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Hi fellow Rav4 drivers.

I bought my 2017 Rav4 a few months ago and have been loving it so far. I'm big on desert camping, and am excited to have a car that can take me a little more off the beaten path in the Mojave Desert. I'm trying to figure out how I can turn my Rav4 into a proper camping vehicle.

I'll be purchasing a tent section for the back end in the near future,
which is the bare minimum I need. It's the Napier Sportz Cove for the curious.

Would really like general advice from other Rav4 drivers on accessories that would make mine the perfect off-road camper. These are a few of things I would like to figure out, but I'm interested to hear any creative ways to make my car-camping experiences safe, comfortable, and fun:

  • Keeping food and drinks cool for two or three days
  • Roof top storage, ideally not just cross bard but a full cargo box
  • Extra fule canisters and a way to secure them
keeping food and drinks cool for two or three days? Rooftop storage?
 

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Would really like general advice from other Rav4 drivers on accessories that would make mine the perfect off-road camper.
I know a thing or two about driving off the road, and have some recommendations, with links, for equipment to directly answer your original questions, below.

I understand you don't intend to do rock crawling or anything crazy. I get it, I really do. Your'e talking about overlanding, not real "off roading" - yet there are off roading components to overlanding. But the RAV4, especially the 4.4, simply does not have the ground clearance or underbody protection needed to protect the soft (and expensive) components underneath.

Please read this post as one example of why you don't want to do this, and that example was with a 4.3 RAV4 which has an extra 1.5 inches of ground clearance, and it was also in the desert to boot.

The Very Best Advice: buy (or rent) a different vehicle that can go off road without getting damaged.

If, for example, you get bogged down in sand or soft dirt, the RAV4 also doesn't have any recovery-rated points in the front (to my knowledge the tow hooks are NOT recovery rated, they are only rated for towing) nor in the rear, unless you have a trailer hitch. And NEVER hook a tow strap to a trailer hitch ball, as the ball will almost certainly break off and become a deadly projectile. Use a receiver hitch shackle instead.

The AWD system in the RAV4 can also overheat and shut down, literally rendering your "SUV" nothing more than a tall 4-cylinder Camry station wagon. Would you take a Camry (that you like) off the road?

Driving on an actual road to a campground should be no problem. Driving off the road into the desert in a loaded up RAV4 would almost certainly be a very bad idea. The RAV4's AWD system was only designed to keep you on the road in slippery conditions. That's all. It was NOT designed for off road or heavy duty or long term use.

Now add all your equipment, extra people (?), rooftop box, extra fuel, water etc. and the extra weight will push the RAV4 even lower to the ground.

If you still intend to do this:

- Only store fuel canisters OUTSIDE the vehicle (it's fuel!), which generally means roof rack or trailer or hitch basket, but a trailer or hitch basket will destroy what little departure angle you have to begin with. The best fuel canisters I've seen are made by Roto-Pax, because they're made of very thick, very tough plastic, designed for off road use. You can get the screw-on/screw-off mounts for them to mount to a rooftop basket, too, which is what I did on my Jeep Wrangler's roof rack with 2 x 3.5 gallon packs. They're utterly brilliant. They also make similar water containers, super durable.

- For keeping food cold, ARB makes some of the better rated automotive refrigerators, like this one.

- Consider getting an Optima Yellow-Top battery (not a red top, and certainly not a blue top). The yellow top batteries have both starting power and some deep-cycle cells to help run equipment like a cooler, winch, off road lights, etc.

- I'd suggest you air down your tires and bring an air compressor to pump them back up before going back on the road, but you'd lose even more precious, precious ground clearance. However, an air compressor like the one linked above and a tire repair kit would be a good idea, given the 4.4 no longer comes with a full sized spare tire. OMG I would hate to have to try to get back to the road on a donut spare! The desert is an easy place in which to die.

- Speaking of which, consider getting better tires. All-terrain ones may be best overall, not sure about mud-terrain tires for this usage. I run BF Goodrich KO2 all-terrains on the Jeep, but don't know if those are available for your RAV4 tire size (might be). They have very tough sidewalls. If a rock cuts your sidewall the tire is dead forever, and you'd be stuck using the donut spare. Come to think of it:

- Consider bringing a full-sized spare tire.

- Bring a receiver hitch shackle (see link above), in case it's helpful for the tow truck driver.

- If you don't have a trailer hitch, get a trailer hitch. It's the only recovery point option for the RAV4. Ideally get one which rides up as high as possible to reduce damage to your departure angle. Others have posted about those options in this forum.

- Bring a recovery rated snatch strap and D-ring shackles in case what's pulling you out is a 4x4 and they don't happen to have those with them. This kit comes with two shackles in a nice carry bag (it's my secondary strap, I carry it in the Jeep at all times).


BTW, except for the ARB refrigerator, every single item - or a variant of each - linked above (and much more) comes with me in the Jeep when going off the road.

Best of luck with whatever decision you make.

But I know what I would do (did).




(The above photo was taken before the roof rack, KO2 tires, Hi-Lift jack mount and off road lights were added to the Jeep)

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Discussion Starter #5
Driving on an actual road to a campground should be no problem. Driving off the road into the desert in a loaded up RAV4 would almost certainly be a very bad idea. The RAV4's AWD system was only designed to keep you on the road in slippery conditions. That's all. It was NOT designed for off road or heavy duty or long term use.
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Actually I don't plan on even "overlanding", I plan on driving dirt roads to primitive campsites in Mojave National Preserve (mostly along the "Mojave Road") or on BLM land. I've already tested driving my RAV4 on those types of roads in the Preserve. The main thing I'm trying to achieve is make this car camp-ready. Maybe "off-road" isn't the right term for my post. I drove a Prius before, which could hardly handle a graded dirt road, so for me a dirt road is "off-road".

This was a helpful response. Thanks a lot for listing out the equipment you use in your Jeep.
 

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Actually I don't plan on even "overlanding", I plan on driving dirt roads to primitive campsites in Mojave National Preserve (mostly along the "Mojave Road") or on BLM land. I've already tested driving my RAV4 on those types of roads in the Preserve. The main thing I'm trying to achieve is make this car camp-ready. Maybe "off-road" isn't the right term for my post. I drove a Prius before, which could hardly handle a graded dirt road, so for me a dirt road is "off-road".

This was a helpful response. Thanks a lot for listing out the equipment you use in your Jeep.
I would suggest that the terminology wasn't correct. "Off road" to me means "not on any road" vs. "dirt road" which means "on a road."

You're not the first to do that, though. For example, I've seen at least a couple of YouTube videos with RAV4s "off roading" and the entire time they are just driving around on dirt roads.

Alrighty, then.

"Softroading" may be a better term for what you plan to do, though some definitions of that require a little more in a vehicle than the RAV4 has. Probably most of these terms have some subjective wiggle room, though.

Regardless, I hope you have lots of great fun in your RAV! :thumbs_up:

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Having done that sort of thing for many years, my best advice is KISS. Keep it as simple as possible, quick and easy to load up, set up, and then pack up for the return. Also watch the weight. Try to work it out so you have just 3 or 4 boxes or so that you can quickly throw it all in the car and go.
The more work you make it, the less you will enjoy it and less time you'll have when you get there.
 
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