Pedal Commander Overview

We ended up with a 2016 SR5 4Runner to replace our Chevy Suburban this past September. Not only as my daily driver but also as our primary adventure rig. One thing I read about and was noticeable right away was the delay in the pedal. It wasn’t terrible, but there was some room for improvement. This was the reason for purchasing a Pedal Commander.

The whole Pedal Commander unit and harness.

My usage of the Pedal Commander was done with the vehicle being driven entirely on the pavement. I have not had a chance to see how the Pedal Commander is going to change off-road driving. I do a lot of city driving and use the cruise control every chance I get to try and save fuel.  It’s not a huge delay, but it is noticeable. Is it a deal-breaker on driving a 4Runner? No. Will it cause some problems when you start adding heavy stuff? Probably.

If you don’t know what Pedal Commander is, it’s a small controller box that plugs into the pedal and the pedal wiring harness. Once plugged in, you can adjust the response on the pedal by selecting four different options; Eco, City, Sport, and Sport+. You can also change the sensitivity up or down for each selection as well.

Pedal Commander plugs into the pedal, and the pedal harness plugs into the Pedal Commander.

Each mode makes the throttle response markedly different. I was pleasantly surprised using the city mode to find how much it changed the response on the vehicle. On average, it didn’t change my MPG much from the stock pedal. I was still getting 16-17 MPG in and around the city.

The control box makes switching between settings easy.

I tried the Eco mode for about a week. Pedal Commander claims that it can help save you fuel; however, I would disagree with that. Driving in this mode cuts the response by 50%, which is a noticeable change in the pedal response. I found myself pushing the pedal down more in response to the vehicle not moving as quickly as it would in stock or city mode.

You have to be generous with not having a heavy foot to see any savings. My mileage was almost worse because of this. Honestly, I found that driving in the city with this setting was a terrible idea. If you live in a smaller town or city, then this might work for you. In major metropolitan areas, where people are always in a hurry, this setting is not a good idea.

I briefly tried sport mode for a couple of days. It was considerably different than city mode and is not something I would continue to use. And as far as sport plus, haven’t even given it a thought. Pedal Commander’s instructions on that one state that it should be used at the track. I’m not planning on taking my 4Runner to M1 Concourse anytime soon.

The controller I bought can also be app-controlled from my phone or tablet. The box itself is super easy to use, but the app makes it even easier. Especially if you mount the Pedal Commander somewhere, it becomes non-accessible. I installed the control box where I could get at, but found I was using the app just as much.

If you find your Toyota, or whatever vehicle you drive, has poor pedal control, then the Pedal Commander might be right for you. It’s not a cheap option at roughly $300, but it makes a difference in response time.

Harding Expedition Company Profile

Harding Expedition Company (HEXCO) is a jack of all trades company in the overland space. Their business is a bunch of puzzle pieces that come together to form a single unique entity.

HEXCO is run by two adventure-seeking people who wanted to build a network of like-minded people across the country. The intent with HEXCO was to combine loves of travel, engineering, and aviation into a viable business.

Elijah Aikens, one of the founders, states, “We didn’t want to be just another overland brand. From the beginning, I’ve tried to make our business structure different so we can focus on building a community and better relationships with our customers and affiliates.”

The difference between HEXCO and other businesses is what they offer in their affiliate program. For a flat rate for the year (or a monthly fee), affiliates can take advantage of several options HEXCO offers in the form of a discount for online items, media services, and more things on the horizon.

The products they offer are familiar to anyone into overlanding and adventure travel. Products from recognizable companies like Baja Designs Lights, Tembo Tusk, Black Rhino, GOAT Truck Armor, and many more can be purchased from their online store.

New for 2020 is its media services package. For an additional $30, you can take advantage of the artists they have on staff. Services include photo editing, logo and branding design, Lightroom presets, and photography contracts (local to them and abroad). 

Another arm of HEXCO is Wander Wear You Are (WanderWYA) apparel, which houses soft goods with designs for and by the community. It might be the smaller piece of the larger puzzle but no less critical. 

WanderWYA is where paying for media services can pay off. HEXCO offers branding and logo services with the media package, which can turn into people getting designs for their own needs and apparel.

The last piece is probably the most exciting. We’ve talked with plenty of people who feel the cost of adventure can be too high. Hope Quests is a non-profit that helps adventurers fund what they love doing while also providing money to charity. 

The thing that makes it unique is it is merely not a funding tool. Applicant teams apply to HopeQuests with a charity in mind and compete against each other to raise funds. Fifty percent of the raised funds go to the charity, 40 percent goes to the winning team, and 10 percent goes into a victors pool. The team that wins the funding competition receives the victor’s pool as a bonus. 

Hope Quests is an exciting take on helping people fund their travels outside of the usual routes like GoFundMe. All-in-all, we here at Michigan Overland 100% support HEXCO and like the direction they are going in. They are a small business worth investing in, and at such a low cost to join, it’s almost a sin not to. Check them out at the link below and make sure to jump on board their affiliate program to take advantage of what they have to offer.

Follow HEXCO on Instagram @hardingexco, @harding.media, and @hopequests.

Link: https://hardingexco.com/products/hexco-affiliate-program2020

One Time Discount Code: iliketoread10

Brand Spotlight: Sportsmobile

The #vanlife is a trendy thing to do these days. People jump into this trend headfirst with everything from custom-built homebrews to professionally built adventure-ready rigs. One company that has been at the forefront of providing custom-built, adventure-ready platforms is Sportsmobile.

The company was founded in El Paso, Texas, and now has three different locations located around the United States. If you don’t know, they specialize in customizing vans to fit your travel needs.

Early years found the company customizing VW vans at the port of entry. Later the company was able to the same thing with Ford vans at assembly plants. Sportsmobile shipped their kits to each location where it was installed. Vans were then sent to dealership lots to be sold. A detailed history of what they worked on and what those vans looked like can be found here.

Fast forward to today, and the company deals with any manufacturer or customer with a van from Chevrolets up to the Mercedes Sprinter. The work they end up doing with newer model vans is absolutely amazing.

Photo From The Sportsmobile Website.
The Classic Sportsmobile. Photo From The Sportsmobile Website.

The amount of floor plans and options they offer is almost overwhelming. If something they have to offer doesn’t fit your needs, they will work with you to customize a vehicle to your specifications.

While campervans are primarily what Sportsmobile is known for, they do make vans for other applications. One is for people with disabilities who still want to get out and travel, which is just the tip of the iceberg. As stated, they have customized vans for just about every application.

If the #vanlife is something you are interested in, consider looking into a Sportsmobile built vehicle. The prices might scare some folks away, but you’re getting exactly what you want for the money you spend.

The Gear Box: Roof Racks and Accessories

A roof rack or safari rack or cargo rack or whatever you choose to call it can be a useful addition to your rig. While it’s not entirely recommended to overload the roof with a bunch of stuff, roof racks still can serve a purpose. There are plenty of companies that make roof racks and accessories to go with them. From basic tool mounts up to being able to carry more elaborate things like a table.

If you’re in the market for a rack system and accessories, keep in mind that most companies sell their accessories to fit their systems. Most accessory pieces are not going to be compatible with other systems, and some are specific to certain types of racks. Below will highlight some companies and accessories to consider without diving into detail on a particular brand.

Gear You Deserve is a rundown of gear you might be interested in relating to a specific topic. The series highlights gear that runs from small to large, cheap to expensive, basic to advanced, and leaves it up to you to decide what a good fit for you is.

Cargo Bars

Most roof racks are made to mount on standard cargo bars on the roof. These bars are the load-bearing pieces you want to have on your roof. Companies like Yakima and Thule are the more prominent name brands that started strictly selling cargo bars and accessories. Both have since branched into offering cargo racks. Yakima especially with their upcoming LockNLoad series being released later this year.

The Rack/Basket

Not all racks are designed and created equally. While the basic shape and function are the same, you have to decide what you want. Do you spend the money on something high-end or go with a cheaper version? Do you want sides or no sides? If you want sides, how high do you want them? The questions go on and on.

Gear Mounts

One benefit to having a rack on the roof is that you can move items from inside your rig to outside. Things like shovels, axes, and hi-lift jacks can be mounted on the sides of a rack. Other items like water or fuel cans can be mounted on top of the rack. Most rack manufacturers will have a minimum of some mounts for specific gear like axes, shovels, and jacks. Some companies offer more specific options for certain types of gear like a fuel canister for a grill or stove.

Storage Options

Some of the companies mentioned offering their storage solutions. Front Runner and Leitner Designs both offer their storage solutions for their respective systems. Front Runner has their Wolf Pack storage cubes and rack mounts that work seamlessly with their racks. Leitner Designs has a unique solution in the form of their Gear Pods, which mount to their Active Cargo System. While these are great options, you can always go with something like a Pelican case filled with gear mounted to the rack.

Adventure Gear Mounts

Companies like Yakima and Thule got their start supplying adventurers with cargo bars and mounts for bikes and kayaks. Most of the companies that make their rack systems offer mounts for varying types of adventure gear. Front Runner is probably at the forefront again with the number of accessories they offer. From bike and kayak racks to precision rifle mounts that allow you to shoot off your roof. If you take part in anything else outside of overlanding it’s worth looking into.

Truck Bed Mounts

If you have a truck, it is possible to mount a rack on the roof of the cab. Mounting over the bed requires the use of a bed rack system. These offer a way to mount cargo bars and a rack up and over the bed. The downside here is you lose the ability to put anything tall in the bed without removing the bed rack. Bed racks tend to come in different sizes and utility. Some are low to the bed to keep gear below the roofline and others stick out above the roof. Companies like Leitner Designs, Front Runner Outfitters, and our friends at New Holland Overland offer varying takes on bed racks.

Places to Go: Isle Royale

Located 56 miles from the Keweenaw Peninsula in the northwest corner of Lake Superior resides the 4th largest inland lake island in the world. It’s the second largest in the great lakes after Manitoulin Island on the Canadian side of Lake Huron in the Ontario Province. We are of course talking about the quarter pounder of islands, Isle Royale.

The Places to Go series explores adventure related points of interest in the state of Michigan. We are highlighting everything from the large to small, the known to the unknown. If it’s interesting, we might cover it, and you should visit it.

Isle Royale is classified as a national park that attracts people from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. With a total area of 206 square miles, the island is only accessible via boat or plane seasonally. The major part of the island is 45 miles long and 9 miles wide but is made up of about 450 smaller islands and waterways. These combined areas make up the whole national park.

Photo From National Park Service Website
Photo From National Park Service Website

Isle Royale, like Mackinac Island, does not permit motor vehicle usage. There aren’t even any roadways on the island itself. The park service has a few motorized vehicles, but most of the movement from the harbor area to cabins or the hotel is done with service carts.

Interestingly, the mainland area of Isle Royale contains several good-sized lakes as well. Siskiwit Lake, the largest of them, contains numerous smaller islands as well. One of these is Ryan Island, which contains Moose Flats. Moose Flats contains a seasonal bound with a boulder in it. When the water levels are high enough the boulder, named Moose Boulder, becomes the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake in the world. We think we got that right.

Rock Harbor and Windigo are both starting points for exploring the island. These are the primary in routes for the island that offer some amenities and campgrounds for visitors. Various other campgrounds around the island that are only accessible by boat or a good hike through the island.

Photo From National Park Service Website
Photo From National Park Service Website

 

Despite its remoteness in Lake Superior, Isle Royale offers a number of different activities for anyone visiting. There are a number of hiking trails throughout the island offering varied difficulties for anyone wanting to do some backpacking. There are several day hikes that can be done, or if you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can take the two-week trek around the island.

While hiking and camping are probably the primary activities, visitors are also able to fish the lakes which contain several different species of trout and perch. Canoeing and kayaking are also allowed but may be difficult due to the islands no wheeled vehicles rule. Visitors would have to hike in their canoe or kayak.

If you enjoy diving, there are several shipwrecks around the island that can be explored. Several of them are still accessible in the waters around the island for anyone willing to brave the depths and near-freezing temperatures.