My wife, the pups, and I hit the road for 3 months this past winter, and though I seriously entertained the thought of buying an old van or school bus to convert into a tiny home, I didn’t.
A lot of people these days are converting old buses or vans and hitting the road for the #vanlife. And when it comes to Jeeps, there were plenty of Wranglers made adventure mobiles. But the Grand Cherokee conversion was rare. So we went custom.
With a little help from my friends at Rack Attack and Triple P, we transformed the Jeep. Simple, but effective! A functional bed for my wife and I and two pups, under bed storage bins, a roof basket for the bags, and a bike hitch. We were good to go for a few months!
Here’s the rundown on how we turned the Jeep into the Explore Inspired adventure-mobile:
“When you don’t have time to build out a camper van, you make due with JEEP life. How???
Get a bunch of sweet racks for all your adventure goodies from Rack Attack, put your back seats down and build a platform bed out of wood and foam, add storage bins under said bed, put all the rest of your worldly possessions in storage and list your place on Airbnb, put the bike on the back and pile in the dogs, then hit the road! Don’t forget wife.
The Explore Inspired Winter Roadtrip 🤙”
Ok, let’s talk exterior racks!
For the exterior of the Explore Inspired mobile, I went to my friends at Rack Attack (if you’re in my area, they have a shop in Framingham, MA about 30 min from Boston on route 9 – but also have 11 other stores across North America), and Brian and the crew set us up with the following:
- Yakima JetStream Crossbars
- Yakima MegaWarrior Roof Basket
- Yakima MegaWarrior Extension
- Yakima MegaWarrior Stretch Net
- Yakima Light Mounting Brackets
- Yakima DrTray Bike Hitch
We were totally Yakima’d out! And definitely had to go all black everything.
I have to say that I was blown away by the DrTray bike hitch. That thing rocks. We only brought my single mountain bike on the trip and didn’t make use of the second bike spot, but it’s built to carry two, is incredible easy to load and unload, super stable on the road, has a built-in SKS cable-lock system, and the best part…
The tilt lever is genius! We were able to tilt the DrTray down (with bike still on) and fully open/access the Jeep’s back hatch! That made life easy. The DrTray comes in two sizes, to mount on 1.25″ or 2″ hitch receivers. So be sure you know your hitch size!
One note on the MegaWarrior roof basket—
While I absolutely love the thing (it looks totally badass and is so much easier to load than a roof box), the one downside was that with literally all of our stuff up on the roof in duffles secured by nothing but the stretch net, we never felt comfortable letting the car out of our site to go into a restaurant or on a hike without first hauling every bag off the top and putting them inside the car.
I had a trekking pack with tons of stuff in it stolen out of the bed of a truck when I was down in Chile and so I don’t take the chance anymore. And that was a bit of an inconvenience. Otherwise, on functionality and curb appeal, the MegaWarrior is amazing.
And then to complete the look, we added on the PIAA LP350 LED Driving Beam Kit. These aren’t sold or installed by Rack Attack, but I lucked out and the store manager’s brother was willing to help me out and hook up the lights another day.
Now, building the bed.
Alex’s father happens to own a packaging company, Triple P Packaging, so we took full advantage of the access to their back warehouse materials. Along with Bob and Rich over there, I ended up building probably the most simple, but most perfect bed that you could fit inside a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
- Plywood Board for bed base 45″ W x 65″ L x 1″ H
- (3) Support boards running vertically away from tailgate side (one on either side and one in the middle)
- 7-1/8″ H x 31″ L x 1.5″ W
- (1) Support running horizontally behind front seats – Set up on the bed board to stand where the end of the folded down back seats stop and their headrests start.
- 7-1/8″ H x 45″ L x 1.5″ W
- Wood screws
- 5″ thick medium density upholstery foam (45″x”65″)
- Hot glue to attach foam to plywood
Add for favorite blanket, felt, sheets, or whatever, and that’s it!
So, how did the road trip go?
Here’s a few Instagram stories from along the way…
“Road trip couldn’t be going better 🤙 Our buddy “Hitchhiker Jeff” taking in the sights of Shenandoah National Park!”
“Around 10 pm last night we pulled off the road and found a campground/RV park to call home for the night.
It was actually super dark here but a 10 second exposure (and a patient Alexandria who just wanted to grab her stuff, crawl inside with the dogs, and hit the hay) allowed me to illuminate our surroundings here just outside of Alabama’s Talladega National Forest!
We would go to bed listening to a pack of yipping coyotes, and wake up twice through the night to different trucks pulling in at 2 and 5 AM with Benji howling to make sure they stayed far away from the Explore Inspired mobile 😆
And then my final alarm would be the gunshots echoing out of the nearby woods just after 6 AM 😬”
“On our way to Colorado, we spent a night sleeping in the Jeep bed under the Texas stars and it was perfect!
If you’re passing through Northern Texas at any point, be sure to take a little detour to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Camp out, hike around, catch a sunset, stargaze, and enjoy the beautiful break from the endless miles of cattle pasture in every direction!”
And our shot from Shenandoah was featured in the Yakima Spring/Summer Catalog…
Where will the road take you this year?
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