FJ Cruiser Ingeniously Transformed into Ultimate Vacation Rig

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YotaTech leader’s Mount Rainier trip spawns new camping-gear reviews showing you how to get the best out of your truck when out in the wild.

There’s really only one thing in this world better than buying new gear, and that’s actually using said gear. After all, we don’t just buy shiny new toys to let them sit in the corner and look pretty. So, when YotaTech admin and co-creator Corey Tando decided to treat his FJ Cruiser to some new camping gear, he didn’t waste much time putting it to good use. Even better, he did so in the beautiful confines of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State.

To make his FJ an even more competent camping rig, Corey spent his winter and spring ordering up a variety of new stuff. With the goods in place, he put it all to the test and reported back with helpful reviews on all of it. To be fair, Corey isn’t one to buy the cheapest stuff, which, as he explains, is because he “absolutely deplores buying gear that lets me down!” When you’re out in the wilderness, it’s certainly comforting to know that your stuff is going to work, after all.

Camping Gear Review

One of our favorite additions to Corey’s impressive array of new gear has to be his Eezi-Awn Bat 270 awning. Like most things in life, awnings can cost you as much or as little as you’d like. But as this active YotaTech member explains, there are very valid reasons for springing for a high quality awning such as this one.

“Another game changer from Paul May at Equipt Expeditions out of Utah. My old Campinglab awning, same as the ARBs and other Chinese awnings out there was OK. But this thing covers 270 degrees of the vehicle, hence the name of it. I had to have my local 4WD shop, Auburn Car Repair & Offroad, beef up my Bajaracks awning mounts, as they could not handle the weight. But once it was modified, no problem.

The awning can be deployed by me in under one minute. That is unzipping the bag, undoing three straps, and walking the awning around the vehicle to open it up all the way. Dropping down the three poles and staking them takes just a few more minutes.

It was nice being able to sit under this in some shade at Mount Rainier due to the high temps. It was a relief throughout the day when a breeze would kick up under there. Felt like natural air conditioning, and the breeze also kept the small black flies from landing on you. This is because they have a hard time zeroing in on their intended flesh targets when it is windy.

This awning, like the National Luna fridge/freezer, is a product out of South Africa. There, they understand how to make high quality products, and they have been tested to the extreme in their native country. Of course, I am going to give this two thumbs up. Did you ever think otherwise?”

Camping Gear Review

When you’re out in the middle of nowhere, you also need power for all your gear. So Corey picked up a Goal Zero Yeti 400 lithium portable power station, Lighthouse 400 lantern, and USB power hub to keep things charged up.

“I bought this mainly to charge up my camera and headlamp batteries. But to also power the Big Kahuna 4.7 gallon shower. I also bought the Goal Zero Boulder 100 watt Briefcase solar panel to keep it charged. But this thing has a huge reserve capacity, so I ended up leaving the solar panel for it at home.

There is a cheaper Yeti 400 that is non-lithium. But this unit is half the weight and a little more compact. It can also do 110v with a built in converter. It also provides 12v and 5v for the USB power out.

And you can use a solar panel like the Boulder that is plug and play for it, or any other solar panel with an adapter cable. You don’t have to worry about using a charge controller for the solar output, as the Yeti 400 has its own built in charge controller. Very cool. Gotta give it a two thumbs up.

The lantern is very nice, as you can use only one half of the forward facing bulb or all of the bulb. Plus, it has variable lumen output. And if you find yourself without a way to recharge it in the field, no worries. It has a hand crank on top to juice it back up.

We did not really use it, but loaned it to the woman in the next sire over so she could read in her hammock or picnic table. Gotta give this two thumbs up too, as it can put out quite a lot of light for such a compact lantern.”

Camping Gear Review

Of course, you need to keep your truck’s batteries charged as well. And if you’re in a nice sunny place, the best way to do that is with a good solar panel. Corey picked up a Renogy 100 watt Suitcase solar panel with charge controller to keep his FJ’s battery topped off, and it worked to perfection.

“The price has come down on this model since I bought mine, and this newer one has a different charge controller than mine, too. This solar panel is used exclusively to charge up my Optima yellow top battery.

It serves as the auxiliary one that powers only my fridge and the ARB Twin air compressor. And it does a darn good job too. With the outside temps in the high 80s most of the trip, the inside of my rig must have been pushing 110 degrees or higher. So the fridge is going to work that much harder to cool/freeze its contents.

The solar panel kept the battery at around 13 to 13.5 volts when there was sun. I have tested it at home with the fridge off and it got the battery up to 14.5v quickly. Better than my alternator can do. A solar panel should be included in every camper/overlander’s kit if running a fridge in their rig. Gotta give this a two thumber also.”

Camping Gear

Of course, this is merely a sample of all the cool gear Corey added to his FJ this year. Be sure and head over to his mod thread to see how much his Toyota has evolved over the years. Just be warned, you’ll want to have a credit card handy.

Plus, check out more of Corey’s awesome FJ mod threads, starting right from the beginning, right here!

Become a YotaTech forum member now — FREE!

Brett Foote has been covering the automotive industry for over five years and is a longtime contributor to Internet Brands’ Auto Group sites, including Chevrolet Forum, Rennlist, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other popular sites.

He has been an automotive enthusiast since the day he came into this world and rode home from the hospital in a first-gen Mustang, and he's been wrenching on them nearly as long.

In addition to his expertise writing about cars, trucks, motorcycles, and every other type of automobile, Brett had spent several years running parts for local auto dealerships.

You can follow along with his builds and various automotive shenanigans on Instagram: @bfoote.

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