Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Evolution of an Adventure Rig

Yosemite National Park, California
   When I was a kid I had an assortment of "dream cars." Many of them were expensive, exotic and, as I'm well aware of today, unattainable. Heck, even today I dream of owning a fancy car. It's hard not too here in Los Angeles. I manage to come to my senses as I think about the things I like to do and let's face it, a Ferrari will never go where my Jeep can take me.
  Jeeps and trucks were around me from birth and off-road adventure is my nature so it should be no surprise that I have built many Jeep projects. Not only that but our family has expanded the off-road lifestyle through friends and family members just by getting married. I can count eight Jeeps that have come into the fold just because my brother and I introduced our new family members to Moab, Utah.
  Everyone has their own style of adventure but we all have to use some type of transportation to get to our destination. Regardless of the type of vehicle you choose there is usually some type of customization done to the vehicle to fit our needs. This may be as simple as a GPS unit for the family sedan. But for those of us that choose to spend our adventures a little farther away from civilization a little more work has to be done.
Grafton Ghost Town near Zion's National Park, Utah
 Our current choice of adventure  vehicle is a 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Until a few years ago this Jeep served as my daily driver.  I knew that I wasn't going to have this Jeep in any difficult or potentially dangerous situations because I already had another Jeep (a 1988 Wrangler) that had been purpose built to tackle the most difficult terrain that Moab had to offer. Plus, I was still making payments on it. But I still made a few upgrades in preparation for the day when it would eventually take over for the older Jeep.
  Once the aftermarket parts start going on you now have yourself a project and a project needs a name so this Jeep has been dubbed Klondike. The bright yellow makes me think of gold and of course I enjoy history so if you think gold rush then I imagine you get the idea of where I'm coming from. If not, read this.
  There are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to aftermarket parts and you really need to know what you plan to do with your rig before you start placing orders. Some parts that work for a vehicle used primarily for rock crawling may not exactly be necessary for a vehicle that will be used for over landing or highway use. On the other hand there are a lot of aftermarket parts that work well for all conditions (like an ARB fridge) and you just need to decide the type that works for you. We knew that Klondike would spend a lot of time in the dirt and rocks so it would need locking differentials. We opted to use a combination of cable activated and electronic OX lockers. This was the first upgrade that we chose to undertake. Because these lockers are selectable they don't have an adverse affect on the handling of the Jeep while on the road and so far I've been happy with them.
  Because of his length, Klondike received rock sliders as the second upgrade. This allowed us to do some mild off-roading without the worry of destroying the rocker panels. These were actually rarely used until we did the Rubicon trail last year. During that trip they were well used.
  I was going to build Klondike to strictly be an over land vehicle while our other Jeep stayed the rock crawler. I would only put a 2" lift kit with 33" tires to keep the ride comfortable for the longer trips. Then things changed. We decided to par down on the all the "things" we had. If it didn't have more than one purpose, we didn't need it. So, Klondike would have to pull double duty. We sold the '88 Wrangler and we chose to put a 4" Old Man Emu lift kit on Klondike. 35" BF Goodrich KO2 tires were selected to keep the ground clearance high enough for Moab but not too extreme for over land travel.
  The 9000 lbs. Warn winch is an older unit that came off of the '88 Wrangler and has served me very well over the years. Eventually I will switch it with a newer one but for right now it works great.
  If I stopped now I would still have a pretty good rig. It has conquered trails in Moab and it handled the Rubicon with ease.  But as anyone that builds there own project vehicle knows, they are never finished. So what's next for Klondike? Soon we will be replacing the stock rear bumper with an aftermarket swing away tire carrier. This will take the weight of the 35" tire off of the tailgate and won't cause damage if the tire were to come into contact with a rock. 
Near Grand Canyon National Park
  A roof rack will be fitted to overcome our storage issues and perhaps someday a rooftop tent. With a family of four we need to carry a lot of items for extended trips. Clothes, school work, food, and camera gear take up a lot of precious room so the rack is a must for overnight trips. In addition to the rack we'll add an awning for shade on those hot or rainy days as well as plenty of lights for use while driving and to see what we're doing around camp. 
  Custom built drawers will be installed to hold our recovery gear, stove and utensils for our galley during our over land trips. To complete the kitchen I'll add a tailgate mounted folding shelf and a fridge/freezer to keep our goodies nice and cold. 
  In addition to our current CB radio we will install a HAM radio to extend the range of our communications. It's about time since Misty and I have both had our licenses for six years now. Oh, well. I would also like to hard mount a GPS capable tablet with a mapping program to compliment our paper maps.
Klondike on the Rubicon Trail
  I could probably go on but it wouldn't be fair. The more I think about it the more I could write about. Like I said, a project is never finished, they just continue to evolve with the tastes and needs of the owner. Most of the things I've mentioned here aren't going to happen all at once. That would be cool though. In the meantime we'll continue to use Klondike for most of our back country outings. I say most because we haven't covered our "fleet" of ATV's yet but that's for a different article. No matter what vehicle you choose to find adventure don't forget to keep if safe and fun. Hope to see you out on the trails.

Brandan



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