June - August 2019, Baja, 4,500 Miles.

isignay

Observer
Baja 2019 | 10 Weeks | 4,500 miles.

Longtime observer, time to contribute.

I’ll start with the obligatory vehicle run down:

2008 Tundra 4x4 with Icon Suspension, ARB Leafs (With an added leaf) and an Auburn LSD in the rear. Running stock dimension tires with BF Goodrich AT.

We have a Genesis Dual Battery Kit with 3 12v outlets in the rear that run 2 clip on fans & our ARB fridge.

We bought some solar panels from ACO Power which have proven to be durable. They are directly fitted to the accessories battery when we’re parked. They come plug and play ready.

I built a wood sleeping / shelving system which proved to be a disaster from the very get go (built hastily and without time to test it). Our new system is aluminum welded bomb proof overkill, but what can you do, live and learn. There’s plenty of scrap wood floating around baja, which we utilized to patch our constantly breaking sleeping platform and shelves. Don’t forget to pack a drill and a handsaw on your next road trip, you never know when they’ll come in handy.

The Trip:

We used our wedding as an excuse for a long honeymoon. My wife’s a teacher, we’ve explored northern baja for a few winters and the allure of dozens of well edited youtube videos had us set on the very same, plus we didn’t want to leave our dog out of the adventure.

Day of departure I spent all day packing and as soon as my wife came home from her last day at work we hit the road, I’d advise against this if you have the luxury of time on your side, it only added unnecessary stress to something that was supposed to be relaxing.

Dwindling sunlight didn’t deter us, we’d been to our first stop a dozen times and I felt comfortable with the roads at night. 5 hours of nonstop driving brought us to our windblown frigid campsite. We were greeted by a football size field of goat thorns, quickly realizing that the entire cliff we’d already began unloading on was riddled with them, too tired and cold to deal with packing and moving camp, we settled into our goat thorn wonderland. We hastily ate, cursed the thorns, I cleared out the tornado which came through my 5 hour ago well organized truck bed (one of the supports for the shelves snapped), and we barely had the energy to say goodnight, passing out into a dead sleep. So much for the starry night beautiful bonfire, welcome to baja.

We spent about 2 weeks in Northern Baja usually traveling less than 2 hours every few days, the surf and desire for a hot shower dictated our stops.

Our camping setup is simple, we have a Springbar tent that we deploy if the weather is bad, but realistically if the weather is crap for an extended period of time we stop at an AirBnB or hotel to wait it out. No matter your rig, there’s no better way to keep your significant other happy than a 45 min shower at a hotel (no matter how dingy).

Northern Baja highlights: catching up on sleep at Punta Cabras, searching for surf around San Quintin, and not seeing a single person for days when we did the top half of the 7 sisters stretch.

Yes, you can do the 7 sisters stretch without 4x4, but we were thankful we had it as we often took the ‘give it more gas and pray’ approach to exploring the unknown. We used our ARB tire deflator regularly (no affiliation, great tool), we ran our tires at 20psi and that seemed to be the perfect number to keep the truck from rattling every single one of its bolts loose.

No, you do not need 35x12.5” tires to drive in the sand. Our Tundra’s a heavier vehicle and I can’t imagine driving anything heavier in thick sand. We carried MaxTrax but never had to use them, although I could feel the Auburn LSD working overtime when we were in the deep stuff.

No, you do not need a compressor. There were enough llanteras (small auto repair shops) for us to fill our tires whenever we exited a ‘rough’ stretch, we’d pay them in chocolate or a couple bucks for their efforts which seemed to be appreciated.

After exiting the 7 sisters we were ready for a driving break and wanted to catch the next incoming swell at Abreojos. The swell didn’t hit but the home we rented was stocked with 100s of VHS tapes and a VCR, after a marathon run of Casino, Austin Powers 1 &2, daily lobster feasts, and blistering winds (the area is known for them) we were ready to head south.

Four days of cold (relative) at Abreojos had us longing for warm water so we continued our way south, stopping to camp south of Muluge, which proved unbearable, 100 degrees at night, 115 during the day, beautiful for swimming but even with the doors open and our fans pumping, we baked in the back of the truck. This is when I was thankful we had a dual battery kit & solar as our fridge was running 24/7 to keep pace with the sweltering heat.

Tip, study your user manual, it wasn’t until we returned home that I learned our fridge had multiple battery drain settings, we could have avoided the numerous safety shut downs had we adjusted the settings of our fridge to ‘low’ which meant it would stay on longer knowing it wasn’t draining our battery.

We used a 10x10 mosquito net fastened in place with painters clips to keep the bugs out, cheap, windproof solution for a peaceful nights rest with the doors open.

After sitting in the water all day we continued our way south, stopping in Loreto for 2 nights of A/C and WiFi. I work from home but if it weren’t for my need for stable internet we would have kept moving.

En route to La Paz we stopped at a couple new (to us) surf spots on the way down, enjoying the slightly warmer water.

We cruised through La Paz, only stopping for gas, the 5.7L is always hungry, we were thankful for the extra jerry cans we carried during our 7 sisters stretch. I have a love hate relationship with jerry cans, they’re cheap, practical, and easy to use, but after using them multiple times and having hands that smell like gas (1st world problems I know) an aux. gas tank is definitely on the table for our next long trip.

We rolled into the town of Todos Santos, plenty of cheap AirBnB options, enjoyed the well stocked markets and tasty restaurants, but the surf wasn’t happening, so after four days we trekked into Cabo.

Surfing in San Jose Del Cabo is crowded to say the least, but we enjoyed exploring the area, eventually landing at the East Cape.

Like Muluge, the East Cape was scorching, except there were no Palapas and camping proved to be too much, at this point my wife was enjoying full swing pregnancy and the heat wasn’t helping her stomach. We found a dreamy condo rental, were visited by family, celebrated the pregnancy reveal, and surfed our brains out for 4 weeks straight. Hurricane Barbara was a dream.

Eventually we had to turn North, booking it home in about 4 days. This was the WORST part of the trip, we rushed it and should have taken at least a week to get back.
 

isignay

Observer
Summary:

Yes, you should drive to Cabo.

Yes, it’s safe, if you use common sense.

Yes, there’s great surf to be found (if you have the time and patience), but if that’s you’re only goal you’ll quickly run out of things to do when staring at a white capped windblown ocean. Don’t forget to relax and let that wind blow all the thoughts clambering for your attention out of your head, trust me, there’s simply no alternative.

No, you don’t need a Unimog to enjoy this trip, having completed it, knowing what I know now, I’d have no qualms packing a tent in our Prius and driving down to Patagonia, it’d be a hell of a lot cheaper than in a 4x4.

Be familiar with your hi-lift, tire changing tools, air removal tools, and the efforts your vehicle (as well as its passengers) can sustain. Our original plan was to drive to mainland, at the pace we move we learned that would have taken us 10 years to reach.

We changed our oil in Cabo, greased our fittings regularly, and took advantage of the cheap car washes along the way; $10 for 2 hours and your car will be spot less.

Yes, we’d bring our dog again, even though she nearly got her ear bitten off and needed stitches. This is a reality when traveling with your animal that I never considered. Mexico’s dogs, like other dogs left to roam, are territorial. Our dog got attacked, requiring stitches. $60 in Cabo with anesthetic, she was in a cone for the last stretch of our journey. Our dog’s 65 pounds, if she were a tiny little thing I don’t want to think of what could have been. Keep your guard up, carry a stick, mase, or a whistle when walking through town with your dog, we were caught off guard and unfortunately paid the price.

Final thoughts:

The best parts of our road trip were not having an agenda. Once we set aside any notion of a schedule, plan, other than a general goal, the trip became much more enjoyable and relaxing. We learned that anything over a 4 hour stretch is a long day for us and explored accordingly. Again, I’ll reemphasize something that hit home when we got back, if I had the time, I’d do the trip all over again in a Prius, there’s plenty to see and explore without going off the beaten path, 4x4 is a luxury, not a necessity (please don’t ban me from ExpoPortal for that comment).

Random closing thoughts:

  • The ARB Elements Fridge is a tank, I like that I can sit on it, gear can crash into it, and I don’t have to worry, it’s a beast. Not having to worry about ice, or our food floating in chicken juices, was incredible. Between my wife, dog, and now baby, we’ll be getting a bigger fridge for the next trip as the 63Qs have proven a tight squeeze.
  • If you’re going to be in the ocean carry 2x the water you think you need. We carried 20 gallons of rinsing water and 15 gallons of potable water, yes, you read that right, 35 gallons of water total. No matter how gnarly your wife is, I guarantee you she will appreciate extra water for freshening up. Not having to bite my tongue whenever I heard water splashing off the ground as she washed her face was nice.
  • If you hear your wife mention shower, go on AirBnB when you next have signal and stop somewhere for the night, even if it’s $5/night, a hot shower goes a long way, for the both of you.
  • We brought our BBQ propane tank with us, 25lbs. It was overkill but it lasted the whole trip and then some, I think I’d go with a 10lb tank for the next trip.
  • Shade, you don’t need to spend money on a side mount awning, an easy up does the trick just as well.
  • There is no ‘perfect set up.’ There are compromises with everything. While our truck is by no means perfect it seems to fit our traveling style. We don’t live in it, when we camp we set up shop for 5 days, usually in a remote location, then we like to take a break from camping to plan our next move. I always thought a Unimog or an Earthroamer would be dreamy, but having taken our truck into some hairy situations I can’t even begin to imagine the disaster which would ensue if we were to get a cabin on wheels stuck in the places which we barely squeaked through.
  • The less money you spend on your rig the more you have to enjoy while traveling, only experience will help you find your balance. We went form a Jeep Rubicon on 35s, talk about overkill, to a used Tundra. My wife and I talked about selling the truck for something bigger, but ultimately decided we’re perfectly happy with our truck. It takes a hell of a beating and still drives like a champ.
 

isignay

Observer
 
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Regcabguy

Expedition Leader
Early summer can be brutally cold on the Pacific side. August through Christmas is delightful aside from the mobs of surfers,kayakers,motorcyclists that swarm down.
The Gulf in the summer is miserable unless you're from Florida. Fall on both sides is really temperate.
Stock size tires in the silt and deep sand is white knuckle material. A size up with a sturdy sidewall works wonders.
I spoke to a guy with a 2005 Tundra who blew out a rear wheel bearing in Constitution. The locals were able to source a bearing in about a week somehow.
They did an OK job but he had to replace the entire axle back home in Carlsbad. He had a small FWC on the back.
The single race bearing didn't work out. He's still driving it though.
 

isignay

Observer
It's actually an aluminum Lifetime shell, I wanted to get a Callen but the wait time was too long, overall I am happy with the construction. We insulated the inside with 1/4" construction plywood & 1" foam board insulation from home depot. They don't make "offroad" specific shells which shows in the "light" materials used, they say the cab over can handle 250 pounds, but we don't load that part down when we are driving, we only put things there after we park to free up room in the truck bed. I didn't specify anything other than stock when we ordered it, in hindsight I would have liked them to beef up the rails which attach to the truck bed, they use narrow gauge aluminum and I think something thicker would be better, that's on the to do list before our next trip, but it handled washboards and whoopty-whoops well, we only had to tighten it a couple times. We were thinking of getting a used pop up camper, but decided on this shell for a few reasons: (1) we didn't want to store gear outside , (2) we'd never done a road trip this long before and didn't want to commit to an expensive lightweight camper (no where to store it when not being used), (3) the used campers on the market are heavy and would require adding leafs and airbags and I didn't want to lose too much truck performance / maneuverability, (4) now that the we're home we have nothing in the bed so we can haul stuff around when needed.
 
Thanks for the detailed reply. We share some of the same concerns and considerations. I’m always on the lookout for a good used Callen but as you know...unobtanium. 😂 I’ll continue to look at Lifetime/Workmate.
 

isignay

Observer
Going slow and slowing down was definitely the biggest take away from our trip.
Thanks for the detailed reply. We share some of the same concerns and considerations. I’m always on the lookout for a good used Callen but as you know...unobtanium. 😂 I’ll continue to look at Lifetime/Workmate.
In hindsight I wish we added side access to the shell, the windows are nice but being able to open the whole side for ventilation and easier access would have been sweet, live and learn.
 

hankgs

Adventurer
Did a similar trip on 3 weeks with my cousin and two Aussie nurses we met in Thailand a couple months prior... They wanted warm weather, nice beaches. snorkeling and SHOWERS...! End up at Punta Chivato, just North of Mulage... great memories!
 

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