Feature Friday: Top 5 Essential Mods for Overland Built 5th Gen 4Runner in 2022

Super White 5th Gen 4Runner with ROAM Adventure Co Accessory Box & Roam RTT

We Asked Eight 5th Gen Toyota 4Runner Owners – “What Are Your Top 5 Off-Road Mods?” – This Is What They Said!

This Week’s Topic: Top 5 Off-Road Mods

Welcome back to another Feature Friday! If you missed last week’s FF, we showcased some black aftermarket wheels for the 4Runner that you should definitely check out!

Guys, buckle up because we have a jam-packed Feature Friday this week. We asked 8 off-road enthusiasts for their opinions on the top 5 mods to have for a successful off-road adventure. For many of us, we are only able to really escape the city for a few hours at a time. If we are lucky, we might be able to dedicate a full day or weekend to get off the beaten path.

How can you do that successfully while ensuring that your rig still gets you to work the following Monday?

These are the types of questions that we asked our owners to address. If you are completely brand new to the 4Runner platform, then you may want to check out our introduction to 5th Gen 4Runner Mods. There, we list what the community generally considers a few of the most basic mods you can buy.

Enjoy and I hope you all get out on the trail this weekend!

Top Brands Featured

1. Eric Jackson (@gen5t4r_eric) – 2017 SR5 Premium

Super White 5th Gen 4Runner with Falken Wildpeak AT3 285/70/17 Tires, Full Steel Bumper & Baja Rack

Top 5 Off-Road Mods

  1. Tires: Falken Wildpeak AT3 | 285/70R17 | C Load
  2. Lift: King Shocks 2.5 EXT w/ Adjusters
  3. Safety Light: Rear-Facing Baja Designs S2 Amber
  4. Various Recovery Gear
  5. Electronic Devices: Gaia GPS Premium

What Do You Like About Your Setup?

As someone who has been wheeling and overlanding for a couple of years, I paid my fair share of “tuition” throughout the years when it comes to the gear needed. The list above comprises what I consider the mods that any weekend warrior should have for a successful outing.

Tires: A good set of tires will give you plenty of grip and support. I recommend A/T over M/T tires for their snow performance and quietness on road. The factory width of 265 will work just fine, but with a 285 profile, you get a larger margin for error in line choice on the trail. However, the latter will require trimming and maybe even a body mount chop to alleviate any potential rubbing.

Lift: You can wheel on the stock suspension with no problem, but a lift will allow you to tackle more complex trails. With a proper lift (like the King Shocks 2.5 EXT), you can go faster in the desert and tackle harder trails in comfort. If you opt for a kit with adjusters, you’ll also be able to adjust your shock rebound and compression to better fit your driving style and the terrain you’re on.

Safety Light: These are a must if you travel to dusty areas. With safety or chase lights, you keep your position visible to vehicles behind you, helping avoid collisions. I’ve seen too many accidents that could be avoided had the vehicle in front used rear-facing safety lights. You will want to have amber or yellow colored light as these are seen easiest through the dust, especially in the daytime.

Recovery Gear: To self-recover or help other people recover you.

Gaia GPS (or OnX): Trail maps that have a tracking function in case you need to backtrack.

Radio: Extremely important for communication. In a convoy, radios are used so the lead vehicle can warn the followers of turns, obstacles, oncoming traffic, and general directions. They are also extremely useful for spotting each other on obstacles.

These are the items that I tell every new wheeler that I invite they should have. Frankly, I would uninvite anyone without safety items like rear-facing lights and radios.

2. John Bryan (@magpro_T4R) – 2022 TRD Pro

Magnetic Grey TRD Pro 4Runner with Gobi Rack & Spare Tire Hitch Carrier

Top 5 Off-Road Mods

  1. Recovery Gear
  2. Tools
  3. GPS/Maps
  4. Suspension
  5. Lighting

What Do You Like About Your Setup?

As long as I’ve been wheeling, I’ve gotten myself into about every situation that you can imagine. That being said, I strongly encourage people to have the right recovery gear on them if they’re serious about going out and exploring. You never know what can go wrong on the trail!

Currently, my recovery gear comprises:

  • Smittybilt winch with a synthetic line
  • Factor 55 Pro-Link
  • 2 metal shackles
  • 2 soft shackles
  • Recovery strap
  • 25k lb snatch block
  • Recovery boards.

In addition to recovery gear, I always carry some basic tools in case something goes wrong on the trail. I carry an impact gun, breaker bar, hammer, wrenches, sockets, etc.

Fixing something in a pinch could be critical to getting back to the main highway. Typically, we’re too far from the main road to have any type of tow service rescue us.

Once you start getting out on the trail, you’ll quickly find out that your Apple or Google maps are useless due to not having any cell reception. It’s always good to have an offline map of the area either downloaded or via a traditional paper map available. The latter is preferable since it won’t require batteries to operate! For digital navigation, the GPS that I rely on would be Garmin, Gaia GPS, and Trails Offroad.

Now that you are ready to get out and explore some new places, I would recommend an upgraded suspension kit because bouncing off rocks all day on the stock suspension is not the business. Airing down your tires helps a little, but nothing beats a set of King Shocks on the trail. I started with the stock suspension before testing out kits from Icon, and Fox on my TRD Pro, but the King Shocks win hands-down.

Last but not least, one thing you definitely don’t want is to be out on the trail in the dark. Your stock headlights won’t be of much help in the pitch-black wilderness. Baja Designs is my preferred lighting company to help pierce through the night. We’re currently running their LP6s, S8 30” light bar, Squadron Pro ditch lights, and S2 Pros for chase and floodlighting!

3. Zach Woody (@4runnerfreakk) – 2018 TRD Off-Road

Super White TRD Off-Road 4Runner with Prinsu Roof Rack & Black Wheels

Top 5 Off-Road Mods

  1. Skid Plates
  2. Recovery Kit (tow ropes, recovery boards & shackles)
  3. Off-Road Air Compressor
  4. Navigation Control/Devices
  5. First Aid

What Do You Like About Your Setup?

When you’re going wheeling, especially in a new area, it’s always important to have the reassurance that both you and your rig are going to be safe. Having some kind of undercarriage protection stops the belly of your vehicle from getting torn up or getting hung up when bottoming out on obstacles.

The inclusion of recovery gear for your rig in the event that you get stuck, hung up, or even roll over is probably the most important. You never know what you’ll run into on the trail.

Having an air compressor to air your tires down and up for better traction on the trail definitely helps.

Some form of satellite navigation is essential so that you don’t get lost on the trail along with having a first aid kit to patch yourself or others up if needed.

4. Ashley Pacheco (@mamaYota_t4r) – 2019 TRD Off-Road Premium

Midnight Black TRD Off Road 4Runner with ARB Safari Snorkel, Roof Rack, Thule RTT, Falken Wildpeak A/T Tires

Top 5 Off-Road Mods

  1. ARB Safari Snorkel
  2. Overland Vehicle System 180 Awning
  3. C4 Fabrication Rock Sliders
  4. Victory 4×4 Hatch Ladder
  5. Midland Radio Walkie-Talkie

What Do You Like About Your Setup?

Living in Washington State where it rains 80% of the year, I found that the ARB Safari snorkel is extremely helpful. Hitting the mud puddles makes for a fun ride and a sick photo for Instagram, but that can be ruined quickly with a flooded intake.

Whether in the rain, snow, or sun, the OVS 180 awning is a definite must-have to stay sheltered from the elements.

The Victory 4×4 hatch ladder makes accessing my recovery gear easy, plus it helps with setting up and taking down the rooftop tent.

Communication is key when you’re doing a large trail run with friends, and my Midland Radio Walkie-Talkie hasn’t failed me yet.

5. Ren Pfuhl (@lunar.trdpro) – 2021 TRD Pro

Lunar Rock TRD Pro 5th Gen 4Runner with BFG KO2 Tires

Top 5 Off-Road Mods

  1. Recovery Gear – GoTreads
  2. Rock Sliders – Westcott Designs
  3. Camera – iPhone, GoPro, DJI Mini Drone
  4. Good Tires – BFG KO2 A/T
  5. Compressor – VIAIR 400p Portable Compressor

What Do You Like About Your Setup?

I love the GoTreads recovery boards because of their sectioned design. This makes them more versatile than traditional recovery boards as they work with different-sized holes.

I have the Westcott Designs 20-degree rock sliders and their 21′ TRD Pro lift kit. The quality of the rock sliders is unmatched and the lift kit has given me 2.5″ of lift and improved ride quality over the factory setup.

So far, I have had really good luck with my BFG KO2 A/T tires through all of Utah’s conditions, from Moab to the snowy mountains. The VIAIR portable compressor quickly airs my tires back up while being compact enough to keep it in the back with space to spare for my dogs.

6. Becky Lysak (@pluto_trdoffrd) – 2021 TRD Off-Road Premium

Nautical Blue 4Runner with RCI Skid Plates, Roof Rack & Baja Designs Lights

Top 5 Off-Road Mods

  1. Undercarriage Armor: RCI Full Steel Skid Plate KDSS Equipped, Fuel Tank Skid Plate & Rear Diff Skid Plate
  2. Sliders: Demello Hybrid Rock Sliders & 41.22 Inc Hitch Slider
  3. Ditch Lights: Baja Designs XL Sport Ditch Lights
  4. Walkie-Talkie: BaoFeng UV-5R Radio
  5. Toilet Paper

What Do You Like About Your Setup?

As soon as I started off-roading, I learned that I love to go fast and drive hard.

Once I got full undercarriage armor and sliders, I felt so much better knowing that some of the most important parts of the 4Runner weren’t as vulnerable during obstacles. Steel is the way to go if you plan on subjecting your rig to heavier abuse as I do.

Extra lighting is a must if you love night rides, the brighter the better. My Baja Designs ditch lights turn night into day!

Walkie-talkies are important when you’re riding with a bunch of other rigs so that everyone can remain on the same page and be aware of what’s coming. Lastly, as a girl, it’s essential to have toilet paper for those long trail rides!

7. Jared Johnson (@txhillrider) – 2016 Trail Edition

Super White 4Runner with ROAM Adventure Co Awning and 23Zero RTT, Steel Rear Bumper with Swing Out

Top 5 Off-Road Mods

  1. Tires
  2. Suspension/Ground Clearance
  3. Recovery Gear
  4. Vehicle Armor
  5. Air Compressor

What Do You Like About Your Setup?

A good set of all-terrain tires can really increase your rig’s capability. More aggressive tread equals more traction and stiffer sidewalls that are more resistant to punctures. The 4Runner is already off-road-ready from the factory, so a good set of tires can really unlock the extra capability of your rig.

Tires: BFGoodrich KM3 315/70/17 – I recently switched to these mud-terrains from a set of all-terrains that I ran for 50k miles. I am very impressed with the increased traction and ride quality of these KM3s. Also, they have the really aggressive look that I was wanting from my next set.

Suspension: A suspension lift can greatly improve your 4Runner’s ride off-road as well as increase its ground clearance. If you want to start tackling tougher and more technical trails, you should absolutely consider upgraded suspension. An upgraded suspension will also rid your 4Runner of the annoying body roll and nose dive that plague these vehicles from the factory.

I have the Toytec Boss Performance 2.5 Extended Travel with Dobinsons 701v Rear Coils and Panhard bar. This Radflo-based system is no longer available from Toytec as they are now using Elka as their shock provider. This has been a great budget-friendly 2.5 suspension setup and I highly recommend Toytec as a middle-of-the-road option.

Recovery Gear: The world of recovery equipment is full of options to get unstuck. Winches, traction boards, tow straps, and kinetic ropes are great options to help you escape sticky situations. If you are going to start conquering more technical trails, you are eventually going to get stuck. Having at least some traction boards, or a buddy with a tow strap is essential. This equipment definitely falls under the, “better to have and not need than need and not have” category.

I have a Smittybilt X2O 10k with synthetic winch line, Factor 55 Ultrahook, MAXTRAX, and 30k lb tow strap. I know some people that have never used their winch, and mine has only been used twice. However, I am thankful that I had it. The MAXTRAX recovery boards are great for getting unstuck quickly and for leveling your rig at camp.

Vehicle Armor: The 4Runner is blessed with some halfway decent skid plates from the factory. The rocker panels, and front and rear plastic bumper covers, however, are easily damaged. Rock sliders paired with a metal front and/or rear bumper will protect your body panels from permanent damage. Upgraded skid plates will also give you more peace of mind that your drivetrain is well protected on the trail.

My rig is equipped with SSO rock sliders, a slimline hybrid front bumper, and stage 2 high-clearance add-ons. Underneath and in the rear, I have a CBI full skid package and CBI dual-swing rear bumper, Rago LCA, and lower shock mount skids. I have been really happy with all of this armor and it has well exceeded my expectations and handled every trail that I have thrown at it.

Air Compressor: A lot of people are unaware of the benefits of airing down your tires. By lowering the pressure in your tires, the surface area of ground contact is increased. This greatly increases traction on all types of surfaces. It also improves off-road ride quality and reduces stress and wear on your suspension components. If you plan on airing down, you will need to air back up once you are back to the pavement. There are lots of quality air compressors out there to get your rig aired up and back on the road.

The Viair 400p portable air compressor has been good for individually inflating my tires but struggles when connected to my four-hose Indeflate system. I am looking to upgrade my compressor soon.

8. Ryan Jouhari (@advnrig) – 2017 TRD Off-Road

Super White TRD Off Road 4Runner with Gobi Roof Rack, Lil Bs Front Bumper, BFG KM3 Tires

Top 5 Off-Road Mods

  1. Water
  2. First-Aid Kit
  3. Communications
  4. Tools
  5. Recovery Gear

What Do You Like About Your Setup?

When I think of off-roading mods and essentials, I have a different approach and think of emergency preparedness.

At the top of my list is water, and plenty of it. You never know when a situation may occur leaving you out on the trail a lot longer than expected. Number two on my list is a first aid kit, and I carry two of them. I have supplies that have you covered from small cuts to trauma injuries. Not only is having this equipment important but also knowing how to use it is a great skill everyone should have.

Following that, having a way to contact help, or simply communicating with others is key. Everyone should carry a backup method of communication outside of their cell phone as you will likely not have service.

Next are tools to get you out of a pinch. Things are bound to break, and accidents can happen. Having a variety of tools will help get you back on the road.

Lastly, is some basic recovery gear. Gear like recovery ropes/straps, winches, traction boards, and shovels are great ways to get you or someone else out of trouble.

Final Thoughts

Super White 4Runner with Roofnest RTT, Full Steel Plate Front Bumper & Snorkel

What a great group of rigs to get you dialed for the trail! I hope you were inspired to grab some more essential gear and get out off the beaten path this weekend! I enjoyed how nearly all these off-road enthusiasts featured were logical about what items they considered to be essential and didn’t really list those social media flex items that most people really don’t need.

If you would like to be considered for next week’s Feature Friday, we will be showcasing All-Terrain Tire options for the 5th Gen 4Runner.

We want readers to get inspired by a variety of rigs/products. Submit your build for Feature Friday here to get featured. If you would like to submit your build for next week, include your setup details and an awesome photo that shows it off.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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