Story by Anya Murphy
Photos by Laura Titensor & Elizabeth Siegel

Jillian Rebekah’s Tacoma: Girl’s Best Friend

Overlander Jillian Rebekah has spent seven years traveling in her Tacoma and isn’t planning on slowing down any time soon.

Though you’d never guess it now, Jillian Rebekah admits she had “no idea this ‘overland world’ existed” before she bought her 2016 Tacoma. “I bought it simply as a vehicle to get me further into the backcountry,” she tells us, “Something to help with my curiosity and exploration.” For her, like many of us, the overland community came as an added bonus—a surprise. But once you’re in… you’re in. And Jillian certainly is.

Over the past seven years, she’s become an expert overlander, with a collection of incredible rigs, some cool stories to tell, and the Citizen J Podcast, home to (funny, sometimes deep, and always real) chats with other overlanders filmed in her very own bunker.

Her 2016 Tacoma has been with Jillian Rebekah through it all, the very best tool for pushing past her comfort zone. Just as the motto of her podcast says, “If you believe growth is born of adventure, you are Citizen J.” Well then, count us in.

It’s Always Been a Tacoma

Though it’s her 2016 Tacoma that got Jillian into overlanding in the first place, it was a Tacoma that came many years before that planted the seeds of adventure. Though never used for overlanding or even really camping, her father’s first gen Tacoma has always held a special place in Jillian’s heart.

Many of Jillian’s most recent adventures have been with motorcycle in tow.

To that first gen, Jillian watched her father add on a camper shell, upgrade the suspension, and bulk up to bigger tries to better serve his fishing adventures. Jillian, in her twenties at the time, now reminisces about that good old first gen, and, when it came time to buy her own truck, “You guessed it,” she laughs, “it was a Tacoma.”

“The Hunt”

15 years down the line, the search for the perfect vehicle for Jillian began. Put yourself in her shoes for a second: it’s October 2015, you want a truck suited for outdoor adventuring, and the shiny new third gen Tacoma is just hitting the market. The choice feels obvious: you buy one.

That’s easier said than done, though. It took flops at three local California dealerships for Jillian to decide to change her strategy. Here’s what she tells us it sounded like by the third dealer:

Jillian: I’d like a TRD Off-Road Quicksand… with a six-speed manual…and no tech-package

Dealer: *scratches head* (did she say a spaceship?) How about an automatic Tacoma Sport… in white… with a moonroof

Jillian: Can you special order the Quicksand, 6MT?

Dealer: Kind of….

So, yeah, that’s got to be disappointing. But in what we’ve come to see as classic Jillian style, she knows what she wants and doesn’t hesitate to go after it. “I gave up on local dealerships and took matters into my own hands,” she says.

“But in what we’ve come to see as classic Jillian style, she knows what she wants and doesn’t hesitate to go after it.”

Never one to shy away from tough terrain, Jillian is equally bold and careful.

Packed down with a full outfit of gear, the Tacoma is certainly heavy, but stays flexible thanks to its suspension.upgrades.

Finally, a Tacoma

Scouring the internet for the perfect truck, Jillian was out of luck for a couple of weeks. But then, one day: a hit! She describes the process like this:

A quick phone call to an out of state dealership (pulse quickening), a disappointing “It’s been sold” (despair!), followed by a return call 30 minutes later informing me “the other buyer backed out” (Elation, pure ELATION!), “it’s yours if you put down a deposit.”

Though she travels with the seasons, the desert will always feel like home to this California native.

The emotional roller coaster doesn’t end there, though. The dealership had that perfect truck, but it was in Colorado. This is really the moment where Jillian’s overlanding story starts. She put down a deposit, bought a one-way plane ticket, and, two days later, was flying to Colorado to buy that Tacoma. And so begins what Jillian calls “quite possibly the best adventure of my life.”

Let The Adventure Begin

The Tacoma quickly became a gateway to a whole world of possibilities for Jillian Rebekah, as she started traveling more frequently and building her overland lifestyle. Now, she travels year-round, following the seasons and her passions. Lately, she’s been fond of the desert, where she’s been taking out her motorcycle more and more often.

“The Tacoma quickly became a gateway to a whole world of possibilities for Jillian Rebekah”

Jillian and the Tacoma both look just as cool as they are, and just as ready for adventure.

She’s even been known to follow the occasional storm, chasing fresh snow and choice mountain views. On an early Friendsgiving adventure with the Tacoma in the Eastern Sierra’s “iconic” Alabama Hills, she recalls hoping for snow in the valley. A full day into camp, though, and there was no snow to be seen.

Come Thanksgiving morning, the first flakes of a 17-hour snowstorm began to fall in the hills. It was, “A very rare camping experience… a core memory I’ll never forget,” says Jillian.

Traveling with friends always makes the journey sweeter.

Building an Overland Rig

From its very inception, this Tacoma has always been meant to be Jillian’s perfect rig. And we know what that means – she’s put a ton of work into it over the last 7 years. From top to bottom, the truck does exactly what she needs it to do, and that’s just the way she likes it.

“From top to bottom, the truck does exactly what she needs it to do, and that’s just the way she likes it.”

Jillian Rebekah loaded up her Tacoma. It’s got that classic overlanding rig look: roof top tent, fully stocked bed cage, top-notch underbody protection, and more. She’s upgraded the suspension in front with Icon Vehicle Dynamics Stage 6 2.5 VS RR extended travel CDEV COKit and Billet UCA. The rear suspension also got the Icon treatment, using hydraulic bumps and Stage 3 RXT rear CDEV shocks and REX Leaf Springs.

The Tacoma’s lighting setup makes it a great pack leader.

Her Icon Alloy Rebound Pro 17-inch wheels with Milestar Patagonia X/T tires give Jillian Rebekah the power to take the Tacoma crawling when needed, complemented by Relentless Fabrication steel front and rear high-clearance bumpers, IFS, and mid skid armor, as well as Demello Offroad Dominator rock sliders.

Seven years in the making, the Tacoma is Jillian’s ideal overlanding and bug out rig.

She’s also done a custom rear seat delete and outfitted the space with a carpeted plywood platform. Jillian would like to extend thanks to Mike Purpura, in her words, an “expert Toyota guy,” of Lovelands Automotive in Victorville, California, for his help putting together the rig.

Fully Outfitted for Adventure

Inside the rig, Jillian has added accessories to fully customize it. On the dash is a built-in Midland Radio and handhelds, and she stays powered with a Jackery battery with solar power. A Redarc Manager 30, outfitted by Adventure Power Solutions, is housed in a Roam Rugged case in the bed of the truck.

She pairs all of that with a Stinger Off-Road Radio Replacement kit, which includes a 10-inch touchscreen radio with plug-and-play, as well as integrated additional vehicle cameras for both front and rear.

Lean, mean crawling machine: the TRD Pro Grille up front beefs up the Tacoma’s off-road power.

A Dometic CFX3 75DZ and CFX3 35 fridge/freezer keeps her food cold. Her current sleep setup is a HiTents Jalama Expedition rooftop tent, although she is as she puts it, “finally going to the ground,” and expects to take off the tent sometime before summer 2023.

The Journey Never Ends

Though it’s been her companion for 7 years, the work is never over. “Is it ever done?” she asks. So, then what’s next for the Tacoma? More power. “I will always wish for a better powerplant from Toyota… I truly believe the world would be a better place if I had a V8,” she tells us.

Be sure to follow Jillian’s adventures on Instagram @jillianrebekah and keep up with the latest episodes from her podcast @citizenjpodcast.


2016 Toyota Tacoma


2016 Toyota Tacoma 3.5L V6


(front) Icon Vehicle Dynamic Stage 6 (2.5 VS RR extended travel CDEV COkit) with Billet UCA; (rear) Icon Vehicle Dynamic Hydraulic rear bumps, Stage 3 RXT rear CDEV Shocks & RXT Leaf Spring

Wheels & Tires:

Icon Alloy Rebound Pro in Satin Black 17-inch wheels; Milestar Patagonia X/T (LT285/70R17) tires

Interior Accessories:

Built-in Midland radio and handhelds; Jackery battery with solar power; Redarc Manager 30 Power System for dual battery system, produced in association with Adventure Power Solutions and housed in a Roam Rugged Case

Exterior Accessories:

Pelican and Roam cases on roof and in bed; Toyota Pro TRD grille; Gravity LED Pro6 – 8-light Combo LED Light Bar and 30-inch KC FLEX LED light bar; Warn VR Evo with Factor55 components; Brute Force Fabrication Bed Cage; Relentless Fabrication steel front and rear high-clearance bumpers, IFS, and mid skid armor; Demello Offroad Dominator rock sliders

Additional Modifications:

Custom rear seat delete to a carpeted plywood platform; Stinger Offroad radio replacement kit; Dometic CFX3 75DZ and CFX3 35 refrigerator/freezer; HiTents Jalama Expedition Rooftop Tent

Editor’s Note: A version of this story previously appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Tread Magazine.

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