The Story Behind our Toyota 4Runner

Toyota 4Runner towing Airstream Basecamp

I’m often asked why I tow with a 4Runner.  The answer to that is a bit of a story.  I did not sit down and plan out my setup of towing a Basecamp with a 4Runner.  Instead, it’s a bit of a progression of different events that led to my current setup.

Back in the beginning…

2001 Chinook Concourse
My 2001 Chinook Concourse

Back in 2017, I started looking into how to travel full-time and landed on RV living. I took the leap and bought a 2001 Chinook Concourse.  With it sitting in the apartment complex driveway, I gave my 30-day notice and was beyond excited to move into it full-time.

Then the generator stopped working and maintenance bills stacked up.  I drove back and forth to my mechanic several times a week to have different items looked at.  In the end, it was going to cost me thousands to repair some hidden issues the inspector didn’t find, so I decided to sell it.

At this point my lease was up and a full year lease was my only option.  Thankfully, a friend of mine let me move in with her and her husband while I figured things out.

Determined to still hit the road full-time, and in a matter of just a few weeks, I began looking at trailers that my 3.6L Subaru Outback could tow.  It had a towing capacity of 3,000lbs which I thought was plenty to get a small trailer. However, the RV dealer pointed out the Subaru could only support a tongue weight of 200lbs.

Jasper in a T@G Teardrop
Jasper shopping for T@G teardrop trailers

Thankfully they were very cognizant of this fact and pointed me towards trailers under the 200lb mark.  This meant my only options were tiny teardrop trailers without bathrooms.  Although we fell in love with the T@G teardrops, the thought of living full-time without a bathroom seemed unreasonable.  There was also no place for the litter box.  It seemed the idea of living the full-time RV life was out of reach.

Without many other options, I signed a year lease with another apartment complex.  I couldn’t move in for a few weeks, so continued living at my friend’s.  Since the Subaru was my limiting factor, I began looking at larger vehicles which could tow more.  Shopping for the small RVs made me realize I enjoyed the small size, so it never crossed my mind to even look at trucks.  I just needed a larger SUV was all.

Subaru camping in TX
Subaru camping on a chicken farm

Back when I had bought my Subaru, I knew I wanted to use it for car camping.  I had gone to Jeep, Toyota and Subaru dealers to look at vehicles.  My first question was always “Can the seats fold down flat?”  The car salesman would put them down then turn and try to explain how much storage there was.  They gave me such a funny look as I then proceeded to crawl through the back hatch with Jasper to lay inside.  From this search I knew the only vehicles long enough for us to lay down in were the Subaru Outback and Toyota 4Runner.  (Unless I looked at much larger trucks or SUVs.)

So off to Google I went, searching for Toyota 4Runners for sale.  Used 4Runners with low miles weren’t selling for much less than new ones, and the financing on a new car had a much lower interest rate.  I sent emails to several different dealers inquiring on brand new 4Runners to see what kind of deals they had.  All of the car salesman replied saying they didn’t give specials on 4Runners.  All except one.  He quoted me an amazing price.  I stared at my phone.  Do I do it?  I hadn’t driven a 4Runner in over 2 years.  How could I know this was the right choice?  But my gut told me to do it.

I emailed the dealer back and simply said “I’ll take it!”.

The wait for the 4Runner…

Very long story short, it ended up being sold before we finalized the deal, and he had quoted me the wrong price.  I told him if he could find a comparable 4Runner and honor the quote, I was sold.  I checked my phone all day for a response, but he didn’t call me back.

In the meantime, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, TX.  My friend and I threw a canoe on the roof of the Subaru, tons of dog food and supplies in the back, and headed to Houston to help out with animal rescue.

Loading up with Dog Food & Supplies
Loading up with Dog Food & Supplies to head to Hurricane Harvey animal rescue

One of the rescue missions we went on was to a street with multiple hoarding houses.  One house was filled with cat pee and overflowing litter boxes.  The next had over 100 Chihuahuas crammed in a double wide trailer.  With cat pee, dog crap and who knows what else on us, we crawled into the Subaru to head back to the shelter.  One of the dogs in back of the Subaru decided to mark my trunk as his territory.  Another tried to hump everything and somehow ended up ripping out my ceiling lights.

As we drove  through a flooded street on our way to the next house, I got a phone call.  It was the Toyota dealer.

Driving flooded streets in Houston
The moment I got the call…

He had found me a 4Runner, and would honor the same price he previously quoted me.  With the  current sad condition of my poor Subaru I was now more sold than ever to get a new car.  So we made a deal right there over the phone.  The 4Runner was still on a cargo ship but I could pick it up in 3 weeks.

Now that I had a larger vehicle on the way, I knew I could fit a lot more cargo in it for traveling.  Back in my newly leased apartment in Austin, I really didn’t want to wait another year before hitting the road.  The lease had a clause that let you break it without penalty during the first 30 days.  I had a short window, but I could still figure something out.  I began looking at AirBnBs.

Hitting the Road…

Albuquerque, NM was a place I had always wanted to visit and it wasn’t too far of a drive from Austin.  I found a cheap bedroom for rent in a small house that allowed Jasper and Napoleon.  It also had fast ethernet hookups for my work.  I booked it for a week, and then scheduled a week of vacation after that.  2 weeks planned and that was it.  It was enough for me to break the lease and begin our journey.

When I got the call that the 4Runner had arrived, I drove from Austin to Dallas to pick it up.  The sales rep at the dealer was beyond helpful.  He called me the day before and told me since the price was so low, management would try to give me a lowball offer on my Subaru trade-in.  He suggested I go to CarMax, get a quote, bring it to the dealer and they would have to match it.  It worked like a charm.

Trading the Subaru for the 4Runner
Trading the Subaru for the 4Runner

Jasper and I drove the 4Runner off the lot with only 5 miles on it.  We stopped at Whataburger and ate our first meal in the back of the truck.  After picking up a lot of plastic bins for organization, I squeezed everything we needed into the truck.  That week we set off for Albuquerque, NM.

Living in a 4Runner
The packed 4Runner

For 8 months, we traveled around the country with just the 4Runner.  During the work week we would stay in AirBnBs so I had reliable internet for work.  Eventually I traded out all the plastic bins for a hitch cargo carrier and mattress in the truck.  This allowed the three of us to spend weekends camping in the back.

It wasn’t easy, and there was always cat litter everywhere in the truck, but I have so many fond memories of that time.  The 4Runner took me anywhere I wanted to go, and with the off-road capability I always felt comfortable scoping out different camping spots.  There were a few roads we went down that were well beyond my comfort level at the time, but popping it into 4WD gave me enough confidence to give it a try.  And I kept my handy GPS SOS device close by just in case.

Our 4Runner camping setup
Our 4Runner camping setup

After months of living in AirBnBs, I started yearning for my own space, so we began the RV search again.  At this point, I loved the 4Runner and couldn’t imagine parting with it, especially in exchange for a larger truck.

I also wasn’t sure if RV life would work out for us.  The cost of buying a new truck and RV, just to realize the lifestyle wasn’t right for us, would have cost a fortune due to the depreciation and sales tax. So instead, I searched for RVs the 4Runner could tow and ended up with the Basecamp (the other reasons I bought a Basecamp can be found here).

Conclusion…

After this very long story, the simple answer comes down to:  I tow with a 4Runner because it is what I had at the time I bought my RV.  With its off-road capabilities and plethora of after market customization options, it had all the features I needed.  Mostly, I was hanging onto the nostalgia of our prior 8 months of travel and wasn’t ready to let go.

Future 4Runner Info!

I have received so many questions regarding the 4Runner that I am working on writing a mini series based on it.  Check back or follow us on Instagram to receive notification when the below posts are published!

How We Organized Our Toyota 4Runner for Living on the Road

How a Gobi Roof Rack and Thule Cargo Carrier hold up to Life on the Road

List of Mods on my 2018 Toyota 4Runner

How does the 4Runner do towing?

How do Jasper & Napoleon travel in the 4Runner?

What future mods are on my wishlist?

How is it hooking up the RV and towing as a solo female traveler?

10 Comments

  1. dammnnn woman!!
    u got balls to take such big steps in reaching ur goals:)
    I applaud u n look forward to ur next update!
    congrats and continued success ….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much!! Your comment brought a big smile to my face. I appreciate you following along!

      Like

  2. Thanks for sharing this story. I’ve seen your name come up a few times and watched/read a few videos/articles you’ve posted. I just signed my deposit on a Basecamp 20 X yesterday and am transitioning to living in it once it arrives. Here in Atlanta I’ve been paying so much in rent during this crisis and even though I normally make great money working in film, it was barely enough to hold on being out of work since March. I’m nervous but more so excited about the new horizons ahead and getting to know more people in the ‘full time community.’ I have to upgrade my vehicle from a Nissan Rogue (only 1k two) and I keep coming back to either a Tacoma or 4Runner. I’m curious how it’s held up and if you would still suggest a 4Runner if you were in the market for a new vehicle… also what year is your 4Runner? Cheers.

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    1. Congrats on the Basecamp 20X! That is a really exciting that you are able to transition to full-time in the Basecamp. I’ll be really curious how you like the 20X for living. In regards to the two vehicle, the 20X is too heavy on the tongue weight for the 4Runner, so I would recommend the Tacoma. My 4Runner is a 2018. All the best in the transition to your new lifestyle!

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      1. Thanks! Once it arrives I’ll be posting video’s and such with a new blog. I’ll keep in touch. 🙂

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  3. Erin Murphy

    Oh man, I am loving your set up! My Aunt sent me a link to your interview and tour of your basecamp. It’s gorgeous! I’ve been going back and forth for months on a Class C RV or truck/SUV and travel trailer. She convinced me the truck/trailer combo is better & I agree. But I am in love with the 4Runners. I am looking at one right now. But you have the TRD in order to go off road? Do you know if its a huge difference having that one vs. SR5? I’m going to buy one of these first, work on paying it off (and maybe live in it the way you guys did) and then work on finding a trailer I like. It’s just me & my pup too. I LOVE your blog and will be referring back to it as I head on my journey to be on the road. I’m a travel nurse so its the best option for the lifestyle I want. You’re an inspiration ❤

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    1. Hi Erin! Thank you so much for reaching out! I have the TRD Off-Road version as I wanted the rock climb and those type of features. I’ve honestly never used them! Just the regular 4×4. You can get 4×4 on the SR5 and that’s all you would need unless you are doing some serious off-roading. Hope you are able to hit the road! Check out this article if you are looking for trailers for the 4Runner: https://campaddict.com/small-camper-trailers/.

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  4. David Launderville

    As the owner of both a 2006 Tacoma 4×4 (Off Road) and 2019 4Runner (Pro) if you have towing in mind and do not yet own the vehicle yet: get the Tacoma. They have totally different tow systems (the way the receiver attaches to the truck) and the Tacoma is vastly superior in that compartment (just because the 4Runner can tow 5000 lbs doesn’t mean you should). Congrats and working with dealers who set up you with the vehicle you owned and making it work. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

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    1. Great advice! Thank you for providing further information and pointing out the differences!

      Like

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