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Stop Building, Start Exploring: Yes, Your Vehicle Is Good Enough

Your adventure rig doesn't need those new tires, or that new sway bar, or that new roof rack. And your camp packout doesn't need that fancy new KFS kit. What they need is you. Behind the wheel, in nature, exploring.
Stop Building and Start Exploring(Photo/Evan Williams)
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If you’re waiting to upgrade your ride before you get out there next weekend, stop. You don’t need that next fancy upgrade, and your stock vehicle is much more capable than you think. So this winter, stop dreaming and start doing.

Don’t Fall Into the Upgrade Trap

Stop Building and Start Exploring
Just one more accessory! (photo/Evan Williams)

We’ve all fallen into the upgrade trap. I just need this one last thing and I’ll be able to go anywhere I want. But that last thing doesn’t happen. Or it turns into one more thing that really is the last one for sure, and so on.

The GearJunkie crew has tried out vehicles all over the world, on terrain from rocks to snow and ice to sand, to, well, everything. And we’ve done far more of that than you might think in vehicles that are exactly the way they were when they left the factory. Without any upgrades at all.

Of course, the new breed of built factory rig — think Raptor R, Colorado ZR2 Bison, Toyota Tacoma TRD PRO — can handle that trail, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We mean much lesser rigs. Even the crossovers that are mocked with names like “cute ute” and “soft roader” can get you to new campsites, new lakes, and new sights.

Stock Rigs & Stock Tires Are More Capable Than Ever

Stop Building and Start Exploring
Yes, that’s a Kia Sportage; (photo/Evan Williams)

Take a look at photos from our off-road drives. Really zoom in. You’ll see tires with passenger car tread, not the chunky off-road rubber you expected.

Land Rover Defender 130 in the North Carolina mud? Pirelli Scorpion all seasons. Deep winter snow and ice in rural Quebec in a Subaru Forester? Bridgestone Blizzak. A Mitsubishi Outlander with one wheel in the air and another scrambling through shale? The same Toyo Proxes tires it used on the race track just moments before. A Jeep Grand Cherokee in Moab? Absolutely stock.

These are just a few examples, but our road test archives are full of them. And so are our lives. Adventures had in vehicles that didn’t look up to the task but were more than ready.

Even a Corolla Cross Has Ground Clearance

Stop Building and Start Exploring
You could practically sleep under there! (photo/Evan Williams)

What about ground clearance, you ask? A Toyota Corolla Cross might be the least off-road intending crossover we can think of. It has 8.1 inches underneath, and that’s a respectable figure that will get you further out there than all but the pros would ever think possible.

I’m not trying to say that you can hop in a Subaru Impreza and tackle the Rubicon Trail. I’ve seen enough standard Corollas and Dodge Caravans miles down ATV trails to know it’s probably possible. I’ve surprised UTV drivers in my own Honda Civic on the way to my favorite hiking trail. But, it takes a special person to have so little mechanical sympathy that they’d attempt it. A complete lack of give a d**n.

Plus, I’ve learned the hard way myself that being under-tired for the terrain can leave you in a rough spot. Especially in the winter. So, I won’t tell you you can go anywhere in any condition.

Drive for Your Ride

Stop Building and Start Exploring
(Photo/Bryon Dorr)

What I’m trying to say is that you don’t need a Jeep Gladiator on 40s to head into your local national park. Or to go for a drive down Forest Service roads. Drive for your ride instead of making your ride capable of that more extreme drive, because those are both amazing travel destinations to get out for an adventure next weekend. Places you can find a campsite, a swimming hole, or just take a meandering expedition for the afternoon.

Stop Building and Start Exploring
(Photo/Evan Williams)

The same goes for the rest of your gear. Sure a rooftop tent is great, but if installing one is what’s stopping you? Grab the ground tent you already have. Or sleep in the back of your rig. It’s a compromise for sure, but it’s much less of a compromise than staying home all weekend in the suburbs.

Don’t Discount Gear Completely

Stop Building and Start Exploring
(Photo/Evan Williams)

Don’t get me wrong, the right gear is great. It can help you get further into the wilderness and it can make camping and exploring more pleasant. Of course, you should upgrade when things break. Winter tires are also a must-have for winter conditions. But don’t get hung up on having everything before you get out there. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

Stop Making Excuses

Stop Building and Start Exploring
The pizza oven and robot are the last upgrades, I promise! (photo/Evan Williams)

If I had a dollar for every time one of my off-road friends said, “I just need this one thing and it’s perfect,” about their rigs, I’d have enough money to buy a Ford Raptor. Add my race track friends to the equation and I could probably put a Spec Miata on a trailer behind it. Don’t think I exclude myself from that calculus either, because I’m as bad as anyone.

Let’s face it, though, these are excuses. Looking for a reason to stay home instead of finding new places.

Start Doing Instead

Stop Building and Start Exploring
(Photo/Evan Williams)

But every weekend spent dreaming and online shopping is a weekend spent not doing. Not getting out on the trail, not setting up camp, and not discovering new places. Places where you could be having an adventure instead of spending your time turning wrenches.

Stop Building & Start Exploring

So stop building that adventure mobile up with more parts and start using the parts you have. Your drive might be less extreme, but it will be more fun. Because you’ll be exploring.

If you’re worried about getting stuck, you don’t need a winch bumper, you need to be careful, you need a recovery strap, and you need a friend in another vehicle.

Bringing a friend makes the trip more fun anyway. I’ll say it again: Get out there. In the words of Miss Frizzle, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

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