I'll simply agree with some of the above. Daggo is right, of course. But recovery and protection are good first starts. I'm not sure what changes have been made since my '10 was built, but I definitely protected my evap cannister by relocating it (I thought I heard they moved it in the '12), and put a skid over my swaybar disconnect motor. From there, recovery equipment was a priority.
A Rubicon will be plenty capable off road out the box. Good recovery gear besides a winch would be snatch and tow straps, a hi lift jack and NOT wheeling alone. Provisions in case you have to spend the night on the trail stuck or lost.
I too am a beginning off-roader.
I decided to take an off-roading class, and am so glad I did. Spent the morning in a class room setting and the afternoon wheeling on a practice course at Hungry Valley Off Road park. I came away with a new appreciation of what my stock JKU Sport can do and a set of new driving skills, which I will continue to develop.
My instructor, Tom Severin, suggested we wheel our Jeeps for a least a year before making any major mods. Thus giving you, the driver, time to acquire the skills needed to advance to the level where you actually NEED the mods to do a trail.
Good advice me thinks.
Here is a link to the company I used. http://www.4x4training.com/
number one mod needed for a beginner? local club. never go wheeling alone, and the locals will know the trails, and what it takes to run the trails. there are tons of folks here who have installed mods and done trails, and we can all give our opinions, but none of that will stack up to just wheeling with some folks in your area
Maybe air down ur tires
Disconnect sway bars
Take top off
Make sure you have a place to tow from like a hook or receiver hitch
Fix a flat
High lift jack
Nice shoes to hike out if necessary
Torx screwdriver set
First aid kit
Buddies to wheel with never go alone
Go slow and evaluate your "line"
Stock jks are beasts!
Go out with someone with recovery gear. First mod I did on mine was sliders for my diffs. All depends on the kind of wheeling you'll do ie rocks v sand v mud/water. The first gear I would carry (like I've done with all vehicles) is a good knife, a good first aide kit and a phone in case you need help. Just remember if you wheel with someone and someone gets hurt you'll need first aide and perhaps a phone or CB to call for assistance. As far as a knife goes, I've carried one since I was a kid. Too many uses to list.
You do not need any mods at all. The only thing i would and did add to my 12 Rubicon MW3 COD edition is a Warn winch. My Rubi came stock with heavy duty AEV bumpers and Front skid plate along with Mopar heavy duty rockers. At this point i have not seen the need for anything else. My Rubi will run circles around my previous lifted CJ5 and My previous TJ.
When I go off road I make sure I have at least a cell phone, good recovery strap, some basic tools, shovel and come-a-long. As you get into more heavy duty off roading, the list gets more and more extensive and expensive!
The best tool you can bring with you is the one between your ears. Get to know your vehicles and your own driving limitations a little at a time. If you do this you will greatly reduce the chance getting yourself in trouble on the trails.
As a fellow '12 rubi owner, take a look underneath at potiential weakpoints (things you don't want to hit): The transmission line that runs across behind the oil pan, the exhaust loop, and exhaust resonator (halfway back, looks like a small muffler).
You probably want to get some d-rings and a strap. Avoid deep mud, especially where you don't know how deep it is or what's buried beneath.
Same with water, unless you know the depth and its a rocky stream bed where you won't sink and hydrolock. You already have pretty good tires.
If you wheel alone, I generally don't go beyond an area that is generally unreachable by a recovery vehicle of some sort.
'14 Anvil JKUR (sold the '12 at 52K miles)
'13 unlimited stripped sport (red one)
'13 JKU sport (blue one)
'10 Unlimited sport (other red one)
'08 Unlimited X (green one)
While that may be true, it's still helpful. You might start out alone but if you get lucky and someone comes by, if you have a strap and they don't, you at least have a chance then. If neither of you has a strap for whatever reason or a winch or whatever, then you're still stuck. It's the same reason I always have carried jumper cables in all my vehicles. It's not so I can jump someone else, it's so if I need a jump all I have to do is find someone else with a vehicle.
2012 JKU Sport S in BFG:
Max Tow, LSD, M/T, Connectivity, Infinity, Hard Top, Step Rails
Shortly after getting my vehicle I took it down to SMORR to hit some light trails, punched a whole in my side wall. Figured out that they key wasn't with me then. Plugged the hole with melted 550 cord until I could get back (true story, I kept the 550 cord as a good luck charm). Luckily my jumper pack had an air compressor on it. Still trying to get the correct wheel lock key, had to have the closer dealership change that tire out for my spare.
Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels - Frank Sinatra
When I Die, Bury me in my JEEP. 'Cause it's never been in a hole it couldn't get out of!
They have saved my bacon on a few occasions. Before I put a winch on my YJ I carried a come-a-long and a couple tow straps.....One time I had to use both straps and the come-a-long to get me un-stuck. Tow straps are a must have...alone or otherwise.
Right now, I'm still debating on a winch for my JK and until then when I go off road I bring my come-a-long and the JK has at least one tow strap in it at all times.