Toyota RAV4: A Small SUV That’s Big On Adventure

Toyota Rav4

Yes, you can go big and go small at the same time. We found out how.

You see them on the highway: The Toyota RAV4 loaded with gear – kayaks and surfboards and fishing rods – and you wonder where that car is headed and what adventure they’ll soon see.

And you wonder how they got all their gear in that small SUV.

So when I had the chance to travel to Oregon with Toyota and Yakima Racks, I had to say yes. We spent a whirlwind two days in and around Hood River, Oregon, learning how you can maximize your adventure with the right gear.

Our adventure started at the Yakima Racks HQ in Lake Oswego, Oregon where we got a top-down view on Yakima products and history, and learned about their partnership with Toyota. After a quick review of the new Toyota Prius and RAV4 lines, we headed out to the ‘backyard’ of this fun corporate building for some hands-on experience with Yakima gear and Toyota vehicles. Who knew there were so many options?

Toyota Rav4S

The lineup of Toyota RAV4s on our outdoor lover’s press trip with Yakima was impressive.? Dangerous Cupcake Lifestyle

The partnership between Yakima and Toyota makes the pair a go-to when it comes to a vehicle for outdoor and storage for outdoor gear. Yakima makes roof racks and storage devices for just about anything you need to transport: bicycles, camping gear, kayaks, boards and more. My personal favorite is this roof rack-connected awning. It literally is a long tube that you can attach to your existing roof rack without it interfering with other storage already attached. Open the tube, roll out the awning, drop down the four legs and boom, you’re camping.

Yakima Rollout Awning

The rollout awning accessory from Yakima makes it easy to camp anywhere!?Dangerous Cupcake Lifestyle

As an RV owner, I’m used to towing our house with us, but we are downsizing into a smaller vehicle and sometimes, we just want to hop in our car to experience the stars at night, but we’re not ready to necessarily throw up a tent. The Yakima sleep tents – complete with a sturdy, comfortable mattress – save you from towing a trailer and keep you up off of the ground while still allowing you to use your truck bed for other storage. Winning…and for a fraction of the cost of a motorhome.

Camping With Yakima Racks

Road tripping and camping just got easier with this Yakima tent accessory, complete with sturdy mattress!?Dangerous Cupcake Lifestyle

Why is the Toyota RAV4 an Outdoor Lover’s Dream?

They’re comfortable inside, you have all the amenities of a higher-priced vehicle yet you’ve got the convenience of an SUV. And AWD lets you pull your vehicle off-road to get to a river to fish or go standup paddleboarding, both of which we did on our trip. All the awesome female journalists on this trip were outdoor enthusiasts, so we got to experience firsthand a few of the outdoor activities available in the Portland and Hood River area of Oregon.

Fly Fishing On Deschutes River

Thanks to Yakima and Toyota for allowing me to meet all these amazing, successful ladies!? @Gritchelle

And, the RAV4 has everything you need to jump in and go, from ample space for your gear – luggage, backpacks, paddles, camping equipment, whatever you need – to the important stuff inside, like easy-to-operate navigation systems, plenty of cup holders, wireless charging (on some models), lane changing assist and blind spot monitors. (Each model varies, so be sure to do your homework and take a list with your non-negotiable requirements to the dealer to make sure you get everything you want.)  I’m very picky about seat position – I like to be almost at 90 degrees upright, far from the wheel – and the RAV4 allowed me to get comfortable on the fly.

Related: The 2019 RAV4 Limited is Everything You Want in a Small SUV

I Loved This: Lots of Tech and a Live View Rearview Mirror

Outdoor Lover'S Dream Suv

The rear view mirror back up camera option on the Toyota RAV4 is the accessory you will fall in love with.?Dangerous Cupcake Lifestyle

One of my favorite things was the new rearview backup camera. No more having to look at a separate nav screen when you back up when you get a panoramic view IN your rearview mirror! I was really impressed with the clarity and one-button ease of use.

Outdoor Lover'S Dream Suv

The sun- and moonroof on the Toyota RAV4 adds a whole new perspective for all passengers.? Dangerous Cupcake Lifestyle

If you’re road tripping with a group, your rear passengers will be happy as well. Charging ports are within reach, there’s a drop-down cupholder in the third (middle) seat, and the legroom is spacious. And this view! The double sun/moon roof adds to the feeling of roominess and really brings the outdoor in when on the road. The back seat stayed cool with the powerful air conditioning and proper vent locations.

Related: Is Your Car Ready for Summer Hiking Trips?

Fly Fishing With The Toyota Rav4

Fly fishing gear and off-road terrain? No problem for the new Toyota RAV4.?Dangerous Cupcake Lifestyle

Going Off – Road Is Easier Than Ever

I learned a lot about having the proper set-up for outdoor travel destination road trips. Newbie admission, but I hadn’t realized before that the wheel well on an AWD vehicle is deeper than the regular vehicles, protecting your vehicle if you drive up and over a rock or uneven terrain. I had just assumed it was a shock and under-carriage issue. And if you don’t have the ability to upgrade your vehicle, you can still modify your current vehicle with storage capabilities so your vehicle doesn’t need to hinder your ability to travel. Yakima is the only manufacturer currently certified for vehicle fit, and they have equipment that will fit almost all vehicles out there. If you can’t put a rack on your car permanently, there are even temporary options or clips that will hold gear in place, allowing you to get out there in the outdoor even on smaller cars like the Prius. I watched a wonderful woman from Yakima who happened to be nine months pregnant easily get up there and make changes to the equipment, it’s that easy and fast!

Fly Fishing In Deschutes River

Amy from Deschutes Anglers gave me the best first-time fly fishing experience possible.?Dangerous Cupcake Lifestyle

Now That We’re Off the Grid… What to Do Next???

Getting out in the RAV4 also let me learn a lot about fly fishing and stand-up paddle boarding. Fly fishing is largely a catch-and-release sport, with so much more to it than just learning how to cast. “No foam, no fish,” is an important mantra, courtesy of Amy of Deschutes Anglers. She took us out for the day in her drift boat on the Deschutes River. She also taught us the necessity of using the right fly for the right occasion, how to take wind into consideration when fly fishing, and that an office can be anywhere you want it to be.

When it came to stand-up paddle boarding, this wasn’t my first time but I still have a lot to learn. I’m kind of an admitted baby when it comes to getting too far away from the edge, or too far into the current that the Hood River can bring, so I may or may not have done a lot of ever-widening circles on the board, slowly getting further and further out into the river. Thank you to Gritchelle, our amazing photographer, for capturing shots of us, including this one. (And thank you to Carolyn for coaching me a little on stance and how to hold the paddle!)

Stand Up Paddle Boarding On Hood River

Stand-up paddleboarding on Hood River was the experience of a lifetime.?Dangerous Cupcake Lifestyle

As weekend getaways do, the two days went quickly but we packed in a lot of fun — and food. I can’t wait to return to the area to explore it further, and I want to get out in a drift boat and to SUP again soon! I also want to spend a little more time near Mt. Hood, enjoying these winding, rambling roads with barely any traffic. Heaven.

Related: 100 Things You Should Always Keep in Your Car

Mt. Hood, Oregon

Mt. Hood off in the distance, a brief glimpse on an otherwise cloudy but beautiful day.?Dangerous Cupcake Lifestyle

A Few More Awesome Toyota RAV4 Details

Toyota Rav4 Interior

The interior of the Toyota RAV4 is clean and stylish. ?Dangerous Cupcake Lifestyle

The digital display is clear, the clock is always on and the windshield wiper option will have you covered if you’re experiencing every level of rain from mist that stops California traffic to downpours.

See that center column? The pocket behind the gear shift is the wireless charging space. It’s handy to stow your phone safely away while driving, and you can still connect it to your car for hands-free access. The steering wheel also has a lot of buttons for easy access to cruise control, volume and other conveniences.

Toyota Rav4 Awd

The Toyota RAV4 AWD is not just functional, but it’s a pretty vehicle, easy to spot in a crowded lot and totally edgy.?Dangerous Cupcake Lifestyle

What Should You Know About This Small SUV?

  • It’s great on gas, making it economical to drive on long trips yet powerful enough to haul your heavy gear.
  • It comes in several models, depending on whether you want to focus more on AWD capabilities or luxury appointments.
  • The navigation system is easy to control but it is easier to connect an Apple/iOS phone than an Android. (You can connect an Android Auto but iOS is plug-and-play.)
Toyota Rav4

The Toyota RAV4 really is an outdoor lover’s dream SUV, from exterior view to interior amenities and its powerful engine, which helped us climb mountains and handle dirt roads with ease. ?Dangerous Cupcake Lifestyle

What Did I Love Most About This Small SUV?

  • So much storage space! That trunk is huge.
  • The rear door is automatic and the lift height can be adjusted, so depending on your height, you can make it more comfortable to grab rather than reach or stretch.
  • Child safety on this vehicle is next level, with a pedestrian alarm system that notifies you if someone’s walking behind you that you can’t see, like a small child. (If so equipped.) All of the doors also will not close completely if there is something in the way, aka a child or person sitting in the trunk, legs or arms extended over the door jamb.

What Does the Toyota RAV4 Cost?

The base LE model of the Toyota RAV4 starts at $25,650 (30 MPG) and the hybrid (40 MPG) starts at $27,850.

Standard on the LE are LED headlights, automatic high beams, black roof rails, privacy glass on rear windows, fabric-trimmed 6-way adjustable seats, remote keyless entry, power windows, and Toyota SafetySense which includes all of the following: pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, cruise control and road sign assist (helping you see speed limit and other road sign information on your dash).

Moving up to the XLE at $27,450 (also available in Hybrid at $29,650 and includes 5 USB ports) will add features like dual-zone climate control, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and an AWD model for $28,850.

The XLE Premium starting at $29,650 adds leatherette seating (Toyota’s ‘Softex’), leather-trimmed steering wheel,

The Adventure Trim at $33,050 adds AWD, digital speedometer and 7″ infotainment screen, available heated and ventilated front seats, 8″ screen and upgraded sound system.

Moving on up to the XSE Hybrid starting at $33,850 includes an 8″ screen, a sport-tuned suspension, 18″ black-painted wheels, standard two-tone exterior paint color, and available panoramic glass roof.

Limited (starting at $33,650) and Limited Hybrid ($35,850) boast the 8″ screen, leatherette seating, digital rearview mirror, available panoramic glass roof, available heated and ventilated seats and heated rear outboard seats, and available bird’s eye view camera.

Living an active lifestyle is limited only by the time you can invest in getting out there and just doing the things you want. Many cars and SUVs  are built with road trips and active destinations in mind, so there are a lot of affordable options. A new SUV, modifying your current car with roof storage or camping equipment, or a combination of both? The choice is yours. Go places, do things and take it easy. You got this.Sunset Group Photo In Hood River, Oregon

A sunset group shot after dinner really exemplifies how fabulous this group of ladies was. PHOTO CREDIT: Toyota and Yakima Team Disclosure: I was Toyota’s guest for this adventure; travel and accommodations were provided but the fun (and opinions) are all mine.

Love The Outdoors? The Toyota Rav4 May Be The Suv You'Ve Been Dreaming About. Find Out How This Suv Is Perfect For The Outdoor Adventurer.

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Donna is a SoCal mom of four who lives by the motto that life should never be boring, so... More about Donna Biroczky