JK/JL Jeep Camper Concept

LostInTheWorld

Builder/Traveler
This is a travel rig concept that I've been working on in the background for the last few years. We are considering building it to fill the place of our trusty old Unimog that we built in 2017-2019. This would be a vehicle for my wife and I to travel in for moderate length overland trips (destinations TBD).

We’ve had and used a lot of travel/camping setups over the years (LMTV, Unimog, Pinzgauer, Jeeps, RTTs, trailers, VW, car camping, backpacking…), and lately I’ve been feeling like “less is more”, but we do want to be comfortable, so we made a list of must have features, and this little rig pretty much does it for us. It’s a nice little camper.

The habitat has a large passthrough to the cab. There is a 4' by 6'2" bed side-to-side in the front of the habitat (behind the passthrough) that is convertible to a dinette/office. We’ve been happy with that bed size before in some of our other rigs. There is a small kitchen (with stove, fridge, and sink) across the back wall and a composting toilet in a small bathroom opposite the habitat door. It would have a diesel heater and water filtration. This is a pop top with standing height, and you can sleep with the top down if the weather is bad or when camping in the city when a little more camping discretion is needed. It fits nicely in a sea container to be shipped overseas if desired.

Shown here it is incorporated into a 4-door Jeep Unlimited JKU with the back of the body removed. Professionally, I’m a vehicle design engineer, certified welder, composite fabricator, and machinist, so building this rig would be within my normal experience range. There are certainly benefits to other chassis, but for the price, a Jeep JK or JL as a base vehicle is pretty appealing. We’ve owned several JKs, and we have liked them pretty well (there is one sitting in our driveway right now). They are reasonably priced, there are lots of parts and accessories available, and it would be nice to have cruise control, airbags, and air-conditioning.

I have designed the habitat to be a light-weight composite sandwich shell with several molded fiberglass parts. I have very carefully set up a weight and center of gravity spreadsheet, and this setup (including all of our normal travel gear and cargo) would work with the gross weight of a JK or JL Jeep with margin (it would also work fine on a Land Rover Discovery, a G-Wagon, or a Land Cruiser). I have seriously considered a diesel G-Wagon option as an alternative to the Jeep, and it’s mechanically appealing, but the price is significantly different. I’ve also considered the JT Renegade, but we want a 2-door vehicle, the JT is actually longer than I want, and I don’t want to deal with the displacement between the cab and habitat from twist of the longer JT frame.

It's just a concept, but I'd like to get input from you. What do you think?

I’m not sure what the timing of this project will be, but I’ll document the build in detail on our Wabi-Sabi Overland blog and Instagram.

Michael

P.s. I realize it is functionally similar to the AEV Outpost II, and I’ve chatted with Dave at AEV about my concept.
Wabi-Sabi Overland (1).jpg

Wabi-Sabi Overland (3).jpg
 
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mobydick 11

Active member
This looks very similar to what Dirt Sunrise Adventures has on their Toyota , think it was a Maltec . Would you start with a 4 door jeep or maybe pickup ? As someone that has a Sprinter van for long trips and a Hummer H3 for short stuff , I am very interested in following along . Are you thinking a do it yourself conversion kit or factory made vehicle ? Thanks
 

billiebob

Well-known member
The JK/JL is perfect for this type of camper. Take off the factory top, rear doors and tailgate leaves a perfect open cab concept.
What are your plans for the rear roll cage ?

I like the "Land Rover spare on the roof concept" which would also keep the rubber a more reasonable sub 33 size.
 

LostInTheWorld

Builder/Traveler
This looks very similar to what Dirt Sunrise Adventures has on their Toyota , think it was a Maltec . Would you start with a 4 door jeep or maybe pickup ? As someone that has a Sprinter van for long trips and a Hummer H3 for short stuff , I am very interested in following along . Are you thinking a do it yourself conversion kit or factory made vehicle ? Thanks

I agree, I also really like the Maltec truck that Tim and Kelsey from Dirt Sunrise have. I've chatted with them about it a bit. I love the mileage and range that they get with that truck. On the Dalton Highway, they were able to make it to Prudhoe Bay and back without refueling. On that same run in our Unimog, we had to fuel up three times. Those Maltec trucks are nice for sure. This little Jeep camper would be built on a 4-door Jeep JK or JL with the back removed. I would do all the design and build work myself. For my day job, I have been a vehicle design engineer for the last ~20 years, and in my free time, I have built and restored several vehicles, so this project would be in my normal wheelhouse. I think it would be a fun little project and a nice rig for my wife and I to travel with.
 

LostInTheWorld

Builder/Traveler
The JK/JL is perfect for this type of camper. Take off the factory top, rear doors and tailgate leaves a perfect open cab concept.
What are your plans for the rear roll cage ?

I like the "Land Rover spare on the roof concept" which would also keep the rubber a more reasonable sub 33 size.

I’ll remove the back part of the roll bar behind the B-pillar just like Dave did on the AEV Outpost II. The layout of the JK and JL roll bar cross-beams are actually pretty different, so I would integrate the habitat a bit differently depending on what year Jeep I end up getting. I would also need to remove some of the back bed to reduce weight and keep the center of gravity as far forward as possible to keep the axle load right.

I’m also considering a tire under the back floor concept (also like the Outpost II has), but it has a few downsides. At first, I wasn’t in love with the tire on the roof from a center of gravity standpoint, but it turns out that it’s a lot lighter than the roof racks and RTTs we often travel with on JK roofs, so functionally, it is fine. We could also use a smaller spare or just carry a wheelless tire, but I agree about limiting the tire size. This would be an actual overland travel vehicle and not a flashy rock crawler, so the stock Jeep tire size would be completely fine. We have 12+ years of backcountry camping in our JKs, and we have never wished for larger than stock tires. Over the years, we usually default to BFG All Terrain ko2 on our smaller rigs (Jeeps and Pinzgauer), and Continental MPT81 or Michelin XZL tires on our bigger rigs (Mog and LMTV).
 

LostInTheWorld

Builder/Traveler
Here's a well executed home built...


I’ve actually seen that video before, but I kind of skimmed it previously. I just watched it start-to-finish, so thank for the link. I like how he is excited and humble about it. That truck has a lot of really nice features. I love that slide out storage.
 

shays4me

Willing Wanderer
I like it! If you can keep it under 6klb so you don't need to highly modify the drivetrain, chassis, suspension, brakes and axles it would be great. Otherwise it would be a 3/4 ton truck that looks like a Jeep. I saw a two door pickup conversion that was based on a JKU and it reminded me a lot of the Land Cruiser 70 series pickup trucks.
 

LostInTheWorld

Builder/Traveler
I like it! If you can keep it under 6klb so you don't need to highly modify the drivetrain, chassis, suspension, brakes and axles it would be great. Otherwise it would be a 3/4 ton truck that looks like a Jeep. I saw a two door pickup conversion that was based on a JKU and it reminded me a lot of the Land Cruiser 70 series pickup trucks.

I totally agree. Fully loaded this needs to come in well under the rated gross weight to be a good travel vehicle. Plus, I don't want to spend a bunch of time and money doing a lot of drivetrain upgrades. Right now, I'm keeping margin on 5,400 lb fully loaded. The weight budget looks doable, but it will require tracking weight, using composites, and keeping things pretty simple. I think there can be some elegance in purposeful simplicity, though.
 
I like it. Having driven Jeep’s and many other 4xs since 1977. I remember Toyota’s first camper thing. Can’t remember the name but I was impressed that would have been the mid 70s ? Some one help me out here. I have put 175k on my 08 jku. And 50’k on my 18 jlur. And now over 50 k on my 2020 gladiator. That would make a very nice base to work from. IMHO from a practical point of view. I would. Get rid of the bed and back doors start there with the habitat. And end the habitat just a few inches past the rear wheels. I think that you would get the added weight capacity much shorter length yet longer wheelbase. That would give a better ride better weight capability and more living area. You could then run 37bfgs with a mild lift 3 inches metal cloak Which is what I am running it is a very nice ride Those are just some thoughts
 

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straypoet

Active member
I am in the process of building something quite similar as well.

I started with a 2 door JK, but then stretched the wheelbase to 125".
This will allow me to put the rear access door behind the passenger front door, which I think makes the interior layout a little more efficient. ( though of course this is just an opinion) I notice that the MDX conversions (based on land rover 130 trucks) use a fold down rear door, and that is also an interesting choice.
Weight is the real killer. Aluminum and composite with well placed structural strength and trying not to stress the chassis is high on my list as it seems on yours.

Good luck, I will be watching your progress.
If money were no object, I would have built mine on a shortened Diesel Gladiator, but I expect to be able to build mine completely for less than an unmodified Gladiator costs, and since I am on a budget, I decided to modify the vehicle I already owned.
 

Florida Native

Active member
This looks really interesting, but I can’t help thinking it would be better on a full-sized chassis (thinking regular cab short bed full-sized pickup with bed removed).

-Mike
 

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