wire, dual rate coils, and the Australian spec ICON 2.0 shocks.  Fast forward 12 months later and I had almost 20k miles on this suspension from daily driving, to 7-8,000 off-road miles of slow speed rock crawling and high speed desert running.  If you want to find out what I thought about the Stage 1 Kit, take a look back at the Summer 2016 Issue of TCT Magazine and you’ll find my review.  In sum, I believe the Slinky kits are the best all-around performance suspension available for the 80 series when considering bolt-on kits and not going full custom. A year earlier I had upgraded the suspension on my 80 to a new kit coming out of Australia.  The Stage 1 Slinky Long Travel kit.  I was intrigued by the tapered wire, dual rate coils, and the Australian spec ICON 2.0 shocks.  Fast forward 12 months later and I had almost 20k miles on this suspension from daily driving, to 7-8,000 off-road miles of slow speed rock crawling and high speed desert running.  If you want to find out what I thought about the Stage 1 Kit, take a look back at the Summer 2016 Issue of TCT Magazine and you’ll find my review.  In sum, I believe the Slinky kits are the best all-around performance suspension available for the 80 series when considering bolt-on kits and not going full custom.

    Back to the story that I started with... we were on our third day of a product testing trip. We had several hundred off-road miles from St. George to Moab, UT, with Darren McRae, of Autocraft the creator of the Slinky kits, and US distributor counterparts. We also had a handful of Slinky customers or prospective customers.  Before the trip, we visited IH8MUD headquarters just outside of St. George to use Woody’s shop lift so I could upgrade my suspension yet again.  This time I was stepping up from the Stage 1 to the Stage 4 shocks.

    I want to focus on the differences and pros and cons to the different Slinky shock options. The Stage 1 shocks are an ICON 2.0 smooth body IFP shock that has been valved and tuned by Darren specifically for the 80 series. For those looking to get to another level of performance with their 80, but still need to fit in a budget, these Stage 1 2.0 shocks are the best smooth body shocks I’ve experienced in my 20 years of 80 series ownership.I want to focus on the differences and pros and cons to the different Slinky shock options. The Stage 1 shocks are an ICON 2.0 smooth body IFP shock that has been valved and tuned by Darren specifically for the 80 series.  For those looking to get to another level of performance with their 80, but still need to fit in a budget, these Stage 1 2.0 shocks are the best smooth body shocks I’ve experienced in my 20 years of 80 series ownership.

    In contrast, the Stage 4 ICON shocks are a 2.5 remote reservoir (front) and a 2.5 piggy back reservoir (rear) that, when combined with the Slinky Long Travel coils, create the triple threat setup.  A number of things make the Stage 4 shocks unique and different from the Stage 1’s.  First, it starts with a ͞flutter stack͟ in the valving to allow some movement of the shock shaft before full valving sets in.  This provides a supple ride with a higher fast piston speed valving code.  Think of corrugated roads when you haven’t aired down your tires from 45psi, no fun right?  Not anymore.  With the Slinky shocks, washboard roads now feel smooth and you wonder where that buzzing noise from the bumps is coming from.

    Second, the Stage 4 shocks have adjustable Compression Dampening Control (͞CDC͟).  The CDC secondary piston and valve stack stops the pintle style, restrictive ͞90 psi in the tires͟ feeling on sharp bumps when road driving and are typically less than half the line pressure of other adjustable shocks at fast piston speeds.  There are 8 different adjustability settings. Changing the setting is a simple turn of a dial. Stage 1 shocks are the equivalent of a setting of 4 on the Stage 4 CDC adjustment dial.No tools are needed, so it’s easy to make changes and dial in your ride for different conditions or vehicle loads in a matter of seconds. Second, the Stage 4 shocks have adjustable Compression Dampening Control (͞CDC͟).  The CDC secondary piston and valve stack stops the pintle style, restrictive ͞90 psi in the tires͟ feeling on sharp bumps when road driving and are typically less than half the line pressure of other adjustable shocks at fast piston speeds.  There are 8 different adjustability settings. Changing the setting is a simple turn of a dial. Stage 1 shocks are the equivalent of a setting of 4 on the Stage 4 CDC adjustment dial.No tools are needed, so it’s easy to make changes and dial in your ride for different conditions or vehicle loads in a matter of seconds. 

    Third, the Stage 4 Slinky shocks have a built in hydro bump zone at fast piston speed for when the piston goes past the top manifold.  What does all this mean for the average dude that isn’t a suspension engineer?  It means a dramatic increase in vehicle control and comfort not only on the road but in rough terrain. Both kits are available either in 50mm or 75mm lift heights with intermediate or heavy coil spring rates.  The shocks are a full 12͟ of travel, and the coils have a taller free height to stay seated in the coil buckets even at the limit of flex.  There is a full compliment of supporting components like adjustable track bars (panhards) and heavy duty rear lower control arms and adjustable upper control arms, along with brake lines and caster correction options to get everything set up correctly. 

    During the course of our testing trip we had vehicles with Stage 1 Slinky suspension, Stage 4 Slinky suspension, and without Slinky suspension.  We needed to cover a lot of miles in a short few days in order to get to Cruise Moab on time. We travelled fast.  The vehicles that were not Slinky equipped were unable to keep pace with the other trucks.  In trying to keep up, all non-Slinky equipped trucks had varying degrees of shock fade, with some having total shock failure.  This slowed them down even more as there was essentially no suspension dampening at all until the shocks cooled.  With the Slinky Stage 4 shocks, and piggy back and remote reservoirs there is enough oil in the shocks that it is virtually impossible to run them hard enough for a long enough amount of time to create any shock fade.  So, long off-road trips like this at high speeds are no big deal.  Not only is the truck less fatigued, but you as the driver are less fatigued after a long day on the trail.

    The excellent valving and adjustability of the Stage 4 shocks provides an entirely new level of confidence when driving an 80 series at higher speeds on rough terrain.  I stopped even thinking about rocks any smaller than a basketball in the trail.  The shocks just soaked them up.  Catching some air off that crest? No problem.  If you own an 80 series you know that they are heavy trucks right off the lot.  When built up with bumpers, winches, bigger tires, roof racks, rooftop tents, fridges, drawers and all the camping gear you bring along for days on the trail exploring and camping, they get significantly heavier.When you start to push speeds in an built 80 the truck will lean and wallow through corners. It can be unnerving to say the least.You also find your bump stops regularly when travelling fast.  That is just not the case with the Slinky suspension.   The excellent valving and adjustability of the Stage 4 shocks provides an entirely new level of confidence when driving an 80 series at higher speeds on rough terrain.  I stopped even thinking about rocks any smaller than a basketball in the trail. The shocks just soaked them up.  Catching some air off that crest? No problem.  If you own an 80 series you know that they are heavy trucks right off the lot.  When built up with bumpers, winches, bigger tires, roof racks, rooftop tents, fridges, drawers and all the camping gear you bring along for days on the trail exploring and camping, they get significantly heavier.When you start to push speeds in an built 80 the truck will lean and wallow through corners. It can be unnerving to say the least.You also find your bump stops regularly when travelling fast. That is just not the case with the Slinky suspension.  

    With my truck fully loaded and carrying one of the heavier roof tents on the market I was comfortably and confidently driving speeds in the dirt that far exceeded any speeds I would have ever attempted, even with an empty truck prior to having the Slinky suspension.  It would have been quite nerve-wracking to drive like that with other commonly used suspensions.

    In conclusion.  I spent a year with the Stage 1 shocks and was very happy with them.  The limitations of the Stage 1 shocks become evident at higher speeds.  I would occasionally ͞overrun͟ the Stage 1 shocks and bottom out through big bumps.  The Stage 1 shocks are fantastic for relatively lightweight 80s that aren’t burdened by lots of extra weight from modifications and gear.  But if you’re 80 has more than say a front bumper, a winch and some sliders you may want to consider stepping up to the Stage 4’s.They will handle the weight and give you the ability to make adjustments for when your truck is unloaded for daily driving or when it’s fully stacked for that two week trip down the Baja peninsula.  They will give you the confidence to know that when you run out of talent like I did in the story I began this article with, the suspension will soak up your mistakes, whether it’s a smooth landing or surprise hole in the trail.There is serious technology and engineering behind the Slinky suspension systems. It was developed specifically for the 80 series.  These kits have been tested and proven in Australia for years and it’s exciting to have these kits as an option for us here in the US.   In conclusion.  I spent a year with the Stage 1 shocks and was very happy with them.  The limitations of the Stage 1 shocks become evident at higher speeds.  I would occasionally ͞overrun͟ the Stage 1 shocks and bottom out through big bumps.  The Stage 1 shocks are fantastic for relatively lightweight 80s that aren’t burdened by lots of extra weight from modifications and gear.  But if you’re 80 has more than say a front bumper, a winch and some sliders you may want to consider stepping up to the Stage 4’s.They will handle the weight and give you the ability to make adjustments for when your truck is unloaded for daily driving or when it’s fully stacked for that two week trip down the Baja peninsula.  They will give you the confidence to know that when you run out of talent like I did in the story I began this article with, the suspension will soak up your mistakes, whether it’s a smooth landing or surprise hole in the trail.There is serious technology and engineering behind the Slinky suspension systems. It was developed specifically for the 80 series.  These kits have been tested and proven in Australia for years and it’s exciting to have these kits as an option for us here in the US.   

    If you are looking for top tier suspension performance for your Cruiser, I think this just might be the best.Slinky kits are currently available through Redline Land Cruisers and other US dealers are coming soon.

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    Outdoor Retailer turned a new page this past July as we saw its last show in Salt Lake City. It was a bittersweet trip for me as I drove over to Utah from Wyoming. Krista and I have been covering both OR’s Summer and Winter Markets since 2010. I know this pales in comparison to the 21 years Outdoor Retailer has graced the halls of the Salt Palace Convention Center but one cannot help but be a little nostalgic about the whole thing. We “grew up” in this outdoor editorial field while attending the shows in Salt Lake so part of me feels like we will be leaving home when the shows move to Denver, starting in January 2018.


    Outdoor Retailer Summer 2017

    Those manufacturers that chose to attend did so with some phenomenal gear. Although there wasn’t a clear ‘must have’ item, as we saw when standup paddle boards first came to the market, there were several items that caught our eye. Here are our top products from this year’s Summer Market.

    LifeSaver Jerrycan 20,000UF

    A robust and portable water filter capable of filtering 20,000 litres/5,282 US gallons of clean drinking water, removing viruses, bacteria, cysts and parasites instantly. The LifeSaver Jerrycan holds up to 18.5 litres of water at any one time and is designed to support those with a greater demand for clean water such as group expeditions, adventurers embarking on overland travel, families or those setting themselves up for off-grid living. MSRP: $224.96 URL: https://www.iconlifesaver.com/product/lifesaver-jerrycan-20000uf

    Gerber Center-Drive w/ Bit Set

    Gerber’s new multi-tool offers uncompromising performance through revolutionary design. The innovative center-axis driver opens to align like a real screw driver, yielding maximum torque and rotation. No productivity is sacrificed with the addition of a 30% longer outboard blade and one-thumb opening sliding jaws. Full size, real tools - the multi-tool just got a reality check. MSRP: $132URL: http://www.gerbergear.com/Activity/EVERYDAY/Center-Drive-w-Bit-Set_30-001194

    Thermacell Backpacker Repeller

    The Backpacker Repeller will be powered by camping gas canisters, such as butane propane mix, and will work with all leading brands. It uses an integrated Piezo lighter to heat the allethrin inflused Thermacell repellent mats, creating an odorless and invisible Zone of Protection. Allethrin is a copy of a natural repellent found in chrysanthemum flowers, which repels mosquitos, black flies and no-see-ums and is an alternative to DEET, which can ruin gear and irritate human skin. MSRP: $39.99URL: https://www.thermacell.com/products/mosquito-repellents/backpacker/backpacker-mosquito-repeller

    Coleman Northern Nova

    Fill your entire campground with light with the brightest Coleman® lantern, the Northern Nova™ Propane Lantern with Case. The patented tube-mantles shine brighter than standard versions, and this lantern doubles up on that brightness technology to produce 3000 lumens of light that reach up to 32.5 meters away. When you're ready to head home, the legs fold up for more compact storage in the included case until you're ready for your next bright adventure. MSRP: $149.99URL: https://www.coleman.com/northern-nova-propane-lantern/2000023099.html

    myCharge AdventureUltra

    The AdventureUltra is myCharge’s largest battery bank with the highest power output. Designed to replace the heavy and bulky generators used when tailgating or camping, the AdventureUltra is a more streamlined power source option that can run a 42-inch television for up to three hours. The compact device weighs 1.05 pounds and measures just 1.2 X 5.8 X 4.1 inches. The AdventureUltra has a maximum power output of 45 watts, enough to run a laptop or recharge a drone battery. MSRP: $129.99URL: https://mycharge.com/collections/adventure-series/products/adventureultra

    Pelican 24-Can Soft Cooler

    Offering a convenient and lightweight alternative to hard coolers, The Pelican™ Elite Soft Cooler is ADVENTURE READY. This 24-Can Soft Cooler is durable, easy to carry, waterproof, leakproof and keeps ice for up to 48 hours. Strap it on your kayak, stand up paddle board, ATV/UTV or take it with you on your next hike to the beach or lake. All Elite Soft Coolers feature a quick access dual-lock buckle system, 100% Leak proof TIZIP® Zipper, compression molded anti-slip base, and stainless steel tie-down and bottle openers. MSRP: $279.99URL: http://www.pelican.com/us/en/explore/soft-coolers/

    CampMaid 12” Outdoor Cookout Grill Set

    Quite possibly the Swiss Army Knife of Dutch oven cooking. Outfit your Overland vehicles with the CampMaid cooking tools pack - the ultimate compact outdoor camp kitchen that transforms into multiple uses - a smoker, pizza oven, grill, griddle, steamer, baking, & more! The 12” Outdoor Cookout Grill Set includes CampMaid’s patented 12' Lid Holder & Serving Stand, Flip Grill, Charcoal/Wood Holder Heat Source, KickStand, Charcoal Chimney, pre-seasoned Dutch oven and carry bags. MSRP: $215.99URL: https://campmaid.com/collections/campmaid-overland/products/8-piece-complete-outdoor-cooking-system

    Watershed Yukon Duffle

    The Yukon duffel is the ideal size bag for 2-5 day river expeditions. There is room for a summer-weight sleeping bag, tent and some gear, or it could be used in tandem with other Watershed bags for food storage on a group trip. The bag also makes a great comprehensive ditch bag for long range marine use. MSRP: $159 URL: http://www.drybags.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Session_ID=e0868dd6a425fe6e0154f7ce644fce92&Screen=PROD&Store_Code=D&Product_Code=FGW-YUK&Category_Code=Duffels

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    Published in Summer 2017

    With a constantly growing show, we’re seeing more and more new companies emerge in the aftermarket industry.  Around every corner we’re seeing new innovation pushing the boundaries of the automotive industry.  

    Published in Latest News

    Both inside and out, we been seeing some impressive builds and great new product at this year’s SEMA Show.  Big, small, new and old these builds can give even a seasoned SEMA attendee some serious whiplash!

    Published in Latest News

    Although Toyota strayed away from displaying any off-road vehicles this year, exhibitors around the show still had a good showing for Toyota enthusiasts to flock around.

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    As I surveyed the dirt roads of the BLM land surrounding the Castle Gardens Petroglyph site, I took note of the variety of numerous camping rigs sprinkled across the land. It was as if Overland Expo was sharing space with a Retro Glamping event, and first-time-ever campers. The total eclipse of 2017 attracted an unprecedented amount of attention. The plentiful public lands in Wyoming made it an ideal target for eclipse chasers. With a population of just over 585,000 people, some news sources speculated that the population number doubled on the day of the eclipse.


    2017 Total Solar Eclipse

    Picking out first-time campers was quite easy:  no shade, no table, tent set up right next to the road, and car parked partially in the road. Some people didn’t even bring chairs, so they sat on the ground and leaned against their vehicles. Seems it took an eclipse to get people to leave their comfort zone and experience the great outdoors. Hopefully they took note of the gear used by others and will want to pursue natural escapes. 

    2017 Total Solar Eclipse

    A group of fellow Toyota off-roaders started organizing an eclipse gathering back in 2012. Castle Gardens area was the chosen destination. I received my invite in 2016 and started planning the telescope situation. Despite all the planning and the multiple eclipse photography tutorials and articles I endured, my preparation was still inadequate. I didn’t capture the eclipse quite how I envisioned. Fortunately, I learned my lessons and have 7-years to prepare for the next total eclipse.

    2017 Total Solar Eclipse

    I arrived at Castle Gardens on Friday, August 18 found one of the organizers, Bob Devereux, and his wife sitting next to their 80-series Land Cruiser enjoying the setting sun. My friend Stan Gibson was the next to arrive. When the last bit of sunlight vanished, I treated my camp mates to an evening of deep space objects viewing. Using an 130mm aperture apochromatic refractor, we examined galaxies, nebula, and star clusters. We finished with the Andromeda Galaxy—an object so large that it fills even the lowest power eyepiece. I always enjoy sharing views through my telescope with people who have never experienced a telescope in dark skies. Hearing the expressions of amazement make it worth the effort. 

    2017 Total Solar Eclipse

    2017 Total Solar Eclipse

    The next day, as more friends arrived, I set up the Hydrogen-Alpha dedicated solar telescope (Lunt 60THa). This filtered telescope displays surface detail of the sun, as well as solar flares at the edge of the sun. A set of sun spots across the middle resembled the Caribbean Islands. Two large solar flares, each capable of holding 5 to 6 earths, were visible. 

    2017 Total Solar Eclipse

    On eclipse day, the human presence was strong. Dead rattlesnake carcasses were scattered across the dirt roads—evidence of the numerous vehicles that drove into the Castle Gardens area the previous night. Reports of a rave party was shared by frustrated amateur astronomers, who lost their dark skies to the glamping and party lights. Roadside rookie campers were subjected to dust as vehicles sped down the dirt roads as though they were shooting a Mad Max scene. 

    2017 Total Solar Eclipse

    Fortunately, the organizers for the gathering I was with had found us a spot up on a hill next to a cliff. Accessing this area required high clearance. We thought we were safe from the herds of rookie campers. While most vehicles that attempted to come up in our direction were defeated, a little AWD Subaru wagon with paper tags managed to conquer the high clearance road, take a left and drive right into the middle of our campsite. Realizing we were not the droids he was looking for, he turned around. 30 minutes later, he was back, and this time he tried driving through the middle of our campsite. One of the guys sprinted past the Subaru and stopped the lost and confused driver before he damaged his new car and our camping gear. 

    The cookie-bite look of the sun greeted us after breakfast on eclipse day. It wasn’t long before the morning sunshine was more yellowish-orange than white and people were looking up with their ISO-certified cardboard specs. I was feverishly shooting bracketed photos through 2 DSLR cameras attached to 2 different telescopes. One was equipped with a dark ND filter, the other with a white light solar filter. Totality came too fast. I removed the filters and started capturing the corona and solar flares. After 2 minutes and 20 seconds, totality was over. People were cheering. It was truly a moving experience. Light increased and I tried to capture the diamond ring effect. Turns out, it is better to shoot that through long focal length camera lens than through a telescope. Lesson learned. 

    2017 Total Solar Eclipse

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