To put it mildly, Jeeps and the great outdoors go hand in hand. So it should come as no surprise that I spent last weekend in the mountains doing a little camping, hiking, and Jeeping. I had everything packed & stacked in the garage ready to go until I got a message from a buddy asking me if I had space for two more. “Ummmm… yes?”
Actually, I didn’t but where there’s a will there’s a way. And the way to make it happen on a budget is to pick up this hitch rack from Harbor Freight. If you had a coupon on the 4th of July Weekend, you could have snagged it for the seriously bargain price of only $52.50! The rack itself is pretty solid, and incredibly simple to assemble. Four large bolts & 4 smalls bolts (don’t over tighten!) is all it takes. If you have an over sized spare sticking out a little bit like I do, you should also consider investing in a hitch extender. With out it, my coolers would have had to fit under my spare tire which (as you can see in the pic) just ain’t happening. The down side is pushing out the rack further is going to add a little play in the hitch, so make sure you have some ratchet straps to tighten things down.
All loaded up, I headed into the mountains and very quickly learned the difference between scooting around town with an empty Jeep and climbing long 5-9% grades with a Jeep full of people, gear, food, beverages, ice & coolers. With that kind of weight on board, heavier 35″ tires, and hills my 4.10 gears were simply not enough to keep speeds with out flogging the 3.6L Pentastar. So instead of giving it a thrashing, I worked the gears the best I could and ended up in the slow lane up most of those grades.
Near camp, I had some fun in the river, but didn’t stay long as the water level was a bit low and the river bed was made up of small slippery rocks. It’s a good thing I didn’t play too long in the river because as it turns out someone called Fish & Wild Life to complain about a Jeep in the water! Seriously? I was in there for 5 effing minutes with the land owners permission. Sheesh. I know there are some great trails around, but the lack of a wheelin’ buddy and any knowledge about the area kept me close to camp for a nice laid back weekend.
After spending several days with a heavy load of people and their stuff, new gears and big brake kits have just climbed to the very top of my to-do list. Since I enjoy the mountains and I like bringing folks with me, the Jeep can’t keep breathing this hard at every hill. For better or worse, new gears are coming.