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Old 02-13-2014, 07:53 PM   #1
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Jeep Motorhome(!!) Build Advice

Looking for advice/guidance/support for a light to moderate buildout or just someone to talk me out of this...

Last summer I bought a 2013 Jeep Rubicon Unlimited (Auto, 3.73's, brown leather, black exterior). I've been wanting to turn this into an all-around long term adventure vehicle. Something I can take off in for as much as a month...or more, and actually feel comfortable doing so. Meaning, to literally live out of my Jeep while I roam wherever I feel like going. I don't need to be able to do any gonzo rock crawling, but I'd still like something I can take generally wherever I want to go (within reason) and yet still maintain good roadability.

Let me give a breakdown of what I'm thinking:
- AEV front bumper + winch (just in case I need some help getting out of a tight situation) (+100lbs)
- AEV rear bumper + tire carrier + fuel caddy (+200 lbs with fuel)
- AEV 2.5" lift
- AEV 17" Pintler wheels
- Some sort of 34"ish tire
- Front Runner Cargo Slide (+60lbs)
- Front Runner 40l Footwell Water Tank (+100lbs full)
- National Luna 50l Fridge (+100lbs full)
- National Luna Dual Battery Kit (+20lbs with extra battery?)
- Ursa Minor J30 Pop-Top (+265lbs)
- Roof rack with kayak + bike (+50lbs?)

So considering all of that, I have a couple key questions:
- Is AEV's 2.5" lift enough for all of that weight and 34-35" tires? I really want to maintain or improve street drivability. With the AEV kits it sounds like that isn't an issue, but I also don't want to have to get into some of the more complex suspension problems that the 3.5"+ kits introduce.
- Are 4.10 gears needed for a Pentastar Auto w/ 33"+ tires and all that added weight? Guessing so...but I'm very pleasantly surprised by the performance of my Rubi w/ the 3.73's right now (but not the gas mileage!)
- If so, is there any reason I shouldn't just trade it in for a Rubicon X (in white, see below) which already has sufficient bumpers, if I can get a good deal on my very-low-mileage '13 Rubi? The Rubi X bumpers will take a winch as well as the AEV tire carrier. Good enough!

Thoughts? With the weather starting to warm up...I'm starting to get an itch!!

A few other things I've considered:
- I'm kicking myself for getting all black due to the added heat in warmer climates, and am actually considering trading in my Jeep for an all white model. Or I could just drive around with a white roof ala the UPS guys
- I wanted to hold out until a diesel model came out just for longer range, but who knows when that will really happen, and when it does, I'm guessing it will take a good year or more for after market parts manufacturers to accommodate any changes made in the name of weight savings (which sounds like a certainty)
- I made sure to get the brown leather just to stand up to a bit more abuse than cloth but also to not scorch my ass in the sun like black leather will do.

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Old 02-13-2014, 08:03 PM   #2
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There is an Overland Expedition thread somewhere here recently if you search - a whole lot of folks who would have some excellent advice on something like this.

These folks:
Official Expedition and Overland Rig Talk Thread

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Old 02-13-2014, 08:52 PM   #3
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Old 02-13-2014, 10:55 PM   #4
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I'm aware of what the ActionCamper is, but that doesn't answer any of my questions Also not interested at all in something that excessive!

Thanks @mommymallcrawler. I'd seen a few sporadic threads a few months back but this looks a bit more thorough and I'll definitely read through it. But the crux of my question is really one of weight + suspension and not just overlanding.

To *really* summarize: Is an AEV 2.5" lift sufficient for 34-35" tires and 1000lbs of added weight?
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Old 02-13-2014, 10:57 PM   #5
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I went solo-sightseeing from Florida to the source of the Mississippi River over 3 continuous months last year in an essentially stock TJ. Here are some things I learned or was glad for;


You know you should walk terrain before driving it, but you wonít. Hey, itís not an adventure if you know what to expect!

Water crossings will be less than 2 feet, or over 6 feet deep. Lifts and snorkels for this purpose are generally a waste of money.

Stay as stock as possible. Parts are easier to find, and repairs are cheaper. Iíve had my Wrangler 14 years, and Iíve spent the last 7 putting it back to stock for a myriad of reasons.

With 3.73 gears, LSD, and 31" all terrain tires, I never even came close to getting stuck. Jeeps are VERY capable machines, and you wonít take big risks thousands of miles from home in the middle of nowhere anyway.

I came close to rolling over a few times, and I didnít even have a roof rack. You will regret every single pound you mount on the roof.

The best way to keep my Wrangler cool(er) in truly oppressive heat was to put portable solar panels on the roof. The roof color probably matters more than the body color. Jeep either hasnít figured this out or doesnít care about us.

Soft sided storage is better than hard sided storage, even for water. Itís nice to reclaim space as supplies are consumed, or not pack so much on less demanding legs of a trip. Compared to a big rigid water tank, they canít all leak at once and are easier to refill. Alright, I admit it, I needed more space for souvenirs as my trip progressed, and was glad to have it.

I had trouble generating enough electricity for even my small Engel 17 fridge, and I insisted on a separate battery for it. Also I found it was kind of large for my needs.

MasterCraft seats are great, and can be easily (or so I was told) reupholstered. Put the money for the lift kit into a dedicated travelling seat, and reinstall the fancy leather seats when you get back home.

Take plenty of pictures. Also, save receipts. I find looking through my receipts is as much fun as looking through my photo albums. Iím not a great photographer, though, so maybe that has something to do with it.

Not all places I wanted or had to go allowed tents or camping. In the future Iíd like to be able to sleep inside the Jeep, stealthily and comfortably.

No matter how much camping I did, my biggest single expense was lodging. Gas came in second, followed by food. I think I spent $7000 by the time it was over, but Iím not an accountant. Being homeless was kind of expensive.


This site, and sites like expeditionportal.com, while AWESOME, have way too many chairbound adventurers who overthink and overcomplicate the hell out things.
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Old 02-13-2014, 11:20 PM   #6
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@swanson that is an awesome post! Couple things...

By roof rack, I mean a Thule Aerobar (that comes preinstalled w/ the Ursa Minor) w/ lightweight kayak and bike mounted. Maybe 50 lbs at most? I gotta keep it light so the pop-top will stay up. Definitely nothing excessive that would increase rollover potential.

Love your suggestion on the wheels/lift! I still wonder if ~1000 lbs would require some sort of lift or stiffer springs. If any sort of lift is involved then I'd prefer to just get new tires anyways.

Did you change out your seat just so you wouldn't ruin the nice leather ones or was it more just for comfort?

My intent is to avoid lodging altogether with the Ursa Minor! And I've done some bizarro, longer-term traveling in the past in crazy parts of the world. I'm well acquainted with keeping things simple and couldn't agree more!
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Old 02-14-2014, 06:32 AM   #7
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Just buy an ENO hammock and you can sleep anywhere there is a single tree. Tie one side to tree and other side to roll bar.
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Old 02-14-2014, 10:13 AM   #8
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Awesome that you can do this...it's a dream of mine to just get in and go out west thru the beautiful lands. My only suggestion carry a firearm. Out in the middle of no where being unarmed isnt a good idea. Other than that enjoy and make sure you give us some good stories when you get back!
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Old 02-14-2014, 10:06 PM   #9
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This is what I would build on - it will take the abuse and it's cheaper to setup for what you want to do (and leave the Jeep lighter for when you are away from camp)
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Old 02-14-2014, 10:37 PM   #10
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I think there's a better way to have more fun doing what you envision without adding 1000# to your Wrangler.

good luck and send us pictures in any case
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Old 02-14-2014, 10:54 PM   #11
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Adding 1000lbs isn't that big of a deal, provided you modify accordingly.
First of all, shave/save weight when/where you can. Aluminum is your friend. If you can get parts in aluminum, get em. Bumpers (especially the rear) skids, etc. It can add to serious savings. I don't think you can stick a roof rack on a J30. Even if it can hold it, you would have issues lifting it up into position, and the arms would have a harder time holding it up. You also would want a very aggressive gear set...4.88 for sure. You would need beefy springs and shocks to hold the weight without sag. Do NOT go simply by height, that is not the correct way to setup up suspension. Beefier trackbars would be a bonus as well. Don't get the luna kit, get the genesisoffroad kit for dual batts...the best kit for the JK bar none. I would also consider a trailer so that your Jeep isn't so heavy ALL the time.
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Old 02-15-2014, 08:55 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dukedallas View Post
Awesome that you can do this...it's a dream of mine to just get in and go out west thru the beautiful lands. My only suggestion carry a firearm. Out in the middle of no where being unarmed isnt a good idea. Other than that enjoy...
That's absolutely absurd. I'd feel the need for a firearm in the middle of a city MUCH more than in the wilderness. I've lived and travelled in "the middle of nowhere" for the past 40 years and have never owned a gun or seen the slightest need for one.

Back on topic...X2 on the Genesis Battery kit. I just got it with 2 Odyssey batteries and plan to install it some time in the next week or so. It's mainly to run the 60L ARB fridge that fits perfectly between the front seats and the Tuffy enclosure in the rear. Back seats were removed and a steel platform with trapdoors (storage underneath) was built to cover the rear seat footwells. The fridge is mounted on top of that platform...cam strapped to climbing anchors and carabiners.
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Old 02-15-2014, 09:43 AM   #13
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and about weight...one reason I went with the ARB is that the 60L only weighs 54 lbs. The same-sized FridgeFreeze unit in my Tundra weighs 79 pounds. It looks like the smaller 50L National Luna weighs 58 lbs. The dual battery system will add more than the 20 lbs you mention. The Odyssey battery weighs just over 50 pounds...as shipped...and then you have the added weight of the tray, etc. I'm not sure if other batteries are any lighter.
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Old 02-15-2014, 10:07 AM   #14
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That's absolutely absurd. I'd feel the need for a firearm in the middle of a city MUCH more than in the wilderness. I've lived and travelled in "the middle of nowhere" for the past 40 years and have never owned a gun or seen the slightest need for one.

Back on topic...X2 on the Genesis Battery kit. I just got it with 2 Odyssey batteries and plan to install it some time in the next week or so. It's mainly to run the 60L ARB fridge that fits perfectly between the front seats and the Tuffy enclosure in the rear. Back seats were removed and a steel platform with trapdoors (storage underneath) was built to cover the rear seat footwells. The fridge is mounted on top of that platform...cam strapped to climbing anchors and carabiners.
You never know when you might accidentally roll up on a Walter White in the middle of a desert cooking some meth out of an old RV. Cmon man, use your head.
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Old 02-15-2014, 10:17 AM   #15
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Hopefully I'll get this in before the gun debate ensuesÖ

I replaced my seat after it wore out, and I was definitely looking for something more comfortable. I think the MasterCraft seats are nicer in every way than the factory seats, but I didnít have leather.

The Rubicons have about an 890 pound payload capacity. I'm going by memory here, but I'm sure the Jeep website can confirm this. I would stay under that number as JK axles have a reputation for bending and other problems. Every piece of equipment you add will count against that, and be sure to include your own weight in the calculation.

Bigger tires will lower the payload capacity, not increase it. Tire (and wheel) weight has a wildly deleterious effect on payload rating because of its unsprung and rotational nature. 5 tires that are 10 pounds heavier than stock will subtract 410 (10 * 10 * 4 + 10) pounds from the payload rating. Some people will argue this applies only to high speed on-road vehicle operation. I'm not an authority, but I suspect they're not entirely correct.

Heavy duty springs do nothing for the payload capacity. Taller springs can destroy ride quality because they're, well, springy, and because of lateral sway. If you find you need to level the vehicle after it's loaded, spacers are the way to go. If you got the max tow package, I think you'll be thanking yourself soon.

Hope is not lost, Wrangler axles can be swapped out! If you really want a 1000+ pound payload, I'm confident Dynatrac has a Dana 60 rear and Dana 44 front axle they will be happy to sell you.
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Old 02-18-2014, 01:47 AM   #16
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Check out expeditionportal.com. Tons of info on there about this and they even have a jeep section

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