It’s no secret that I have a big soft spot for the Toyota FJ Cruiser, so the chance to watch a film featuring not one but two adventure-ready examples was an opportunity I couldn’t resist. Independence Overland, aka Tyler and Natalia (nfamousphoto.com), are based out of Colorado and are best known for their adventures in an expedition-equipped Toyota FJ Cruiser. If you’re not already familiar with their YouTube, you’ll find 142 overland-focused adventures, reviews, demonstrations, and more. In “Overlanding to Mexico,” the duo head from Monticello, Utah, to San Felipe, Baja California, and are joined by their friends Jessica and Jesse in a second FJ and a Tacoma.
The film begins with Tyler discussing the importance of preventative maintenance before a trip such as this. He then proceeds to methodically organize his gear, and trial packs the rig to figure out the best way to organize everything. This is such an important and often overlooked aspect of vehicle travel, with many people only realizing on the road that they’ve brought too much or perhaps forgotten key items. The journey kicks off with a chilly high-elevation campout, a brief stop at the Grand Canyon, and a compulsory taco stop after crossing the border into Mexico. It doesn’t take long to see why Baja has become an overlanding paradise with truly breathtaking scenery from the get-go and seemingly endless golden sand beaches.
The group set up camp at an idyllic beachside spot before taking a sunset drive along the shoreline. It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong, and the next morning, Jessica’s FJ develops a significant and persistent squeak. A quick inspection discovers loose shocks, which are fixed at the side of the road. Once settled at their next spot for the night, the crew tried their luck at spearfishing before investigating a large whale carcass spotted on the drone.
The FJ Cruiser is undoubtedly a desirable choice for overlanding but quite a rarity. Therefore, it was great to see how Tyler and Natalie have outfitted this unique and relatively compact rig for off-grid travel (if you’d like to learn more, check out their FJ Cruiser Build). We often discuss the importance of the vehicle build being secondary to the experience for those that want to travel long-term. However, Tyler challenges this view by first accepting that the FJ has required a huge investment but then explaining the reason he enjoys so many off-grid experiences is thanks to such a capable, reliable, and well-equipped rig.
The trip culminates with a visit to the Valley of the Giants (or Valle de los Gigantes), which is home to the largest cacti in the world; these impressive spectacles can be 60 feet tall, weigh 25 tonnes, and some are 200 years old. This was meant to be a brief interlude on their return journey, but deep sand puts them behind schedule. Facing the prospect of driving at night, the team makes the wise call to pull over at sunset and fill their tanks with jerrycans so there’s no need to stop at a fuel station before reaching the border.
“Overlanding to Mexico” captures the natural majesty of Baja while also demonstrating the FJ Cruiser’s overlanding credentials. Tyler’s camera and aerial work are superb, and his narration is both informative and engaging. If you’d like to keep up to date with Independence Overland’s latest adventures, you can find them on Instagram.
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