OverLanding: part – 4

What Vehicle he picked and why

3/16/2020

Now that you’re educated about the options out there for a Overland setup. We’re going to get into Our personal pick to build. We will cover a lot of things that we thought over too. So lets dive in.

To start I took a long look back at what I’ve owned, how I used(beat) it, places I’ve gone, places I want to go, easy of repair, available parts, ride comfort and build quality when new. So what kind of vehicles have I had that took us on Adventures/Overland?

  • Jeep Cherokee XJs- 87′-97’s (17 of these in total)
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJs – 94′, 98′, & 97′
  • Jeep Wrangler – 94′ YJ, 15’JKU & 16’JKR
  • Suzuki Samurai – 87′
  • Geo Tracker / Suzuki SideKick – ’95
  • Suzuki Grand Vitra XL7 – ’98 (My wife’s)

In looking for the currant build some of the above got considered. Until my wife’ accident in October we would have built the 16’JKR even though not the best choice. (We’ll get into that later). If you’ve been following this Blog long enough. You know that my wife in a wreck that both freed up funds and killed our 2016 2 door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. This was bought when we hadn’t planned for a OverLand build. So it had the roots but not the needs. It wasn’t that great on long drives, lacked space to sleep inside.

So what on that list made our cut when we started shopping? Jeep Cherokee’s, Jeep Grand Cherokee’s and the Suzuki GV XL-7 all made our shopping list. Why? Size was #1 they all have enough space to sleep us both inside comfortable, yet small enough to go about anywhere I point them. They all offer good transfer case options. I wanted/needed a 2WD, 4WD and Low Range Option. Also the vehicle needed to be a quick/simple setup to flat tow in the future. I also looked for something that could fit a 31-33 inch tire with simple lift/modes. Why? Because we love being off the beaten path and seek the “less often traveled paths”. Aftermarket selection of parts for all these rigs is out there. But being a DIYer that wasn’t as important. Price point also came into play as our purchase budget was a mild $1600.

Now the XL-7 was on the list mainly for size. Good space inside, but the IFS was it’s only down side. In the end they are harder to find here in Michigan so I never really hunted for one.

The Jeeps on our list came from previous builds and knowledge. Both Jeep Cherokee XJ’s and Grand Cherokee ZJs have solid front and rear axles, 2wd, 4WD and Lower range T-cases. Are relatively simple and cheap to lift. Are the same width and within a few inches length wise. And it helps that I’ve built more than a few of them. I was also looking for a Jeep with a 4.0L inline 6 with a Auto transmission. The 4.0L won’t win any sped race but when it comes to reliability and easy to work on, it can’t be beat. I also knew looking for either of these 2 that there are “known” issues with rocker panel rot that would need fixed. Both these Jeeps have Dana 30 front axles. XJs High Pinion and Low Pinion. ZJ’s are all Low Pinion. Both Jeeps have Dana 35 rear axles. There are 2 other axles in XJ rears too Dana 44 (rare) and 2 versions of the Chrysler 8.25. ZJ’s if a V8 also got a HD Dana 44 (very limited aftermarket support). What does this all mean/show? I know my vehicle options.

See when looking for a build base. Knowing what the pluses and minuses are helps lots. And that in part was why I stuck to what I know.

I guess we’ll now dive into what we were looking for OUT of our choice. We wanted:

  • Comfort
  • Good Road manners
  • Go anywhere
  • Space
  • Reliability
  • Easy of repair
  • Mid-Size
  • Solid axles (front and rear)
  • Easy to clear a 31-33″ tire
  • Real Transfer Case
  • Simple to Flat tow

Comfort and Good Road manners: I’ll put these 2 together. See Comfort is more of my wife’s need/want. Road manners is both of us. We wanted a do all well, but still drive coast to coast in comfort vehicle. Heat, air conditioning were important too being this will get used daily.

Go anywhere: Well this one is relative to your own ideas. Mine is I love to explore. Be it woods, hills, desert, forest, old roads or just about anywhere. I just want to get out and go.

Space: For us, space ment room for my wife, me, our dog and camp gear. It was also added that room for 2 extra adults incase we want to share our adventures with another couple was important too.

Reliability & Easy of repair: These are another 2 that go hand in hand. I want to know when I hit that key it will start every time. And that when it breaks I can fix it with relative ease.

Mid-Size: This has more to do with where we life to explore. I class the JKU as Full-Size and never really fit our needs. We like narrow trails so a smaller package was a need.

Solid axles (front and rear): Simple, strong, reliable and simple to lift. It really is for us less moving parts to get the job done. This one comes from years of being a wheeler.

Easy to clear a 31-33″ tire: I need ground clearance for those muddy trails and snow days. And didn’t want a monster truck lift to do it.

Real Transfer Case: I wanted a stick in the floor not some button to push. If it fails I can get out and under it and shift the range by hand. They also happen to be stronger in most cases.

Simple to Flat tow: This is Cause we’ll be building a Bus to be a home on wheels. And will be towing the Jeep behind it.

So what did we get and why? We bought a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. It has the 4.0L inline 6 with a Auto trans, backed by a NP242 T-case (2wd, Part time 4WD, Full Time 4WD and Low Range). Dana 30 front and Dana 35 rear axles. It was bought completely stock so for us it’s a blank canvas. I did hit a deer after only having it a month. So that had to be fixed. What’s our plan for it?:

  • Lift it 2-3.5″ with all new suspension parts
  • 265/75R16 tires
  • Steel bumpers with rear tire carrier and 2 jerry cans
  • winch
  • several LED lights for night adventures
  • CB
  • Paint the whole thing
  • RTT
  • Re-gear to 4.10s and Tru-Trax

The details of each item is not yet in stone. As this started with wanting aftermarket wheels but we got a deal on Rubicon take offs. And right now I have a growing pile of parts that are waiting on Spring.

Well until next time stay Blessed and Keep on A.G.Eing!!

Project Redemption – Our 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo

OverLanding: part-3

Gear of Choice

3/11/2020

So we did a run down of what overlanding is. And what different vehicles and options to consider. Today we’re going to change gears a bit and look at gear. Some options out there, what you need verse want. And where should you start. So lets dive right in.

Sleeping! Where do you want to sleep. Well you have options. Here are just a few that we consider and have and will use.

  • Under the stars
  • In your vehicle
  • hammocks
  • tent
  • RTT – Roof Top Tent
  • TearDrop

Under the stars: Yep as simple as it sounds it gets overlooked as a option. I’ve done this more than one. Mostly cause topless Jeep that was stuck/broke waiting on day light.

In your vehicle: Great in Crossovers and SUVs. Weather your solo or with a partner this one helps you pack lighter. But an require more space. For us being short it helps..

Hammocks: Now this one is a cross over from backpackers. They an be simple to super complete 4 season setups. We have basic ones that we take and use through the day. And sometimes it’s just the place you want to be. But you also need to consider where your at. If your in the desert with no trees this don’t even work as a option.

Tent: The old tried and true tent. So many options my head spins reading on them. But again on these seasons can play into it. Ground, location and weather.

RTT – Roof Top Tent: Now these I’m not sure how long they have been out but are starting to reach a price point that us “Frugal” overlanders can afford them. You can mount them like the name says on the roof, or bed of a truck or even on a trailer. So many option. But the best 2 things I find here. They keep you off the ground and make for fast camp setups and takedowns.

TearDrop: These guys seem to be popping up a lot more these days. They fit in with adventure trailers too. Some of their advantages are, your inside, self contained so heading out requires little prep work.

I know that I have not covered 100% of every option or even 100% of details on these. But my aim is to keep it simple and get you thinking, planning and camping.

As for other gear. Food storage comes up alot and you see a ton of electric coolers these days. But they require a power source. And to me can be overkill. Now if your a camper that heads out for weeks or months than by all means you may want one. But me I’m good with a cooler and ice. Than you have cooking, do you need a stove? Or are you good over a open fire. can you even have a fire where your camping? These are things that are more personal preference than needs in my view.

Now there is a list of what I view as my must have list.

  • First Aid kit
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Maps / GPS
  • spare close
  • basic tools
  • hatchet
  • Shovel
  • Fire starter
  • Water
  • Camera / My Drone

To me other stuff can be brought but by no means are required. Over my years, I’ve found that when planning a overland trip/setup. I look to the backpackers. Those guys are smart. They pack only the needs, light weight and with some of the smallest useable items.

You really need to sit and look at your planned adventure. Are you just going to get away? Are you going to see things you haven’t seen before? Are you going because the trip to get there is your goal? Hell you might hate people in general and are heading out and away. What ever your needs/goals or wants from OverLanding are. There is a setup for you. And by all means keep in mind. “What works for me, might not work for you.” Our needs and wants from this lifestyle of adventure is as different to each of us as our fingerprints are.

So next time I’ll be taking you through Our planned OverLand build. Why we picked it? What options we wanted? Things we considered? and much much more.

So till next time, stay Blessed and by all means keep on A.G.E.ing!!

Adventure is where you find it.

OverLanding: part-2

Vehicle Choice

3/6/2020

We are going to mainly focus on 4 wheeled vehicles that are road legal. Jeeps, SUVs, cars and trucks. Yes I know in some places SXS can be made legal but we’re not looking there.

So your ready to start looking at what vehicle will take you on your adventure. Before you even start brainstorming I’d advice set a budget for purchase. Than from there start your looking.

In doing this I tend to break the vehicles into 5 main categories:

  • Cross-Overs
  • AWD cars
  • SUVs
  • Trucks
  • Jeeps.

Cross-Overs: This would be any car with higher than average ground clearance (6″+) and is typically a hatchback. They can be 2 and AWD drive. Think lifted 80’s station wagon. So in this I would consider Chevy Equinox, Chevy Traverse, Ford Edge and Dodge Journey. Those and there are many more.

AWD cars: This to me is those companies that simply have near perfect AWD systems. And really only one manufacturer comes to mind here, Subaru. About any of their all wheel drive cars fit here.

SUVs: This is your typical “body on frame” vehicles. Chevy Tahoe, Ford Explorer (older models), Dodge Durango (older models) those types. Most of these can be had in both 2 or 4 wheel drive models. And will in most cases have a Low Range option.

Trucks: This would be any vehicle with a bed, body on frame, 2wd, 4wd and low range options.

Jeeps: All Jeeps. Why you ask when nowadays Jeep makes something that fits in all the above does Jeep stand out? Cause from the very beginning Jeep has both been a bench mark for OverLanding and Adventure.

Now that you see there are many types of 4 wheeled vehicles there is more. Start thinking of the kind of adventure you want to go on. Are you just doing 2 tracks, mountain roads, deep woods, solo, Long distances or short, freeway or back roads. challenging or simple. Will there be a chance of mud, water crossing, high clearance needed. Do you plan to use it as it ome new or make it more personal to you. So when you get here you start thinking about the “bones of the vehicle”. So from here the following are things I personally start to consider.

  • Solid axle front or IFS
  • Solid axle rear or IRS
  • T-case Range options -High, Low, 2wd or 4wd
  • Lift kits
  • Aftermarket support

Solid or IFS front end: Solid front axle is like your older Jeeps and only now available on limited newer vehicles. They are simple, strong and work. Than you have IFS-Independent front suspension, all modern cars will have this style. It will lead to a smoother ride and better ground clearance in most cases. There is a lot in the way of personal choice here.

Solid axle rear or IRS: IRS stands for Independent rear suspension. Much like the above but now on about 50% of modern SUVs.

T-case Range options -High, Low, 2wd or 4wd: This one is for me getting harder to understand in newer vehicles. Jeep Wranglers will have a 2wd, 4wd, and Low Range option. Many modern vehicles such as the new Jeep Cherokee will have a Computer driven “range” option. To be perfectly up front here about this I have no idea on the newer stuff. I’m old school.

Lift kits: Do you plan to mode your vehicle. Add ground clearance or bigger tires.

Aftermarket support: Do you plan to mode your vehicle. Want simple bolt ons or are you OK with building it all yourself.

Now you can see there is a bunch to take in when your planning this kind of build. Sometimes you’ll even find that your starting with a base already. But the above will get you looking at what you have in terms of will it work for you over the long haul. Or is it simply a placeholder while you shop for what really fits.

So while you let this all sink in. Stay blessed and by all means keep on A.G.E.ing

No mater the road, take the one less traveled.

OverLanding: part-1

What is Overlanding and Why?

3/1/2020

So today marks the start of our OverLanding overview, guide and thoughts. This will be from our perspective on the how’s, why’s and just personal opinion. There are a lot of guides out there to Overlanding. But sadly most I’ve read, read as if they are from a salesman’s desk. So much miss info, or wrongly stated info when it comes to the masses. That’s not to say that I’m 100% correct on this all. Cause God knows that’s not the case. BUT, I aim to give you a real world view. And a view that comes from someone that don’t have deep pockets. So without getting any farther off track lets get to it.

What is OverLanding? In a nut shell it’s ANY kind of travel over land. Not by air or sea. So be it foot, bike, ATV, SXS, Jeep or Truck. If your traveling overland you are in the simplest of ways OverLanding.

Now this is where things get messy. What we in the “Off-Road” world call “Overlanding” is a simple Upgrade to “Car Camping” of a bygone era. Most of us that enjoy this lifestyle more than likely remember a day in our youth camping with, our father, uncle or Grandfather out of the back of some old pickup truck. Of dragging a trailer through some woods behind a Jeep to camp out in the middle of no where. I know I do.

Can’t recall the year, but I remember my Dad taking us camping off Kingsley Road near Beards Hills, Michigan in his CJ-7. Pulled that trailer down by the river out in the wilds of the forest. Setup camp without a care in the world. We fished and explored. (Maybe my Mother recalls this trip)

That is the kind of memories that OverLanding gives. I was maybe 7 or 8 and here I aim almost 44 and that memory warms me.

So now that we know what OverLanding is, let’s look at “Why we do it”. For us it’s simple, To Explore new places away form the masses. But did you know you can OverLand in towns and city’s too? (Mind Blown).

Now where I think things have gotten out of hand on-line, in the media and in print. Is that it’s made out that you need a $100,000+ overland setup and TONS of gear to enjoy this LifeStyle. That simply is “popy-cock”. You can enjoy this lifestyle with a $100 beater and a blanket if you so choose. And anywhere in between. Now for us (and I’ll get into detail as we go) the following is How we break it all down.

Mode of transportation: What kind of vehicle do we plan to use?

How do we plan to use Vehicle: Is this a Overland only vehicle or a Multi use on

How many:How many in our vehicle (us, me, pets, ect.)

How long we plan to stay: Mainly for what do we need to bring

I’m sure there is more when we get into it. But this for us is the basic of where it all will start. In our next post I’ll start into Vehicle choices. What we have, why, what made us go this way and what our options were and why. Along we’ll help you build a list when you plan your OverLander.

So until next time stay Blessed and by all means keep on A.G.E.ing!!

Get out and Explore!