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We’re here at Overland Expo West with our sponsors Four Wheel Campers, reminiscing over the very vehicle that took me to the top of Yosemite; the shore of Lake Tahoe; and along the sweet roads of Highway 1. It’s been almost a year since I drove a Toyota Tacoma Camper a thousand miles across California, and I can still remember every moment as though it were yesterday.

There is nothing as versatile, sturdy, or as powerful as a good, honest off-road truck. Some might even go as far as to say that the right truck could be a thing of beauty; it’s not just a way of getting from A to B, it’s a way of life.

The Toyota Tacoma Camper is heralded far and wide as being one of the most reliable off-road trucks around. Let’s take a look at why that’s the case.

Meet The Truck Camper That Never Fails To Turn Heads

Toyota Tacoma Camper on the way to  Lake Tahoe, with mountains and pine trees in the background

A quick internet search for Toyota Tacoma Campers reveals that tonnes of camper conversion companies are using it as a solid foundation for an adventuring home. And Four Wheel Campers are no exception; their classic Tacoma Camper set up features the “Fleet” camping pod, installed directly onto the truck’s bed.

This is the model we’re focusing on today. I lived the off-grid lifestyle in one of these bad boys for ten days, so I got to know it pretty well. Read on to find out why this is one of the most popular pop up truck campers on the market.

Four Wheel Campers’ Winning Formula

After the Expo, we’re going to be heading out to Death Valley and the Grand Canyon in a convoy of Four Wheel Campers. This shows you just how well-loved these camping pods are by truck camper enthusiasts all across America. So just what is it about this converted Toyota Tacoma Camper that people find exciting?

Toyota Tacoma Camper Four Wheel Camper pod by Half Dome in Yosemite

Four Wheel Campers’ package offers a tonne of off-road utility, but also allows you to keep your truck for everyday use. The secret to its convertible success is the fact that the camping pod is easy to install and uninstall. That means when you need a pop up camper, you can basically DIY without professional assistance.

Then, when it’s time to return to domestic life, you’ve got your trusty Tacoma back, ready to go in its original form. The removable pod itself is compact enough to store in a garage, or around the back of the house without taking up tonnes of space.

The Tacoma Camper pod itself is made from an aluminium frame. This material is lightweight, strong, and sturdy, yet has enough give to not snap when vaulting over sandy dunes. The roof is also of aluminium, which is ideal for keeping out rain or snow while you’re hibernating through wintry weather. Better yet? Not a wooden component to rot or splinter in sight.

All About The Toyota Tacoma Camper

The Toyota Tacoma Camper is a 4×4 Goliath, and it runs on gas rather than diesel. In my experience, this translated to being cheaper to fill up–a huge concern when you’re living off the grid. It runs off a powerful 3.5-Liter V6 DOHC 24-Valve direct-injection engine, and features a 6-speed automatic gearbox.

A Truck Camper With Guts

This was the first automatic truck that I had ever driven, and boy could this thing go! Getting up to merging speed from a dead stop at the bottom of a freeway turn-off was always effortless.

What’s more, the robust suspension package made bumpy terrain drive like freshly paved asphalt. At the front of the Toyota Tacoma Camper is a coil-spring, double-wishbone suspension system, complete with stabilizer bar. In the back, there’s a leaf spring system, with staggered outboard-mounted gas shock absorbers and stabilizer bar. They even threw in Bilstein shocks for good measure (and the smoothest ride possible).

Four Wheel Campers kitted us out with chunky off-road tires, plus variable-assist power rack-and-pinion steering. Whether climbing steep ascents or winding down Rocky Mountain trails, our Toyota Tacoma Camper took it all in stride. The power-assisted brakes also came in handy when a deer shot out onto the road–which definitely happened more than once!

Found yourself in a traffic jam on the way up to Glacier Point? The Hill Start Assist (which comes standard) function keeps you from rolling back into the car behind you. Optionally, you can request to add a reversing camera for taking the difficulty out of parking in cramped lots.

(…Not that I needed it, because I am a parking god! Okay, just take my word for it; the less said about this, the better.)

Roughing It Doesn’t Mean Going Without

Toyota Tacoma Camper interior, black with leather accessories
The 2019 model comes with a built-in sat-nav system

The air-conditioned interior of this 4×4, 5-passenger truck is pretty luxurious. First and foremost, the driver’s seat is super comfortable, offering plenty of support throughout long, 4-hour journeys. What’s more, steering wheel-mounted controls for the radio and iPhone allow for safe, hands-free driving.

Plug in and charge on the go with the dual USB sockets

Digital nomads who rely on their gadgets will especially will have plenty to love, as well. The Toyota Tacoma has multiple USB sockets in the cab, plus wireless charging. While ours doesn’t have an inbuilt sat-nav system, we used a TomTom Go Camper for our travels, and it worked brilliantly. Modern models come with this feature standard, so problem completely solved!

Four Wheel Campers Means Custom Comfort

Toyota Tacoma Camper with the pop topped outside the FWC factory

The folks at Four Wheel Campers fully kitted out the Toyota Tacoma Camper for off-grid living, truly enabling me to take this beast anywhere. For 10 days of hard driving, it provided a comfortable and practical place to sleep, eat, and relax on the road.

Of course, living on the road is hardly a standard experience, and Four Wheel Campers are renowned for meeting the specific needs of their customers. This is evident in the fact that nearly 90% of all their pop up truck camper conversions bear some kind of customisation.

Each build can take anything from two to three months to complete. That’s actually crazy-fast when you consider these Tacoma Camper kits as affordable tiny homes. Rather than an automated assembly line, Four Wheel Campers build everything by hand. That means every detail stems from the experiences of real people who’ve spent actual time in the wilderness.

Life Inside The Tacoma Pop Up Camper

The Toyota Tacoma Camper’s interior has all of the essentials that you need for living the van life (or truck life, in this case). The steps at the back of the camper flip down to allow access to the pod itself. After unlatching six heavy duty clips and using the roof erection tools provided, the streamlined camper turns into a pop-top mansion, complete with the biggest pull out bed that I’ve ever seen.

Keeping in mind each FWC build is different, I’m going to talk you through the build that I lived in. This way, you can get a general idea as to how they’re set up.

What’s It Like To Cook In?

Spacious fridge inside the camper

On the left hand side by the door was a roomy 12V fridge, which I stocked full of cheese, humous, veg, juice, and other healthy snacks. This was a very quiet unit that didn’t make a terrible racket when the compressor kicked in; I hardly knew it was there.

An alternative interior to the Fleet model that I used on my journey, showing how much you can fit inside one of thee pop up campers

The ‘Fleet’ camper had ample storage for all of the included cooking accessories, as well as dry ingredients. I like to cook, which meant that I had a tonne of pots and pans with me as well as lots of different spices, and there was more than enough room for everything. The cupboard doors stayed fixed in place while driving too, so there were no nasty surprises when I parked up for the day.

The Toyota Tacoma Camper had a pretty large work surface to prepare meals on. It also had the added bonus of having hot and cold water too, which made washing up a breeze. The two-burner hob was perfect for whipping up most meals, and with the pop topped there was plenty of room to stand up while cooking (I’m 5’10” for reference).

Four Wheel Campers provide two propane tanks with every build, so that you always have a spare to hand. These are located outside the build in a handy lockable storage area, and you can rest easy knowing that the alarm will wake you if there is a leak.

Was The Toyota Tacoma Camper Comfortable?

Toyota Tacoma Camper spacious pull out bed
Every truck needs a truck fox mascot

It was, and I sometimes found it hard to get up in the morning because the bed was so comfortable. In its fixed position, the bed was a standard queen size, but you also have the option of extending it past the cooker to create a massive sleeping platform that uses the cushions from the chair next to the swivel-table. I did this every night, as I enjoyed feeling like the off-grid Hugh Heffner.

Power was never a problem thanks to the alternator topping up the batteries as I drove. And although my Toyota Tacoma Camper build didn’t come with a solar package, I never ran out of battery power once on the trip.

A handy display lets you keep track of how much water and electrical charge you have left before you’re empty, and underneath is where you can access the analogue furnace controls. The furnace was a great addition and greatly appreciated when we visited Lake Tahoe, warming the camper in seconds and creating a nice environment to kick back and relax in.

Toyota Tacoma Camper logo

Is It A Good Place To Work From?

Thanks to the touch-operated LED lights and comfortable chair/table combo, you can work at any time of day or night. If you make a living from life on the road, then there are tonnes of places to charge your USB and 12V gadgets. I also appreciated that late night Mario Kart sessions didn’t have to be a thing of the past!

Final Thoughts…

The Toyota Tacoma Camper is a great and affordable way to get off the grid at a moments notice; you can even keep it stocked up with clothes and dry goods all year round! At just over $17’000 (around £13’000) it’ a cheap alternative to buying some of the top campervan conversions on the market. This price doesn’t include the cost of the Toyota Tacoma itself, but after driving one across California I wouldn’t need an excuse to part with the money if I saw one in a local second-hand dealership.

Parked by the sand dunes on Highway 1

If you are a weekend warrior who is looking for a reliable off road truck camper hand built by professionals, then look no further. Head over to the Four Wheel Campers and check out this Toyota Tacoma Camper set up for yourself. Everything is customisable, so if you value a toilet over a table or a sofa over a char then make your opinions known and start the journey towards owning your dream camper!

This article was sponsored by Four Wheel Campers. They were kind enough to invite us to Overland Expo which gave us the chance to produce this article for the Van Clan community. Check them out if you’re interested in the best pop up truck campers around.

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