What worked well
Jeep upgrades and gear that worked well, or not so
We made upgrades to the Jeep and bought new gear to make our travels safer and more convenient. After the two month trip to the West Coast, we reviewed these improvements and these are our thoughts.
Read the background information for this document in Trip to the West Coast
Without a doubt, the top of the 'what worked well' list is our Jeep Sahara 2013. We returned home with just over 288,000 on the odometer.
All the links to the relevant upgrades are listed at the bottom of the page.
Cargo Rack Wind Deflector
To put the need of better aerodynamics into perspective, we drove 15,000 km on this trip. Gas consumption without the trailer is on average 14 liters per 100 km and 17 liters with the trailer. Pulling the trailer accounts for about 9,000 km. The gas price in BC is $1.85 and $1.75 in the other provinces. We use Shell VPower when possible or high-octane gasoline from other gas stations. Why do we use the 91 octane? Short answer, no pinging, no engine and carb cleaning required, no starting problem in cold and wet conditions.
The Jeep is loaded within the manufacturers specification. We have around 200 kg on the roof including the rack. We are pulling about 750 kg which is below to the 2000 lb max and we have about 350 kg inside the Jeep including passengers. The details are in the Towing with the Jeep document.
The Jeep has all Mopar parts (except breaks) so we can go to any dealership for maintenance or repair. We get a consistent level of service all across Canada and don't have to worry about parts or repair.
Back to the gas consumption. The simplified calculation is $1.75 per liter for the times when we pull the trailer, that adds up to $2,680. and the part in BC when we didn't pull the trailer add up to $1,550. We spent well over $4,000 on gas. And that is the reason we had to get the gas consumption down at almost any cost.
Without adding up all the receipts from the gas stations, we think that the Wind Deflector saved us up to 2 liters when we had head wind. The head wind is the real issue. The only time we got to the 20 liters last year and over 18 liters this year was in the prairies where we notoriously face an insane head wind. The Rocky Mountain crossing is not as much an issue. We may crawl up in second gear for a few kilometers, but then it's down again and the average is below 17 liters.
We also noticed much less wind noise from the roof rack. Overall, a worthwhile upgrade.
Cargo Rack Boxes
The boxes made our life easier. We store most essential gear for camping without the trailer in the boxes. The keyword is 'without' the trailer. We built the Sleeping Platform in the Jeep for the excursions when we don't have the trailer and no hotel. Hey, we are not purists, we like our comfort every once in a while
We could have managed with the 7.5 inch boxes on the roof instead of the 9.5 inch. The two inches would bring the overall hight down below seven feet and almost level with the gas canister and traction pads. Nevertheless, a worthwhile upgrade.
Just behind the Wind Deflector is the HiLift Jack and a shovel. We don't have a winch as documented on our Recover Gear page. The four boxes are tied down with a HDPE waterproof cover and straps. Behind the boxes are the 20 liter gas canister and the four Traction Pads. We carried a bicycle rack on the roof rack while we were driving to Whistler. The space behind the Traction Pads was often used to bring firewood to the camp site.
You may notice the LED light bars at the rear below the rack and the cable to the front. This cable is the Limb Lifter and clips on to the hood latch when there are limbs to lift.
LED Light Bars inside and outside of Jeep
This is a great addition to the inside of the Jeep. We had some 'dark moments' when we did an overnighter on Silverfields Road in November last year. It was no fun when it is pitch-dark at 5:30 pm. Now the fun is back!!!
Great addition on the outside of the Jeep. The electrical connectors were flaky at times and needed a wiggle. Soldering the contacts to the switches and replacing the connectors with waterprove ones will fix the problem. The LED light bars were exposed to the rain and zero degrees without damage. The same light bar is in the camping trailer above the sink. When the trailer is plugged into shore power, the voltage is usually around 13.6 and causes two elements out of 12 to flicker. When the power drops to the regular battery load of 12.8 or below, we didn't see the problem. We are not complaining, they were very, very cheap. 10 LED bars for $27, taxes and shipping included.
All lights turned on. Left and right LED bar on Roof Rack. LED bar inside above rear window. Rear LED work light mounted above the spare tire. This $10 work light is from Princess Auto and drastically improves the backing up in the outdoors. It is too bright when backing up against a wall or the camping trailer.
Overhead Switch Panel
With all the new lights and the CB radio, we needed a way to mount them in a non obstructive place. The power comes directly from the battery and works with the ignition turned off.
This is our second version and it works well. The panel is secured to the Jeep interior panels. The cables are still a mess and the wires will be soldered to the switches. The cable harness will be wrapped and a padded cover will prevent them from vibrating. We used three short HDPE pieces. The rescue knife clips to the panel and the coin pouch clips to the side rail. The COVID mask is on top.
This is a power bar in a cube. Another great addition. Not only in the Jeep, but every time we spent a night in a hotel room or we needed power outside the trailer.
There are three 110 volt outlets and three USB outlets.
It fits between the front seats but does not work well with a coffee cup. The one in the picture is actually our garbage container, a medium size coffee cup.
Plastic container for the small stuff
Container for all the small stuff that needs to move between the trailer, Jeep and hotel. This was such a good idea, that my son convinced me that he needs one. Silly me, now I don't have one anymore.
It is a 10x6x4 inch sturdy plastic container and we both have our own box. We keep our computer accessories, spare double and triple A batteries, SPOT X, head lamp, sun glasses and compass in there. You get the idea. Anything that shouldn't get lost in the shuffle. This was likely the best impulse buy we made only days before we left. We have containers double the size, but they are too bulky.
Cooking and heating
The Kuradori Induction plate made a big difference. The plate was working very well, except when heating up water for nudels. We used the kettle to boil the water, poor it into the pan and voilą, instant hot water. Ursula made an amazing variation of one-pot meals to take advantage of the induction plate simplicity. Rice-Peas-Chicken or Elbows-Brocolli-Cheese-Ground-Beef or any other combination that makes a delicious meal.
We replaced the two flame stove that was in the trailer with the less space consuming Jetboil. A hose attachment connects to the 20 pound propane tank. We travel with a 40 and a 20 pound tank to run the fridge and heater when we have no electricity. The smaller tank is the backup and we use it with the Jetboil. We used 40 pounds of propane for the two month trip.
The plastic wind shield that came with the Jetboil was not high enough to keep the gas lit in the wind. We replaced it with a thin aluminium sheet from our roofing project. It did withstand the heat, unlike the original plastic shield.
To enjoy a campfire and reflect the heat, we built a four-panel Campfire Heat Reflector. We didn't get a chance to use it around the fire, but the size was perfect to shelter the Jetboil from the wind. The weight of the four aluminium panels stood rock solid in the wind, even when we were cooking on the open picnic table.
We made the HDPE sleeve after we returned. It is sturdy enough to protect the Jeep interior from the sharp edges and dirt. The cardboard version didn't make it past week 6.
Meguiar's Ceramic Wax
We always come back with great memories. Sometimes they are in form of scratches on the side of the Jeep.
This trip was no different. Except one that left a permanent scratch in the paint, all the others are now gone. Most marks from shrubs do minimal or no damage to the paint and the Ceramic Wax restores the black shine again. We gave the Jeep a good soapy wash before we applied the wax. It is as simple as wax on, wax off. No excessive buffing. Beats any polish we used before such as Turtle wax or Polish 2000.
The images below are prove that the Ceramic Wax works. No guess-work which is the before and after picture.
What didn't work?
This was not our first trip and the upgrades are a result of improvements we learned over the years, in summer and in winter. When we first bought the Jeep, we looked at all the upgrades and gadgets. We resisted the urge and created a Master Plan for upgrades. We bought the Jeep in October, by the time we were ready for the first trip, we had upgraded the lights and added seat covers.
We had issues in the winter, the Jeep would start and stall as soon as we tried to drive. Carb maintenance didn't solve the problem and our service adviser recommended premium gas. We switched to Shell 91 octane gasoline and the problem disappeared.
Travelling with a Jeep or doing any type of off-roading or overlanding is an expensive hobby. Ball joints, bearings and tires take a heavy beating. Replacing them for us is part of the wear and tear.
The OEM breaks are not made to pull a trailer. Our model does not have the tow-package installed and limits us to pull no more than 2,000 pounds. We upgraded the breaks to Power Stop slotted and drilled rotors and bigger pads. We are not sure if that made a big difference. More than once did we have to stop and wait until the breaks cooled down. Yes, they failed to the point that there was almost no breaking action anymore. This happened in the back country, not on public roads. Possible cause is break fluid overheating in extreme terrain.
We bought two 20 liter fuel canister. If we could roll back the time, we would install a backup tank under the Jeep. That only makes sense for travelling or overlanding.
Our Jeep leaks. After every rain, the front carpet is wet. It switches from left to right after we remove the hard top. Only once was there no leak. The tailgate may not leak water, but we have to clean out the dust in the back. So we don't leave any clothing or sleeping bags open in the back. Same goes for food, we had mice in the Jeep. It took us over a week to get rid of them.
We never had an issue that stranded us. We know the risks and spend the money for maintenance and specialized gear. We are mostly prepared for emergencies. We need an outdoor first aid course as we found out during our China Head trip. The outdoors are unforgiving and harsh. At the same time, it is breathtaking and full of wonders. We love it.