Travel Ur Dreams Jeep Life was born in 2017 as a road trip from Florida USA to Colon Panama. Our 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee was outfitted for this extended roadtrip with the goal of living off grid and being as self sufficient as possible. As we researched the trip, we learned about an established overlander lifestyle. We wound up meeting many of these travelers along the way. We learned early on, that our Jeep, “Eldo”, had become a home and a friend. We continue to live in her as we travel full time through other countries and other continents. Our vision of Jeep life is as unique as the other overland travelers we meet. Everyone has their own objectives, goals, and comfort levels. Our Jeep Life changes daily… check back often.
In the beginning….
Eldo is a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee, currently just short of 200,000 odometer miles. (Currently 201,000 miles) We personally rebuilt the 42RE automatic transmission on the dining room table at 185,000 miles during the winter of 2016.
While theorizing about the new life expectancy of this transmission we somehow talked ourselves out of a summer adventure hitchhiking through Czech Republic and into a Pan American Highway driving adventure through Mexico, Central and South Americas. We tend to spontaneously change plans, so this new direction was perfectly normal.
Eldo is not a large SUV. We immediately realized that space was our largest challenge. We removed everything rear of the front seats… back seats, bulky plastic trim, seat belts, bolts, nuts, brackets, carpeting, and (after much debate) the entire headliner. This left, at least to us, a huge empty blank space to create our comfortable new home.
First project was to build a simple frame which would accommodate a mattress on top and store ALL our stuff below.
We put a storage rack on the roof and relocated the full size spare tire there. The spare tire well is now our clothes closet. The roof rack also has our water collection device, a couple milk crates that store drinking water, propane, miscellaneous random cans of food, the parachute shade device, our camp chairs and a shovel. The spare tire makes a comfortable roof top seat to ride in when driving slowly through scenic areas.
Our rooftop water collection device is a simple oil change collection pan.
We discussed a lot of ideas about how to collect rain water while either driving or camping but couldn’t really figure out the best way to go about it. The oil pan was accidentally discovered while in an autoparts store buying a new battery. It’s wide top collects rain and stores it in a sealed 5 gallon container with a handy spout for pouring or siphoning.
Eldo has a nice strong starting battery and a couple 12 volt outlets up front. Unfortunately there were no additional rear outlets and relying on the starting battery for auxiliary 12 volt use is just asking for dead battery trouble. So, an additional isolated 12v system was added.
These are Eldo’s “House Batteries”. They have just enough capacity to run a few 12 volt fans, a 12 volt thermoelectric cooler, a small inverter, a few miscellaneous chargers, and if needed, a couple small heating blankets. Of course, not all at once… but with proper management and a little luck, there has always been enough juice to keep us comfortable between charges. An additional four 12 volt outlets were added to the Eldo’s living area.
Charging is accomplished on driving days by Eldo’s alternator. The house batteries are isolated from the starting battery and yet charged via a common alternator using an automatic charging relay “ACR”.
To supplement this, there is also a 120 volt plug in smart battery charger for parked days with an outlet nearby and a single 100 watt solar panel and charge controller for parked sunny days when parked off grid.
Admittedly, this is a bare bones and small system that is frequently pushed to it’s limits. Future upgrades to batteries, solar, and shore power chargers would be nice. For now, this sub $500 system meets needs and keeps in the true minimalist spirit of life in Eldo.