Jeep as a hunting/fishing/camping rig

Guy

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Dec 5, 2018
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I'll start this as a six-year report, and you guys can have at it as you will of course. :)

After decades of using full-size 4x4's as my hunting rigs, I wanted a smaller, easier-to-maneuver rig, and also, well, I just wanted a Jeep. I'd had good results with Cherokee and Grand Cherokee vehicles as family haulers over the years but had long wanted a CJ, YJ, TJ, JK kind of rig. In 2012 I finally made it happen, with a base model "Sport" Wrangler. This one didn't come with many options. Even has hand-cranked windows, and a manual transmission.

Knowing where I like to hunt and fish, I almost immediately put some good all-terrain tires and a winch on it. Used it like that for a couple of years, sorting out my priorities, and then made a few other changes. Maybe I should have started out with a Rubicon, 'cause I've almost made it into a Rubicon? But... It's my Jeep and it's working out well. Ya, it's small. That's good, and bad. The day I got it home, I pulled the rear seat out. In the past six years, it's been back inside the Jeep maybe a week or two... At most. I use that boxy cargo area to haul my gun dog, camping gear, coolers, snowshoes, dead animals, whatever.

Pulled the carpet long ago. Just have some rubber floor mats now. Kinda noisy, but it's awfully easy to clean.

Let me see if I can think of all the big game critters it has hauled in the past six years:
4 whitetail deer carcasses (three of them at once!)
4 antelope
6 mule deer
2 black bear

Yup, that's about it. One deer I hauled on a rack plugged into the receiver hitch, but I've managed to cram all the rest of those animals inside. Mostly by quartering or boning them out and putting 'em in the coolers. Did transport three whitetail carcasses at once. That was quite the load of venison! Our friends had a very fancy SUV, and they didn't want those nasty carcasses inside it! Ha! So they carried our gear, and we put the deer in my Jeep.

Our bear season in Washington starts in August, and there's a deer season in September, so I do some warm weather hunting. One terrific addition was a 63 qt ARB fridge! Keeps my food icy cold running on the battery.

I wanted a little more tire, went with 285/75/16's, which is about a 33x11.50. I've tried both Toyo Mud Terrain and BFG All Terrain. Most of the time I favor the all terrain tires. They're 10-ply, so the little Jeep has a LOT more tire than it needs.

This required re-gearing to keep the little 3.6 V6 (285 hp) happy and I had a local shop drop the gearing from the stock 3.21's, down to 4.10's, and also add aftermarket air-lockers as well as an underhood air compressor. This has been a happy combo. The vast majority of the time of course, even off road, I'm running around with the diffs unlocked. Now and then I can lock the diffs as needed. I've used the rear diff lock quite a few times, but the front hasn't been of much use. Also added custom driveshafts front and rear and replaced the axle shafts in the front Dana 30 with heavy duty shafts.

Since the little Jeep needed a little more tire clearance, and I tend to carry some pretty heavy loads in it, a 2.5" Teraflex suspension was installed, with the heavier springs for a 4-door Wangler used in the back. Fox shocks and some other heavy duty steering & suspension components finished out those mods. It handles great, on and off road, though it is a pretty stiff ride on-road, when lightly loaded. That's as expected with the 10 ply rated tires and the heavy duty springs & shocks.

All was well, but... Sometimes I wanted to haul more gear for a more comfortable camp. Ran across a great deal on a small, used, "off-road" type trailer, a "Basecamp" trailer from Prescott Arizona. Welded aluminum box on a steel frame. Timbren suspension so there's no axle underneath, trailer brakes. Pretty simple, rugged setup. The "box" is roughly 6' long, 4' wide and 2' deep and it locks. The trailer has been useful on some longer trips or when I just wanted to take more gear. I could also use the trailer for hauling big game carcasses, but so far have not.

I live, and mostly fish & hunt in central Washington, but being semi-retired, I do like to take some trips. The Jeep has been up to Fairbanks, Alaska and back. That was a memorable 4,500 mile trip. Last spring it went on a sweep through the southwest; Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, and back home to Washington for 3,600 miles, with the trailer along. Four trips to Wyoming now, about 2,000 miles per trip. I do wish the Jeep got better fuel economy, averages about 16 - 17 mpg on most trips. Did better on the trip to and from Alaska, I think because of the lower speed limits I encountered in British Columbia and Yukon.

The Jeep has adequate power, it's actually pretty sprightly when lightly loaded. The "Pentastar" V6 is a huge improvement over the earlier 3.8 liter V6, and with the manual six-speed & 4.10's acceleration is brisk. Heavily loaded, it's adequate. But... It gives up a lot to the V8 powered pickups & SUV's.

Comfort too is adequate, but again, a nice truck or SUV is a lot more comfortable, particularly for long trips.

Crossing a rain-swollen creek, trailer in tow:


Top of the World Highway, outside of Dawson City, Yukon:


Extra 5 gallons of fuel was a comfort on the trip to and from Alaska:


Winter camps:




Poking around the southwest last spring:






All in all, six years and 80,000 miles later, I'm still enjoying the heck out of the little Jeep. Probably should have bought a 4-door Rubicon to start with, but this is kind of neat, I've been able to modify it slowly over time, to fit my requirements.

Regards, Guy
 
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beginnerhunter

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Feb 15, 2016
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Really cool. I'm going to miss the maneuverability of a small rig once I go to a full size.
 

LCH

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What you may give up in space/comfort, you make up for in capability. That little thing ought to go just about anywhere a four-wheeled machine can get.
 

psycho

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Jan 8, 2017
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Las Vegas, NV
I too made that move a few years back from big truck to a jeep. Its opened up so many more roads to me. If somebody has driven on a road then this jeep will get me there and back without a problem. I turn around long before its ready to quit as im not much for side hilling roads or cliff roads. I have stuffed two cow elk in my four door on several occasions. Those are some great photos. You made a wise choice in my opinion.
 

Don Fischer

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Jun 27, 2017
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How does it drive down a reg highway qith those tire's? I had a 65 CJ years ago with 12 " tire's and I could drive across snow easily but it wobbled pretty good going down the road. Loved my CJ but it did have it's draw backs. I have an idea the most useful addition to your's is that trailer. You'd mentioned hauling a deer I think on some kind of rack on the receiver hitch. You start putting extra weight back there and at some point you lose control of the front end, that trailer is nice.

I think that jeep you have is pretty nice, get decent gas mileage? My CJ didn't but a Toyota extended cab I had with a 4 cylinder got over 20 in 4 wheel drive high! That little sucker pulled hills I couldn't pull with my Bronco Deal was it didn't get to a steep spot and power out! Still have the Bronco and hunt in it but, doesn't get around off road that well, to big. Have an Explorer Sport trac but it simply doesn't have enough room in it. Thing my old CJ taught me was with a rig like that it was easier to get into trouble sometime's than to get out!
 
M

MN Public Hunter

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Great story. I too have a Jeep, 2015 JKU Rubicon...I went full out right away :) It's been to WY and for hunting in MN.
 

1_pointer

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I dig that trailer. More details on the make/model or how it's configured would be appreciated.
 

ardrhi

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Arimo, Idaho
Funny, I was just wondering if others had this same approach. I just traded in my truck for a 2018 wrangler. Went with pretty basic so I can afford to do my own customizing. Putting some new tires on next week - nothing extreme, but passenger tires are not going to cut it. Trying to decide what bumper and winch to put on it. I'm thinking of getting a roof rack for those runs to the hardware store and probably storing a shovel, hilift, and maybe an awning. It seems like Gobi makes the only roof rack with a streamlined fit that doesn't block use of the sunroof, but I'm interested in any alternatives that meet those two criteria and don't have a 6 month backorder and reasonably priced. I do already have a trailer if I need to haul a lot.
 

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Guy

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Dec 5, 2018
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Thank you!
Sorry - neglected this thread. Yes, it's a Jackwagon Basecamp. Am unsure of current production status, following a conversation with the owner, I think he's slowed way down, not building many trailers right now.

Sturdy steel frame. Topped by a welded aluminum box that's 6' long, 4' wide and 2' deep. The box is pretty close to waterproof, all the doors seal up real nicely. There are tie-downs on rails inside the trailer box. The big "hoops" on the lid are intended to support either a roof top tent or can serve as racks for kayaks or any number of things.

Mine has electronic trailer brakes on it, which I really appreciate.

The trailer can be set up to match JK (or other Jeep) hubs.

It tracks true at freeway speeds, around town, or out in the hills. It weighs about 1,000 pounds and is rated to carry about 1,000 pounds of cargo.

The suspension is Timbren, which means no axle hanging below the frame. This results in about 17" of ground clearance! Far more than my Jeep.

I like the trailer. It's handy.

Regards, Guy
 

PrairieHunter

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May 17, 2018
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Laramie, WY
Funny, I was just wondering if others had this same approach. I just traded in my truck for a 2018 wrangler. Went with pretty basic so I can afford to do my own customizing. Putting some new tires on next week - nothing extreme, but passenger tires are not going to cut it. Trying to decide what bumper and winch to put on it. I'm thinking of getting a roof rack for those runs to the hardware store and probably storing a shovel, hilift, and maybe an awning. It seems like Gobi makes the only roof rack with a streamlined fit that doesn't block use of the sunroof, but I'm interested in any alternatives that meet those two criteria and don't have a 6 month backorder and reasonably priced. I do already have a trailer if I need to haul a lot.
Stock jeeps are quite rare it seems.

Seems like Jeep owners tend to drop another 10k+ on accessories just to make them different, but they end up all looking about the same with a lift kit, tires, wheels, bumper, etc...

At least that's less than the rock crawler jeep guys who seem to drop at least twice that accessorizing rigs and break at least 5k worth of stuff on an average weekend, but no worries they keep an extra 10k in parts so they can probably rebuild it and be back next weekend.
 
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