" I have become enamored with overland travel. "

Project Wrangler to focus on overland travel in 2017

I’ve learned a lot in the last few months, I’ve made some mistakes, like when I almost put my Wrangler into a ravine, or when I found myself surrounded on either side by mud-bogged Jeeps during a trail ride.

Obviously, I still have a lot to learn and plenty of mistakes to be made.

Probably the most important thing I learned this year was to come prepared for the worst. That means having the right equipment to get yourself or your friends free.

When my brother and I found ourselves slipping off a rocky trail in the Iron Range, a winch could have saved us the embarrassment of having to beg for help. We got lucky, and some good samaritans came along happy to help. But, what if they hadn’t? What if we’d been 100 miles from help?

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about where to take the Project Wrangler series in 2017.

In the last six months, I have become enamored with overland travel.

I love to travel, but I don’t care to jump on a plane. For me, the value of travel is often found in the journey itself.

Sometimes just reaching your destination is an adventure in itself, and that is why, in 2017, Project Wrangler will shift its focus away from off-roading to overlanding.

Often overlanding takes routes that venture well off the beaten path so having the right equipment to overcome those challenges is key.

For more thoughts on overlanding check out our 2017 Plans for Adventure.

The shortlist

There are four major upgrades I plan to make to my rig next year to prepare for longer multi-day journeys through the backcountry.

  1. Rock Sliders – While I do enjoy a Little Rock crawling from time to time, my plan to replace the plastic side steps on my Jeep with heavy-duty rock sliders has more to do with general protection. For now, my rig is also my daily driver so preventing damage is a priority. – $250-$300
  2. A winch – after nearly losing my vehicle off road in the iron range, I have moved a winch along with a handful other recovery gear to the top of my shopping list. It’s hard to enjoy yourself with your vehicle disabled. – $400-$600
  3. Tires – Whether or not I replace the tires on my Jeep next year really depends on how my current set wear. I know I’ll be moving up to a set of 33-inch tires (275/70R18), but I haven’t made up my mind on which set (leave your thoughts in the comments below). I am considering a set BF Goodrich KO2s, General Grabber AT2s or Nitto’s new Ridge Grapplers. – $1100
  4. Storage – The footlocker in the back of my Jeep may be functional, but it’s not all that practical. I plan to fabricate a simple sliding drawer system with a three-inch false floor. – estimated cost $200

2017’s Project Wrangler series will take on a distinctly different tact than in 2016. A roof rack, new tent, and additional lighting are all in the works, but they will take a back seat to protection, recovery, capability, and convenience.

Stay tuned for the 2016 Project Wrangler Recap early in the new year!



  • What do you have planned for your rig next year?
  • What tires do you recommend for overland travel?
  • Can you recommend a good low-cost winch? Warn? Smittybilt? Superwinch?
  • Do you have a home built storage system? Have any recommendations?

Photos above courtesy of: Smittybilt, BF Goodrich and Extreme Terrain

Disclaimer: “Adventure Bent is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”


  • Cary

    I’m with you — overlanding is something I’m dying to tackle this year. Discovering Expedition Overland’s YouTube channel only increased that desire. I recommend you consider Goodyear’s Wrangler Duratrac among your tire options. While still an all-terrain, it’s tread pattern is a little more open, which pays dividends when things get more soupy. (They’re also beyond reproach in the snow and ice.)

    You’ve got a good list going here, but I’d plan on a higher budget for your rock sliders. I’m trying to stay all U.S.-made, which is pushing my slider budget at or above $500, even most of the bargain or Chinese-made sliders seem to start about $300 and go up from there.

    To answer the rest of your questions above, this likely won’t be a busy year for me in terms of mods, as we need to focus on some of my wife’s ongoing medical debt. But, I did receive funds for A-pillar lights for Christmas, so those will be coming soon, and I also hope to make a few interior improvements to help make our recurring six-hour trips to Dallas for doctor’s visits more enjoyable.

    I did a series of simple feature comparisons among popular winches on my blog last year which might help you narrow some options. (Please forgive the self-promotion; it’s simply faster than rehashing which winches have the most to offer.) Suffice it to say my opinion is the Superwinch Tiger Shark line strikes a great balance between quality, features and affordability. I recommend synthetic line, regardless which brand you choose.

    As my rig is a two-door and I have children to transport, storage is a very limited commodity for me. When I’m satisfied with my rig’s build process, I plan to purchase a small trailer to build as a camping/expeditioning base camp. I’m not a fan of roof-top tents, so it’ll pack around our ground tent and the other gear we’ll need. Remember to keep total vehicle weight (including all passengers) in mind as you build your rig. Your Unlimited affords you a bit more leeway in that regard, but armor and other gear can quickly add up. For example, my still-modest build has added nearly 300 pounds to her factory weight, and I’ve tried to be very careful about what weight I add.

    I hope your new year is off to a grand start. Happy travels!

    January 3, 2017 - 12:04 pm Reply
    • tobiasmann

      Hey Cary,

      Thanks for the feedback. I love Expedition Overland, it was what really sold me on the idea in the first place.

      Overlanding is a lot more accessible than off-roading in my region. Plenty of dirt trails and plenty of places to stop and camp. I love to travel so this seems perfect to me. I might even start exploring Canada soon, which will be a fun adventure one day.

      I will consider the Duratracs. Part of my problem with Duratracs is I’ve heard bad things about them wearing quickly. Maybe you can myth bust this. The KO and to some degree the K02 have been well tested among overlanders. The guys from expedition overland seem to like the General Grabber AT2s a lot. Plus, the AT2s are really cheap which would bring my build costs way down.

      I definitely want to stick with a all terrain tire. It is, after all, a daily driver and I don’t hate myself or my girlfriend.

      As your winch suggestions, I will check out your post. I am considering a new Warn VR10s, or a Zeon 10. The Zeons are nice, but very expensive and probably more winch than I need. I will wait until the Superwinch EXP launches later this year, before making my final decision.

      I will be excited to see where you go with your rig and where it takes you this year.

      I get not liking the idea of a roof top tent. I might consider one if I was going to pull a trailer, but I have neither a trailer or a place to store it where I am living right now.

      I am considering an OZ tent instead. I like the OZ tent because it can easily be carried on a roof rack, but can be taken off when I don’t need it. Until I can afford one, I will stick with my trusty ( and hated) blue dome tent.

      Thanks for the awesome comment.

      January 6, 2017 - 7:36 pm Reply
      • Cary

        I saw some of the same red flags, along with weak sidewalls for early Duratracs. My understanding is that Goodyear made some changes about two years into the product life cycle. Mine have nearly 12,000 miles on them now, and the tread blocks show only the slightest rounding at the corners. My tread wear so far would project out to 40,000 or more miles for the set, which would be about normal for this category. Time will definitely tell.

        The Zeon and the VR Gen II both feature a nice aesthetic, but they’re aimed at much different users. If you plan to really get into remote areas away from civilization, the Zeon or another higher-end winch would be a wise investment. If you don’t think you’ll really use it that often, you can save some money here with a mainstream Chinese-made winch like a Rugged Ridge. If you’ll have other rigs with you, you might employ a strategy of purchasing a more affordable winch now, then selling it to upgrade later.

        I’m rethinking the lighting plans I mentioned already. The more I look at lighting, the more I find myself drawn back to the classic round lights for the A-pillar and fairlead. A proper set of round LEDs might be worth waiting for.

        Stay warm up there, and have a great week!

        January 9, 2017 - 1:06 am Reply
  • penncosect24

    Love your blog. The photos are astonishly good! Nice setting this time, too….

    Perhaps you could explain the difference between off-roading and over landing for those of us who enjoy your adventures, but don’t adventure in this way ourselves. Might make for another blog installment?

    Is overlanding as dangerous as off-roading?


    January 8, 2017 - 6:48 pm Reply
  • Scenic City Overland

    For every jeep I’ve owned over the years a winch bumper, winch, sliders and snorkel are always my first upgrades.
    My 2010 JKU, My fathers 2006 Jeep Commander, and my buddies 2015 4Runner all use the SmittyBilt X2O winches. I’ve had to mine a number of times with no problems. I’ve even had to pull my jeep and overland trailer up a steep embankment.
    As for sliders I’m running the Smitty’s. I’m not a rock crawler, so for my purposes they do fine.
    I run a snorkel on my jeep because I often travel dirt or gravel roads with other vehicles. A snorkel helps to get cleaner air, and I have to change my filter less often. Plus it’s handy when there is a steep embankment into a stream. The water may not be super deep, but it’s deeper when your back tires are still on the top of the embankment and you are driving down into the water.

    January 12, 2017 - 12:29 pm Reply
    • tobiasmann

      I’ll keep that in mind. I am leaning toward Warns new VR series winches, but Smittybilt has an excelent warranty too.

      I was waiting on running a snorkel until I was sure my engine troubles were over. I know that some dealers have a tendency to void warranties for aftermarket air intakes and snorkels often fall in this category. Maybe this is hearsay?

      I haven’t had to deal with water crossings deaper than my tires yet so a snorkel isn’t high on my upgrades list. Thanks for the idea.

      March 19, 2017 - 4:25 pm Reply
  • histhisherthat

    Working with tires daily, those BFG KO2’s are hard to beat as fast as an AT traction tire. It really depends on the application and main uses of the tire. I’ve heard they are a bit noisy on road but off road they get the job done! The Grabbers are a great tire for the price with similar complaints, I’ve personally never been a fan of nitto but thats just me. Overloading is an awesome time. Like you said though things can get a bit scary. Always plan for an overnight stay anytime you go out. never know what could happen, another good purchase would be a “spot” device for serious adventures check it out on amazon or something but I take one with me when I know I’m going on a road less traveled. May not need it but if I do, its there.

    Nice post!

    January 13, 2017 - 4:21 pm Reply
    • tobiasmann

      I have been looking at the Spot and think I might pick one up next year. The plans aren’t too bad and since I only travel seasonally I’ll probably only cost me $50-60 a year in service.

      If I do pick one up, I’ll be sure to update everyone on how it works and how they can track travels.

      January 19, 2017 - 11:29 am Reply
  • computeruser6

    I had the KO2s in a slightly smaller size on my truck. After 10,000 miles they went from 15/32nds to 5/32nds tread thickness. That’s pretty terrible wear, especially for an E-rated tire. They were also smaller than advertised. The Nitto Exo Grapplers (in LT285/70R18) are wearing much better, do better on wet roads, and can self-clean in some mud. One option you could consider for a winch is a come-along (hand operated pulley). You could buy one for $30 at a Harbor Freight or other hardware store or spend a little more on ones with more capacity and longer, synthetic lines. It wouldn’t run your battery down (your stock alternator will not supply enough current, especially at idle), it would weigh a lot less, and wouldn’t require a bunch of installation labor.

    January 15, 2017 - 6:50 pm Reply
    • tobiasmann

      Thanks, computeruser6, I have heard the old KOs wore poorly. I’ve heard better about the KO2s, particularly that you can get about 40-50K out of them for highway driving depending on inflation and road surface. Obviously, if you only drive on corrugated dirt roads they won’t last as long.

      My experience with Nitto tires has been overwhelmingly positive. My Terra Grapplers are holding up very well after 25K miles (Mostly highway) this year. I’ve looked at the Exo Grapplers but I think I might jump on the middle ground Ridge Grapplers if I can get them in the size I want, 275/70R18, for a decent price. The thing I do worry about as I start doing more overlanding is availability, you can find KO2 or General Grabber AT2s just about anywhere.

      A come along is on my list of recovery gear I will be purchasing in the near future. I winch is the best insurance policy and most are dead simple to wire. I will have to buy a new higher capacity battery or install a higher output alternator.

      January 19, 2017 - 11:24 am Reply

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