Everyone wants a Toyota Tacoma (just look at the price of used Tacos)! So I ‘settled’ for a Ford F-150. But I’m never looking back.
About 2 years ago, I needed a new truck. My 2000 Ford Ranger was getting a little long in the tooth after a round trip to, from, and all around Alaska from Colorado. It had never given me a moment’s trouble, but I was just ready for something different, with a little more power for climbing Colorado’s nasty I-70 in the winter.
So the hunt began. If you look in the outdoor community, Toyota Tacomas are everywhere. I was smitten. They look so cool and rugged! And look at all the aftermarket mods! It shot to the top of my list.
But as I scoured Craigslist for a few months, I saw a puzzling trend. The Tacomas cost a fortune, even with lots of miles. Just switching from my Ranger to a Tacoma would have cost me $5,000 for the same year and mileage, and that didn’t include the money I’d need to spend on the Tacoma’s likely-ignored-but-required timing chain replacement.
Then I drove a really, really nice Tacoma. On the outside, it was gorgeous. Big tires. Skid plates. Racks. Badass bumpers and armor. But on the inside, behind the wheel, I was oh so underwhelmed. It just felt bland.
I scratched my head, hopped back to Craigslist, and did something I never expected. I typed in “F-150” in the search console and opened my eyes to a whole new world.
Used Ford F-150s: Lots of Options
Suddenly, I had options. And not just good-looking trucks, but dozens of them, priced well below the smaller Toyota. I did a little investigating and went for some test drives.
I immediately realized why this was the best-selling truck in America. Power, check! Space, check! Fuel efficiency … well, frankly, it sucks. But it’s still about the same as the smaller Tacomas.
It took some time — about 6 months of me pining over it to my wife — but I found my unicorn. I stumbled on a 2010 Ford F-150 FX4 with a 5.4L V8 for $25,000. The kicker? It had just 8,000 (yes, eight thousand) miles on the odometer. I signed my name and drove it off the lot that day.
2010 F-150: The Perfect Adventuremobile (For Me)
I’ve now had the truck — which I’ve since dubbed “Jolene” — for about 2 years. Frankly, I love it. And I realize the reasons it’s so perfect for me are the same reasons that many people mistakenly buy smaller midsize trucks instead.
First, yes, it’s a big vehicle. But it’s not that big compared with a Tacoma or even a Ranger. And thanks to much-improved design compared with my 2000 Ford Ranger, I find it easier to drive in the city.
And that big size, while a detriment on very tight trails, is great just about everywhere else I use it (other than smaller parking lots in the city). Heading home from an elk hunt in the fall, I loaded my buddy, gear, and, well, an elk, into the bed. And I still had room to fit a second elk had my buddy also punched his tag. (He didn’t.)
And while the back seats are big enough even for 6-foot-tall people to fit in comfortably, the bed, at 6.5 feet, is also big enough for me and my 5’10” wife to sleep in comfortably.
I threw a topper on the truck. Then I tricked it out with a DECKED drawer system. It lets me haul sleeping bags and pads, a stove, clothing, and most other gear I need for a week of car camping while leaving the upper level open as a sleeping platform.
And yes, I know I could build my own platform. But the excellent quality of the DECKED system won me over and I’ve loved it since Day One.
F-150 Adventuremobile: The Stealthy Overlander
I know that for a lot of overlanders, building out a truck goes a long way and costs a lot of money. But my build is, at this point, quite stock. And for my needs, I can’t see doing a ton of extra work.
I did put on a leveling kit to fit excellent 33-inch Cooper AT3 XLT tires. I upgraded to snazzy-looking American Outlaw rims, really for looks alone. Inside, I installed a Midland radio and added an Orvis seat cover for my dog in the back seat.
On car camping trips (or long road trips), I toss a Dometic portable refrigerator in the back seat or bed to keep camp food fresh. A basic recovery kit — with a shovel, Maxtrax, an axe, emergency blankets, and tow strap and shackles — lives in one of the DECKED drawers. The other side is open for varying kits depending on my activity.
And with these minor upgrades, I’ve yet to tackle a trail that even made me nervous in this truck. Yes, I know they exist, but I’ve learned over the years that if the trail is really that bad, I’m more likely to park and walk than want to drive it anyway. And if I really, really wanted to get into rock crawling, a big, expensive truck is probably a horrible choice. That’s not what I got it for.
But for getting up some moderately sketchy roads, it’s done great. And in the winter, it’s a reliable, capable machine on bad roads that has no problem hauling ski gear and more for myself and a couple of friends.
Mine’s been all over Colorado and the American West. At this point, I’ve tallied more than 30,000 miles since the purchase. I’ve been on short overnight camping trips where I slept in the bed and major adventures in which I packed it with gear and headed out to backpack major trails and hunt in the wilderness.
So far, it has had just one minor problem, covered under warranty — a leaking seal on the transmission. The repair cost very little thanks to an aftermarket warranty and was done in a day.
F-150 Overlanding: A Truck First and Foremost
Last, but maybe not least, the F-150 is ultimately a pickup truck, and I use it as such a lot. During the last couple of months of COVID-19 restrictions, I’ve used my adventuremobile as a work truck more than anything.
That means I’ve rented a dump trailer to haul landscaping equipment and materials to and from my home while working on a lot of projects. To tow a small dump trailer, an F-150 or similar full-size pickup is the smallest legal option.
And when loading up a bed full of soil and pulling a trailer, the approximately 1,500-pound payload capacity and 9,700-pound towing capacity, both of which eclipse the smaller Tacoma, have been real advantages.
I’ve loaded the bed with soil and compost, towed Dingos and other equipment to my home, and ultimately used it exactly what it was designed for — work. But at the end of the day, I can spray the bed out with a hose and toss in the sleeping bags and head for the mountains again.
Would others consider this mostly stock F-150 an “overland vehicle”? Maybe not. I’m guessing it wouldn’t be a top choice to drive around the world. But then again, it would be my first choice for another trip up the Alaska Highway. So it depends on your definition of an overland vehicle.
So while a full-size truck may not be the adventure vehicle that everyone dreams of, for me, it’s perfect. I’d buy it again in an instant.