4Runner Camping: An Easy & Affordable Camper Conversion
Many people looking for something smaller than a traditional motorhome have converted their own minivan, SUV, or crossover vehicle into a small DIY camper. Setting up your own camper can not only be more affordable than buying an RV, but it will also allow you to camp in more places, including the smaller campsites in many national parks and forests.
One of the most popular options for DIY camper conversions is the long-loved Toyota 4Runner. Though it has changed over its 5 generations, today’s 4Runner is now off-road ready and capable of taking you off-grid in the boondocks far away from the crowded campgrounds.
Camping in a 4Runner
The modern-day 4Runner is small and compact, great for stealth camping on city streets or boondocking off-grid in small wooded campsites. At just under 16 feet long, it is much easier to drive than the big Class A motorhomes, and without a travel trailer, there is no issue of towing safety. Just add in a custom mattress, some storage space, and cooking gear, and you have your own DIY camper ready to take anywhere.
According to Motor Trend,
“Today’s 4Runner increases in comfort and capability. Now powered exclusively by a 270-hp 4.0-liter V-6 (an I-4 was only briefly available), it’s more luxurious than before. For off-road enthusiasts, a TRD Pro trim adds upgraded shocks, springs, tires, and skid plates to make it trail-ready straight off the lot.”
4Runner camping is much like van life; those with smaller RVs can spend more time outdoors, and utilize their campsites and nearby facilities for things like cooking, using the restroom, and showering.
4Runner camping gear
Every 4Runner camping setup needs a bed for sleeping, a method of obtaining power (i.e. solar power or a generator), cooking gear, and storage space. There are also a variety of other items you may want to consider:
- A portable mattress that fits your generation of 4Runner
- A solar power setup
- Portable power stations like the Goal Zero Yeti
- A portable toilet
- Solar-heated outdoor shower with a pop-up privacy tent
- Campsite setup with folding chairs & tables, a camping grill, etc.
- Portable water jugs and collapsible cookware
4Runner camping mods
While the 4Runner isn’t made for camping like RVs, a few simple mods can make it more comfortable and spacious, especially if you plan on living and traveling in it full-time. These mods could include:
- Adding a hidden rear storage compartment.
- Installing a DIY kitchen setup like this from Contravans, or building your own out of wood.
- Adding a roof rack or even a roof tent.
- Upgrading to all-terrain tires if you have an older generation 4Runner.
Toyota 4Runner camper conversion
If you need inspiration for your own 4Runner camper conversion, do a search on Youtube. There are dozens of videos of campers showcasing their DIY setups. Take this video for example:
“The 2000 Toyota 4Runner is a perfect blank canvas to build out a micro camper. My wife and I wanted to extend our camping season into the winter months without being in a tent in under 20 degree weather. Not only was the truck comfy, we had a great time with the build out,”Says Youtubers Outdoor Goyo
Get a look at their 4Runner camping setup in this video:
What an ingenious setup. We love how he added hidden storage space under the bed, a built-in jack table that folds out for extra counter space, and Christmas lights to brighten up the inside.
Can a Toyota 4Runner pull a camper?
Of course, 4Runner camping isn’t for everyone, and some people want a little more space.
If you’d rather pull a camper behind your 4Runner than convert it into a camper, you will need to know your towing capabilities. Ultimately, it depends what generation 4Runner you have as well as what type of camper you’re looking to tow. The latest 2020 4Runner has a towing capacity of 5,000 lbs and could easily tow a lightweight standy trailer under 1,500 lbs.
“4Runners with V6 engines can haul small camper trailers such as Airstreams,” Toyota shared on their blog. “4Runners with V8 engines have no problem towing most fifth wheels and comparable trailers. It’s always a good idea to find out a trailer’s “dry weight” first, which is its weight without any gear inside.”
For more SUV camping ideas, check out our previous article on The 5 Best SUVs & Crossovers That Can Be Converted Into Campers. You may also like a look at the new Ford Bronco.