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The making of a real Hilux Adventure!

Modifying vehicles for overlanding can lead you onto a slippery and costly slope. Maybe, just maybe, Sand Sherpa got this one just right

We have been busy this last month fully kitting out our Toyota Hiluxes for camping and overlanding. Many years of experience modifying vehicles of various types has taught me an expensive lesson - keep it simple and easy(ish!) to return back to stock.

Everything on our modification list was done for practicality. The Alucab canopy was the first thing to add so we have a more usable bed for the pick-up and could mount our Sand Sherpa roof-top tent and Alucab 270-degree shade awning. It is light with its aluminium construction and very versatile, coming with light fittings and mounts to factory-attachment points as standard, requiring no modification to the truck bed.

The canopy is also great to attach accessories inside the truck, as you'll see below. My favorite is the lightweight aluminum table that slides straight into the roof, which makes for a great party trick when you rock up to camp. We stripped out the bed of the truck early on, removing the plastic tray and sliding tonneau cover that comes as standard in Adventure trim. This saved more than one third of its storage capacity and we added a spray liner instead, opting for the LineX brand. The plastic tray wastes a huge amount of space and I can only think that this part was not originally designed for this model. Just a few weeks' use had also seen it accumulate a large amount of sand in the space between the plastic and bodywork.

Second major install was a drawer system, also from Alucab. These are the perfect size as each accommodates two ammo boxes, which we have found are perfect to stow everything from recovery gear to cooking utensils. I like having drawers as they make your gear very accessible and also secure from rolling around your tray, although there is a weight compromise as each set weighs 50kg.

In the Sand Sherpa camping trailers, we flattened the surface either side of the drawers to create one large, even bed. We then installed compartments for extra storage on either side. For the vehicles though, we wanted the versatility of maintaining space next to them, allowing us to strap larger items to mounting points and keeping them secure by lashing to mounting points on the side of the truck bed, or to the drawers. This works really well, especially when carrying loads such as gas tanks and jerry cans. When taking our vehicles on trips, I have recently taken to using one side of the drawers to keep a dual-piston compressor and recovery gear. On the other I pack an Ooni pizza oven and QuickPitch gas-heated shower unit. These two bits of kit have become the ultimate luxuries in our packing list.

Third install was a dual battery system. I have had issues getting these fitted in Dubai on two previous builds (I have discovered that electrics is not a forte of most garages) and this time I sought the help of Siddarth (Sid) from Overland GCC ( to source all the components and he kindly supervised the install from a specialist marine electrician we are lucky to have on the payroll. This proved to be a great decision. We placed the Renogy auxiliary battery in the back of the truck at Sid's recommendation (keeping it cooler than in the engine bay and easier to access) and fabricated a frame for it in-house along with a Renogy DC charger and an inverter. The frame was secured to the canopy and to the drawer system to avoid drilling any holes into the truck itself. We also have an extension plug with additional 220V outlet plugs and USB connections as a charging station.

The dual battery system was needed as we run a fridge on most trips. The vehicles are never sitting long enough to benefit from solar and this now enables us to run them easily for a full day and overnight if needed. For our off-road training vehicles we also fabricated some mounts for a TV monitor which we use for briefings and a tray next to it that covers the battery. Both of these are also mounted into the canopy using the factory provided recess points. This is for both convenience and safety as it keeps the terminals out of the way and the tray is a great place to keep phones etc. while charging.