Overland Expo West 2023

We are now 14 years into this Overland Expo thing, and based on the 2023 edition of Overland Expo West, enthusiasm for the event is as strong as ever. The original Overland Expo continues to be a gathering of community where folks from all over the world and all walks of life spend the weekend catching up, checking out the latest gear and vehicles, and attending classes on everything from Drones to Driving techniques.

As is tradition, I logged 10’s of thousands of steps walking around the vendor booths, moseying through the campgrounds, dropping in on classes in both the classrooms and driving area to try and capture a sampling of everything that is Overland Expo. In no particular order, here is a selection of cool stuff from Overland Expo West 2023.

Black Rhino / Axial – Booth engagement is a thing – how do you draw folks walking down the aisle into your booth? I think the Black Rhino crew figured this one out by partnering up with Axial RC to make a RC crawling course where the fastest time won a set of wheels. Scale RC cars are pretty neat, and this sixth scale Axial rig had my attention.

TRED – TRED Outdoors had a some properly burly screw-in stakes and their new line of vehicle leveling products on display. Hit their website for all of the details on their new leveling products which look well made and well thought out.

ARB – The folks at ARB have been busy working on everything from the new 2024 Tacoma to a host of other products for other platforms. The new summit bull bar pictured for the 3rd gen. Tacoma looks brilliant, as do the new Ford Bronco bits like the compressor mount and JACK mount. ARB is expanding their rack offerings with new platform and bed rack options.

74 Weld – Speaking of impressive Toyota parts, 74 Weld had their portal axle kit on display, which makes stuffing 37’s on a 3rd gen taco an easy thing. The kit uses OEM geometry, and provides the gear reduction to maintain factory ratios. Plus, you get disk brakes on all four corners.

LEXUS – It’s always interesting to see which OEMs are going to show up at Overland Expo on a given year, and 2023 marks Lexus’ first appearance at the show. GX / LX Overland builds are verymuch a thing, so it’s always good to see an OEM recognize what their customers are doing.

GMC – AT4X all of the things! GMC is applying the AT4X treatment to all of their truck platforms from the Canyon up to new new Silverado HD. In partnership with AEV, these rigs are turn key with fancy shocks, lockers, and real armor so you can just load them up and go have fun. A detail I appreciate is the ability to remove the steps from the rock rails shown on the Canyon AT4X.

EQUIPT – The Paul May isn’t scared of a little electronics work in the rain, and I happened to catch Paul in the middle of installing a new control board in a National Luna fridge. This retrofit control board adds Bluetooth control to most all National Luna fridges (check with Equipt for your specific model), so NL owners do not have to shell out for a new fridge to take advantage of the company’s latest wares. Equipt also had Eezi-Awns new sword hard shell root tent on display.

AT Overland – The Aterra Truck Topper and Aterra XL Camper we’ve had the opportunity to check out at Desert Rendezvous made it’s official debut at Overland Expo. The Aterra Topper is a particularly appealing option for anyone who is interested in a slide in camper.

GOOSE GEAR – The new Park Series from Goose Gear is a DIY interior system for Subarus and Toyota Rav4s – and it looks just as awesome as any other Goose Gear system. Goose Gear also had their new interior for the Scout Tuktut on display as well.

Dometic – Dometic is continuing to press headlong into the Overland-o-sphere with a new roof top tent and inflatable shelter system. The TRT 140 roof top tent uses air poles instead of aluminum to save a little weight up high on your vehicle and the HUB 2 is the inflatable version of an EZ-UP. Color me interested to see how these new products work.

Overland Kitted – The folks who have been the US importer for MAXTRAX have launched mounting systems for MAXTRAX recovery boards, and other externally mounted accessories (rotopax shown for example). They’ve also got the lastest from InDeFlate – a digital two hose unit.

Kakadu – New to the US market, this established Aussie brand has some great kit on display like their 1P and 2P sleep systems. They were also showing off a very interesting shower system and based on the specs and initial impressions it all looks very good.

Surefire – Piece of the sun in your pocket maker Surefire had a couple of their new Turbo EDC lights on display at Overland Expo. The EDC2 and EDC1 lights are specifically designed to project light to extreme distances and can be powered by 123s or rechargeable 18650 cells.

Kelty – It’s always interesting to see how established outdoor brands approach the overland industry, and Kelty had an appealing selection of gear on display. Their Backroad and Sideroad awnings are great options for affordable, packable shade that work with SUVs, trucks, or vans, and their multi-seat chairs are always a win.

Rollercam – The company that reinvented the cam strap now has a solution for anyone who can’t remember a trucker’s knot, or anyone who likes an easy to use solution for tying stuff down. The Roperoller works just like the Rollercam, and is a game changer for anyone who has struggled to guy something off.

Zero Breeze – A/C for Overlanding is officially a thing. It will be interesting to see how this segment of the market fares in the coming years.

Tembo Tusk – The company known for the Skottle actually started off as a fridge slide company, and their latest product is a tilting fridge slide. As always, the Tembo Tusk crew were throwing down on their Skottles all weekend serving up all sorts of food.

Total Chaos – If you’ve heard about how some older Toyotas had issues with their lower ball joints suffering a rapid unscheduled disassembly – here’s your fix.

Arctic Trucks – The legendary Icelandic manufacture of vehicles that have driven to both poles of the planet is now established in the United States. Having watched videos of these trucks in action for so many years, it was a treat to see one in person and nerd out with the folks from Arctic Trucks USA.

RUX – Bags are a dime a dozen – everyone makes them, so how do you stand out? You make bags like Rux. This Canadian manufacture uses RF welding to build some extremely well thought out bags that are absolutely worth checking out if you like well made, highly functional, durable gear.

Polaris – UTVs are officially overland vehicles. Polaris’ new line of Side-by-Side / UTVs have all the farkles, enclosed cabs, heat, A/C, and a price tag that makes some mid-sized trucks look like a deal.

Step 22 Gear – Step 22 gets a crisp high five for making custom laser etched patch labels which work great on all of their awesome bags or any other place you need a label. Their bags and mounting panels like the Reef shown here continue to impress with their design and attention to detail.

Deep Cycle Systems – Another example of more awesome from Aussieland are DCS batteries. Featuring shapes and sizes that can fit in the voids left in many vehicles and high charge / discharge ratings, these batteries look awesome.

2024 Tacoma – Toyota pulled the cover off of the all new 4th generation Tacoma at Overland Expo. Two models were on display – a PreRunner which initially had a gigantic snow plow of an air dam that mysteriously disappeared shortly after the launch, and the Trailhunter which is directly targeted at the overland crowd. Let us know in the comments what you think about the new Taco!

Classes – Overland Expo has classes on everything: From the expected offerings like driving, spotting, and recovery, to more wildcat offerings, there hundreds of hours of courses availible so the challenge becomes picking the courses that interest you the most.

Cool Rigs – It’s always a treat to get to take a walk through the campgrounds at Overland Expo. Here you’ll find a spectrum of setups as unique as the people that use them. To a person, everyone I chatted up about their camping setup was more than happy to talk to me and generally stoked to be out actually using their gear. It just goes to show – it doesn’t matter what you drive or where you sleep, but that you’re out there actually doing the the thing.

THE BIG PICTURE – Early in 2023, Lodestone Events announced that they had been acquired by Emerald Expositions – the company that puts on industry trade shows like Outdoor Retailer. Yet from a boots on the ground perspective, not much has changed. Overland Expo continues to be run by the same small crew of passionate folks, and many of the familiar faces can been seen making the event run. Time will tell how this new owner changes the heading of their latest acquisition. Despite some classic Flagstaff spring weather (it rained hard on Friday), the show saw plenty of attendees, and the venue seemed to be mostly full of vendors.

Speaking of vendors, most all of the familiar brands were there, and while there is a trend of new names continuing to sell the same Chineseium with their stickers on it (recovery gear and roof top tent cloners I’m looking at you.) there continues to be cool and new things coming market – you just have to seek out the quality kit. One thing that hasn’t changed is that there is no shortage of cool stuff on display. If you attended OXW 2023, let us know about your experience in the comments!

Utah Winter Adventure – Part II of III

It was a seriously cold morning when we woke up, the dog water bowls had frozen overnight and I found a surprise ice bowl sitting on my stove thanks to Andy. At some point, Brett’s kids had found a few random skeletons of long deceased animals and had relocated them next to their tent as a joke. Jacki seemed to find it particularly disturbing amusing. We had some laughs and enjoyed a nice leisurely morning, packing up and getting Brian settled in and updated on the trip.

Day 05: Coffee in Kanab and Breaking Down

The group decided to hit the town of Kanab again for some breakfast and coffee and get some tips from the local coffee shop/supply store: Willow Canyon Outdoor. It’s a pretty cool shop considering they had your essentials outdoor gear and also had a coffee shop with some very knowledgeable staff. We asked for their recommendation on potential routes and campsites on our route and they gave us a nice road in which we should hit on our way up to Capitol Reef NP.

(If you’re just catching up, part I of III can be found HERE )

After our short visit, we decided to run some last-minute stops before we hit the road. We hit Highway 89 eastbound and hunkered down for the haul to our offshoot to Cottonwood Canyon Road. We were on the highway with Cris at point and myself as tailgunner. Next thing I know every vehicle swerved to avoid something on the road, with Cris on comms stating he’s lost power steering. The convoy pulled off the road and Cris mentioning he had probably lost his power steering belt. Dodge problems. Being tail-gunner, I reversed to retrieve the belt but doing so, I didn’t notice the roadside reflector markers. One of them took out my passenger side mirror as I reversed but I was able to retrieve the belt successfully. The group gathered around Cris’s wounded Power Wagon as we began to troubleshoot the problem. After some pointing and grunting, we all agreed he needed a new truck idler pulley.

We were a little skeptical in terms of finding a part way out here but we did find an auto parts store in Kanab. It was just a matter of if they had it in stock or not. So Brian jumped in his Taco and jammed over to the store to find the part Cris needed to get his rig up and running again. In the meantime, the group made lunch and awaited Brian’s return. While waiting, I utilized some of Andy’s engineering tape to get my mirror back onto the Xterra. It was done in a very expedient and professional manner. About an hour later, Brian returned with the pulley in hand, and in a matter of minutes, we had the part installed and the Power Wagon roared back to life. We were back on the road.

We hit Cottonwood Canyon Road, which turns out is an entrance to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It is a nicely graded road with some turnoffs that branch off into other fireroads into the canyon. It winds itself along the Paria River, and then transitions to wind along Cottonwood Creek.

 

It was along Cottonwood Creek in which we found a perfect campsite: lots of tree cover, lots of flat clear ground, and right next to a creek. We arrived in the afternoon, with enough time to setup and relax before the sun began to set. We relaxed the remainder of the day until night fell and we hit the sack.

Day 06

Making Time To Make The Ferry

The next morning as we’re packing up and getting ready to roll out, we get an early morning buzz by two F-35’s slicing through the canyon at low altitude. Quite the sight and a deafening roar as they screamed by.

Today’s route involved continuing up Cottonwood Canyon Road northbound all the way to Cannonville. The road was well-maintained, quite scenic, and a blast to drive on. We did stop at a turnout to regroup as the convoy began to separate over the long distance of fireroads. There we snapped some photos, Jaxx found a leg of a deer to chew on, we got some stretching in, and then hit the road to Cannonville, where we’d air-up and hit the pavement. Once aired up, the group pointed east and took Highway 12 all the way north to Capitol Reef NP.

Highway 12 is quite the scenic drive, with gains and drops in elevation, but mostly, the views do not disappoint even though we were on pavement the entire time. As we traveled along, we hit Escalante and decided to do a logistics and lunch stop. We filled up our gas tanks, restocked our fridges and coolers, made some lunch and then decided what our route would be taking from there.

Our dilemma was that we had a specific time to be at the ferry crossing from Bullfrog to Halls Crossing and we needed to figure out a route that would get us to that location. We opted for additional travel and exploration, so we picked a route that shot us straight up to Capitol Reef NP on hardball, and then shoot south on the Norton Bullfrog Basin Road, camp somewhere along the road, and then the following morning continue the rest of the way down to Bullfrog to catch our ferry.

After a few quick stops to take in the beautiful scenery along the road, we barreled down on Capitol Reef NP and we decided to check out Goosenecks Overlook where the Sulphur Creek zig-zags along the canyon. It was nearing sunset as we took in this awesome point. The way the sun hit the canyon walls, displaying dynamic shadows really made for a stunning sight. A few of the group had split off to the Visitor Center just down the road to snag some patches and swag. We regrouped on Highway 24 and continued on to Norton Bullfrog Basin Road.

The sun was almost set as we hit the dirt. I had stopped at Orientation Pullout at the intersection of the Norton Bullfrog Basin Road to snap a few shots. The group continued on as we’d be on that road for quite a while, but I had taken a few stops for photo ops as the sun set and became distanced from the group. I booked it down the well maintained and very wide dirt road to catch up. With all my LED lights on, it was easy blasting down the dark, chilly 25 degree road solo. It wasn’t until the main group had stopped to find a campsite that I finally caught up. At this point it was already dark and we needed to find camp as soon as possible. The group had decided to find a spot at an offshoot to Halls Overlook. It was a nice flat spot with 180 degree cover with small rocky hills. With the tents set up, fire going, dinner cooked and eaten, we then enjoyed the full moon and slight cloud covered night until we turned in for the night.

Day 07

Ferry to the Moki and Camping Among the Gods

Another beautiful sunrise greeted the rested convoy as we got coffee and breakfast rolling. I had gotten up a bit earlier to do my usual roaming and sniping around the campsite. The views and lighting from the rising sun with the slight cloud cover were amazing. With the group up and ready to roll, we convened to decide the days’ route and schedule since we had a ferry to catch. There was some time to spare and also some spectacular places to visit before we found out campsite for the night.

We hit the dirt yet again, but before we made the haul to the ferry, we stopped at Halls Creek Overlook to take in the sights. It was a very deep canyon in which a dried riverbed passes through, but held a dramatic view of what was literally right over the next ridgeline from where we camped the previous night. Saddling up, we hit the dirt again towards Highway 276 south to Bullfrog.

The convoy arrived at the Charles Hall Ferry crossing with some time to spare. We staged up at the slipway and awaited the ferry to arrive to pick us up. Once the ferry arrived, we loaded up and enjoyed the short ferry ride to Halls Crossing. It was a pretty cool experience since we literally had the ferry all to ourselves.

Once the ferry deposited us on the other side of the shore, we continued on Highway 276 to Highway 95 East. Stuart had brought up that he’d really like to drive the Moki Dugway, and being that I’ve never been on it, nor had others of the group had, we voted to take this route instead of remaining on pure highway. Our consensus of the night’s campsite was Valley of the Gods, so we hit Highway 261 South to the Moki. It was an overall basic highway drive until we hit the entrance of the dirt road.

 

The Moki Dugway was constructed in 1958 and “is a staggering, graded dirt switchback road carved into the face of the cliff edge of Cedar Mesa. It consists of 3 miles of steep unpaved, but well graded switchbacks at 11%, which wind 1,200ft from Cedar Mesa to the valley floor near Valley of the Gods… The state of Utah recommends that only vehicles less than 28ft in length and 10,000 pounds in weight attempt to negotiate this steep, narrow, and winding road… The term ‘mokee’ is derived from the Spanish word Moqui, which was a general term used by the 18th century Spanish explorers and settlers in this region to describe the Pueblo Indians they encountered, and the vanished culture that had left behind the numerous ruins they discovered during their travels… The dugway was constructed in the 50’s to provide a way to haul ore from the Happy Jack Mine on Cedar Mesa to the mill in Halchita, near Mexican Hat.” (www.dangerousroads.org). Checking weather on or before hitting the Dugway is highly recommended as conditions may be treacherous.

It was a beautiful day and had been so for the week, so we had no worries traversing the Dugway. The sheer cliff right along the roadside was quite intimidating but with the width of the road being a bit generous, and with light traffic in both directions, it was a breeze. We were worried about Cris’s Dodge Yacht Wagon but of course he showed us how to drive properly in such a large vehicle without dying.

The convoy rallied at the base of the Dugway, just at the entrance to the Valley of the Gods. The sun was beginning to set as we entered the Valley so we decided to find a place along the dirt road to call it for the day. We found a perfect site just off the main road with rock monuments entirely surrounding us. We were definitely in quite a spot and picked up quickly why this place has such a name. As usual, we setup quickly and hunkered down for the night.

 Continued in Part III HERE

 

 

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Utah Winter Adventure – Part I of III

In the past few years, we’ve taken to planning a small annual trip that lasts approximately a week long during the winter time. Destinations are unknowns (new to us) and planned throughout the year as rough locations and POI’s that we would like to hit. Routes in between are roughly formed and there are times where we improvise and have to call an audible.

Our previous trips: Death Valley Expedition 2015 (DVX15) and California Coastal Expedition 2016 (CCX16), and many other small trips to Anza Borrego, Trona, Thomas Mountain and other sites, have really helped us form a template as to how our trips are planned, what works and what doesn’t. Our plan for the winter of 2017 had us traveling from our home base in Southern California through Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. We wanted to utilize as many dirt roads as we could, while also hitting certain POI’s, so hardball wasn’t entirely out of the question. This is what we came up with for our Utah Winter Expedition 2017 (UWX17):

Day 01- A Late Start with a Late Entrance.

After a late start of last minute packing and getting ready, I hit the road about 4pm on my way to the meeting spot just north of Lake Mead. I linked up with Cris and family at the El Cajon Pass McDonald’s right around dinner time for a quick meal. We hit the pavement hard and arrived in the area just before midnight. It was pitch black dark and all we had to navigate by were maps and the GPS point. It took us a little bit to find the exact camp spot, but we eventually found it. Everyone had already called it a night and had gone to sleep, instead of waiting for us, so Cris and I quietly setup camp and called it a night ourselves.

Day 02- A Dusty Blast to a Wrong Whitmore

We awakened to a very chilly morning, but were instantly rewarded with an awesome view of the lake. We had camped in the dark just above the lake shoreline and it paid off now with a spectacular view of the entire area. We had a comfortable start to our day and enjoyed the area while eating breakfast before we set off. We had a driver’s meeting to go over the day’s route, which would be Whitmore Canyon just on the North side of Grand Canyon.

We set off just before noon and headed up to St George, Utah to restock and make last minute meet ups. We made a nice stop at Walmart and had lunch before we proceeded south and hit the dirt. The dirt road in was a good one, dusty but well maintained. We blazed in towards Mt. Trumbull and hit the school house to reconvene since we became so spread out along the way. The wind was nonexistent so our trail of dust was so thick that visibility was near zero in places.

Continuing south as the sun began to set, we took a wrong turn and started gaining elevation instead of dropping down to 1500-ft or so where the overlook is. We doubled back towards the trail split but opted for a nice, safe, open spot along the way since darkness had already arrived, the first of several unplanned audibles on this trip. We set up camp in the dark and started the campfire. A bright moon rose over the mountain as we had dinner, and it would continue illuminate our night skies for the rest of our trip.

Day 03 – New Years Eve at the Correct Whitmore Canyon

We woke up to another sweet view as we camped just a short stroll to a cliff side, which opened up to a beautiful view of the valley below, and the road we were supposed to be at last night. The sun had not yet crested the ridgeline, so the weather was chilly again. It was a calm morning as we had time to explore the immediate area on foot and view the spectacular valley below us. We gathered just after breakfast for a driver’s meeting to make a call on where to go next. The general consensus was to hit the spot that we totally missed the previous night and spend the rest of the day there. It ended up being a great call.

We hit the road around 11am and began the short drive to Whitmore Canyon. The road in was smooth but turned to slow and rocky. It eventually led us to a breathtaking view of a portion of the Grand Canyon. There was a slow, rocky switchback descent into the campsite. Cris and Jon led the way and setup camp as we all made our way down. The camp site was just terrible (read sarcasm)…  It was right on the cliff’s edge above the Colorado River with a 180-degree view. This was a perfect day. We all got settled in, made lunch and relaxed the rest of the day.

After lunch, a few of us relaxed around the fire ring, while Andy and I made the hike down to the bottom and the Colorado River. It was about 45min, 917ft down, and about 1.2miles one way. It was a great little hike to see the river and experience how the views changed as you make your way down. The water was definitely chilly but refreshing. Oddly enough there was a cactus garden right before the water’s edge, so maneuvering to the water was a bit tricky without getting poked by the many needles.

The hike out is always tougher than the hike in, but we got back into camp just before sunset and joined the others relaxing around the fire ring, just in time for appetizers, cold beverages, and dinner.

As the night went on and we were enjoying the campfire, we saw a set of headlights coming down the hill that we rolled in from. We became very hesitant when they rolled straight up to our campfire in the middle of our camp. Two guys walked out, cups in hands and a decent slur in their talk. As they were introducing themselves, and us keeping our distance, a third guy came out as well.

Luckily they just came down to make themselves known and told us that they were going to setup camp not too far away from us. They thought we were someone they knew as they were meeting someone down there. They left our area and rolled about ¼ mile away and setup camp. Later that night as we were still around the campfire, we saw another pair of headlights coming down. We walked out to meet them in a somewhat defensive position so they wouldn’t roll into our camp. They found their friends and we continued our night a little less relaxed. We called it a day as one by one, we left the fire and went to bed.

Day 04 – Attempting to Beat the Setting Sun and Rising Moon

We awoke to a another splendid view with an epic sunrise, so we decided to take another easy morning. We soaked in the rising sun cresting over the canyon as we had breakfast. After a comfortable start, we decided to get our trip on the road again. But before we headed out, we decided to take a group photo of this epic campsite so we staged up on the cliff’s edge, and snapped a few for the books.

 

Once on the way out, we doubled back from where we drove in. We hit the 4-way intersection at the schoolhouse for a quick break around 11am. We reconvened a quick driver’s meeting to discuss the route and the rough area of where we would be heading to. We decided to head east after talking with a local as they said it is much more scenic than double backing the exact way we came in to get back on the highway.

Mt Trumbull Loop was extremely scenic with a steady incline in elevation. Once we hit the top, we drove along the ridgeline for a bit until it opened up into flatlands and a nice wide-open fire road. Once we hit Antelope Valley Rd, we hit the gas and zoomed our way back to Highway 389, a very smooth and great driving road. Definitely one of the better dirt roads of the trip thus far. We aired up before we hit the pavement and we hit it hard towards Kanab for our late lunch.

Once we entered Kanab, we decided to hit up a burger joint which was VERY good. After filling our bellies, we all split off for different errands to run and decided to rendezvous at the market before we hit the road again.

We hopped onto the road after a long but relaxing pitstop as the sun was beginning to set. Jon had a site set in his mind, so we followed him up Hwy 89 to Hancock Road towards the Pink Coral Sand Dunes. We drove around a bit through a very scenic fire service road with a full moon rising over on the east, and the sun setting in the west. He found a spot, but it was small and along a hillside. Not very spacious for all of us to camp in. I scouted around being tail-gunner on offshoot paths we had passed but couldn’t find a tangible spot for us all to camp in comfortably.

With night falling very quickly, we double backed to the main road and found a campsite along the road from which we came in. It was a large spot and about fifty yards off the road with good cover. We were happy with this spot so we setup camp and enjoyed the night while waiting for Brian to link up with us that night.

To be continued in Part II…

Project Tundra // Winter (Pre-OXW) Update

RXT Rear Suspension

Late last fall, Project Tundra received a pre-production set of ICON Vehicle Dynamics RXT rear suspension – and the change these RXT parts made to the vehicle’s performance was profound.  The RXT system is made up of a user-configurable, Icon leaf spring pack that replaces the OEM Toyota leaf pack. Also included are Tundra specific shocks with increased travel, and a hydraulic bump stop kit.  Taken as a whole, these parts all work together to make your rear suspension next level.  Project Tundra already has the hydraulic bump stop kit, but adding the RXT leafs and shocks made a huge difference in the way the truck performs.  The best part about the RXT kit is that it can be configured to your specific truck and the amount of additional weight you have in your truck bed, so the end result is a system that will deliver much better performance than a one size fits all solution.  Here’s how it all works.

The RXT leafs for the Toyota Tundra can be configured in three ways all depending on how much additional weight is over your truck’s rear axle, or how much lift you want.  The leaf pack comes configured from ICON to handle an additional 250 pounds of payload while providing about 1.75 inches of additional lift.  If you swap out the third leaf in the RXT leaf pack with the provided additonal leaf, the pack will handle an additional 500 pounds of payload and add 3 inches of lift.  Finally, adding the additional leaf to the pack will provide 750 pounds of carrying capacity and add 4 inches of lift to the rear of an unladen Tundra.

I opted for the + 500 pounds option on Project Tundra, as two dirtbikes or our typical gear loadouts with the truck cap and roof rack come in around this mark.

Installing the leaf packs is easily done in the driveway on an afternoon with basic tools and an extra set of hands.  The first thing you’ll need to do is choose what configuration you want the leaf pack in, and then make any desired changes prior to mounting to the vehicle  A couple of C-Clamps will help you keep the packs from disassembling themselves when you loosen the locating bolt, and otherwise the process is well covered in the instructions.  With the packs configured as desired, lift up the back of the truck SAFELY and swap the packs out.

The other part of the RXT equation are the shocks which provide additional stroke over the 2.5 VS CDCV units that we’ve been using.  ICON offers three levels of shocks, named with their Stage-Number convention.  Stage 1 shocks offer vehicle specific valving, Stage 2 adds the CDC Valve, and Stage 3 adds Omega-level shocks that feature rebound and compression damping.  All RXT kits include the hydraulic bump stop Kit – another system we’ve absolutely loved having on Project Tundra.

As I mentioned in the last article, the performance difference realized by installing the IVD suspension on Project Tundra was huge, so the bar was already set quite high when the RXT parts arrived.  The RXT suspension makes a night and day difference over stock leafs or even an add-a-leaf – especially when you’re carrying any kind of weight.

Speaking of the Icon 2.5 VS CDCV shocks I took off the vehicle, I’m happy to report that after a year of use all over the Southwest the shocks are still in great shape and still fully functional.  Yes, there is pitting on the lower shock mounts and the aluminum bodies aren’t as shiny as new, but this wear has been earned from logging thousands of miles bombing around off-road and on wintry roads.  It turns out flying rocks are an equal opportunity destroyer, so I don’t care whose shock you have – pitting and aluminum oxidation are going to happen.  What counts is that all of the ICON shock shafts look great, and all of the seals are holding tight – so these shocks still have plenty of life left in them before they get rebuilt.

The RXT suspension has handled every type of terrain I’ve pointed it at so far with performance that’s perfectly matched to the front end, which is to say that the back end has now been turned up to match the front end.  The ability to set the leaf pack up for your specific vehicle depending on what you do with your truck and how much weight you carry combined with the damping adjustment from the CDCV and Omega level shocks make the RXT system the choice for Tundra rear suspension.

 

 

LINE-X

Spray-In truck bed liners are hands down the best way to project your truckbed from sharp tools, ski edges, car parts, the occasional steel-fab project, and everything else life throws at your truck bed.  The problem is that the OEM spray in liners leave a lot to be desired, which is why I took a trip to San Diego before SoCal Desert Rendezvous to make an appointment at Line-X of San Diego.

At Line-X of San Diego, Dallas and Chris applied their years of experience in truck bed coatings to come up with in a spray in bedliner application for Project Tundra that was exactly what I was looking for.  In addition to protecting the sheet metal, I wanted to do a few custom things that would make the bed of project Tundra better suited to my needs.  First up, I pulled off the stupid plastic caps that run around the bed rails of the truck.  These pointless pieces of plastic exist only to trap dirt and dust, and when sandwiched with a load (like a truck cap) become plastic backed sandpaper that wears on your paint and in no time at all, starts wearing on bare metal.  Taking the plastic caps off also allowed Dallas and Chris to do a true over the rail bedliner, providing extra protection to the bedsides from the truck cap and from me when I’m loading heavy things over the sides of the truck bed.

With all of the holes in the bed rails covered, we then turned our attention to sealing up all of the drain holes in the truck bed to make the thing as dust proof as possible.

Line-X is also a great thing to spray on your truck’s rocker panels to protect them from rocks and other road debris that are constantly tossed up by your tires.  I sprayed the rocker panels on my Tacoma, and it’s held up great to hundreds of thousands of miles of dirt and rocks.  Again Dallas and Chris applied their expert hands and took the time to remove the plastic wheel well trim so that they could tuck the Line-X under the plastic bits once installed – a detail that will only serve to help lengthen the lifespan of Project Tundra’s sheet metal.

Chris and Dallas devoted an entire day to applying Line-X to Project Tundra, and the results of their attention to detail and skill speak for themselves.  Project Tundra’s bed and rocker panels are now armored-up to handle hundreds of thousands of miles of dirt and rock, and all of the gear hauling I can throw in the truck bed.

ABOUT THOSE HUB CAPS

I’ve had a couple of the hub caps on my ICON Alloys Six Speed wheels break, and when I called Icon to asking about buying new hub caps, I was really happy to hear that they’ve redesigned the caps to fix this very issue.  The new hub caps are screwed together (the old design was a snap-fit) and I do not expect to see any failure or issues from this new design.  I need to give ICON props for revising and continuously improving their products, rather than simply selling more copies of an imperfect design.

LET THERE BE LIGHT

Yes, Project Tundra will be getting fully armored – but as with any good thing, it takes some time.  So in the mean time I’ve been working with Pelfreybilt Offroad to design brackets for the Tundra’s A-Pillars and stock front bumper, so that I can add some light while I’m waiting for my armor to arrive.  With a bit of time spent in Solidworks, I’ve developed A-Pillar brackets for the Tundra that will hold an XL 80, as well as brackets that will allow me to run a Baja Designs 30” S8 light bar in the stock bumper.

Project Tundra will be receiving it’s armor soon, so I’ll leave this update with a photo I took of what’s to come.  Stop by and see us at the American Adventurist booth at Overland Expo West (PS1) and say hi!

Full disclosure:  ICON Vehicle Dynamics provided the RXT suspension for review and testing purposes at no cost to Chad de Alva or American Adventurist.  Line-X of San Diego installed their products free of charge.