The Coolest 2020 Four Wheeler Adventure Expo Rigs
We jumped at the chance to spend the day ogling the 4x4s, campers, adventure trailers and other vehicles and gear at the first annual Four Wheeler Adventure Expo in Costa Mesa, California, at the OC Fair & Event Center. What was once known as off-road adventuring and camping is now known as overlanding. Not only has the name has changed, the vehicles and gear have advanced significantly over the past two decades. When we camped and adventured; we used ice coolers, steel kerosene camp stoves and lanterns, ground tents, and sometimes we simply spread out a sleeping bag in the dirt next to the campfire. Today, the old-school traditional camp gear has been replaced by 12-volt refrigerators, propane skottle cooktops, solar panels and LED lights, fold-out rooftop tents and million-dollar expedition vehicles. Regardless of whether you go overlanding or simply camp in your 4×4, the fun and adventure is the same. Here are some of the vehicles from the show that caught our attention.
The new Jeep Gladiator has become an overlanding favorite. You get all the interior comforts of the Jeep Wrangler JL with the versatility of having a pickup bed. Utility racks make the bed even more functional for mounting rooftop tents and other accessories.
The Toyota Tacoma is probably the most popular overlanding rig worldwide, and rightfully so. It is a proven platform that the aftermarket thoroughly embraces. If it isn’t made for a Toyota Tacoma, you probably don’t need it.
Most Toyota FJ80 Land Cruisers started life as soccer mom mobiles. The second, third and fourth owners have found them to be a solid off-roaders and comfortable overlanding and camp rigs. The only bummers are the lack of power and dismal fuel economy from the factory inline-six engine.
Not much of this Blazer has been left untouched. It features a great mix of rock crawler, prerunner and overlander. The tuned long-travel suspension and heavy-duty drivetrain will get you further up the trail and faster across desert two-track, which means you can quickly escape civilization and get the best camp spot.
We always love seeing the overlanding oddballs like this Land Rover 6×6. It might look like something you would see during a zombie apocalypse, but all the same features make it a great off-road camp rig.
Mercedes Sprinter vans have become increasingly popular for the overland crowd. The spacious interiors can be easily converted for camping and more aftermarket suspension components and other accessories are becoming available.
A bolt-on long-travel suspension and bigger tires can make the Jeep Gladiator even better at covering ground off-road. The improved suspension and large tires will smooth the otherwise rough graded roads with ease.
Traditional vans with 4×4 conversions are still extremely popular. The heavy-duty chassis can handle the weight that’s added when building an overland vehicle. Many builds far surpass the weight carrying capacity of a 1/2-ton van, so 3/4-ton and even 1-ton chassis are preferred.
Many entry-level overlanders get started with off-road capable cars and crossover SUVs. This has become a growing segment in the overland market. It’s likely that these enthusiasts will eventually upgrade to more off-road friendly platforms down the road.
Vintage 4x4s like this Toyota FJ40 are usually enthusiast favorites. However, the collectability of the FJ40 has increased to the point that you rarely see them on the trails anymore. It’s a shame because the chassis, engine and drivetrain are dirt simple and darn near bulletproof.
The new Ford Ranger is seeing some interest in the overland world. The FX4 option package is currently the most off-road savvy version, but we suspect a Ranger Raptor would make the platform even more noteworthy to the off-road camping world.
Everybody loves the Unimogs. With industrial looks, low gearing and great ground clearance they simply ooze off-road capability and overlanding coolness, although they seem comically tall. You half expect a dozen clowns to jump out of the back.
With a fully loaded camper shell, rooftop tent, solar panels, shade awning and an outdoor shower this Toyota Tacoma is easily ready for a multi-day adventure in the woods or desert. There’s not much this Tacoma is missing.
The fullsize Jeep Wagoneer is another vintage 4×4 that has increased in value. It used to be that people were practically giving them away because of rust, smog issues, low power and poor fuel economy. Modern engine swaps have helped bring new life all of the Jeep FSJ models.
Isuzu NPR, MAN and Hino medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks that have been converted into overland, expedition and chase vehicles are always crowd favorites. They require a committed owner with a thick wallet and an ability to accept single digit mpg numbers in some cases.
There are lots of ways to get out of the weather with this Mercedes Sprinter van. You’ll surely be safe from any giraffe attacks while sleeping in the rooftop tent 10-feet up. Even if off-roading isn’t your main priority, a few upgrades will ensure you get to your adventure spot for mountain biking, motorcycling, hiking, climbing, or whatever.