Lexus GX470 Off-Road Lighting by DENALI Electronics

Lighting is one the most overlooked and frankly, scoffed at elements of a serious overland vehicle build. Honestly, we try not to drive at night when we are in new places or foreign countries. But getting stuck out after dark DOES happen and being prepared for low visibility is much easier with proper lighting. 

Full disclosure, I have been employed by DENALI Electronics for several years and I get an employee discount. With that said, I would still use DENALI even if I were paying full price and I hope you understand why after you see our setup.

GX470 offroad lighting DENALI Electronics

Driving Lights

We had a couple of conditions when picking out forward-facing auxiliary lighting. First, the lights had to be discreet and as subtle as possible. Second, the lights had to be rugged enough to survive hundreds of miles of washboard and rough roads. Lastly, the product had to perform. We didn’t want an entire Christmas tree worth of lights across our roof line if a nice set would perform at the same level. 

DENALI D7 Driving Lights

The DENALI D7 Driving Lights are “face of the sun” bright. With over 15,000 lumens per pair at 1 lux, they are one of the brightest 4.5″ lights available on the market. I wrote up a review of the DENALI D7s here for a more in-depth look. 

The D7s have lived in various locations on the GX and even spent a little time on a previous rig. They have found their forever home in the center of our steel bumper as the lights we turn to when it is really dark and there is no one else on the road. The beam pattern is obviously far-reaching, but is also wide and full. The pictures don’t do it justice, but it is worth a shot.

DENALI D7 + D3 Fog in the Utah Desert

We have had more than a few occasions where we would have been in trouble without our D7s. A  couple of years ago, a surprise thunderstorm in Moab created conditions that were extremely difficult to see in and I am not sure how we would have made it back without all of the extra light. 

DENALI D7 Driving Lights at

DENALI D3 Driving Lights

I will confess, adding the DENALI D3 Driving Lights to our bumper was mostly a cosmetic choice. Not because the D3s aren’t impressive, they are. We simply had too many spaces in the bumper and wanted to make sure it looked good. The D3s have turned out to be one of the light sets that we use the most because it is not as intense as the D7s but it still shines over a thousand feet! 

The D3 is my go-to light when I need to see, but there is a chance that a car could round a corner or that my lights might swing across a tent in a campground. When driving on the interstate at night, the D3 Driving Light with hybrid lens is my choice because it is plenty bright, but it is easier on my eyes than the D7s. Signs reflecting 15,000 lumens can become very distracting. 

DENALI D3 Driving Lights at

Fog Lights

The importance of a great fog light is often overlooked because the majority of OEM fog lights are weak and poorly designed. Most manufacturers aren’t even including fog lights, instead, they are opting for obnoxious and trending daytime running lights in big swooshes and gills in front of the radiator.  I am a fan of a true fog light and DENALI has a great option for just about any vehicle or motorcycle.

DENALI D3 Fog Lights

My favorite light in the DENALI lineup at the time of writing this is the DENALI D3 Fog Light. The D3 Fog is a DOT/SAE-compliant fog light that has an ultra-sharp cutoff and a crazy wide beam pattern. I elected to mount mine with amber lenses because I want to run it as a true fog light for foggy and rainy conditions and as a conspicuity light that is on all the time without blinding other motorists. 

ISOLUX chart showing D3 Fog Light Spread

One of my favorite aspects of how DENALI designs and sells products is that the design team always shares the ISOLUX testing of each product. This allows the consumer to know exactly how a particular light performs and ask for the same chart from other brands for an apples-to-apples comparison. DENALI could simply list raw lumens like everyone else, but it is the little things that set the brand apart. 

As you can see, the D3 Fog is extremely wide (300 feet) and still shines an impressive 450 feet in front of you, which is impressive given the DOT/SAE compliance. The best part of the D3 Fog is the razor-sharp cutoff that allows us to run this light 100% of the time without distracting other drivers. We have had these for over a year without a single flash from another motorist. 

DENALI D3 Fog Light at

Scene & Camp Lighting

Scene lights are one of those things that you don’t want to mess with until you actually need them. For us, our headlamp batteries typically die right after we pull into an extremely dark campsite. Effective scene lighting allows you to setup camp, assess your surroundings, and even deter unwelcome guests. 

DENALI Daytime Running Lights (DRLs)

The Daytime Running Lights from DENALI are one of the most versatile lights in the catalog. The DRLs are slim, easy to mount and draw a tiny amount of power (0.5 amps at full power). The DRL is available in amber, white, or red and can be wired at 50% and 100% brightness. We have two DRLs mounted on the driver’s side and two mounted on the rear of the roof rack. We will likely add a DENALI B6 Brake Light (a DRL with red LEDs) to the center of the roof rack as we often have a bike rack blocking the brake lights. 

The most interesting use for the DRLs is when something brakes on our vehicle and we need to work on it in the dark. Whether trailside or in our apartment parking garage, the DRLs really light up the space and they should because each pod puts out nearly 900 lumens of broad flood light. 


DENALI SoundBomb Horn

The DENALI SoundBomb Airhorn is one of those modifications that you didn’t know you needed until you used it for the first time. It is EXTREMELY LOUD. Clocking in at 120 decibels, the SoundBomb is twice as loud as a standard car horn. The compact design allows it to be mounted in a variety of places on almost any vehicle and the performance is unbelievable. 

Like most overland travelers, we can’t afford to travel year-round and much of our driving is commuting in cities. In traffic, an effective horn can mean the difference between being seen and not. We use our SoundBomb liberally in traffic and it has kept us out of more than a few scrapes. Plus, it’s really fun to honk at the texters in front of you when a light turns green. 

The DENALI SoundBomb Horn at

Four-by-Four Driving by Tom Sheppard May Be the Best Off-Roading Instruction Book Ever Printed

If you’re an adventurer, thrill-seeker, or just someone who loves off-road driving, then Tom Sheppard’s Four by Four Driving is the perfect book for you. Tom dives into the depths of choosing a vehicle, outfitting your vehicle, and most importantly, using your vehicle for expedition travel. The easy-to-use book provides an in-depth guide to off-road driving, offering valuable insights and practical tips for beginners and seasoned drivers alike.

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Replace Your Kawasaki Versys 650 Front Wheel with a Vstrom 1000 19 inch Wheel

The Kawasaki Versys 650 is exactly what the name suggests, a versatile system. My 2008 Versys is at home on curvy roads and is an absolutely splendid sport touring motorcycle. The Versys is not a great off-road adventure bike, mostly due to the 17” front wheel and street tires. It is common knowledge in the Versys community that a Suzuki Vstrom 1000 front wheel will fit on the Versys with a little bit of work. It took a fair amount of scouring the internet and the various pages of information on Advrider and the Kawasaki Versys forums, but the information is not in one place. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about adding a 19” wheel to the Kawasaki Versys 650.

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Oztent RX5-30 Second Tent First Impressions

The roof top tent game was not for us, at least not the $1000 roof top tents-the “cheap ones”. We have historically used a backpacking tent more than anything else in our off-road adventures and that worked fine. The backpacking tent is likely the best compromise between setup time, durability, cost, and storage requirements. As we have traveled and met others that camp a lot and are tough on their gear, we have come across an interesting tent and decided to give it a go- the Oztent RX5.

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DENALI D7 Off-Road Lights First Impression Review|1986 Toyota 4Runner

1st Gen 4Runner Off Road Lights

These Lights Are Ridiculously Bright

We had the opportunity to test the DENALI D7 LED Auxiliary light set and spoiler alert, we were blown away by the performance. I (Zach) had heard from friends and coworkers that the D7 was a powerhouse and to watch out for blinding reflective street signs when rounding corners with the lights on. I was a bit skeptical initially, but my first impression of the DENALI D7 confirms all of it!

Continue reading “DENALI D7 Off-Road Lights First Impression Review|1986 Toyota 4Runner”

Okienomad’s Full Size School Bus Build: Removing Walls, Floor, and Ceiling

The WORST…I repeat, WORST part of any skoolie build (based on the two that we have worked on) is demolition. Our first bus was 100% stock and still had heaters and seats bolted to the soggy, candy wrapper strewn floor. We spent several days hollering back and forth from under the bus switching which bolt we were working on and eventually we got the interior completely stripped out. When we went to inspect a full-size bus for a new project we were planning, we were ecstatic to find that the seats, AC units, and heaters had all be removed and plywood had been laid down. Score one for the home team.

One problem, that continues to appear every time Rachael and I take on a new project is that we want it to be better than the last one we did. Some would call it perfectionism or being overly competitive, but it’s how we are wired and our skoolie projects are no exception. On our first build we did not remove a single riveted panel from the bus and left the terrible yellow fiberglass insulation in it’s home and it was only when we experienced 1ºF temperatures in New Mexico in February did we wish we had taken the time to insulate the entire bus. Fast forward to our new project and we are going to strip it down to the studs. We started with a drill, then an angle grinder…and finished the project with an air chisel. The air chisel was the most effective of the tools that we used by far!

Below are some of the most useful tools and supplies that we used during this stage of the build. By clicking the link below, you pay the same price as you would on Amazon, we simply receive a tiny fraction of the transaction. Everything we earn contributes to keeping this website up and keeping us on the road, so thank you in advance!

The panels above the windows and the metal end caps are secured with a bunch of #2 Phillips screws so Rachael made quick work of those and Addy-dog made sure no one snuck up on us coming down the drive.

As we were working on rivets, Rachael’s dad comes over and says he needs our eyes to see what’s going on at the neighbor’s house a mile down the road. Several police cars had blockaded the country road that Rachael grew up on and they had a helicopter circling overhead. Turns out several street-youths had tried to break into a house and were now on the run in the wilds of South Tulsa County. We spent most of the evening watching helicopters work into the dark and later we got word from an informative neighbor letting us know that all four criminals had been apprehended. Another day in rural Oklahoma.

While Rachael and Addie worked on screws and protecting us from danger, I began grinding rivets with an angle grinder. We had heard horror stories of how hard it was to remove the rivets, but the grinder made fairly quick work of them.

And just like that, 6 hours later all of the lower panels are off and we discovered a new way to remove rivets that involves a pneumatic chisel that we will share in a different post.

We were so excited when we picked up our new bus because the seats had all been removed and the rear heaters were no where to be seen. We became less excited when we pulled the subfloor and insulation up and found that they hadn’t been screwed down and that there was sitting water under the floor. That will be a project for another day once we are done chopping up metal on the outside.

With the insulation and plywood removed, there is approximately 6′ 3″ of standing height in the middle of the bus. Because I am 6′ 3″ tall, a roof raise is in order to be able to insulate the floor and ceiling like we want and still be able to walk upright. We are planning a 10-12″ roof raise beginning behind the driver’s seat and continuing to the back of the bus.

Something seems off here…I can’t believe BlueBird would let the bus leave like this?

Demolition is nasty and hard work. The engineers at bus companies work very hard to make sure busses are safe and sound and it takes a lot of work to undue their efforts. Once we got all of the insulation out we went through with the air compressor and broom and blew out most of the trash and dust that was left behind.

We Bought a Bus…Again!

You read that right and if you follow us on Instagram and Facebook (and you should if you are into this kind of thing) you are already aware that we bought a huge, beautiful, full-size school bus to replace our little 4-window that has been so good to us over the last few years.

How and Where did you find your new bus?

As soon as the Covid-19 pandemic began to take hold in the United States, Rachael and I saw the writing on the wall that full-time travelers were about to have a rough time finding places to work, shower, and get supplies.We made a plan to retreat back to Oklahoma where we have a super supportive network of family and friends to hunker down with throughout the lockdown.

We knew that we would be extremely bored sitting at our parent’s or sibling’s houses with nothing to do, so we made a plan to start a project that we have dreamed about since we first bought our little bus. We scoured Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other online resources to find a bus that was long enough to accommodate our plans and that had a serviceable engine and transmission. We inspected a couple of busses before finding one that we liked in Lubbock, TX, approximately 500 miles and 7 hours of car driving away.

We loaded up a makeshift overnight vehicle consisting of a borrowed Chevy Suburban and an air mattress and took off for the Texas panhandle. We observed as many Covid-19 protocols as we were able and noticed that the majority of Texas was acting like the coronavirus didn’t exist. We made a deal on our bus and drove the two hours to Amarillo to sleep at a rest area. We couldn’t help but take a few photos in the lot.

What have we done?

We got on the road early the next day to make our way back to Oklahoma. I reached for what I thought was the headlight switch and nothing happens. As rain started to sprinkle on the flat windshield in front of me, I thought to myself that people drive in the rain without headlights every day, this will be no big deal. An hour down the road, the rain picked up to a pour and the driver’s side windshield wiper stopped wiping. Now I was driving a 16,000 pound behemoth of a bus down the Interstate at 58 miles per hour with no lights and no windshield wipers…these trips are always an adventure.

No lights, no wipers, no problem!

We stopped for lunch and to take a conference call a few hours in and decided to try and let the rain pass…PS, it didn’t pass. The rain kept falling and we kept trudging along at slow speed for the interstate crossing into Oklahoma. Traffic around Oklahoma City was a really unique experience and taught me a lot about the handling and weight of the new rig. Nearing Shawnee, OK the water temperature gauge started rising and the warning alarms starting ringing as I began to smell coolant coming from the doghouse. I pulled into a truck-stop to inspect the engine and found no obvious sign of failure, so I filled up the radiator and drove another 10 miles before the temperature started to rise again. Upon further inspection, I found a tear on a heater hose that was leaking a strong steam at this point. The rain had picked up to a cold deluge and darkness was getting close, so we parked the bus at a truck-stop and returned the next morning to fix it.

We returned the next morning, replaced the hose, filled it with coolant and took off for the 2 hour drive that was left between us and our destination. The bus ran solid on the rest of the drive and the temperature never moved once warmed up. We pulled into the bus’s new resting place for at least a few weeks and sighed a breath of relief that it made it in one piece. On a side note, the Cummins 5.9L 12-valve diesel got 10-13 miles per gallon on our return trip.

Why buy a new bus?

This is a great question and it has a few reasons that we have slowly been compiling for the last two years of traveling full-time in our shorty.

  • We Wanted More Room- We found a 4-window school bus is great for 2-week long trips down a forest service road or even for long-term travel when traveling is the primary concern. However, when you mix in the reality of having to work most days for at least a few hours the space becomes very small, very quickly.
  • We Wanted a Home Base- After traveling around North America for two years full-time we grew tired of how much work it was to have a weekly (much less, daily) routine that involved showers, work and a toilet. We found ourselves sleeping in our short bus, driving into town with our 4Runner and spending all day in town to get all of the errands done that we couldn’t do in our bus. The new bus will have a full shower and toilet as well as a separate living area from the bedroom.
  • We Wanted to Haul Our 4×4- This spring we drove both of our vehicles separately, our bus and ’86 4Runner, out West and frankly, we didn’t enjoy driving separately but we loved having a capable off-road vehicle to explore with and commute into town for supplies. We briefly considered flat towing our 4Runner but the wear and tear on both the toad and towing rig made this less appealing to us. Our short bus is not a powerhouse and we were not confident in it’s ability to tow our fat truck around safely. Our plans have changed and we have decided to flat tow or dolly our 4Runner behind our fully converted bus. The extra room was too tempting!

What’s the Plan?

Our build plan is broken into a few phases: demo, infrastructure, and build out. In the first stage we will completely gut the interior of all panels and stock insulation and return the bus down to it’s metal framework. In stage two we will raise the roof 10-12 inches and remove all of the windows. Later in stage two we will skin the entire bus in sheet metal and add actual RV windows and insulation. In stage three we will build out the interior to resemble a typical camper or RV including running water, a solar power system, and fridge/freezer combo.

As always, we will be updating our social media channels first followed by detailed blog posts here and bi-monthly videos on our YouTube channel. Any support online is greatly appreciated!

Staying Connected and Working Remotely

Remote working in Santa Fe, NM in 2020

During most of our travels around North America, we have worked online as our primary source of income. Our employment has required that we be connected 3-4 days per week during the heavy times of the year and 2-3 days during the slow weeks. This demand on our time has necessitated that we stay connected to the internet far more often than we would prefer, scroll down to find out how we stay connected while living in our skoolie!

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Beachgiving- Vanlife Thanksgiving on the Beach

2019 has been a year of new experiences, being in new places and having new stories to tell. So to keep with the idea of new, we celebrated Thanksgiving on a beach in Florida. This is a first for both of us, but hey, 2019 has been all about firsts!

However, I can only handle so much newness, so the meal will be traditional.

The Menu

  • Turkey
  • Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
  • Bacon Wrapped Green Beans
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Pumpkin Pie

Shopping List

  • Turkey for two
  • Butter
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Sour cream
  • Milk
  • Gluten free gravy mix
  • Bacon
  • Green Beans
  • Brown Sugar
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Pecans
  • Gluten free pie crust
  • Canned Pumpkin
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • Eggs
  • Heavy Whipping Cream

To be proactive and not cook everything on Thursday, I made the Pumpkin Pie Wednesday evening. I love our new Camp Chef oven! Not wanting to try pie dough in the bus, I did something very out of the ordinary. I bought a pie crust, shh, don’t tell my mom! Wal-Mart had a ready made gluten free crust and it tasted just fine. Not homemade, but still good. 

Thursday morning was beautiful, the sun was shining and we watched dolphins swim next to a ship while we drank our morning coffee. Turkey prep began. Turkey is in the oven, cooking and smelling wonderful. Next step, sweet potatoes. While the water is heating up I step outside. When I come back in there is an odd smell and I look and look. Then I notice the water isn’t boiling and it should be by now. Then I notice there is no blue flame. Discussion begins and we realize the last time the propane was changed was in Nova Scotia, in August. Good news, the Camp Chef is way more efficient than the traditional Coleman. Bad news, it’s Thanksgiving, I have ingredients everywhere and neither of us want to move the bus to search for propane, on Thanksgiving. So, the trusty Coleman is pulled out of the back and put back into commission. It came in clutch, everything in our Thanksgiving feast, except the Pumpkin Pie, was made on the Coleman camp stove!

The turkey was cooked in the cast iron. Mashed potatoes and gravy were always a stove top item. Instead of baking the bacon wrapped green beans, they were cooked with the lid on. It ended up caramelizing the butter/brown sugar mixture much better than the oven ever has. Then the sweet potatoes were mixed and cooked on the stove top. We still wanted the marshmallows to be browned, so out came the MSR Pocket Rocket. We used it like a creme brûlée torch and it worked!

The picnic table was set and we feasted! 
Pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream for desert was the best way to round out this Turkey Day.

After stuffing ourselves we took a leisurely stroll down the beach. We spotted several types of birds, saw a few fish jump and then watched as two dolphins played. Sharing Thanksgiving together was a special day and one that we won’t forget!


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