Building A Dialed & Dedicated Hunting, Off-Road & Overland Rig – Complete Build Setup Review & Overview for 2021 (2nd Gen) Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
I work at Weatherby firearms in sales and marketing and on occasion, I am lucky enough to take people hunting for work. For years I’ve been singularly focused on the rifle setup for hunts, but it hit me this summer that the vehicle used to get to and from the hunt is just as important, if not more.
For me, I’m a western hunter, meaning that I generally hunt public land that is accessible by 4×4 trails in the mountains. I need a truck that can comfortably haul 4 guys around with a bunch of gear and can access remote areas with relative ease. I need a truck that I can rely on. I need a truck that I have confidence in to get me out of the woods after 7 days in the backcountry when there may be a fresh coat of snow on the ground.
To me, there was only one option – the Toyota Tundra!
I’ve been a lifelong Toyota fan, I bought a 1st Gen Tacoma brand new in 1998 and drove it into the ground. I still think that Toyota owes me some money for all the Taco fans I made with that truck. I’ve got friends with Rams, Chevys, and Fords. They seem to spend a lot of time in the shop for pretty minuscule things that you just don’t hear of going wrong on a Toyota.
If you are reading this, I’m pretty sure you agree. The Tundra selection was the easy part. In stock form, the truck is okay for what I needed it to do, but I wanted it to be purpose-built to be the ultimate, most comfortable truck to hunt out of with a spot for everything I need for hunting.
Let’s be honest, the Tundra is an awesome truck and it is capable of doing some pretty serious off-road duty in stock form, but it is not a Jeep. If I did not need to haul a bunch of gear and people – the Tacoma would be a much better off-roading tool.
Here’s a rundown of what I set the truck up with and why I set it up the way I did.
Protection & Armor
I added a full set of undercarriage protection with skid plates from CBI Offroad and their super solid rock sliders. They are tough and also some of the best-looking rock sliders out there.
I went with the Adventure bumper from CBI as well because I wanted full coverage on the bumper with a better than stock approach angle. I do a lot of driving in deer country during times when they are most active, so a deer strike is just about inevitable. I like the big sweeping front-end protection the adventure bumper offers.
I also went with a rear bumper from CBI offroad that has a swing-out rear tire carrier. I’m running stock size BFG K02s right now but I do have plans to run 35” tires after adding a lift kit. When I make that switch, the spare would no longer fit under the bed so I went ahead and got a rear bumper with a spare tire carrier.
I wish I had gotten the rear bumper sooner. During an early-season hunt in Idaho, I got onto a trail that was fairly gnarly and hit my rear bumper on the passenger side. The stock plastic bumper did nothing to protect the rear body of the bed and I deformed the rear quarter panel slightly…
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Gear & Accessories
Having ample storage is paramount for what I wanted to set up. One of my pet peeves is having a ton of gear in the cab of a truck with 4 guys fumbling around with muddy boots getting everything gross! I wanted a system that would allow me to carry many firearms and lots of other gear too.
The Decked system is a must-have! The two massive drawers easily fit 4-5 scoped firearms each and they are secure so I don’t have to worry about bringing guns into a hotel when traveling for a hunt. Plus I still get the bed to use for portable cooler space.
I looked at many bed-rack options and ultimately settled on the Leitner Forged ACS system. This is one of my favorite products on the truck. Installation is relatively easy. It only requires drilling 4 holes into the bed of the truck. You do lose the Toyota factory adjustable track system due to how the clamps for the ACS system work, but you won’t miss them!
I have the cargo boxes, RotopaX mounts, and their new water tank set up. I love knowing that I can easily wash my hands or other gear when I get back to the truck. I use the bigger ACS cargo box for tripods, spotting scopes, and other shooting accessories. I keep one of the small cargo boxes empty for passengers to bring along extra gear and I use the other small ACS box for recovery gear.
On top of the truck, I added a Prinsuroof rack over the cab which has 2 Pelican cases with a custom mounting solution that I dreamed up so I can quickly and easily remove the cases when needed. They can hold just about anything in them or 3 scoped rifles each in soft cases.
Inside the cab, on the backs of both front seats, I rigged up Grey Man Tactical molle rifle holders, and accessory bags.
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- Decked Drawer System
- Leitner Designs ACS Bed Rack
- Prinsu Roof Rack
- Pelican Storage Cases
- Grey Man Tactical Molle Panels
I spend a lot of time driving in the dark, on the way to an early morning hunt or after an evening hunt – and I like being able to see everything. My current lighting setup is powered by a Switch Pros 9100 unit that makes wiring a breeze. I ran a single wire through the firewall and everything else was pretty darn simple. I went with Diode Dynamics lights because I really like their TIR optics.
Years ago I was a product manager for LED flashlights and the best way to get maximum efficacy out of a lighting system with even light distribution is to use an Internally Reflective lens that was designed to spread light out where you want it instead of relying on a parabolic reflector that is notorious for parasitic light loss.
In the Prinsu rack on top, there is a white 42” spot beam – this thing is amazingly bright. When it comes on, it pretty much looks like daylight! I have CBI Ditch light brackets holding amber combo SS3 pods.
I love the ditch lights. I feel like I can see animals so much better with them on and I’d hate to hit a deer after all the time and money I’ve put into this truck! In the front bumper, there is an amber combo 30 light bar, SS3 white fog lights, and a pair of amber SS3 fog lights. I wanted to have the amber light bar mounted low so that I could still use lights in inclement weather.
Since I live in Wyoming winter driving is a real deal. Amber lights that are mounted low don’t blind you as bad as white lights do in the snow. On the back on the top of the Leitner Designs rack, I have a pair of white flood SS2s so I can see what is going on when gearing up. I also have a set of SS1s mounted at a 45-degree angle facing forward so I can use them when getting ready in the morning as well.
Another cool thing about TIR optics is that you can backlight them. The rear-facing SS2s are red and the front SS1s are amber so it increases my visibility to other drivers at night, which is nice because I often have so much gear in the bed that the 3rd brake light is blocked.
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When hunting, I’m often alone or at the least the only vehicle, so I wanted to make sure that I could get out no matter what. I carry a Hi-Lift jack on the Leitner rack and have a Rough Country 12,000 lb winch in the front bumper with shackles on the front and rear. I think I’m ready for just about any situation.
I have a 30’ 20,000 lb tow strap, tree protector, Hi-Lift offroad base, traction boards for snow/sand, and a heavy-duty snatch block. So far I’ve only pulled a Honda CR-V out a ditch, but the confidence I have knowing that I can get out of just about any situation makes me happy.
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Future Plans for the Truck
Ground clearance! I’m planning to add some lift and run at least 35” tires with lockers to get the truck a little further off the ground.
Let’s face it, the Tundra is a big vehicle for offroading, and in weird off-chamber obstacles, the power is sent to the wheel with the least traction, Toyota’s ESP traction control is great for on-road, but pretty much a joke when offroading.
I’ll try to get through this section without mentioning the bad gas mileage. I really don’t care about it until someone inevitably asks me about the gas mileage. Then I realize how thirsty the truck is.
The JBL premium audio system is a total joke. I knew this going in, but I convinced myself that it could not be that bad. Well, I was wrong it is worse. I’m talking class-action lawsuit bad, who’s in with me? How Toyota can get away with calling this a “premium” audio system is a mystery! I’ll be fixing this soon.
The factory remote start is not awesome. For safety, Toyota kills the engine when you get in the car. Seems silly and inefficient to not just get in and go, especially with the electronic key and push-button start.
If you’ve made it this far into this article, you may ask yourself, “Was it worth it?”. It sure was. I’d do it again. I love the 5.7-liter V8 engine and the sound it makes with the TRD dual exhaust.
I opted for the TRD Pro model because it was the closest package to what I wanted. I like leather seats but hate chrome. I did not want 20” wheels, and I wanted a little more than the SR5 model offered.
The badging is cool too, but by the time I’m done, I may have been better off getting an SR5 model and just upgrading it. At my local dealer, this was the last truck available and it was in the color that I wanted.
With my planned mods, I will have the ultimate hunting set up! It’s exactly what I set out to do, and I could not be happier.
Luke, good write up and kudos on a killer Tundra! I noticed a tailgate insert mod and was hoping you could share the brand/manufacturer? I’ve seen a few options out there that are more of a tailgate storage fabrication, but I’d much prefer something like what you have there. Thanks in advance!
Oscar, That is from Mountain Hatch. it’s one of my favorite mods. Makes cleaning fish or processing game a breeze. Plus it just nice and flat!
Greatest thanks, Luke- jumping on that in 3….2…..1….. 😁
That’s pretty rad, kinda looks like the Tundra Build that Kevin Kosner has. Here is the video on it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gs6tiGZoXS4. Both of these Tundras are so nice!! Goals.