Adventure ("Overland") Vehicles and Payload Capacity


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?
I'm glad to see someone putting so much consideration into weight and payload for their build planning....a lot of people don't seem to give a care about exceeding GVWR and just throw whatever they want onto their vehicles.

Your personal gear estimate seems accurate.
Your truck gear estimate seems a bit off, or at least I question if you really need some of the parts that you're planning for:
  • ARE truck cap at 200lbs? Are you sure on that? I thought they were closer to 140-150lbs for most 1/2 tons.
  • Same question for the Decked Drawer system. I thought that kit was closer to 200lbs. If weight really is an issue, I'd say you could probably get by without this system. Maybe use storage bins and tiedown's instead?
  • 100lbs for a winch and winch plate seems about right if you're planning on using steel cable. Synthetic winches can be found for ~76-80lbs. More expensive for sure, but they do save some weight up front.
  • I'd question the need for 130lbs worth of skid plates (steel I assume). Sliders or rock guards? For sure those are needed given a pickup's breakover angle. Extra heavy skid plates? I don't think you need them. Either go with the stock skid plates provided by the FX4 package or go with aluminum skids.
As you note, the F-150 does have high payload variants. As I understand it, the frame and suspension is somewhat modified to accept that heavier payload. The rest of the chassis (brakes, axles) and powertrain is left unmodified. So I don't know how much you're willing to test that higher payload rating, especially in offroad situations.

1500-1600lbs seems like a good planning factor for your purposes. If you're deliberate about the equipment you choose (synthetic rope vs steel winch cable, aluminum skids vs steel, ect.) I don't see any reason why you can't keep your vehicle modifications limited to ~500lbs, which should leave you 1k lbs worth of payload to set aside for yourself, passengers and other gear/supplies.

Edit: and in regards to Toyota's, some in fact (like the Tacoma's) easily exceed their payloads (~1.1-1.2k lbs) while others (like the 4runner and LC 200) actually have fairly robust payloads (~1.5klbs). A lot of people just don't care about vehicle weight though; that's why you'll see people running around heavily built-up Tacoma's, front and rear bumpers, winches, armor, 33" tires....looks cool but no way are those builds within GVWR (at least not when they're fully loaded). And neither the 4.0l v6 nor the 3.5l v6 are ideal for motivating all that weight.

What's almost just as bad are all the examples I see of midsized and even 1/2 or 3/4 ton trucks running around with toppers + RTT's and a rear bumper with 1 tire +1-2 jerry cans....and an empty bed. Some people have no concept of COG.
Last edited:


Active member
6.5' decked is indeed 240# or so. I have a Leer 6.5' cab height fiberglass topper with bare bones cross bars that's around 250# as well.
I chose aluminium skids. Still have no running boards.
This was my old work truck from when I started my business and I quickly learned how useless a 1/2 truck can be. With a typical load of tools and materials I hit a scale and weighed in within 100# of payload.
Played with the Ford builder making a heavy half, and for a few grand more you can get a gas super duty. Fuel economy ratings don't apply when you roll around at GVWR anyways, so why not get the heavier duty vehicle.
Or as other wise minds suggest, take less stuff. :D

Ducky's Dad

FWIW, I just replaced the shocks on my '98 GMC Z71 1/2 ton truck. This truck is relegated to daily driver and work truck status, but often hauls heavy loads. The Bilsteins were tired and the rear leaf-spring packs are losing some of their arc, so I installed Monroe Load-A-Just rear shocks. They are basically a heavy duty shock with a coil spring wrapped around the tube (like a front strut). Price is not bad, they bolted right in, raised the sagging rear by maybe an inch, and (according to Monroe) add about 500 pounds of payload capacity. Gabriel makes a similar shock, and there are probably others. Cheap way to squeeze a little more life out of the old truck. Both Monroe and Gabriel make a similar shock that they say will fit the front of these torsion-bar trucks, but I tried to fit a pair of the Monroes and their coils would not quite clear the factory bump stop mounts on my truck. So the new fronts are the Monroe direct replacements for the OEM Bilsteins.


Pretty soon, we'll be removing back seats, gutting interiors and installing carbon fiber hoods like the "sport compact" crowd.
It is interesting reading articles from the 60s and 70s, where light weight is seen as one of the most important considerations for going off road. Less weight means less stress on the vehicle, more range, and easier recovery when things go wrong. Stripping out carpeting, sound deadening, jump seats etc. such as it was in that era, was not uncommon. There was also a lot less to buy, so people didn't think they were missing much. Now there's all sorts of niche equipment people have convinced themselves they need to bring along for every trip.