A Car or Truck for Backcountry

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 1, 2006      

I’ve long been into customizing our vehicles for the sports they’re used for, and I’m not the only one. Auto makers have picked up car and truck owners tendency to tweak, and we’re starting to see vehicles with sport specific features. To that end, check out this Dacia show car. The Logan Steppe is replete with boot and glove dryers, a fold out waxing bench, and more. Excellent! Where can I get one?

Seriously, it’s getting close to spring corn snow season here in the western United States. That’s when we start grinding out the miles in our rigs. I’ll be passing my 97 Cherokee on down the line and need a new truck. Something smaller, diesel, that will still tow our rock crawler Jeep and a ton of camping gear. Dodge? We shall see.

Since I do enjoy writing about the trucks we use to access the backcountry, I added a new “automotive” category to the right hand menu bar. I’ll keep the motorhead posts in check, but look for occasional writing about autos — after all, how many backcountry skiers in North America walk to their trailheads? Perhaps a few who live nearby, and some end up bicycling (especially on closed roads), but cars rule for getting there.

Here at WildSnow.com world headquarters we call our rigged up trucks “trailhead approach vehicles,” (TAVs). What TAV do you prefer? Are you bashing your Prius up and down the back roads to get to the trails? How is it working? Did you recently buy a new truck? Is it everything you wanted?


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9 Responses to “A Car or Truck for Backcountry”

  1. Scott B March 1st, 2006 10:29 pm

    I’ve recently purchased a 2005 Toyota 4Runner. It works great for easy off roading and is the best thing I’ve owned on the highway, especially since it has an AWD mode as well as a low range 4WD. However, I’m generally dissapointed with the ground clearance on all of the manufacturers current SUVs. Makes me wish I’d have at least looked at a pre 1997 Land Cruiser. I think that if you plan on driving harder Jeep trails, you either have to cusomize or buy a truck, which are also less off-road ocapable than they used to be.

  2. Paul A March 2nd, 2006 4:06 am

    Hi Lou –

    I recently purchased a 2005 Ford Ranger. Not as trail ready as my 76 International Scout, but it will actually make it to the trailhead which is nice.

    I did however fit an old Wildernest Topper on it. If you are not familiar with the Wildernest — it looks like a regular topper (w/ ski racks on top etc.) but pops open to make a two person sleeping area. Found it off eBay really cheap. It’s great because not only is your rig a “TAV” as you call it, but it also doubles as a shelter complete with a counter and ample room for gear when you might not want to break out the tent.

    Agree with Scott B – they don’t make the new trucks like the old ones. If I drive my new Ford once like I always drive my Scout, it will never drive straight again.

  3. Lou March 2nd, 2006 4:43 am

    Paul, I knew the guy who invented the Wildernest and played around with one of the first ones when Jeff Lowe had it during a ski descent we did of Mount Sneffels. They really are excellent — I’ve always wanted one.

  4. dave March 2nd, 2006 9:25 am

    haven’t used my “TAV” for a lot of trailhead access, but my new toy (10months old actually) is a 1990 land cruiser. it was cheap, and it still has ground clearance, it just stops running occationally. we’ll see how it does this spring.

    as for complaining about newer SUVs. my roommate rallies his Outback all over this valley. every so often he loses a piece of bumper now and again, but otherwise makes us SUV drivers look like a bunch of sallies.

  5. Chris March 2nd, 2006 10:01 pm

    The “TAV” I use is a 1974 Toyota FJ40. Close to stock, it allows for great access and is tweaked for spring skiing; w/ an extra battery and converters to make trailhead ski waxing, tire in/deflation, and computer use (maps) possible. And new this season: Volvo 740 heated seats!

  6. Lou March 2nd, 2006 10:27 pm

    More battery is definitely one of the best TAV mods. I didn’t have room in my Cherokee for a second battery, so instead I bought the best quality biggest honker battery I could fit (with a bit of tweaking) and it’s been great. Planning a second battery for the Tacoma for sure, have a place I can mount it on the fender in the bed.

    Chris, where did you get the seats? Heated seats are the key to quality relationships, at least I think they might be so I want to give it a try.

  7. Chris March 3rd, 2006 2:09 am

    I found the Volvo 740 seats after searching junkyards in Salida, BV, & Pueblo (the last being the cheapest deal -$20 for the pair). Take a multimeter along and the seat wiring can be checked at the yard. I chose the 740 seats because they required only minor fabrication to fit the stock seat mounts in the ’74 FJ40. The seats are now keyed into the 2nd battery.

    Alternatively, there is the heated seat “addition”. If you Google “heated seats,” you will find this option. Basically, a heating pad that can be installed into your current seats. This was too expensive and way too easy for my taste.

    Lou, if you are interested how I rigged the electrical, I think I still have the PDF write up on the install (adding a secondary wiring harness/fusebox and connecting the seats to it). I’ll have to check my external harddrive which could take a while.

    I second the relationship comment. Now that she has a heated seat, my girlfriend is no longer likely to get out and walk through the dreaded “bumpy sections” on our way to my favorite Sawatch bowls.

  8. hg March 3rd, 2006 2:42 am

    No longer with me, but the best TAV I ever had was a long wheel base diesel Landrover. The only mods were an 18 wheeler battery, some fitted plywood that I could place across the benches in the back as a sleeping platform, and cupholder.
    The thing could go anywhere.

  9. Lou March 3rd, 2006 5:11 am

    Great comments guys, thanks!

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