"I search for products that will give me the best value for the quality, but I’m not afraid to pay for the best quality to avoid problems down the line."
We have caught up with a very inspirational individual to get some further information about his sweet Tacoma build as well as a little background about himself. Ken Hoglund has a unique story. From growing up within an adventure focused family to moving to Argentina as a teenager, Ken's experiences have really shaped who he is today. Fast forward a number of years to the beautiful state of Utah and a Mazda Protégé. Yeah, we agree, not an ideal combination. Take it for what it is worth because this was the beginning of one of the most impressive overland builds out there.
At just 13 years old, Ken was abruptly moved from California to Argentina. While it was certainly a culture shock, Ken attributed this experience to being a pivotal time in his life and firmly believes that it helped set him on the path he is on today.
Born and raised in Santa Clarita, CA, Ken was quick to develop an interest in the natural world around him. Being 1 of 4 boys and having a father that served as a local Scout Master, there were ample opportunities for Ken to get out and explore. While Ken spent the first 13 years of his life in what many would consider a childhood paradise, he was about to experience a huge culture shock. In 1995, his dad took a job offer working internationally and abruptly relocated the family to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Prior to moving to Argentina, Ken had only ever been to Baja California, Mexico and "probably only knew 10 Spanish words." While this extreme lifestyle change would certainly strike fear in most of us (especially in our early teenage years), Ken decided that he would embrace it. After all, it's been said that life truly begins at the end of your comfort zone. Ken claims that this move was a pivotal time in his life and one that set him on the path he's on today. What path is that you may ask? The "never-ending desire to explore this beautiful earth."
The move to Argentina was just one of many for Ken, as once he graduated high school, he found himself living in Mexico, Spain, and Chile. Fast forwarding to current day, he has now chosen the beautiful state of Utah to call home. Ken currently works for a manufacturing company that is located in Mexico and enjoys being able to travel down two or three times a year.
"I've always enjoyed photography, but when seeking the best and remote nature locations that Utah had to offer, I found myself limited driving the Mazda Protégé I had at the time."
A couple of the crew members at Truck Brigade originally got in touch with Ken after seeing multiple photographs of his adventurous lifestyle – and a sweet Tacoma. Let's face it, Ken has managed to pull off what many of us hope to… he appears to be living life to the fullest every day. It seems that each time we browse social media, we are reminded of his adventures. As truck enthusiasts who have a passion for overland products and builds, of course, we were drawn to his build. With that being said, we figured that Ken's build could be of interest to many of you so we jumped at the chance to see how Ken managed to combine his love for photography with vehicle customization.
When we asked Ken how he initially became interested in the Overland Industry, we expected to receive a classic "textbook" response; something along the lines of "my friend told me about these roof top tent things and since then I have been hooked." Ironically, Ken's response wasn't what we were expecting at all. In fact, it has been more of a transition with one requirement from the wife…the ability to fit three car seats across the back seat. Ken's search enabled him to ditch the Mazda Protégé and he soon found himself in a brand new 2015 Toyota Tacoma.
"My philosophy and approach were to handle one thing at a time as needed."
With this new ride, Ken explains that he "didn't start out with a truck build in mind." Ken started with some smaller and more common accessories such as floor mats, a tonneau cover and a bed mat. As Ken continued with his passion for nature and photography, more and more focus was placed on the truck and how he could better access areas within Utah. This included how he and his kids could further enjoy these nature photography excursions.
With the love for adventure and the desire for more exploration with his kids, Ken invested in a truck bed tent which allowed him and his kids to sleep off the ground in the bed of his Toyota Tacoma. At the surface, this seems like a great idea, except the only issue was Ken is 6' 2" and sharing the bed of a Tacoma with two kids was not the most ideal situation. This was the beginning of a whole new experience that Ken would be able to enjoy with his kids for years to come.
As Ken's excursions got more serious, so did his truck build. The first and (might we add most practical investment) for Ken was the addition of a full skid plate package. Given that he didn't have any immediate plans for lifting or otherwise protecting the underside of his truck, the skid plates bought him some time until he was ready to get a lift kit. Either way, regardless of a lift, skid plates will pay for themselves time and time again. Damage can occur when you least expect it when you're venturing off the beaten path and the bill can easily run into the thousands for repairs, so this was a wise choice on Ken's part.
While one can argue that with the purchase of skid plates things were starting to get serious for the build, Ken did not go overboard and deck his truck out overnight. Instead, he began to start slowly adding accessories, such as a light bar, cold air intake, suspension kit, and lower arm skid plates. Many of us would stop and look at this current list and think huh, I have a pretty sweet truck. But why stop here?
As with most things in life, once you get started there is no stopping. Ken's next major purchase was a PrinSu Roof Rack in September 2017. If you aren't familiar with PrinSu, well, it would probably be in your best interest to become familiar as they offer one of the lightest and most modular Roof Racks on the market. Not to mention they function and look spectacular. Ken continued outfitting his truck eventually scrapping the bed tent and deciding on a Roof Top Tent paired with a Leitner Designs Active Cargo System. Doing this enabled Ken to kill two birds with one stone. Ken now had a more comfortable place for him and the kids to sleep and he also now had the ability to store and organize several different accessories on one of the most practical Bed Racks in the industry – the Leitner Designs ACS Classic. Ken eventually continued acquiring Leitner accessories including GearPods, MAXTRAX Mounts, Universal Mounting Plates, and RotoPaX Fuel Containers.
You might be thinking wow; this guy has just about every skid in the game. Well, not yet. Ken's next addition was the RCI Rear Differential Skid Plate. Dragging your third member over a grove of rocks is never a good idea or pleasant sound for that matter, so the addition of the RCI Rear Differential Skid was crucial. The build continued with the addition of an ARB Dual Air Compressor utilizing an Expedition Essentials Bedside Compressor Mount, Safari Snorkel, Heretic Studio Lights, Empyre Off Road Grille, and a Stoptech Big Brake Kit.
"It’s been one thing at a time with more transformations coming."
As we were going through this, we kept thinking to ourselves, "what more does Ken really need". Arguably some of his most significant and can we say innovative mods have not even been mentioned yet. This includes his CBI Offroad Armor, Leitner Designs Gear Pod XL, and his CVT Summit Mount Rainer Tent which was just added in October of 2018.
Starting with the CBI Offroad Armor, Ken elected to go with the Moab 2.0 Front Bumper and Bushmaster 2.0 Rear Bumper. The Bushmaster 2.0 Rear Bumper features dual swing outs and a rear tire carrier allowing Ken to carry a full-size spare as well as the ability to fully access the bed of his truck. Adding these functional bumpers provides Ken with the assurance that his vehicle will be protected whether he be on dirt or pavement.
Ken has had an original gear pod since around the time he purchased his Leitner Rack. Like us and so many Leitner fans out there, we were patiently anticipating the introduction of the Leitner Designs Gear Pod XL. Why might you ask… Well, first off it has four times the storage capacity of a traditional gear pod and keeps large items secure given its ability to lock. If that is not enough, it is weatherproof and can support up to 150 pounds!
With such a great build, we were interested in some of Ken's excursions and experiences with his truck. After all, the main reason to build such an impressive rig would be to use it to its full potential.
"The first long excursion I took in my truck was in May of 2016. It was this trip that got my feet wet and gave me the desire to further explore the beautiful world around us."
While Ken has continuously upgraded his Tacoma and mastered transforming it from a street truck to an overland rig, he has never lost sight of the true meaning of a truck. To take a step back, let's remember that Ken's original reason for upgrading from a car to a truck was solely for the purpose of accessing more remote picturesque areas. We asked Ken to share some of his most memorable trips and unforgettable moments with us and he was happy to do so! While we could've sat there for days on end discussing his epic adventures, there was a select few that he chose to reminisce about and share with us. Of course, Ken started off by opening up and telling us about the first adventure that he had ever tackled. It was obvious to us that this trip held a special place within his heart. Ken went as far as saying that it's the trip that got his "feet wet" and gave him the desire to further explore the beautiful world around us. This trip took place in May of 2016 when Ken and two of his friends drove from Wendover, Nevada to Salt Lake City, Utah following the Pony Express Trail.
This expedition consisted of a two-hundred-mile trek across dirt roads and took roughly 7 hours to complete. Captivated by the beauty of nature and the excitement of dominating his first Overland journey during this first trip, Ken couldn't help himself but set out once again on the Pony Express Trail in February of 2017. Ken confirmed that this trip quickly became a family favorite, given the unique experiences it offered; one of his favorites being the wild horse sightings. Ken and his children have now made more than twenty trips out to visit the horses.
The next memorable trip that Ken chose to discuss with us, was when he and the kids traveled through some of the most amazing parts that Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons had to offer. While revisiting this memory, Ken was filled with excitement, letting us know that his family soaked in everything that the National Parks had to offer, including a unique encounter with a mama bear and her cubs. Envious of the adventures that Ken and his children have been able to experience together, we asked him to give provide us with details on the 3rd overland journey that he deemed unforgettable. Ken went on to share that one of his most unforgettable trips took place recently, in Moab. While there, Ken set out to drive the White Rim Trail along with the Elephant Hill Trail. He explained to us that each trail provided him with very different experiences; Elephant Hill Trail was a very technical trail, while the White Rim Trail was more relaxing, allowing him to seize the opportunity to capture photos along the beautiful landscape.
What We Can Expect to See in the Near Future from Ken Hoglund?
Ken has made tremendous strides when it comes to both crossing off adventures on his bucket list and building a true overland rig in just 3 short years. While many of us would trade just about anything to partake in Ken's explorations (and think they had seen enough to last a lifetime), it doesn't appear that he will be slowing down anytime soon. As our time with Ken came to an end, we asked him to give us a glimpse of what we could expect to see from him this coming year. He shed some light on two big trips that he plans to conquer in 2019. For starters, he plans to travel the Pony Express Trail all the way to California. This journey will consist of roughly 600 miles of off-road traveling and will make for his largest Overland achievement yet. The second trip that he plans to accomplish this year, would be driving to Calgary to explore the Canadian Rockies. Regardless of where Ken ventures off to this year, you can bet he will capture the best moments and publish them for all to enjoy.
Ken's Dream Trips… In The Words Of The Man Himself:
Drive from Utah down through Baja California, take the ferry to Mazatlán, explore the mountains of Durango, Mexico, head north through Chihuahua and cross back into the US through the El Paso border. Return home through Moab.
In the 60's and 70's my grandfather was an amateur archaeologist. From his home in Los Angeles, CA, he would regularly take trips into Mexico to Yucatan to be a part of discovering the ruins. His longest trip that my dad accompanied him on was a drive all the way down to Ecuador. That's definitely a trip for the books and one that I would love to repeat in his honor.