Trailhead Vehicles: Jim, Jess, and Casper the 4Runner

Jessica Brazeau and Jim Walmsley explore the mountains with their 1998 Toyota 4Runner.

By on December 22, 2021 | Comments

Jim Walmsley and Jessica Brazeau are often on the go, especially in the summer. While they live in Flagstaff, Arizona, they’re often seen running through the mountains near Silverton, Colorado, hammering out long days on the Western States 100 course in California, and finding new and unique areas to train, adventure, and explore.

Getting to these high-altitude areas often requires a pretty burly vehicle, and the nearest town is often miles away. For this couple, it turns out the best combination of rugged durability, portability, and a fully outfitted home on the go comes in the form of a 1998 Toyota 4Runner called Casper.

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Casper the 4Runner with its rooftop tent open on top. All photos: Jim Walmsley and Jessica Brazeau

Jim is one of the best ultrarunners in the world, best known for his multiyear wins and blazing fast men’s course record at the Western States 100, as well as his attempt to break the world 100k record at the Hoka Project Carbon X 2. He smashed the American record, and he missed the world record by only 11 seconds.

Jessica is also a highly accomplished trail runner, having won the 2021 Ultra Trail Cape Town 21k, placed second at the 2021 Canyons Endurance Runs 25k, and won the 2020 Speedgoat 28k.

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Jessica cooking dinner with the help of Casper.

Jim describes Casper as their “forever rig,” a never-quite-complete work in progress. Jim and Jessica bought Casper in 2018 from the original owner on Craigslist, of all places. It’s rare to find a vehicle, even modified, that can handle rough mountain passes and still be comfortable enough to live in for more than a week at a time. While most couples would settle for a van, most vans can’t make it over routes like Cinnamon Pass in Colorado.

“I chose this vehicle specifically because it can go anywhere and do everything,” said Jim. “This vehicle has been the cornerstone to our summer-long adventures around going to Western States, Silverton, and exploring Northern Arizona. It gives us peace of mind to not get in over our heads going to a destination while being able to bring an entire glamping setup in our vehicle.”

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Jim standing next to Casper at the top of Cinnamon Pass in Colorado.

One of his passions outside running, Jim has made Casper the 4Runner a real lifelong project, talking with other overland and Toyota geeks to ever improve their respective rigs. So, what’s next for Casper, Jim, and Jess?

“Casper will see a little ski trip up to Tahoe, California, during the holidays, followed by some southern Arizona exploring during the next few colder months, [but] Casper’s purpose will always be built around taking us to the San Juans in July.”

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Jim and Jess on a road trip with Casper. The 4Runner can hold all their camping and cooking supplies, has a tent on top, and a bike rack on the back.

Casper the 4Runner Tech Specs

  • 1998 Toyota 4Runner SR5
  • Second owner
  • 156,000 miles
  • Manual transmission, 4×4 wheel-drive with 4-high, 4-low, and a rear E-locker for traction
  • 5VZ-FE 3.4L V6 Engine
  • Toyota Racing Development 17-inch wheels with 33-inch BFGoodrich KO2 tires
  • 2.5-inch King Coil for lift
  • SPC Performance upper control arms to improve off-road performance
  • Sonoran Steel rear panhard bar to prevent lateral movement
  • Tundra brake upgrade
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Jim in the driver’s seat of Casper when the 4Runner wasn’t quite built out yet.

Casper the 4Runner Car Camping Modifications

  • Tacoma antenna modification for improved communications
  • Satoshi grill and stovetop
  • Pioneer Nex stereo with Apple Carplay
  • Dynamat soundproof interior
  • Roof rack
  • Alu-Cab rooftop tent with Exped MegaMat Duo and shadow awning
  • Built-out drawers with fridge/cooler
  • Goal Zero power bank
  • Seven gallons of water storage
  • Other miscellaneous storage

Call for Comments

  • We’re always looking for more trailhead vehicles — tell us about yours!
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Casper the friendly 4Runner in the mountains where it is most happy.

Alex Potter
Alex Potter is a contributor and former editor at iRunFar. Following a nearly decade-long hiatus from running after college, she has found a new love in trail running. As a photojournalist, Alex has reported throughout the Middle East and East Africa for publications like 'National Geographic,' 'The New York Times,' and 'The Washington Post.'