An off-roader, like a Jeep Wrangler, can take you to some of the most beautiful parts of the country, but if you want to camp in those locations, you’re going to have to get creative. That's where "overlanding" comes in. Combining the best parts of off-roading and camping, overlanding is an activity designed for Jeeps.
Overlanding, or Jeep camping, is about finding remote areas and then staying there, supported by your off-roader. Some Jeepers swear it’s the best way to be comfortable in the outdoors despite the Jeep’s less than generous storage space.
Given their off-roading prowess, Jeeps should be a natural choice for camping trips, but many people are convinced that they can’t fit everything they need inside of a Jeep. With a little forethought and planning, you can maximize your storage space to bring all the things you need to have a great time. Though no one goes camping expecting a luxurious time, having a few creature comforts around your campsite can help you keep the focus on friends, family, fun, and food.
Where you’re camping is going to affect what items are on your must-have list, but almost any list would include many of the following:
- Coolers loaded with beverages and food
- Folding table
- A method of cooking the food (propane or charcoal grill or a slow cooker tend to be the favorites)
- Sleeping Bags
- Trash bags
- First Aid Kit
- Wet Wipes
- Paper towels
- Bottle opener
So, how do you fit that much fun into your Jeep? There are several ways.
Ditch the Backseat
If you’re in one of the two-door Wrangler models, removing the backseat nearly doubles your cargo capacity. This is one of the easiest ways to gain extra space and is one of the most efficient in terms of effort versus space gained. Most Jeep pros can get the backseat out in under twenty minutes, and the time it’ll save you on packing more than makes up for that.
Unfortunately, with kids, pets, and friends losing valuable seating isn’t always an option. If you have to keep the backseat, get creative with what you can pack on the back of the front seats, under the seats, or in laps. Things like blankets and paper towels squish easily in between passengers and only add to the comfort of the ride.
Add Cargo Space
Though the Jeep is primarily used for recreation and fun, don’t forget that it is first and foremost a working vehicle, with a towing capacity of nearly 3,500 pounds. That’s a lot of camp gear that you can haul if you have a cargo rack. These accessories are easy to add and useful for camping, tailgating, or just going on vacation.
Roof racks are another option to consider, and in addition to providing you with additional storage space, roof racks can lend to the rugged and capable look of a Jeep. Just be sure to work on your knot tying before hitting the highway.
Maximize Cabin Space
If you’re trying to accommodate your camp gear on top of your work week trash then you’re going to have a bad time. Clean out your Jeep so you can start with a clean slate and know exactly what you’re working with. This also allows you to maximize your interior space.
Often when people refer to cargo space and capacity, they’re only referring to the actual trunk space of their vehicle. There’s significantly more space in your vehicle than that, it’s just hiding in the glove box, under the seats, and in between your passengers (hey, a roll of paper towels is as good as a pillow and twice as useful).
Other options like a tailgate table create additional useful space on your Jeep once you get to your campsite. These simple additions are about as true Jeep as you can get: Simple, practical and still stylish.
Pack Like a Pro
When packing your trunk, place your biggest things in the back (table, chairs, coolers) and then fill the spaces in between them with any soft items you have. Not only will you be helping to protect your items from harm, but you’ll be ensuring that there aren’t spaces left in between—truly maximizing every inch.
Keeping the lightest items on top here will not only be a huge assistance in terms of maximizing space but also you’ll be reducing the likelihood of serious injury if something spills out when you open the gate. Consider using bungee cords to secure heavier items in place.
Some of the largest camping items are the ones we no longer even question. Tents, grills, even chairs can be eliminated with a creative mind and a little resourcefulness (two things Jeep owners are known for). A tent can be replaced with an instant canopy or a retractable awning.
For the truly courageous, a tarp and some PVC piping can make a serviceable shelter that’s custom. The sky's the limit on how resourceful you can be.
Working with the Wrangler
When you’re camping with your Jeep, it’s more than just your vehicle. Most people think of their Wrangler as a friend anyway, and never is this truer than when you’re taking the Jeep camping. By utilizing it correctly, your Wrangler can make your entire camping trip better. Instead of storing food in a tent, go ahead and lock it in the Wrangler, safe out of the reach of those gosh darn bears.
Locking Wrangler storage allows you to take some of your favorite luxuries and electronics with you without worrying about theft or water damage, both of which can put a damper on an otherwise exceptional camping trip.
Of course, for the single Jeep owner on a solo expedition, the obvious place to sleep is inside your Jeep. Just spread out your sleeping bag and you’re all set. If it’s a particularly nice night and you’re not afraid of mosquitos, you can even take off the top for a starry view from your comfortable position curled up in your Wrangler. Sleeping pads can make your night even more comfortable, but thankfully since you’re already above ground, morning dew won’t be an issue.
If you love the laid back feel of a hammock, a jammock is a great way to turn your Jeep into a rolling nap-vehicle, with a built-in place to relax.
In this CJ’s review, see the jammock in action. And learn how to install it easily.
For true Jeep camping luxury, many people have found that an air mattress, or foam mattress, can fit in the back and offer great support for your tired muscles after a full day of hiking, fishing, or other outdoor fun.
Of course, with more than two people, the Wrangler starts to get a little crowded.
If you’re camping in an area where you suspect there may be less than friendly wildlife, an above-Jeep tent can keep you away from the snakes at the very least. Treat your Jeep like a bunk bed, with a couple sleeping in the rooftop tent and a couple sleeping in the Wrangler below.
Leave No Trace
Thankfully, most Jeep owners love the outdoors, and work hard to leave their campsite in the same, or better, condition than when they arrived. Leaving no trace doesn’t mean skipping out on the good times, but it does mean making sure that you stay in designated off-roading areas and make sure to pack out everything that you pack in.
Setting up your campsite so that you have an easy to access trash bag makes it easy to throw away trash as you go. Another off-roading accessory that can help you to be a good camper is a tree protector strap.
Trees can be great assets for off-roading, helping to pull a Jeep to safety. Unfortunately, if you use a harsh rope that damages the tree's bark in a circle, you could be killing the tree. Not only is that not leaving no trace, but it also guarantees that the tree that helped you won’t be there the next time someone gets stuck, and when that tree falls, there’s no telling what it could damage.
Camping with your Jeep has never been easier, and appreciating the great outdoors is why off-road vehicles exist. By planning your trip in advance and making sure your Jeep is properly outfitted and accessorized, you can have the Jeep camping (or Jamping) trip of your life.
Remember to properly protect the outdoors so that others can enjoy the same beautiful views that you did, and always let someone know where you’re planning to camp for safety reasons.