Build/Rig Feature + Interview – XOverland’s Tanner Johnson & His Comfortable OEM+ Overland Built 5th Gen 4Runner
Welcome to Trail 4Runner’s newest weekly segment: Walkaround Wednesday!
Each week, we’ll do a detailed walkaround of a trail-built Toyota 4Runner and ask the owner a few questions about how their rig came to be. And the best part? You can have your very own rig featured on a future Walkaround Wednesday! Keep reading to see how you can apply!
For this week, we couldn’t think of a better way to kick off this segment than with a member of one the biggest names in the field of overlanding: Expedition Overland. If you somehow haven’t heard of them, once you’ve crawled out from under that rock, you should take some time to check them out.
XOverland is a TV show dedicated to sharing its overland adventures and has been pioneering the field of overlanding for over a decade. Today, we’ll talk to Tanner Johnson, XOverland’s Content and Fleet Manager, and take a look at his personal vehicle. But enough from me, let’s hear what Tanner has to say.
Do you want your rig to be featured next?
Each week, we cover a new rig to help people image what their own rig can look like.
- Instagram Tag: “@tanner_johnson_yhp
- State: Montana
- Year – 2014
- Make and Model – Toyota 4Runner
- Trim – Trail
- Color – Blizzard Peral
- Mileage – 140k
- General Grabber ATX (285/75R17) – (Review)
- Icon Vehicle Dynamics Six Speed Wheels, Satin Black (17×8.5”)
- Icon Vehicle Dynamics CDEV 2.5 Front & Rear Shocks
- Icon Vehicle Dynamics Billet Upper Control Arm
- Icon Vehicle Dynamics Billet Trailing Arms, Upper & Lower
- CBI Covert Baja Front Bumper
- RCI Skid Plates (Install)
- CBI Side Steps
- Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform (Install & Review)
- Rago Fabrications Side Molle Panels (Install & Review)
- Gobi Rear Ladder w/ DIY Maxtrax Mount (Install)
- DIY Rear Cargo Base Plate
- DIY Rear Passenger Side Drawer
Lighting & Electrical:
- Morimoto XB Headlights (Install & Review)
- Baja Designs 30” S8 Light Bar (clear)
- Baja Designs 40” OnX6+ Straight Light Bar (clear)
- Baja Designs Squadron SAE Fog Lights
- Baja Designs S2 Side Area Lights
- Switch Pros SP9100 Switch System (Install)
- 100w Solar Panel
- Baja Designs Squadron Amber Reverse Lights (wired to have optional strobe for emergency purposes)
- Rock Lights
- ICOM IC-2730a Ham Radio (Install)
- Garmin Overlander GPS
- Interior Amber LEDs (prevent bugs from flying in at night)
- WeBoost Drive Reach Overland Cell Booster (Install & Review)
- Dobisons Snorkel (Install)
- Maxtrax MKIIs (Review)
Tell Us About Yourself. How Long Have You Owned Your 4Runner?
I am Tanner Johnson, I am from Laramie, Wyoming and I have a degree in photography from Powell Wyoming. It is also where I met my wife, Randi Johnson. We both own Yellow Horse Photography. I have also been working for XOverland since 2019. Before that, I worked for eight years at a camera store in Bozeman called Bozeman Camera; that is where I met Clay Croft, who is the founder of XOverland.
I am currently their fleet manager in charge of heading up all of the builds/installs and maintaining the trucks, as well as photographer, drone pilot, and videographer for them. Before my 4Runner, I owned a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee that I put over 150,000 miles on and always seemed to be having some problem (including leaving me stranded multiple times with bad fuel pumps or other issues). That’s what led me to start looking into a Toyota; I became a fan of XOverland back when they went to Central America and built two 4Runners.
I originally had been looking into Tacomas, but knowing we were having a family on the way, the rear seat room was a factor. When I found the 2014 4Runner Trail Edition, it fit all of our needs including large interior space which has been great for family activities. I also knew I wanted the trail or TRD Off-Road trim package because of the extra off-road features including a rear locker. It was just luck when I found mine used at a dealership locally in 2017 and I purchased it with only 40,000 miles on it.
How Do You Use Your 4Runner?
The majority of the use of my rig is daily: driving to work, family activities, and random outdoor adventures. I’ve never had a rooftop tent on it; instead, I have a camper that I’ll occasionally tow behind it. I haven’t needed to build it into a dedicated overland rig, so I’ve balanced the functionality of daily driving with outdoor lifestyle use. I mostly go fishing with it and carry my kayak. Also, with our photography business, it gets used a lot for being able to go anywhere depending on our needs or client needs.
It has been great for family use, being able to fit a car seat in the back, and all of the things that come along with raising a family. The main challenge that I overcome with the build is just balancing needs versus wants personally. I have really tried to prevent myself from buying something just because it looks or sounds cool, and I have really pushed myself to wait until it’s something I actually need for functional use. I have also removed items over the years that I have put on and realized I have not used it enough to justify it being on there.
Tell Us About Your Build Process.
It’s definitely been a slow build over the years. I usually get something used on the marketplace or get what I can afford at the time and then maybe replace it later with a more brand-name option if I have an opportunity to. But I’m always just trying to use my rig, then decide what I want the most out of it, and put my efforts towards that.
The most important thing is to use it and then it’ll tell you what you need. Most mods – let’s be honest – are for looks a lot of times, but I always try to have at least one or two forms of function and not just do it for looks.
What Do You Like Most & Least?
100% the reliability. I came from a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee that, by the time I was done with it, I had almost rebuilt. Now approaching 150,000 miles on my 4Runner and all I have done is change the oil. Also I really like the looks and the features including space in the rear seats. When I was shopping for it, having kids was on the top of our minds at the time and there was a ton of space for car seats and full-grown adults to ride in the back seats, where other SUVs and midsize pickups of similar spec do not have that.
I also love that it comes factory with a locking rear diff and a-trac. Even though the engine isn’t very powerful for other standards nowadays, for me, it has plenty of power. The drive train has also been so tried and true; I have no worries about it.
Do You Regret Any Mods? Would You Change Anything?
To be honest, Haha. I definitely have done some things to it that felt like answers in search of a problem like upgrading to high-performance remote reservoir suspension. I just hope the longevity is there, but we shall see.
What’s Your Favorite Mod?
Gosh, depends on the time of year. Right now it’s probably my roof rack because I am able to easily carry my fishing kayak from spot to spot. In the wintertime, it’s probably a combination of my General ATX tires and the light bars for visibility with how dark it gets for so long in the wintertime.
What’s Next For Your 4Runner?
I’m hoping to maybe do a better rear drawer system than my DIY drawer and hopefully, a small 25 or 35-quart fridge that I can easily take in and out as I need it for day trips and convenience with family and groceries.
Wow, what an incredible rig! Having had the pleasure of meeting Tanner and seeing this 4Runner in person, it’s abundantly clear to me that he has put a great deal of thought and care into this vehicle. The end result is a tastefully put-together build that fulfills Tanner’s mission to a tee. A huge thanks to Tanner and the XOverland Team for sharing this vehicle build. Please go show them some love on social.
Tanner’s Personal Instagram – (@tanner_johnson_yhp)
Yellow Horse Photography – (@yellow.horse.photography)
Expedition Overland – (@xoverland)
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably wondering how you can apply to have your own 4Runner featured on a future Walkaround Wednesday. It’s actually quite simple- all you need to do is fill out this submission form, where you’ll be asked to answer a few questions and upload 8-12 awesome photos of your build. Can’t wait to see all of your builds!