The Toyota Prius: An Unlikely Adventure Mobile?

Pull into nearly any Northeast trailhead and you’ll likely spot a drool-worthy adventure vehicle. Indeed, tricked-out Sprinter Vans and the old dirtbag standby, Tacomas with a cap and built-in bed, seem to pop up everywhere. While vans and trucks steal the spotlight, some amazing adventure mobiles are flying under the radar of adventurers, one of which is the Toyota Prius.

While one of us (Doug) owns a Prius and regularly takes it to the mountains, the vehicle’s adventure-ability was really driven home for us during a ski mountaineering trip in the Pacific Northwest. On that trip, we spent a week living and sleeping in a rental Prius while confronting the region’s famously wet weather. The Prius comfortably carried us, our skis, and our mountain of gear as we waited out rain, snow, and sleet, dried off after excursions, and drove between destinations. We even slept somewhat comfortably in the front seats (thanks in part to alpine starts) and fashioned a drying rack from our 30m rope in the back of the car.

If you’re snickering at the idea of the Prius surpassing the Tacoma as Toyota’s all-around adventure mobile, here are 10 reasons why the Prius is the unlikeliest of all-star adventure vehicles.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. It sips gas

A new Toyota Prius gets up to 58 miles per gallon. That’s almost triple the 15-20 mpg of a Sprinter Van and double the 20-25 you’ll get from a Tacoma. If you’re primarily using your adventure vehicle to drive to the mountains every weekend, this difference can lead to big savings. Honestly, would you rather spend your money at the gas pump or on new gear?

2. It requires minimal maintenance

Toyota placed three Prius models in the top ten of Consumer Report’s list of the most reliable cars. No one-year wonder, the Prius has been a Consumer Report top pick for a record 16 times. Minimal maintenance is key for those who would rather spend money on adventure than at the mechanic. The Prius’ reliability is also great for peace of mind when parked at out-of-the-way (and out-of-cell-service) trailheads.

3. It’s cheaper, too

In addition to being cheaper to own and operate, a Prius is less expensive from the start with most models priced under $30,000. Good luck finding a new Tacoma or Sprinter for under $30,000—and that’s before building one out as an adventure vehicle.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

4. It doubles as a daily driver

Whether driving into the city, to work, or to the rock gym, great gas mileage and minimal maintenance make the Prius as good around town as it is on the way to the mountains. Throw in that it’s easy to park and its smooth, quiet ride and the Prius is a dreamy daily driver.

5. There’s a 2019 model with AWD

A common Northeasterner complaint about the Prius is its lack of all-weather capability. While that gripe may have had some merit for older models, as of 2019, Toyota has rectified that problem with the addition of an AWD model. What other vehicle gets approximately 50 mpg and still gets you to the ski hill on most pow days?

6. Lots of cargo space, especially with the back seat down

The Prius comfortably seats four hikers, climbers, skiers, or bikers—and for two-person adventures, dropping the back seats opens up an abundance of cargo space for storing crash pads, coolers, and camping gear.

7. Unlock more space with a rack

You can make your Prius even more adventure worthy and open up additional interior space by outfitting it with a Thule rack and accessories like a roof box or hitch rack.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

8. Stealthier than a van or pickup

You’re not fooling anyone with your white van or capped pickup. A Prius, however, blends seamlessly into an urban landscape, allowing you to get a few quick ZZZs while travelling. Similarly, unlike vans and trucks, a Prius is less likely to arouse suspicions when you’re stealth bivvying at the trailhead for an early-morning start.

9. It’s kinda cool

Sure, a run-of-the-mill Prius won’t get ogled in the Rumney parking lot like a fully built-out Sprinter van, but it won’t get you laughed out of it, either. Kind of like how Priuses are unlikely adventure vehicles, their “cool factor” is also understated. After all, celebrities such as Will Ferrell, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Aniston, and Julia Roberts all drive one.

10. It’s a lot greener than other options

Love our wild spaces? Want to help preserve winter for future generations? Well, the Prius consistently makes list likes these, spotlighting the most eco-friendly vehicles. In fact, the Prius is so much more environmentally friendly than the majority of adventure vehicles on the road that you should give it a look the next time you’re in the market for a new ride (or rental).

Got another reason to check out the Toyota Prius? Tell us in the comments!