Feedback About Off-Roading with Full-Sized Trucks

I’ll be getting a trailer and tow vehicle soon and I’m looking for feedback on experiences using a full-size truck for off-roading. I’m trying to finalize my decision between a new Ford Ranger that I’ve confirmed through extensive research will do what I need or going to a used full-size Chevy Silverado or similar for the easier towing experience and lower price. No need to go over the benefits and negatives of both choices as I’ve beat that to death!

Anyways, I’m specifically looking for those who have used full-size trucks on fairly aggressive and tight at times 4x4 roads. Think Engineer Pass and the Alpine Loop, Imogene Pass, Stony Pass, etc. Nothing as crazy as Black Bear, I did that in my stock 4runner and know its challenges. I’m hoping to find somewhere to store my 4runner in the San Juans so hopefully, I’ll have that capability when needed, but sometimes I’ll be traveling in places where I won’t have it with me.

What setup are you running? What has your experience been? What issues have you had? Would you change or recommend anything?


Though I’m familiar with those locations in name only, I have spent the last 25 years 4WD in the desert and canyons to the west and south. First 10 years with a 1995 Tacoma, middle 10 years with an early model Tunda (about the size of today’s Tacomas), and the last 6 years with a RAM Hemi 2500. The biggest difference I notice is in turning radius in tight quarters. There’ some backing and filling involved with the RAM in places that didn’t even register with the Tacoma and barely with the Tundra. Looking back, my pick of the litter has to be that beloved Tunda, or in today’s parlance the modern Tacoma. The RAM is comfy, powerful and sure-footed, but the power-to-weight ratio seemed better with the Tundra and it had less inclination to get boggy when the ground was soft.

All three are canopied (still own both the Tacoma and the Tundra), and I’ve spent many a night on a cot in the back of each. I bring it up because there were times in each of them that I wished for a clear view out the back, as in when I had to back out of situations where the terrain got too tough. With your experience in a 4Runner you probably already know what I’m talking about. But for the ease and comfort in sleeping under that canopy, I’d have opted for an open bed instead. I’m basing that on time in the same terrain in various open trucks from the ranch, but it was never enough to make me peel the canopies from my personal trucks.

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My experience is that it sucks. Going from the 4runner to a full size truck will be quite the shock. Between the long wheel base, overall weight, lack of weight in the back, width, rough ride, and turning radius make it a lot less fun. It’s possible to get most places but I find myself wanting to go less and less, when we rent a Jeep it’s so much fun now!

Have you looked at the Colorado with a Duramax? This seems like the ideal setup and what I would consider if I was looking again.

@Hank_Pennington Thanks for sharing your experiences! Turning radius is one of my biggest concerns as it can even be tight in spots with my 2004 4runner. I’ll be going with a cap on the bed for secure storage but I’ve dealt with the backing up issue as well. I’m hoping a backup cam can help alleviate some of that.

@David_Kingham That’s good feedback on it making you want to visit places less as that’s a big concern of mine. My hope with the 4runner becoming an extra vehicle is I can give it a small lift, bigger tires, and few other small upgrades to make it primarily an off-road machine; all for the cost of a renting a jeep a few times. I know how hard they can be to find for a reasonable price and it’s not worth selling it for the few thousand I would get for it.
I have looked at the Colorado Duramax and it’s still under consideration. The Ranger is better designed and outfitted for off-road and internationally has a better reliability record. When researching the Colorado I saw a number of reliability complaints that make me a little concerned. The Silverado, on the other hand, seems to be one of the most reliable full-size trucks. Anyways, it’s between the Ranger and Colorado at the moment. Thanks for the help!

My fondest dream for the big RAM!

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Jason, we pull a 28’ trailer, so for us it was GMC Denali Duramax. It is a beast for towing, but that is for what we needed it for. Comfort was the other issue. We test drove the Dodge Ram and the Ford and honestly, I am just a GMC guy. I do love the back up camera for sure. Makes it easy to hitch up.

However, I just bought a 2016 Jeep Cherokee Limited and have yet to get that into 4WD, but hoping that for where I would like to go, the clearance will be what I need. I have yet to use the truck in an wheel situation, other than snow, so will see what this year holds. As for the other responses, I would agree, tight places can be a hinderance for larger trucks. Get what you need to pulll a trailer (if you have one), it will make your life so much more pleasant pulling mountian passes.
Best of luck.

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I found a new video comparing the Colorado vs Ranger vs Tacoma off-road. Despite the better approach and break over angles of the Ranger it kind of sucked because of shitty articulation. Obviously the Tacoma was the best off-road but you can’t tow as much with the TRD and the back seats are cramped (which matters for workshops). Looks like I’m leaning towards the Colorado diesel again!

@Todd_Grivetti what are the specs of the trailer you’re pulling?

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Jason, my apologizes for such a late reply:

Dry Wt. 7080 lbs
Lenght: 31’ total (front of hitch to ladder)
Net carrying capacity 2915 lbs
Total wt. 9995 lbs.

We did upgrade to a GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali with Duramax Diesel and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s like pulling a hot knife thorugh butter with the truck. Had a GMC Sierra 2500HD Gas V8 and it just didn’t handle the hills and mountain passes well. Plus fuel consumption was 6 mi/gal vs. 10-11 with the Diesel. I have had as high at 15 mpg.

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David, I am assuming you pursued Expedition Portal forum, Overland Bound forum and the many Toyota forums. I think, as above , it would be dictated by what you are towing and the turning radius you may need. Full-size trucks are great for the open spaces and some mountain back roads. But we all know Taco’s, FJs, 4Runners and LCs are the best!! (just a little poke at those other vehicles - all in good humor).