JASON KOERTGE: SWELLRUNNER
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 3/13/17
For the twenty third installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas we are stoked to speak with Jason Koertge. You may know him as SwellRunner.
Like many of the people I interview for this project, I discovered Jason through Instagram. His account, SwellRunner, is a lot of glorious shots of his 4Runner doing 4Runner type things; Traversing rocks, sand, and water crossings, while making it look easy. He is currently exploring sections of the Trans-America Trail.
Jason recently started a Vlog series on Youtube which I highly recommend. There is an honesty to his videos that help keep them entertaining. The quality to the videos are great and I think anybody looking to get started in overlanding would be wise to check them out. They combine the right amount of useful information and product reviews, with some slick shots of travel and suspension flex to put a smile on your face.
You can also check him out on Facebook by searching “swellrunner” and you will find fun shots there too.
Jason is a great reminder that the point of overlanding is to actually get out and do it. Far to often I find people get caught up in the build or the nuts and bolts of the vehicle and forget why they put those All-Terrian tires on in the first place.
What do you consider to be your place of work?
I’m a small business owner with a fantastic team. This allows me the freedom to work from just about anywhere I have an internet connection (Wi-Fi or cellular!). Most of the time I work from home, however when we’re traveling, I work on the road!
Tell us about your vehicle?
2016 Toyota 4Runner Trail (not the fancy premium).
What do you call it?
Not really into naming my cars, however for Instagram, it’s known as SwellRunner. However, I don’t typically refer to this as the name of my truck – if that makes sense!
When and how did you get it?
I was coming off a 2014 BMW lease that continually required me to take it in for service 50 miles away. It never left me stranded, but it always had something going on with it and it was frustrating! I had vowed to always drive Toyota’s from here on out since I’d felt assured I could never have to worry about reliability issues. I was at the dealership in January 2016, had been shopping for a used 4Runner (2014) and test drove a new one. The dealer literally wouldn’t accept no and gave me a ridiculous deal I just couldn’t refuse on a new 4Runner.
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?
Eh, I’m not sure ‘considered’ is a good word for it, but I’d loosely looked at a few others. The only other one I had come close to considering was a Jeep Grand Cherokee, because of all the bells and whistles. But that consideration didn’t last long since I was coming off that BMW lease where all the bells and whistles kept me in the dealership non-stop! I was going for simple, reliable and REALLY wanted something that was very off-road capable.
Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?
I’ve done a little. I started with the 2.2 meter K9 rack from Eezi Awn, followed shortly after by a 3” OME lift from ToyTec Lifts, Spidertrax spacers and 285/70/17 BFGoodrich KO2 tires. I have an HID conversion kit from Xenon Depot along with their extreme LED high beams and fogs and a few other cosmetic things as well.
What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle?
I love the freedom of being able to go anywhere, setup camp and just live for a bit in a place that most people never get to see.
What is your least favorite part about it?
Haha. Warm shower in a clean bathroom and a big mattress in a climate controlled room. But I really don’t mind tent sleeping.
How many miles have you put on your truck?
27k in 13 months.
What is the best place you have taken it?
As of right now, my favorite trip was our first overlanding journey to the north Georgia mountains, along the Georgia Traverse. It was a pretty raw trip. The other trips I’ve taken have been more focused on off-roading/wheeling – which has been somewhat intentional as I need more experience handling off-roading obstacles. This is my first 4×4.
Favorite road you’ve driven?
Again, the Georgia Traverse included so many amazing forest roads/trails, so much variety and it was just gorgeous! I have a trip planned up the Trans American Trail, actually, in just two weeks!
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living out of a vehicle what would you tell them?
Oh man, I’m so new to this, not sure how much advice I could give! So much of what you will do you won’t know if it works until you try it! I guess it would be this: think it through the best you can, try what you can and always stay focused on improvement!
It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were one of those people?
I’m getting older and so are my kids. We started an overlanding vlog so that we’d have something that would hold us accountable to regular trips. The goal is to do one major trip per month of 3 days or more. This goal has forced us to look for adventure and immerse ourselves in the overlanding community. Our focus is on experiencing new things with each other and my goal is to offer an unique experience to my kids and help them learn things they would never have an opportunity to learn in an ever increasing digital world. I’ve been going this direction the last couple years and expect to only continue to grow this way in the future. Sorry for the round-about, long way of answering the question!
You have found a strong place in the community of overland travelers. What values do you think your home instilled in you, that you take to the road?
You know, one of the values I try to instill in my kids as we’re traveling is that of leaving the places we visit in better shape than what we found them. Some of the campsites we’ve visited, previous campers have left garbage strewn about and it’s just sad to us that people are so uncaring about their environment.
Where do you want to go next? (Geographically and career wise)
Ya know, our Instagram following is just getting started, along with our YouTube channel – but I’ve had so much amazingly good feedback from some really great people. All that could turn into something, or not – I’m just looking forward to the adventure!
Geographically, we’re doing a few days on the TAT across Mississippi and Arkansas, we have a big trip planned to Overland Expo West in Flagstaff which will include a trip to MOAB, and we’re planning a big trip back to the Smokey’s in June with a trip in July as well.