Though we started out with a capable rock crawling build, we decided on an overlanding Jeep build as our goals morphed. Listed in this article is every major upgrade, modification, and piece of gear we’ve added to our overlanding setup.
Many Jeepers have a custom build sheet for their Jeeps–not to be confused with a factory build sheet. (If you’re interested in getting your official factory build sheet, then click here.)
For those new to the lifestyle, a custom build sheet is simply a list of every modification (mod) that has been added to a Jeep.
From the outset, we were intentional and selective about every item we put on Guardian, our Rubicon.
Over the years, Guardian has amassed over $30,000 in upgrades and mods. And like all Jeepers, we’re not done. Nobody is ever “done,” so this will be a “living” document I’ll update as we add new items to our overlanding Jeep build.
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Overlanding Jeep Build: Vitals
We began with a used stock 2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, which we purchased in June 2016 and named, “Guardian.”
We found Guardian at a Chevy dealership in Portland, Oregon. After examination, we could easily see he had never been wheeled.
That was about to change.
- 2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon (Anvil color with International Orange accents added)
- Hard top
- 16/20 MPG (20.6 MPG is the max we’ve gotten while loaded for overlanding)
- 22.5 gallon fuel tank
- Starting miles: 14,000
- Current miles: 143,000 and counting (as of November 2020)
Overlanding Jeep Build: Suspension
Suspension is critical for any overlanding Jeep build. As an overlander, you’ll be pushing the payload capacity of your Jeep. Our Jeep has a payload of 1,179 lbs. That has to include everything we carry.
With the Jeep riding heavy, we want to make sure we have solid suspension components as part of our build.
- Rock Krawler 2.5″ lift (Stock Mod Stage 1)
- TeraFlex Falcon 3.3 adjustable shocks
- TeraFlex Falcon Nexus Adjustable steering stabilizer
- TeraFlex Outback rear coil springs
- TeraFlex Outback front coil springs
- Custom-built Heritage Driven transmission skid plate
- TeraFlex ball joints
- JKS Manufacturing adjustable trackbar
- SteerSmarts Yeti Tie Rod
- SteerSmarts Yeti Drag Link
- Front brake line extensions
Overlanding Jeep Build: Under the Hood
We have the stock Chrysler 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V-6, which provides 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Other than that, we’ve added a few items under the hood.
- Dual Optima Yellowtop AGM batteries
- Genesis Offroad Dual Battery System
- ARB Dual air compressor
- MORE mount for air compressor
- Superchips FlashPaq programmer
- VIPER 5706V security system w/ mercury switch
I’ve included our Superchips FlashPaq programmer in this section, as it really doesn’t have a home in any other category.
Overlanding Jeep Build: Drivetrain
People often confuse the drivetrain with parts that aren’t technically part of it. To be clear, the drivetrain includes the driveshaft, transmission, wheels, and axles. Basically, if it works together with the engine to move the wheels, then it’s part of the drivetrain.
The only items we’ve modified on the drivetrain for our overlanding Jeep build are the front driveshaft, differential covers (which technically just protect it) and the wheel spacers we added to accommodate the 35 series tires. Everything else is stock on our Rubicon.
- ARB Dana 44 Diff covers front and rear (red)
- Adams Jeep JK Front 1310 CV driveshaft
- Rubicon E-Lockers front and rear
- Automatic transmission
- Dana 44 axles w/4.10 gearing
- Stock Rubicon 17″ wheels
- Synergy wheel spacers
Overlanding Jeep Build: Exterior
It can be difficult to break down a customized build sheet into categories. I decided to call this section exterior simply because these items are on the outside of our overlanding Jeep build.
- Rock Hard 4×4 grille length front steel bumper, with lowered winch plate and bull bar
- Slayer Off-Road Patriot rear bumper with LED reverse lights
- Vacuum pump relocation bracket to accommodate winch
- Burnt Customs custom-made Coast Guard Chief’s Anchor foot pegs
- TeraFlex JK Alpha HD Hinged Tire Carrier
- Rugged Ridge grille protective insert, painted International Orange
- Rugged Ridge hood catch latches
- Rhino-Rack Pioneer Platform JA7697
- Rugged Ridge Locking Gas Cap
- Stock Rubicon trim rock sliders
- Weathertech window rain guards, front and rear
- ACE Falcon aluminum powder coated inner front fender liners
- Toyo Open Country M/T 35 series tires
- Gorilla wheel lock locking lugnuts full set of 5
- KargoMaster Safari hinge steps x 4
- AEV Snorkel System
- Just Jeeps custom rear brake light extension
Overlanding Jeep Build: Interior
If it lives inside the Jeep and doesn’t fall under another category, then it’s listed here.
- Bestop underseat lock box
- Blue Ridge Overland Gear Seatback Molle Organizer
- Blue Ridge Overland Gear Visor Molle Organizer
- Blue Ridge Overland Gear Attic for Jeep Wrangler
- Bartact orange grab handles, front and rear
- Rugged Ridge A-Pillar switch panel, drivers side
- VDP-31600 rear cup holder and storage
- Quadratec Triple Tire Tread floor mats
- Roll Cage multipocket storage saddle bags
Overlanding Jeep Build: Lighting
Our Jeep can turn night into day. Our JW Speaker headlights are incredibly bright, but even they pale when compared to the 18,234 raw lumens that come off our three Rigid Industries lights! Ridiculously powerful for their tiny size, and practically indestructible.
When someone says you need a 52″ light bar, think twice.
- JW Speaker 8700 Evolution J LED headlights
- Rigid Industries 10″ E-series Pro Combo light bar
- Rigid Industries Hyperspot D-Series Pro x 2
- Slayer Off-Road Dual LED reverse lights, inset in rear bumper
Overlanding Jeep Build: Communication
Currently we use GMRS and CB radio as our main comms. Many of our friends are trying to get us on the HAM radio bandwagon. We aren’t there yet. But our Midland USA MicroMobile GMRS radio has an unobstructed range of 65 miles.
- Midland USA MXT400 MicroMobile 40 Watt GMRS
- Midland GMRS GXT1000VP4 2-way radios
- Garmin inReach Explorer+
- Cobra 75WX ST CB radio
- Firestik 4′ antenna
- Firestik SS-3H spring for antenna
- Firestik K-1a antenna quick disconnect
- Vector Offroad JKE Dock bar
- Ram Mounts X-grip phone holder
Overlanding Jeep Build: Recovery and Safety
- Warn Zeon 10-S winch (synthetic line, which is what the S stands for)
- TeraFlex recovery kit
- Warn snatch block
- 6 TeraFlex D-rings (shackles)
- Standard tools
- A few oh crap tools (y’all know what I mean)
- ARB tire inflation kit
- ARB digital gauge tire inflator
- ARB EZ-Deflator
- ARB tire puncture kit
- Safe Jack 37M-BJRK-6W
- H3R Performance 1lb dry chemical extinguisher
- Adventure Medical Kits first aid kit
- GoTreads traction recovery gear
- MaxTrax traction recovery gear with cable lock
- Adventure Tool Company tool roll
- DeWalt Hatchet
- Pry bar
- Deep socket set
- Torque wrench
- Bog Out Bag System
Overlanding Jeep Build: Overlanding Equipment
More than any other category, our overlanding equipment is the one that will be growing over the next couple of months.
Editors note: This category grew so much that it now has its own article. For a full list of everything we carry in the Jeep, check out our Master Overlanding Packing List article.
- iKamper Sky Camp RTT Rocky Black Edition
- iKamper vinyl canopy addition
- ARB 50 quart Fridge/Freezer
- ARB 50 quart Fridge/Freezer thermal cover
- Custom made 3 sliding drawer cabinet
- Overland Bound Badge x2 #OB14045
- Rhino-Rack Batwing awning
- Rhino Rack Tapered Extensions for Batwing with door x4
- Genesis Base Camp camping stove by JetBoil
- JetBoil Luna satellite burner
- JetBoil Flash
- Cast iron griddle / grill plate
- MSR Flex 4 cook set
- Hydroflask wine cup
- Sea to Summit Aircraft aluminum alloy utensil set x2
- Helinox camping chairs and table
- Blue Ridge Overland Gear XL Trash Bag
- Big Agnes double wide Dream Island sleeping bag
- Big Agnes Lost Ranger sleeping bag for Caspian
- Grizzly camp pillows x2
- Kuhl Clothing. (Too many items to mention, but our brand of choice)
- JKTrailgater with bamboo cutting board tailgate table by Outback Adventures
- Rotopax 2.25 gallon water containers x2
- Magellan collapsible aluminum table
- GoalZero mini lanterns x2
- J hook pole wraps x2
- 1 XL and 1 L Sea to Summit towels
- Collapsible Ultimate Survival Technologies standard bucket
- Collapsible Ultimate Survival Technologies dishwashing bucket
- Black Diamond Spot headlamp
- 4 generic brand headlamps
- 2.6 gallon collapsible water containers with spout x2
- Mr. Heater Portable Buddy propane heater
- 1lb propane tank x6
- Thunderbox Portable Toilet
- Red Oxx Aviator Bag (For our camping supplies)
- Red Oxx Micro Manager (For our documents and border crossings)
- Red Oxx Sunchaser Bag (Brittany’s overlanding bag)
- Red Oxx Flying Boxcar (Caspian’s overlanding bag)
- Red Oxx Tres Hombres (Eric’s overlanding bag)
- Red Oxx Roadster Mini Rucksack (Eric’s daily carry)
- Bug Out Survival Bag (article coming soon)
Overlanding Jeep Build: Purchasing Principles
I figured I’d share some general thoughts about how and why I choose specific gear.
These general principles guide my decisions. Keep in mind, everyone has their own preferences and build, and that’s how it should be.
- Never go cheap. I believe in buying a solid product and buying it only once, even if it costs a little more. Buy once; cry once.
- I do a lot of research, though like everyone I make mistakes.
- Don’t ever buy on impulse. I always go through this process: research the item, look at the item in person, walk away, and think about it. If I really want the item and feel it needs to be added to our Jeep build, then I’ll go back and pull the trigger.
Take your time; build it right. If you choose reputable equipment and take care of that equipment, then your equipment will take care of you.
Overlanding Jeep Build: Final Thoughts
If you’ve read this far, thank you. That means you are genuinely interested in our build and may have questions. Please feel free to comment below with any questions or suggestions you may have.
If you have a product you’d like us to try out, hit us with a contact form. As you can see, we’re very selective about our equipment, but we don’t mind doing the occasional equipment review.
Thanks for checking out our build!
Until next time, keep it dirty and wheels side down.
Great brief read and I am TOTALLY with you on buying anything.. never impulse and think about it. FYI. The interior section is the best.. welll okay, mayyybee it is just that GREAT shot of Brit and Caspian.
Haha! The best things in my Jeep! Appreciate you Troy, and thank you for being a Jeepsies supporter too! ~ Eric
Brett+Cheri - Hello Freedom
Hey Eric, we are recent Jeep owners. A friend of mine messenged me this: “Best thing for that jeep ..to help with the bad gas mileage is change the muffler.” Do you know this to be true?
Not sure what year your Jeep is. But there are several things you can do to improve gas mileage. Headers, muffler/exhaust, flashpaq etc. I’m running a roof top tent and 35s and getting 21.5 mpg on the highway. But the only mod that I’ve made to improve gas mileage is to add a Superchips FlashPAQ. Personally I’d look into Superchips. Been very happy with that addition. But the best advice from me is to find the optimal driving speed by resetting your mpg counter and stick to that speed. Remember, Jeeps weren’t designed to go fast, they were designed to go anywhere. ~ Eric
Awesome Jeep build and it’s exactly what Ive been wanting in a overland tent, the ikamper. Just a question, did you put any inner frame work on the rear fiberglass top for support? They tell me with my JL its needed with the Rinorack?
Hey Craig. We did not, but we have a JKU. You should reach out to Lee Hoffman at Altitude Industries. He’ll definitely know the answer to that question!
We enjoyed reading your build article. We align on your buying strategies……”buy once – cry once”. Only mod we would make is …. trim color …..change from orange to Razorback red ;-). Look forward to following along. Godspeed
Thanks you two! International Orange is our accent color as a nod to my 20 years of Coast Guard Service. Glad you enjoyed the build sheet article! We’ll be updating it soon with all of our new gear.
Love reading your stuff. Gives me great inspiration for my blog.
Thanks! Appreciate you keeping up with us. Blogging is a lot of work for those who do it consistently. But it is a wonderful way to share with others and hopefully inspire others to stretch out! Safe travels!
Great information! Thank you so much for sharing it! We have been full-time RVers since my spouse and I retired from the CG in 2017, and now we are working on our overlanding build for our 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport and hoping to downsize from our Super C very soon!
See you on the road! Semper Paratus!
Hey that’s wonderful Misti! So glad to see another shipmate and family on the road. Glad you enjoyed the article. Please do let me know if I can be a resource for you further. Semper P. ~ Eric