Two wheels, four wheels, eight wheels, more? What is your ideal Baja adventure vehicle? So many travelers drop by our place near Mulegé on their way down the peninsula that I get to hear the pros and cons of all their choices. This month, I thought I’d share some admittedly opinionated commentary about some of the vehicles I’ve been seeing, including a few high-ticket dream machines who flit by on their way to Tierra del Fuego.
KTM 690 Enduro-R Adventure Motorcycle
KTM makes motorcycles with unparalleled power-to-weight ratio and the 690 filled the gap for a mid-sized dual-sport in their lineup. Bracketed by the dirt-ready 500 and the very street-capable 990s and 1190s, the 690 Adventure combines the best of both to create a smooth, twin-engine adventure bike that is very happy in the dirt.
The Mosko Moto team recently dropped by on their two 690s—Ashley, at 5’5″ is comfortable on the bike even on tippy-toes (with a 1/2″ lowering link) while Pete at 6’2″ is tall enough to flat-foot it. We went for a ride (me on my KTM 350 EXC and Jonathan on his 450) and they showed us what they could do on the trails. Impressive.
Mods I’d consider are many, among them the Black Dog Skid Plate and the Rekluse Clutch, which I have on my EXC 450. Read more about more mods and gear at Mosko Moto Baja Blog and AdvPulse KTM Build.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van Conversion
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van is a popular vehicle with the “Van Life” crowd and motorcyclists who load their bikes either inside the vehicle or on a rear rack. (A visitor just dropped by in his customized Sprinter and KTM 690, an ever more popular combo.)
If you’re on Instagram you may have already noticed the #vanlife trend and have perhaps been inspired by all the cool conversions. When I started looking at these I got distracted by a lot of other vans, including the new Winnebago Revel, which is based on the Sprinter’s 4×4 platform.
Also check out the Chinook Baja and, and, and… there are so many more. Get on Instagram for endless #vanlife options.
I see a lot of two-door Jeep Wranglers come by. These are great for challenging off-road conditions (better turning diameter and break over angle). However, its short wheelbase makes for a bumpy ride on the highways, rutted and potholed as they are. Long-distance travelers from the US arrive a bit… rattled. So why not fly to Baja and rent one at the airport?
Still love the Jeep? The four-door Wrangler with its longer wheelbase is more comfortable, roomier, handles better on the highway and is still off-road capable for most of the conditions you’ll find in Baja.
Toyota Land Cruiser 100 Series
If you’ve traveled extensively in the developing world you have probably noticed that Toyota Land Cruisers are the most popular of vehicles. Why? Durability. Reliability. Comfort. Availability of parts.
Jonathan purchased a brand new Land Cruiser way back in 1985 for Baja travel and it’s still running great. Fast forward 32 years to the first repairs needed: a carburetor rebuild order xanax (the rubber boot deteriorated) and a new clutch.
Our “new” Land Cruiser is a 100 series (1998 to 2007). This vehicle forms the basis for the Lexus LX 480 if you’re rather more inclined toward luxury.
Jonathan discusses his reasons for favoring the 100 series in our video on the budget adventure trailer build.
Taxa Outdoors Adventure Trailers
I was introduced to the Taxa Outdoors’ line of lightweight, off-road adventure trailers at Overland Expo in North Carolina last October. Their smallest model is the 12-foot Tigermoth branded “a front porch for your campsite.” It’s 900 pounds (dry) and can be towed by four-cylinder engines. (I’m thinking, really, my Toyota Camry could pull this? Hmm.)
It sleeps two adults in a queen-sized bed and offers an optional two-person roof-top tent. Seven-days worth of off-the-grid features include built-in electrical, LED lights, 12V outlets, water, and optional solar panels.
With 12 feet of ground clearance, roof rack system, cargo deck, tongue mounted toolbox, front cargo step, a Nasa-inspired storage system, and a pull-out countertop of 5.5 square feet, it’s a pretty sweet package. Starting at $12,990 at TaxaOutdoors.com.
Don’t be afraid to drive your RV to Baja. We see all brands here in every condition. I have noticed that across the border in Borrego Springs there are always RVs for sale, many very cheap. (Just browse the bulletin board at Center Market.) I’ve suggested to more than one RV-seeking friend that they come hang out in Borrego or any retirement town near the border to shop for a Class A motor home. Many are priced to sell fast.
If you’re looking to trade in your house for an adventure RV, there are a lot more choices (depending, of course, on the sale price of your house).
On the beaches near our home south of Mulegé, I’ve seen EarthRoamer and Global Xpedition Vehicles, EarthCruisers, the Unicat TerraCross, and even an All Terrain Warrior.
These travelers are committed to spending years traveling in unpaved countries and, if they’re up for a chat, they’ll entertain you with hair-raising stories of their expeditions.
Which one is for you?
Our stable of trusty adventure rides include the KTM 450 EXC with all its modifications, my trusty and indestructible single-cylinder Kawasaki KLR 650, the Toyota Tacoma with its pre-runner mods, the Land Cruiser and various trailers too. Is it ever enough? Looks like I’ve got the adventure vehicle bug and it’s not going away. It simply doesn’t help to visit Overland Expo and other vehicle-intensive adventure events where vendors show off the latest in off-grid adventure trailers and RVs, and the parking lot is its own showcase of creative customizations.
What’s your ride? Got an opinion about Land Cruiser vs Land Rover vs Jeep? What vehicle are you lusting after for your Baja adventure? Let me know in the comments below.
Carla King is a longtime adventure travel journalist, author, and motorcyclist based in San Diego who spends much of the winter in the Mulegé area on the Sea of Cortez.
8 thoughts on “Your Next Baja Adventure Vehicle”
We are down here now in San Felipe in our Winnebago and tow a Jeep Wrangler which is great for off-road exploring. A newer diesel engine that requires ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel probably won’t be very practical for Baja due lack of availability.
Thanks much for that tip on the fuel. Are you going further south?
We went down to Gonzaga Bay and camped for a week. We did a day trip in the Jeep to Catavina. I would not want to take the Bago on Hwy 5 construction area but we made the 22 unpaved miles to Hwy 1 in about an hour. Lots of work going on.so hopefully in a year or two, they will finish? The potholes on Hwy 1 south of Catavina are pretty bad but we did see a crew patching some of them.
Good to know! The connecting road between 5 and 1 is going to take more than a year to finish. Did you notice the bridges? Lots and lots of tall bridges/culverts being built to handle to rush of water than rages through in hurricane season. I’m glad they’re working on those Catavinia potholes and I hear there is actually going to be a gas station there in the 2019. Yay!
If you make regular trips one thing to consider is what you can drive through the SENTRI lane. You can’t bring campers or RV’s through. Vans are a grey area – cargo van ok, tricked out sportsmobile maybe not so much (depends on the officer). So a regular old Ford/Chevy/GM pickup with a camper shell is often a good compromise.
Well that’s something I haven’t thought of but I’ll bet every RVer knows too much about :-)
I’d like to hear more about that. Maybe the Discover Baja team has some advice on those border lanes. (I hear a song coming on… Borderlanes… feels like I’m going to lose my mind, do te dee.)
I cross at Tecate, normally, which is a much smaller crossing where there is no LFOS (Land Freak Out Syndrom) happening as you approach.
San Ysidro… yeeks!
Have no fear Scott. Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel is now available in a few places in Baja already. A few places in TJ have had it for a while. I believe there is a few stations that have it in San Quintin and and before long it will be throughout Baja. The Mexican government opened up the fuel business to all companies that want to sell here, and now, not only will there be price competition, but ULSD will be much more available. It is said it will everywhere in Mexico by December of this year!
Thanks much, Rick. I would love to get a list of these stations. Maybe the Discover Baja team is already on it :-)