How deep can 4x4 vans get you? Beginner questions...


Expedition Leader
We have a 80 series LC and a 4x4 question which can go "deeper"...
The 4x4 van can do a lot better...1. mileage 2. comfort long distance driving on hwy 3. gear hauling
But getting into tight spaces is tough and ours is the short 144" wb...In the SW it isn't really an issue but if we really want to disappear we still take the LC
I didnt read all the posts here but man what a bunch of curmudgeons on the first page...

Family of 4 - Stock LC with good tires plus off-road trailer goes everywhere. Get a 100 series for better on road comfort and dual AC over the 80 series.
I didnt read all the posts here but man what a bunch of curmudgeons on the first page...

Family of 4 - Stock LC with good tires plus off-road trailer goes everywhere. Get a 100 series for better on road comfort and dual AC over the 80 series.
This post asks about 4x4 vans so let's stay on topic.

Here's my curmudgeonly van in 4 low:

33 years old and still going. Forgive the meme. Only photo I have of it swimming.

"Talk is cheap. Whiskey costs money."
I will take a bit of an opposing view here:

Driver skill, which MOST people do not have when it comes to technical, off road travel, knowing the capabilities and being able to read the trail, etc., is a PART of the equation. Proper vehicle setup is critical for safe travels.

I believe that you should have a vehicle that is MORE capable than what you are going to need. My reasoning is simple:

I can take a 70 year old granny and put her in a Toyota pickup with 100:1 crawl ratio and as long as she can see my hands and do what I (spotter) tell her, she can drive through anything the truck can do. Poor articulation? truck will teeter and tires will spin. Street tread tires? they will spin causing instability and trail damage. You say, " of course that makes sense, but I see people do those things every time I am on the trail. I have seen it from beginners, industry veterans and magazine editors.

Could you get a stock Honda Element with 28" street tires through that same section of trail? Maybe, but I will let you guess which one will be less stressful, easier on the vehicle and MOST importantly, easiest on the trail. The stress level is particularly important if you have a wife or kids who are not comfortable with technical offroading or the family truckster slipping and sliding down the trail.

If you want to take a dirt road with a few chuck holes, to a camp site, then none of this applies. However, the premise of the thread is, "How deep can a 4x4 van get you?" So, I presume the owner (OP), wishes to get quite a ways off the beaten track. Vans are large and heavy, so to get away from it all, you are not going to be driving on smooth, flat, graded dirt rods. A Prius can do that.

For comparison, I will leave you with a few videos. Mind you, they are only comparisons and I am not suggesting that a 4x4 van should be a rock crawler. If you have never driven a well setup off road vehicle, they can be quite impressive, even on "easy" obstacles. Why? the truck isn't working hard at all and a smart driver lets the truck do most of the work. You can be the best driver in the world, but if you have no traction, your truck isn't moving.

First video - "beating on your truck" to make forward progress - irresponsible, stressful and dangerous. Notice how the front end hops over, placing the vehicle in danger of rolling to the side. This is the result of poor driving technique mostly, but another video shows a similar vehicle tackling a very mild obstacle, but due to improper gearing, suspension and tires, the truck bounces up the trail -- not good.

Another bad example. Notice how the 4Runner teeters and spits dirt out from the tires. This is not difficult terrain and could easily be encountered on almost any trail, i.e. wash out, ditch, water bar or even a small oblique rock ledge. As soon as one tire comes off the ground or unloads, you are stuck. With proper gearing, articulation, lockers and tires, this is a cake walk. O'grady

Now, contrast that with this diesel Landcruiser in some not so easy terrain. There are no full throttle assaults, no "momentum is your friend", no bouncing to get over rocks because you have 30" street tires and open diffs, etc. Only calm, easy, no damage driving. Can your van or SUV do this for each trail that you want to travel on? If it can't you have the wrong vehicle or are on the wrong trail.

A stock 4WD truck really only has 2WD (open diffs), the suspension travel is not great, nor is it setup to keep the tires on the ground, in an off road environment, which is your goal, no matter the terrain. If you are spinning your tires to get up multiple sections or obstacles, (except for mud), you should not be on that trail or obstacle with that vehicle. When your tires are spinning, you have less control, are more likely to break something and you are damaging the trail.

Here is another example of a fairly capable Iveco EC. Notice the slow speed and proper suspension keeping the tires on the ground (for the most part) VanMan

Finally, you should be able to ascend and descend any trail that you plan to travel on without stomping on the gas or locking the brakes. If you are on the brakes going down a hill, you do not have enough gearing in your rig. Descending on gearing, improperly called compression braking, when it is actually the result of engine vacuum, allows one to maintain control of steering and traction without the use of brakes, which lock tires and can cause lack of steering and speed control.

This is an excellent example of down hill gearing control and the benefit thereof. You do not have to be a rock crawler to take advantage of this. Which is preferred? teetering, sliding down a hill white knuckled with your foot on the brake or a calm controlled descent?

I am quite sure to get blasted over this, but I have driven and/or ridden in MANY off road trucks (Mogs, Pinzgauers, Toyotas, rock buggies, Jeeps on 40" tires, XP1000 RZR, Broncos, etc.) Control is your friend off roading and this is especially true in an unknown area, in a large, heavy expo rig (van) with your wife and kids in tow.

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I'm a long time lurker and I think this is my first post. I have wanted an overland vehicle since I was 7 (turning 40 soon, gulp) and am getting serious about it now. My challenge is that I have no experience other than having owned a 4Runner in my 20's that i drove on Washington forest service roads. I find myself with a boot strapping problem in that I need a rig to get started exploring to know what kind of rig I want.

My goal is to be able to explore the back roads in grand staircase escalante, the white rum trail, that place in Colorado I can never remember, the rubicon trail, the white rum trail and even rough forest service roads in Washington (is gold Meyer hot springs still a thing?). Maybe even travel the world. I have a wife and two daughters. I like mountain biking, snowboarding and climbing (that's where I've spent my recreation $$$ in the past). The seven year old in me would love a rock crawler but that's not what I'm going for now.

So I'm curious- how far can a 4x4 van get me? Sports mobile, NW quadvan, UJOR or quigley? The fords seem to have the most off-road prowess but sprinters seem cool too. I'm thinking 33-35" tires and 4-6" lift kind of deal. Am I giving up much compared to a land cruiser? Also, I plan for minimal RV conversions. I just an indoor space for when the weather really sucks but prefer to cook and be outside when I'm adventuring.

Thanks in advance to anyone willing to share their thoughts!
You ask for too much out of a single vehicle... rubicon trail and world travel and space inside for a family in bad weather... you can probably have two, but not all three in one vehicle... with a family, a van will give you world travel potential with a small family (no bathroom) with much outdoor camping, and inside space for bad weather... and access many many trails... but not extreme rock crawling... rent a vehicle when you want to rock crawl... as a family you may get tired of it after some time anyway...

Tire width is your friend in the sand, so the Ford is Better than the sprinter, as well, a gasser or old 7.3 is better for world travel... the sprinter diesel will be a problem with dirty fuels of third world countries

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I drove my van to Colombia South America, others have driven the same van further. Mine was AWD, I may go 4X4, but I do not need to. I do not know the trails you listed, but if you can sacrifice rock crawling, a van can get you just about everywhere. The Astro would be small for a family, but I think taking your family rtw in a full size van would beat any rock crawling you may have to give up.
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