Jeep Wrangler Build for Two Years Around Africa
The build of my Jeep is extensive, with each modification carefully thought out and planned. The build focused around primary goals, I will lay out the rationale and decisions for each.
Weight was a primary consideration for each modification, as was limited interior space.
Goal 1: Strong 4×4, big enough to sleep in, fit inside a 20 foot container.
- 2011 Jeep JK Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.
- 3.8l V6 Gasoline engine, 6 speed manual transmission.
- Locking front and rear differentials, electronic sway bar disconnect.
- 4.10 axle ratios.
- 4:1 transfer case ratio.
Goal 2: Extremely capable off-road
Two years around Africa, especially West Africa, requires a very strong 4×4 vehicle. I chose the Rubicon for the factory diff locks, stronger D44 front axle, and low range transfer case. In addition to that, I have added:
- Suspension: Stronger and improved handling with mild lift
- American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) 2.5″ lift with Geometry Correction Brackets.
- Bumpers: Radiator protection, stronger
- AEV Front with Skid Plate, AEV Rear, Tire carrier and High Lift Mount.
- Tires: All-round performance, extremely durable, mild clearance increase
- Wheels: Extremely strong
- Mopar Steel Winter Wheels 17. From $234.08 on Amazon.
- See my rationale for the wheels and tires: Tire Selection
- Recovery: Going solo for two years, I need to be able to get myself unstuck.
- Warn Zeon 10-S. From $1430 on Amazon (synthetic rope to reduce weight).
- Maxtraxx MKII Recovery Mats. From $329.99 on Amazon.
- ARB Ultra Light Snatch Block. From $click on Amazon.
- Hi-Lift Extreme Jack. From $119.99 on Amazon.
- Hand Bow Saw. From $25.25 on Amazon to remove trees and limbs if needed.
- Lighting: Inside and out, being able to see is a must
- Rigid Industries Truck Lites LED Headlights. From $706.19 on Amazon.
- Rigid Industries R2-46 LED Driving Lights. From $click on Amazon.
- Rigid Industries Security Kit for Driving Lights. From $39.98 on Amazon.
- 2 x Rigid Industries LED Scene Floodlight. From $100.4 on Amazon.
- 2 x Rigid Industries A Series High Strength LED Light. From $click on Amazon.
- AEV with Pre-Filter for extreme dust removal.
- K&N Washable and reusable Air filter. From $74.98 on Amazon.
Goal 3: Interior living space
A two year expedition is not a vacation, this is my life. Given that I’m building my Jeep into a house on wheels, I want interior living space – to be able to escape the bugs, the rain, or even just escape the world for an evening will help keep me sane enough to continue.
The build and design is centered around a Pop up roof and interior cabinets I designed and built.
The roof is lighter and more aerodynamic than a roof rack + Roof Top Tent combination.
- Pop-up Camper Roof:
- Ursa Minor Vehicles J30 popup camper, customized open rear area.
- Read more about my modifications to it here: Ursa Minor J30 Popup Camper
- Interior: allows for standing, sitting and sleeping in the rear of the Jeep
- Removed back seat & carpet, custom built cabinets for camper setup using:
- Lightweight aluminum tubing. From $12.86 on Amazon.
- Plastic corner connectors. From $3.72 on Amazon.
- To see photos and the build process of the interior see: Jeep Build Phase 1 Complete
Goal 4: Improved Sleeping, Cooking, Eating
Two years from Alaska to Argentina on my previous expedition taught me a lot. I love camping, though after two years I was done with Ramen noodles and tinned soup. I want to eat vegetables, cheese and meat. I want to sleep up off the ground out of the mud. With that in mind, the following modifications where made:
- Kitchen & Cooking:
- MSR Base 2-Pot Set. From $click on Amazon.
- GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Fry Pan. From $27.2 on Amazon.
- MSR Coffee/Tea Filter. From $19.16 on Amazon For that morning cup.
- Outback Adventure Products Trailgator.
- See the full DIY Tailgate Table Utensil/Tool Organizer article
- Awning: Sun shade over the kitchen area at the rear
- ARB 1250. From $255 on Amazon mounted on rear.
- Shower: Keep it simple, keep it light
- 10L MSR Dromedary Bag. From $44.89 on Amazon I hang in the sun for heat.
- MSR Dromedary Shower Kit. From $click on Amazon
- Fan for sleeping: Light, charges off USB, has speed settings and internal battery
Goal 5: Ability to be self-contained for weeks at a time
My aim to to get far off the beaten path, so I need to be able to support myself. With that in mind, I added:
- Water System: Water is the number one limiter for days without resupply
- 12 gallon Drinking Water Tank Mounted Under Body.
- 12v Sureflow Revolution 3.0 Pump. From $76 on Amazon.
- Pura UV 0.5 micron Filter & UV lamp. From $click on Amazon.
- See the full DIY 4×4 Drinking Water Tank, Pump and Filtation System article.
- Batteries: Isolated batteries mean I can run the fridge for days without starting the engine
- Dual Optima Yellow Top D34s. From $309.99 on Amazon.
- Isolated with Painless Performance Wiring Kit. From $149.99 on Amazon.
- Mounted in Nemesis Industries Dual Battery Tray.
- Solar: To charge the second battery
- Additional Gasoline: A range above 500 miles is a must
- On Board Air Compressor & Tire Repair: self-repair is a must
- ARB CKMA12 Air Compressor. From $335 on Amazon.
- ARB Tire inflation Kit. From $62.98 on Amazon.
- ARB Puncture Repair Kit. From $51 on Amazon.
- Spare values, stems, inners, etc.
Goal 6: Secure Storage for all my stuff
The stock Jeep glovebox and console are just plastic, and the hood does not lock. I improved that with the following:
- Secure Storage:
- Additional Locks:
Miscellaneous Other Modifications and gear
- Navigation: I drove AK-Argentina without a GPS. I’m not doing that again.
- Garmin Nuvi GPS. From $149.99 on Amazon.
- Tracks4Africa Map Pack.
- Open Street Maps (free and fantastic!)
- Michelin paper maps Africa Central/South. From $12.95 on Amazon, Africa North/West. From $17.95 on Amazon, Africa NorthEast. From $click on Amazon.
- Electrical: I don’t like inverters – they are inefficient, heavy and hot.
- Tools & Spares: Just the essentials.
- for diagnosis.
- K&N Recharge Kit. From $21.99 on Amazon to clean and oil air filter.
- 12v Soldering Iron. From $click on Amazon and tons of old wires.
- Gorilla Tape. From $26.9 on Amazon is much better than duct tape.
- for electrical diagnosis.
- Torque Wrench. From $180 on Amazon 1/2″ drive.
- Tons of standard stuff – sockets, allen keys, torx bits, screwdrivers, wrenches, hammer, pliers, cutters, saw, wire, solder, etc.
- Camping / Other: Stuff to make life on the road more enjoyable.
- Camera Gear:
- Canon 60D DSLR. From $215 on Amazon.
- GoPro Hero Video Camera. From $409.95 on Amazon.
- Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Lens. From $719.99 on Amazon.
- Tamron 18-270mm f3.5-6.3 lens. From $499.95 on Amazon.
- Hoya Circular Polarizing Filters. From $72 on Amazon.
- Pelican 1400 Case with foam. From $click on Amazon.
- Manfrotto Tripod. From $click on Amazon.
With that, my house on wheels is complete.
Does the Mopar Winter Wheel mount flush, directly up against the AEV fuel caddy? Can you take a picture of the area where the center wheel hub opening is against the caddy? I have the same setup. Thanks, Durwin
To use the fuel caddy you must have an AEV Tire Carrier, and then the caddy mounts closer to the Jeep than the wheel, and the wheel is in the stock location on the tire carrier. In the main photo here (https://www.aev-conversions.com/product/fuel-caddy/) you can see the caddy is “behind” the surface the wheel mounts to.
I hope that helps,
Can you post pictures of sleeping inside on the platform? I’d like to have an inside sleeping option for my JK but from what I can read in forums, it’s 55″ from the back of the front seats to the inside of the tailgate, and I can’t fathom how to sleep comfortably in that space. I’m 5’10”, and I believe you said in a YouTube video that you are 6’2″, so I can’t imagine how it can be comfortable. Thanks Dan!
You mean downstairs, not up in my popup roof?
I show that configuration in this video. There are also little flaps on the cabinets near the two front seats that makes the sleeping platform a little longer. With the two seats all the way forward, I get just over 6 feet.. so if I sleep diagonally it works well enough (but not nearly as good as upstairs)
Did you have any issues using the Mopar tire pressure sensors with the Mopar Winter wheels?
Thanks for answering my previous questions.
No, no problem at all. The factory TPMS sensors have been in my Mopar wheels for well over 100,000miles without a single problem.
Thanks for answering the question Dan. I ordered the wheels today.
Have you spoken about how to handle relationships while overlanding?
Not a lot, though there’s a whole chapter on it in my next book that’s coming out in a week or two.
I’ll post an announcement here when it’s for sale!
Did you ever do an after-action report on the state of the Jeep after you got back home? What broke, what wore down, what needed replacing as preventative measures? Did the mud harm anything? The newer JL/JT models have so much electronics in them and folks report mud getting into seals/electronics and causing problems. Can you comment on your experiences?
I never did, because there was nothing to report! The Jeep ran great, and continues to do so. I’ve driven it another 60 thousand miles since I got back, and drive it everyday in the snow now, without a problem.
Lots of my recent videos on YouTube go into details about the modifications and how it all performed.
Hi Dan . Your adventures are a real inspiration to me and contrary to other content creators , I admire your simplistic approach to the whole jeep build .
My question is a real lame one : how have you mounted your shovel on the spare ? I’d like to do something similar on my 2020 Jimny . Thank you .
Thanks for the kind words!
My shovel is actually mounted into the rear tire carrier that I mounted to my Jeep – made by AEV specifically for my Jeep.
It’s designed to carry a shovel like that, and it works really well.