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Adventure Rigs - Recon Recovery

Adventure Rigs

How To Choose An Adventure Rig

By Sean P. Holman


At the core of every adventure, is the vehicle that is tasked with getting us there, and back. With so many options to choose from, what information is important to know when choosing a rig that fits your needs?

There are several factors to consider when trying to decide which vehicle is right for you. These include the level of aftermarket support, how much payload the vehicle has, what type of four-wheel drive system it uses, and even overall size. Depending on whether your rig will be a daily driver and weekend warrior, or a dedicated overlanding rig, will help determine which vehicle is the right choice for your use case.


Many manufacturers offer fully warrantied off-road packages, which can be great starting points for any build. So, before you decide on which vehicle fits your lifestyle, pay attention to the following considerations to ensure you choose the perfect vehicle to take you out beyond the city limits.


Aftermarket Support

It’s hard to overstate the importance of aftermarket support when deciding on a vehicle platform. If the vehicle you choose doesn’t have robust aftermarket support, you won’t be able to outfit it efficiently for your use case. The types of aftermarket upgrades to consider can include recovery gear, interior and exterior cargo and gear mounting systems, suspension, wheels, larger tires, and even the ability to integrate electronics or additional batteries.



Payload numbers can vary widely between vehicle classes and it is important to note that the higher a trim and the higher the options on a vehicle, the lower the actual payload will be, due to additional equipment. When planning a build, be aware that anything you add to your vehicle will lower the amount of payload by the weight of that item, which means less people or gear for your trip. Improperly loading a vehicle can result in strained mechanical components, sloppy handling, reduced braking effectiveness, and impacts to efficiency and range.


Four-wheel Drive System

Four-wheel drive systems are not created equal. There are typically two varieties, traditional four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. In a traditional four-wheel drive system, there is a two-speed transfer case, which gives you a lower gear set for crawling over technical terrain, while an all-wheel drive system is typically a single-speed arrangement, of which there are many varieties and levels of effectiveness. Whether or not power is getting to all four wheels at the same time also varies between vehicles and models, so research accordingly. As a general rule of thumb, most car-based utility vehicles have AWD, while most truck-based SUVs and pickups have traditional four-wheel drive. For more hardcore trails, lockers will maximize traction by locking the two wheels on the same axle together so that they rotate at the same rate.


Ground Clearance

Getting stuck off-road presents a completely different set of problems and the easiest way to prevent becoming caught up on the terrain is to maximize ground clearance. By lifting your vehicle and making room for taller tires, you effectively increase the distance of the chassis of the vehicle and the ground. Having room to drive over rocks and ruts on a road protects the vehicle and its underbody components from damage from rock hits, snags, and high centering.


Underbody Protection

When the going gets rough and you do find yourself out of ground clearance, underbody protection suddenly becomes very important. Skid plates should cover all vital components, such as oil pan, transmission, transfer case, and fuel tank. They should be as strong as necessary and as light as possible. Well engineered skid plates can support the weight of the vehicle and will be designed in a way that will allow a vehicle to easily slide off obstacles.



How many miles you can travel on a tank of fuel is an important consideration in any adventure vehicle. As a general rule, you’ll want to be able to cover at least 200 miles between fuel spots in your worst case scenario. Anything over this should be considered a bonus, while anything under this will require auxiliary fuel storage, which will take away from payload and cargo space.


Recovery Points

Any vehicle that is going to be traveling in the backcountry should be equipped from the factory with robust recovery points, front and rear. This can both help the vehicle to be freed from a stuck or to help extract another vehicle. Some vehicles will only be equipped with a rear tow hitch, which can be used as a tow point with the proper equipment.


CUV Recommendations

In the CUV space, Subaru has had the market cornered for a long time. Models, such as the Crosstrek, Forester, and Outback have always enjoyed a following in the off-road community and are a favorite amongst more adventurous owners. Now with the adventure-focused Wilderness trims, these vehicles are more capable than ever. In recent years, we have seen other brands jumping into the space and growing in popularity, such as the Toyota RAV4 Adventure, Ford Bronco Sport, and Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk.


SUV Recommendations

The perennial favorites in the SUV class continues to be the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner. Other rigs to consider are the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Lexus GX, Toyota Land Cruiser, and the Toyota Sequoia. These vehicles are popular because they hit the sweet spot for capability, size, and, of course, aftermarket support.


Truck Recommendations

For truck buyers, the market is full of great options, from the overlanding darling Toyota Tacoma and Jeep Gladiator to tiny newcomer Ford Maverick. Chevy has a full line of ZR2 and ZR2 Bison trucks from midsize (Colorado) through heavy-duty (Silverado HD).  Ford’s Tremor series is a great jumping off point and Ram has Rebel models in the half-ton and heavy-duty classes. If you need a little bit more, consideration should be given to the American Expedition Vehicles Ram-based Prospector XL, which comes outfitted with 40-inch tires and a full warranty.