My Choice for Vehicle: Toyota 4Runner

Once I decided to get a 4WD vehicle for overlanding, I had to decide on the make/model. I considered the Landrovers, but their lack of reliability and dismal resale value coupled with exhorbitant repair costs steered me away from them. Are they capable 4WD vehicles? Absolutely; among the best in the world. But, I’m not made of money, and I don’t have wads of cash to throw away after a prestige brand.

I also considered Jeep for a brief moment, but many things kept me from considering it for long. First and foremost was my own experience with a Jeep CJ-5 I owned many years ago. It was fraught with problems, and it was a money pit when I could scarcely afford to throw money away. It was also not reliable when I needed a reliable vehicle. Was it great off-road? It was stellar! The times I took it off-road, from streams to trails to rocks, the CJ-5 was the off-roading king! But, I couldn’t rely on it, and I couldn’t afford the upkeep. As for other reasons, now that Jeep is owned by FIAT, their quality has declined and reliability and resale value are also lacking as compared to the king: Toyota.

I have owned only one Toyota before: a 1987 Celica. It was a great car, and it ran well after it should have quit on me. But there’s no killing a Toyota. I also sold it for far more than I’d ever sold any other vehicle of its age, and that holds true today with Toyotas. My sister has a Corolla she’s been driving for over 200,000 miles, and it still looks, rides, and runs great!

I have never been a huge fan of the 4Runners, yet I’ve respected their ability and utility. Much like spiders, they are beneficial, are capable, do a great job, and while some think they are scary looking, I see the beauty in them. They are an old design: body on frame. That’s how cars have been made since the Model-T, yet for off-roading, it’s a necessity. It allows for more strength and rigidity in the frame, and keeps much of the forces encountered balanced in the frame without relying on sheets of metal for strength (like body-frame vehicles).

4Runners are now in their fifth generation, yet the most recent generation is over a decade old. The vehicles have been so perfected and well-suited to off-roading that Toyota has seen no reason to make any serious updates to it aside from adding some technology updates to the 2020 models.

As compared to Jeeps and Landrovers, the 4Runner is a great compromise between the strengths of the other two, but excel in some areas that are as important, if not more important: reliability, cost of upkeep, and resale value. 4Runners have consistently remained in the top 10 vehicles in the US that hold their value the best. They are also consistently ranked among the top 20 vehicles for reliability.

I ordered my 2020 4Runner TRD Pro in Army Green back in October, 2019, and it’s expected to arrive in the first week of February 2020. It was made in Japan, and as I write this, it’s on the seas coming “Home” to Houston. I already have a plethora of gear, equipment, add-ons, and supplies ready for it. “The Pile,” is how my wife refers to it, as it sits in my home office, grows almost daily in anticipation of the 4Runner’s arrival.

Finally, one funny bit of trivia. I name all my cars. Ever since my 1970 VW Beetle named “Mathilda,” or my 1975 Chevy Impala named “MOM (for Make-Out Machine)”, my cars have all had names. My 2008 VW Hi-Def Passat was named “Heidi,” and my current 2017 Audi A4 is named, “Spaceship” for the futuristic all-LCD cockpit. In that vein, I’ve decided to name the 4Runner “Gunship” due to it’s utility and green color. It looks mean and ready for action like any good gunship.




If you’d have asked me 5 years ago if I’d like to go camping, I’d tell you to go get bent. There was no way. I preferred hotels and comfort. I was also over 300 lbs, and the thought of being outdoors while that heavy was unpleasant, at best.

I used to love camping as a kid. I used to camp with my grandparents and my parents, and I enjoyed the entire process, from setting up to tear down. I loved eating camp food, I loved keeping the fire going, and most of all, I enjoyed the quiet evenings with my dad or grandfather sitting around a crackling fire. The sounds, the smells, the serenity of it all.

What stoked this desire to not only go camping, but overlanding? My renewed service in the National Guard. Not even three months after I enlisted in the National Guard, I found myself out in the field at Fort Hood, and for lack of a better word, we were camping. Overlanding, actually, since we were camping with vehicles.

The strangest thing happened: I enjoyed it. Sure, it was hot. Damned hot. I was sweaty. I was assigned the night shift, and I had to try to get sleep during the day which, when it was over 100 degrees fahrenheit, was not an easy thing to do (I failed at it most days). But even through all that, I loved it. I enjoyed being outdoors, setting up my little one-man tent (they call it a Lightfighter, named for the brand of the tent), and being in that little, temporary world. When it rained, I was rewarded with staying dry since I had setup everything properly. When it got really hot, I had a poncho setup over my camp area (nestled between some trees) so I could have shade and open the sides of my tent to capture any slight breeze coming through. It was, for lack of a better word, glorious.

I was fortunate over the next three years to be able to go to the field a few times a year. One of those times was actually quite miserable. It was cold and rainy, and with a drizzle being the driest it was all weekend. But again, there’s something special about being in a tent with the rain dripping on it. You get the most amazing sleep (as long as you are using your air mattress!). On the first night, I was too tired to get the air mattress setup. I didn’t make that mistake the following two nights.

As an occasional tobacco pipe smoker, I also enjoy smoking at a camp fire. I will cherish my memories of smoking a pipe in the field on Fort Hood with a few senior NCO’s and officers. I introduced quite a few Soldiers to the pipe as well, and many have stuck with it in favor of cigarettes (which is a good thing, since cigarettes are filled with so many cancer-causing chemicals).

So, back to the original question: Why overlanding? Because I enjoy the challenge. Because I enjoy the outdoors. Because I enjoy hiking, biking, and traveling. I enjoy photography, and I want to get outside more while I can.

I’m going to be using this blog to follow my journey from purchasing a brand new 2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro through each adventure. I will discuss my thought process, and in so doing, I’m sure I’ll make some mistakes. I will try to learn from them, and hopefully, you will learn from them, too.

Welcome to PaleoMarine’s Overlanding Blog.


The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton