Phil's TRD Pro Tacoma

Phil's TRD Pro Tacoma

After 12 wonderful years of off-roading and exploring in a built-up 2007 4Runner, I put it up for sale in August 2019. The day after I posted the ad on social media, a couple arrived with cash. 

TRD Pro Tacoma Toyota Magazine

With our family adventure rig gone, I set my sights on the next chapter of Toyota off-roading. I took advantage of the August Toyota rebate incentives designed to clear the dealer lots of 2019 models and came home with a Voodoo Blue TRD Pro Tacoma.  

Let the build begin!

The 4Runner build was a gradual process spanning 6 years. My goal with the Tacoma was to achieve the build within 6 months. The first product I ordered was the Southern Style Offroad Slimline Hybrid Winch Bumper with the 20-inch Baja Designs LED light bar. For side protection, I chose RCI rock sliders, which arrived within a few weeks. For dashboard accessory organization, I chose a well-made product from Expedition Essentials:  the Tacoma 3rd Gen USB Powered Accessory Mount (3TPAM), which came with 2 USB ports and threaded holes for mounting RAM products. 

Southern Style Off-road Slimline Hybrid Winch Bumper with Baja Designs light bar and ComeUp SEAL Slim 9.5rs winch.

 sPOD switch panel mounted on top of the 3TPAM.

Expedition Essentials 3TPAM keeps accessories organized

To keep the back-end level when towing, I installed Firestone air bags. Since airbags require air, I installed an ARB air compressor in the engine bay using a Rogue Offroad bracket. Ditch lights are beneficial on backroads at night since they illuminate roadside wildlife, so those were next. I mounted CBI ditch light brackets and Cali Raised LED ditch lights, which have served their purpose well by revealing numerous deer. I also ordered Cali Raised Bed Stiffeners, Radio Antenna Mounts, and a center console tray.

Cali Raised bed stiffeners and Mountain Hatch tailgate liner.

To power electronics keep my fridge operational, I installed a X2Power 27F deep cycle battery from Batteries Plus and secured it with a battery tie-down from Off-Grid Engineering. For power switching, I installed the sPOD Bantam circuit system with HD switch panel. One of my favorite items is the Mountain Hatch, which replaced the rippled tailgate liner with a nice smooth surface.

X2Power 27F deep cycle battery secured with Off-Grid Engineering tie down.


sPOD Bantam circuit system.

During the final week of October, I departed Dallas and headed to Colorado for a week before heading west to Vegas for SEMA. I stopped off in Moab for a few days to try out the mostly stock Tacoma on some off-road trails I had conquered with my previous rig, I was very glad to have the RCI rock sliders installed. The long double-cab Tacoma wheelbase, 1-inch stock lift, and 31-inch stock tires contributed to exposure to high-angled obstacles. The sliders proved effective over and over.

As I wandered amongst the multitude of vendor booths at the nation’s largest automotive after-market industry show looking for items of interest for our TCT readers, I also paid attention to products for outfitting the Tacoma. 

My appointment with the Yakima team turned into a shopping trip. As the marketing rep walked me over to their new bed rack products, he pointed to a truck equipped with the new Yakima HD bed rack integrated with a Retrax Pro XR tonneau cover. Oh my! A solution that allows me to haul a roof top tent on a bed rack while securing my bed cargo with a locking tonneau cover. This combo moved to the top of my shopping list.

Kenda Klever R/T tires

ComeUp has a reputation for making high quality winches, and I had one of their 9.5 models installed in my 4Runner, so I stopped by their booth to see if something would fit in my forthcoming SSO winch bumper. I was introduced to their new SEAL Slim 9.5RS winch designed specifically for hidden winch bumpers. The slimmer profile makes for a better fit, which I confirmed several months later as I installed the bumper and SEAL Slim winch. 

I hopped between tire booths of all the big brands and thought I had narrowed down which 32” tire would be taking me across off-road terrain. TCT teammate Bob H. suggested I check out the Kenda booth. Known for their UTV/ATV line of tires, I was surprised to see they had 3 product offerings for full-size trucks:  an all-terrain, mud-terrain, and a rugged-terrain tire. It was the latter that impressed me the most, as it clearly exceeded the typical all-terrain tire in aggressive tread and sidewall, while being tamer than a mud-terrain. When I returned from SEMA, I chose the Kenda Klever R/T tires (265/70r17) and Fuel Vector wheels (17x8.5, -6 offset).

Kenda Klever R/T tires


In a previous issue of TCT, I wrote about my experience of trouncing through the Ozark National Forest after a rainy week turned rarely traveled forestry roads into a mud fest. I have since tackled off-road trails in Ouachita National Forest, Moab, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The tires performed above expectations on all types of terrain, including trails covered in snow. With 6,000 miles on the R/T tires, I noticed the tire wear is evenly distributed and minimal.

My Utah trip into Moab and Escalante areas involved hauling my 114-pound hardshell rooftop tent atop the Yakima HD bed rack system. Yakima offers three HD rack height options. Only the tallest option, called OverHaul, is adjustable in height. This is the ideal solution for long hardshell rooftop tents that extend over the cab. I raised the Overhaul HD towers by 2-inches, which was sufficient for my tent to clear the cab and satellite radio antenna.

I went with the optional Yakima SideBars for mounting Rotopax and Maxtrax. The towers are pre-drilled and threaded for easy install of the SideBars. The SideBars are adjustable, which is nice for owners of longer pickup beds who space their towers out further. Yakima deploys a t-slot system in the SideBars and manufactures an adapter for Rotopax mounts, as well as plates and straps for Maxtrax. The inner part of the towers have hooks protruding outward making it easy to hook in ratchet straps. 

Yakima HD Overhaul bed rack with Yakima SideBars fully integrated with Retrax Pro XR tonneau cover.

The Yakima system proved to be sturdy while off-roading, despite the 180 lbs limit when used with the Retrax tonneau cover.

The Yakima crossbars have t-slots, which makes it easy to mount accessories on top, such as ARB awning brackets, and Rigid scene lights underneath. There is a pin at the end of each crossbar making it convenient to hang a lantern, trash bag, or whatever. Yakima offers 3 crossbar sizes:  60, 68, and 78 inches. I opted for the 60-inch to match the width of the pickup bed. The load capacity when using the HD system with standard mounts is 300 lbs for off-road use. That rating drops to 180 lbs for off-road when using the Yakima tonneau mount kit for the Retrax Pro XR tonneau cover. Awning, rooftop tent, 2 full Rotopax, recovery boards, and lights quickly add up:  my load comes in at 168 lbs.

I am quite happy with the entire build. Yakima and Retrax provide a bed solution that keeps my gear dry, dust-free, and secured while carrying my hardshell rooftop tent. Kenda makes a tire that outperforms all the all-terrain tires I have owned in the past, while being more civilized than heavy and loud mud-terrains I’ve owned.  ComeUp makes a winch that fits easily into my SSO winch bumper. Expedition Essentials makes a dash accessory organizer that holds my smartphone, InReach, HAM radio console, and keeps the InReach and tablet charged. 

TRD Pro Tacoma Overland Build exploring the Utah Snow

The build is complete. No really, it is. I am content with the current configuration. It’s lighter than my previous rig, yet more practical and better outfitted. I look forward to many more adventures over the next decade in this capable and functional expedition rig.

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