Adventure ("Overland") Vehicles and Payload Capacity

Bravo1782

Adventurer
Hey All.

I've got a bit of dilemma that I cannot seem to consolidate in my mind and hopefully some of you know more than me and can clear this up. This involves vehicle payload, aftermarket accessories, and general vehicle safety. I won't belabor all the specifics of the different vehicle weights, but I'll focus on payload. For the sake of clarity, I'll define payload as the overhead afforded by the manufacturer for you, your passangers, your critters, your junk, and your accessories.

Recently, I decided to become a little more weight conscious (in light of thinking about future needs and wants for the rig) and I decided to check up on my current vehicle weight. I've got an '11 F-150 Crew Cab 5.0L V8 4x4 shortbed truck rated for 1500lbs payload that I have what I would describe as a very mild build. I do have some upgraded suspension (Halo Lift Coilovers with increased spring rate and heavy duty Dobinson Rear Lead Springs) but let's just stick with stock payload for this conversation.

So here's what I've got for Accessories On Board:
RCI Skidplates - 130Lbs
RCI Rocker Guards - 80lbs
Rough Country Hidden Winchplate and Winch - 105lbs
Decked Drawers - 220lbs
Topper - 200 lbs

Right there, I have ~740 lbs in fairly basic gear. No roof racks, no aftermarket bumpers, no tire carriers, no roof top tents. Just some pretty run of the mill upgrades.

Now let's load up for a standard 3-4 day trip

Cook Box - 40lbs
Water cans +10 Gallons of water (Overkill, but whatever) - 93lbs
Supplies for Dogs + Dog Food in a DECKED box- 25Lbs
Goal Zero Lithium - 42 Lbs
Renogy Folding Solar Panel (Can't overland without a solar panel) - 28lbs
Dometic CFX75DZW Fridge (Empty) - 74 Lbs
Tent and Sleeping Bags - 30lbs

Before I load up food and beers (because I'm not NOT bringing beers) I'm at ~330lbs in stuff.

And that doesn't account for Basic Recovery Kit, Basic Tool Kit, First Aid Kit, junk that's rolled under the seats, empty growler, road snacks, fishing rods etc. If you add my wife and my derpy dogs, that's another ~450 lbs! Sometimes I want to bring some friends! I sold my RTT and will eventually be back in the RTT game in one way or another, but when I do, there's another 150-250lbs depending on the rack system! So just like that I'm at my payload, and there's a lot of small odds and ends that all add up!

So here's my question...when you take a scroll through instagram or various other sources of overland bling, how does a Tacoma, 4Runner, Land Cruiser, etc, carry all the same gear I seem to carry, plus heavy front bumpers (100-200lbs), plus swingout tire carriers (150-220lbs), plus all sorts of roof racks (40-100lbs) plus roof top tent (100-200 lbs), plus elaborate storage solutions, plus fancy awnings, plus a seemingly bottomless array of heavy accessories and not be thousands of pounds over their payload limit?! Some of these guys load their truck to the gills, then go ahead and tow a trailer too (also loaded to the gills!). And they've got a little V6...I've at least got a big 'merican V8 to push my junk around! The trucks are engineered with certain stresses and tolerances in mind, and overloading them has to really put a strain on all those components.

GRANTED, some trucks have heavy payload packages, and I know improved suspension helps, but without going in and really re-engineering the entire truck, there's going to be some weakest link that's not up to the task of carrying way more than it was engineered to handle. In addition, it seems like the more off-road oriented a truck is, the lower the payload capactiy (think the Ram Power Wagon - Payload 1500lbs or the Ford Raptor ~1000lbs). Moreover, some of these trucks are ("seemingly") going offroad, which introduces all sorts of new stress (which can can be mitigated by proper suspension design to some extent).

I've always been of the mindset that less weight = better because +power and +MPG and +range and +safety, and off-road this is even more the case, but what gives? Did I miss the secret overland hexes and sigil magic to make my truck carry a seemingly bottomless array of gear? What am I missing? Is there some secret Toyota spell cast on their vehicles where they're actually just a 4x4 tardis? Or is there an army of people out there rolling around on hilariously overloaded vehicles that are just not all that worried about how far they are over their payload or the fact that they must be getting around 3MPG?
 
Most people overload without a second thought. Just look at Google results for people with half ton trucks looking to load more. A lot of people want 3/4 and 1 ton payload without actually stepping up to vehicle required for that payload.
Don't forget that there are ways to shave weight, aluminum rims, sticking with stock size tires, making custom bumpers and rock guards from aluminum, basically anything you can get a lighter equivalent of, do so. All the little weight savings really add up if you're counting payload. It's why I use a canopy on my truck instead of camper. The camper would eat too much payload rating
 

crazysccrmd

Observer
It’s pretty easy to get up there, especially with midsize trucks. My Tacoma has a 1200lb payload. The front bumper/winch used 150lbs, rear bumper with swingout used 40lbs, rock sliders are probably 90lbs, IFS skid is 50lbs, mid skid is probably 25lbs, GFC is about 270lbs. That’s a pretty lightweight and simple setup and I’m down to 575lbs payload with no people, food, gear, gas, water, etc. Add myself, wife, dog and 10gal of gas and it’s down to 200lbs.
 

Theoretician

Adventurer
I like the example of the trailspintv YouTube channel when the hosts (kind of) did the trans-America trail from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast a year or two ago. They loaded up a JKU with a lift kit and hit the road without testing anything; I don’t think they made it out of North Carolina before having high-load springs overnighted to them because they were running around on the bump stops. They had to replace part of their exhaust when it got pinched by the axle on a bump. Same with the front steering stabilizer. And then their transmission needed to be rebuilt in Colorado. And their roof rack broke loose a few times because they had a 200lb box of tools up there on gutter clamp mounts.

98% of people doing this stuff just don’t bother to think about weight before complaining about unreliability. I’d bet that Jeeps are a lot more reliable than they’re given credit for if they stayed at stock+tires.

NMFire even recommends limiting vehicle load to 85% of GVWR when going off-road so that you don’t break stuff when your load is getting to the ground via only two wheels. You reduce a JKU to 85% of GVWR and you’re down to, like, 220lb of payload. I think the power wagon goes negative at 85% because it weighs so much but has a derated GVWR. The old M35 military trucks were rated to carry 5 tons on pavement but only 2.5 tons off pavement IIRC.

I got the heavy duty payload package on my F150 just to handle typical loads off-road. At 85% I still have 2200lb of rating left, enough to a light slide-in plus the wife at some point but plenty right now for a RTT, rack, tools and crap, and food and water for a week. If the F150 weren’t available with the HDPP then I would have gotten an F250 and compromised on the gas mileage before I compromised on safety and reliability 100 miles from the nearest cell tower.
 

tatanka48

Active member
i faced the same dilemma back in 1991 as i was looking for a new P/U

the answer was that a 1/2 ton unit would be max'd out weight wise before the bride & daughter ever stepped aboard and that didn't even factor in a load of fuel or perishables like food n ice

SO it was decided a 3/4 tonner was in our future

same story when that truck got replaced

then steps in a friend who was a Ford tech rep who brought the technical specs relating the real differences between 1/2 3/4 & 1 tonners

i now drive an F-350 PowerStroke diesel 4x4 crew cab long bed

once you get to a 3/4 ton vehicle the next step up to a 1 tonner is very little more money and the 1 tonner comes w/ many of the features i would have liked to add to a 3/4 tonner

in 2002 IIRC the difference between a 3/4 & a 1 tonner was only about $300±

now for the REAL BOTTOM LINE

when traveing anywhere the bridal unit always opts for taking the F-350

her rather plush(in comparison) Accord is virtually always left in the drive way when going more than about 30-50 mies

she wil ride in the Cherokee up to about 50± miles

butt if we're going any distance she specifies we take the P/U and the increased fuel expense is simply a cost of living more comfortably/safely

IMHO the newer F-150 crew cabs(and similarly sized other brand offerings) are nice grocery getters

this OPINION is only based on personal experience n technical data and not "they say" or "i've read" ...

now let the nay sayers have their "equal time"

T
 

Shovel

Explorer
I solved this problem years ago by just carrying less crap and making only subtle, careful changes to my vehicle. The objective here for me is to experience adventures not go on an instagram fashion parade with all the rubbish in the world piled on my vehicle. It's nice getting the EPA rated fuel mileage from the vehicle fully laden; not losing ground clearance, enjoying crisp handling on the highway, not being bothered much by headwinds or crosswinds, not hammering bumpstops, easily entering parking garages when my adventures bring me through a city, not being an attractive lure for thieves, not having to unload a ton of stuff to access tools or make repairs. Carrying less is definitely more. Instagram isn't impressed, but instagram isn't buying my gas.
 

Bravo1782

Adventurer
Thanks for all this info, this is super helpful!

@Ryanmb21 I agree with you...I got started in the camping game really late in my life...I didn't come from an outdoorsy family and only discovered the joy of camping in grad school. I've learned a lot and I've really refined a lot of my systems, and I'm now paring down my system to what I (capital N) Need. I know I don't Need a giant dometic fridge, but I sure do love it. I'm trying to balance the things that I know are luxury items that I want to bring versus the things I actually need. I'm very guilty of getting too hung up on the gear (I'm a gear addict and I know it) but as I get older, the less gear I have to keep track of, the better the whole trip seems to go. Part of the reason I sold my RTT was to get back to basics.

@Theoretician I'll have to check out that youtube channel, that sounds amazing to watch. Some of these overland channels are so excruciating to watch because these guys doesn't seem to know what they're doing. I DO NOT consider myself an experience off-roader or outdoorsmen by any stretch of the imagination, but some of these guys seem to make painful rookie mistakes. They have these $125K "overland" build where some fairly simple equipment would work fine. Advanced on-board water systems where a water can would suffice (etc etc).

@Shovel I'm on your team for sure, I'm definitely cutting down on gear to the essentials these days. Like I said above, I do have some luxuary items that I really like that I don't want to give up on, but I'm getting better at trimming the fat and also knowing what sorts of trips I actually go on. I live in the frickin' midwest, so for most of my trips, I don't need stuff that's too hardcore. It's those 2-3 big trips a year where most of this gear comes in handy.

I have a running hypothesis that guys that are really going on good adventures aren't on instagram and youtube because they're too busy actually doing stuff to post it to instagram.
 

Bravo1782

Adventurer
@tatanka48 I'm starting to think I shoudl have gotten a 3/4 ton, but now here the dillema I have...my truck is already paid off...it only has 100K miles and I'm confident it's got at least another 100k miles. I take good care of my stuff and do all the regular maintenance. If I keep this truck, it means no truck payment and more adventures...so making do with it really sounds like a good idea. Plus...I'm definitely emotionally attached to this truck...me and it have been through some serious nonsense lol.
 

rkj__

Adventurer
It's really easy to hit max payload when doing an "expedition" build on a midsize or half ton truck. It's actually pretty tough to stay under max payload if you travel with more than two adults per vehicle.

Many people go over max payload, and don't think much of it.

It's definitely something you should pay attention to.
 

Shovel

Explorer
@Shovel I live in the frickin' midwest, so for most of my trips, I don't need stuff that's too hardcore. It's those 2-3 big trips a year where most of this gear comes in handy.

I have a running hypothesis that guys that are really going on good adventures aren't on instagram and youtube because they're too busy actually doing stuff to post it to instagram.
One of the most important considerations I've taken from backpackers in the USA is knowing not just what to carry but also when to carry it - for example on long trips I don't leave home with a full larder if I have 2 days of highway between me and the dirt. There are vanishingly few places in the US and even in the world that don't have supplies available within a day's travel. Almost every truck stop has showers. Every town has a laundromat. Planning those resources into a trip can trim an awful lot out of the pack list.

Other methods I've employed have been to just use backpacker equipment - stove, mess, lighting, etc.. simplify the menu down (going vegetarian while off pavement means almost nothing needs to compete with beer for cooler space), and try to work double duty into most of what I carry.

You're probably... definitely right about the instagram adventure theory. I've tried documenting adventures a number of times and it really only works if you've planned it out specifically with time and purpose for filming. Similar thing happens when turning wrenches I almost never get to share mechanic tricks and tips with Youtube because it takes an hour to film a 30 second procedure. Have to set up lighting, figure out how to get the camera in the right place to see the action, position your hands to not block the action, try not to be panting or sniffling into the microphone, have a planned path of narration for the job, be prepared to re-do the job even if you did it right the first time just because it didn't film right the first time.. nope. Don't have time for all that. Wish I could.
 

tatanka48

Active member
100k is just barely broken in

guess you're stuck w/ it

the non-existant truck payment really can fund more adventures

it can also help fund some of the nicer more comfortable back packer/light weight gear if you don't already have some

simply time to adjust to the furute of owning a 1/2 tonner ;-)

T
 
@tatanka48 I'm starting to think I shoudl have gotten a 3/4 ton, but now here the dillema I have...my truck is already paid off...it only has 100K miles and I'm confident it's got at least another 100k miles. I take good care of my stuff and do all the regular maintenance. If I keep this truck, it means no truck payment and more adventures...so making do with it really sounds like a good idea. Plus...I'm definitely emotionally attached to this truck...me and it have been through some serious nonsense lol.
That just means you need to adjust around your vehicle then. I'm an advocate of more adventures with less things. Besides, having a truck you like counts for a whole lot. I'm not too attached to my truck but sure seem stuck with it because I don't want a truck payment and all the new costs :)
 

Jnich77

Expedition Leader
Yeah... you carry lots of unnecessary stuff. A cooler with dry ice will replace your fridge, battery, and solar. That alone saves you a noticable amount of weight. You also don't need a 40 pound cook box, a 2 pound action packer tote will hold everything and fully packed should weigh about 10 pounds.
 
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