There is nothing like the feeling of a new rig, full adventure potential, rolling to a stop in front of the Rhino Adventure Gear shop doors. When the owner of a pristine 2004 GX470 initially reached out, he was only looking to get a rooftop tent installed. That's our bread and butter at Rhino Adventure Gear. However, as we began talking through the details we found ourselves discussing far more than installing a rooftop tent. Next thing we knew, we had the makings of an awesome build.
The goals for this GX470 were put together as outlined below:
- A low profile, lightweight, roof rack system able to withstand years of heavy use out in the elements
- Modular in design
- The ability to safely and effectively mount a rooftop tent, an awning, and future lighting upgrades
- A rooftop tent of exceptional quality, comfort, fit, and finish
- Hardshell design for the ultimate speed in setting up and breaking down
- A comfortable mattress with ample space for bedding and pillows
- Low profile awning with sufficient protection from the sun and rain
- The ability to enclose the awning for additional indoor space
- Easy setup and simple design
- Second battery under the hood
- Intelligent charging system independent of factory Toyota wiring
- Self-jump capabilities in case the starting battery suffers from excessive discharge
- MPPT solar charging capabilities to keep the battery system topped off
- A pure-sine inverter capable of safely delivering standard 110w AC to power sensitive computer equipment
- Rear mounted Aux USB and 12-volt power ports
- Hidden rear mounted Auxiliary fuse box for future modifications
- Wiring ready for a portable freezer fridge
To address the roof rack requirements, we ditched the factory Toyota rails & crossbars and instead immediately turned our attention to Rhino-Rack USA. We've had incredible success utilizing their ultra strong, lightweight aluminum Pioneer Platform systems on many vehicles and knew this was the obvious choice. The black powder-coated design of the Pioneer Platform is sleek and functional. With over 50 accessory mounting adaptors designed to securely anchor all sorts of bells and whistles to the rack, the Pioneer Platform definitely ticks the box for modularity. In addition, this low profile rack is constructed from reinforced nylon and aluminum which creates a lightweight strength that is ultra durable. Rhino-Rack Pioneer Platforms are non-corrosive and have withstood testing in the harshest conditions around the world, so we knew this rack would fit the bill.
Since an off-the-shelf fitment system is not available for the 2004 GX470, we went with a custom setup using factory mounting points, six Rhino-Rack legs, and a slightly modified Rhino-Rack Pioneer Platform.
Now that we had the GX470 outfitted with a proper roof-rack, we were able to move on to the rooftop tent. The customer didn't go wrong in selecting a premium rooftop unit - a Grey James Baroud Evasion XXL. All James Baroud hard shell rooftop tents come fully equipped with a 5-year warranty, gas strut-assisted opening, a 3" high-density foam mattress, a solar powered ventilation fan, a removable LED-flashlight, a telescoping aluminum ladder, a removable interior storage pocket, and a large ceiling storage net. These units have stood the test of time facing the elements in Australia, Africa, and South & North America. This rooftop tent is the real deal and absolutely fit the needs of our customer.
After we had the Pioneer Platform and the James Baroud Rooftop tent on the GX, we moved on to creating shade. The James Baroud Side Awning ended up being a great choice, as we were able to tuck the awning under the Pioneer Platform. The compact stowage size of the awning combined with the low mounting position option of the roof rack helped keep the setup nice and tight to the width of the vehicle. The slightly recessed mounting of the awning permits the customer to still use the ladder on either side of the tent when the awning isn't extended. James Baroud awnings are "bag-less", making setup and teardown a breeze. The clever design allows the awning to roll into itself and is closed with straps. The material for this awning is the same ultra durable aluminized fabric that James Baroud tents are made of, making them waterproof and solar reflective. Another nice feature of the James Baroud Side Awning is the optional wall kit that can be added, essentially converting it from just an awning to a full annex room. This gives users the opportunity to expand their set up to make space for additional sleeping quarters.
With the James Baroud rooftop tent and awning squared away, we moved under the hood for the ultimate dual battery setup. We chose the latest in dual battery charging technology from our Australian friends at RedArc. Starting it off is the BCDC1225D. It’s a 12 volt, 25A in-vehicle DC-DC battery charger designed to charge your secondary battery bank to a 100% state of charge thanks to a unique multi-stage charging algorithm that provides specific charging profiles tailored to all common battery types (AGM, Gel, Standard Lead Acid, Calcium, and LiFePO4).
This RedArc DC-DC battery charger has been proven to work in all types of terrains, including deep water crossings, and it stands up against extreme heat (up to 176°F). The unit is fully sealed against the risk of infiltration from water and dust and will hold up to the adventure at hand. Light years beyond the traditional dual battery systems that simply link your two batteries together, this system will keep both your batteries (regardless of type) healthy and fully charged for years of reliable service.
Additionally, the BCDC1225D utilizes a Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) solar regulator, so you can charge your batteries using solar panels while parked or charge using both your solar panels and your alternator while driving down the road. We took full advantage of the solar charging feature by running an Anderson plug from the BCDC1225D to an easy access location mounted near the grill of the GX. This simple touch makes it possible to plug a solar panel into the charger without even opening the hood. The customer elected to go with an ultra-compact and portable 79 watt FlexoPower flexible solar panel with a 30ft cable, so the panels can be placed wherever the sun shines. FlexoPower solar panels are made with SunPower Energy Gen III photovoltaic cells embedded in a glass-free housing that is virtually indestructible and can deliver the watts even in suboptimal conditions like partial shade. This will keep the second battery topped off for those multi-day stops at camp when you aren’t running your vehicle but are still drawing power.
There's nothing worse than being ready to head out to the next destination only to find out your starter battery is dead. To remedy this, we utilized RedArc's SBI12 100A 12V microprocessor-controlled battery isolator and momentary switch custom mounted in the dash. Should the starter battery ever die, the customer can simply link the two batteries by pressing the momentary switch and start the motor from the second battery. Upon releasing the switch, the batteries are again isolated and the smart DC to DC charging algorithm resumes.
To get all the RedArc parts, fuses, and wires safely tucked away under the hood, we fabricated custom mounting brackets for each side of the engine bay. A Group 35 Odyssey PC1400 AGM deep cycle battery was neatly housed on the passenger side of the bay with the mounting tray modified to secure the RedArc BCDC charger.
Finally, we mounted a 1000W 12VDC pure-sine inverter by Magnum Dimensions in the rear cargo area. This will allow sensitive electronic devices, including laptops, to be charged off the dual battery and solar set up. This is a great solution for anyone planning to work full time out of their adventure vehicle. We also included an extra set of USB and Aux power ports and a compact rear auxiliary fuse box for future electrical needs.
Geared up for Adventure
With the unique multi-stage charging algorithm, simultaneous DC and solar charging capabilities, the self-jump feature, and 1000W pure-sine inverter this setup is among the most capable advanced dual battery systems available in the marketplace.
We pride ourselves on top quality workmanship and love knowing the pleasure our customers get from using our products. This GX is set for some seriously comfortable, reliable outdoor fun. We can’t wait to hear about the adventures to come!