DirtWorx Preparation

The DirtWorx rear bumper and tire carrier arrived, and I’m stoked! I loaded them into the back of my Jeep. I used a couple of moving pads to wrap them, and then I strapped them down.

I’m heading to Applied Powder & Coating in Glen Riddle, PA, so they can sandblast and powder coat them. They seem to be able to handle small and large projects, and are highly regarded by some of my buddies.

Once theyโ€™re powder coated, I’ll take them back home and drill a few holes for the RotoPAX 2gal containers. The HiLift holes are already there. Once mounted Iโ€™ll post some more pictures.

Iโ€™m thrilled at the workmanship. The top mounted hitch receiver is brilliant, opening up a slew of options. For example I can order his cargo carrier, which can then hold a shower WaterPORT!

I ordered the bumper with cutouts for 2×2″ LED lights, so glad I did.

Class III receiver is a plus if I ever want to tow anything, hope I don’t wreck it at Moab/Rubicon where descents can be extreme.

35s, Lockers, And Trails From Hell

The stock 245/70R17 tires that came off my Jeep in May have been gathering dust in my garage. I took them off the Jeep when it had under 300 miles. So the tires were pretty new. Someone in the Cumberland Crawlerz group posted on Facebook about what to do with OEM tires that are removed when modifying a Jeep. I hijacked the thread to offer the tires to anyone who can come and get them. Luckily a couple buddies showed up the next day to remove them from my garage. I now have more space!

My Jeep is currently sporting a set of 285/70R17 BF Goodrich KO2s, mounted on the stock aluminum wheels. I went with this size because my garage entry is not very high, so that’s as big as I can go if I want to park the Jeep in the garage. I will need to move to 35s for the June trip to Moab>Rubicon, so I bought a used set from a buddy. Pro Comp steel rims with Nitto Grappler 35×12.5x17s mounted on them. They’re in good shape, with more than half the tread left. I plan to swap the wheels in May, so I can wheel with the group a couple times to get used to the different size.

I was in denial for quite a while, regarding 35s being considered a mandate for the most extreme trails. I mean, if Jeep sells a Rubicon model Jeep, why does it come with 285s, and why is it marketed as suitable for The Rubicon Trail? Well, I should have known, having spent a few years in branding/advertising environments. While it is possible for a stock Rubicon to survive The Rubicon Trail, it is also possible to roller skate from New York City to Los Angeles. Get it?

My trip will include half a dozen hard trails in Moab. The one I have high hopes for is Hell’s Gate at Hell’s Revenge. I wanted to do the climb on my trip last August. Nobody wanted to spot me since I didn’t have 35s and at least one locker. It was a heart breaking lesson to learn, since my entire trip was built around that challenging climb. I’ll be more than prepared when I go back in June. I now have 35s, and Rubicon take-off Dana 44s (M210/M220) axles, which both have electronic lockers. They had <7,000 miles on them when I bought them.

An even more extreme example of the importance of having (at least) 35s and lockers, is the infamous, gut wrenching, trecherous The Rubicon Trail. The June trip is focussed on this tail, the only one in the US that is rated a 10 on a 1-10 scale of difficulty. Its considered a bucket list trail for serious wheelers. This time, I did my research, and I will be totally prepared. From tires, to axle lockers, to overlanding style kitchen and storage build, I’ll be more than ready.

For an overview of The Rubicon Trail, check out these two videod by one of my favorite bloggers, TrailRecon.

Jeep Jamboree – Rubicon 2021

Jeep released their Jeep Jamboree Rubicon Trail requirements for 2021. As expected, they now require 35″ tires, and both front and rear lockers. I knew about this, which is why I upgraded my axles to Dana44s, and I bought a used set of 35″ tires.

Some of the requirements seem extreme. I get why GMRS is a must, and CB is being kicked to the curb. Saw that coming for years now. But restricting Jeeps to 1997 or later just seems so incredibly wrong. Many of my wheeling buddies are pissed, and I can’t blame them.

Here’s a link to their event page:
https://jeepjamboreeusa.com/trip/24th-rubicon-trail-2021/

Rubicon Trail is the toughest trail in the US, it is the only trail rated a 10. That means a lot. Though I struggle to come to terms with how Jeep can cast out the majority of their loyal customers.

I get it. Liabilty. Wait. Rubicon is a 10. Scratch that.

The Golden Arm of Dirtworx

Modifications are exciting, especially when your build is designed to accommodate a 7,000 mile 3 week off road trip through Moab and Rubicon. I have three badges from Moab, and I plan to pick up another four to six. Then off to Rubicon to hit the infamous Rubicon Trail.

Rubicon Trail is a trecherous 22 miles of endless boulders, fording, climbing, and descending. Its a three day trip, including two nights of camping. To do this kind of trip, you need a vehicle that can accommodate a fridge, a cooking stove, a decent tent and sleeping bag, 5 gallons of drinking/washing water, 4 extra gallons of gas, a set of tools, and some spare parts to deal with any repairs or emergencies.

Communications, first aid, and recovery stuff is needed too. For communication, I have small but powerful CB and GMRS radios, and a couple handhelds for technical spotting.

I have a compete first aid kit, not from Walmart/CVS. For recovery I have all the stuff needed to winch myself or someone else out of tough spots, and a Hi-Lift to deal with flats or other sticky situations.

Basically you want to survive the trip without being a burden on others, and not be eaten by bears.

One of the most important build decisions is your rear bumper and tire carrier. A couple of my wheeling buddies recommended DirtWorx, a one man shop owned a professional fabricator. This guy designs and makes custom offroad and overlanding solutions serious wheelers and overlander folks. He is highly regarded, which means a lot.

I called the guy and we went over what I was looking for. The bumper and spare tire carrier has to distribute the weight across both ends of the bumper and lock securely. It has to accommodate a 35″ spare, a couple of 2 gallon RotoPAX fuel containers, a horizontal mount for my Hi-Lift X-Treme 48″ jack, and it needs to have a couple of recessed 2×2 LED backup lights. I kind of thought I was pushing my luck with the LED stuff, but he was like “Sure, no problem”. Wow!

His work is shipped unfinished, so after researching optinos, I decided I’d spray it myself with black Rust-Oleum sealer first, then spray over that with black Rust-Oleum metal paint. This seems like the easiest finish to manage over time, and I should be able to do that in my garage. Famous last words, right? ๐Ÿ™‚ He contacted me a couple days ago to say he’d be shipping out the bumper and tire carrier before Christmas.

He sent a few pictures of his work. Its amazing what a professional fabricator can do. He’ll send more pictures of the tire carrier before he ships it out. Once I get those pictures I’ll post them here.

Here it is with the wheel carrier, which will hold the two RotoPAX fuel container and the Hi-Lift jack…I’m stoked!

Sleeping at the Rubicon Trail

I’ve been using an REI half dome one person tent for a few years now, and have been happy with it. Its the perfect tent to take with you on a cross country motorcycle trip. Now that I’m doing these trips in my Jeep, I decided to get a two person tent.

I had a bunch of REI credit, well, this weekend was a good time to cash it in. I went with a Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 2 tent. Don’t laugh, but I pitched it in my apartment and it was surprisingly easy to set up and to tear down. Great reviews, reasonable price, what’s not to like? ๐Ÿ™‚

The sleeping bag I’ve been using has been ok, although for the Rubicon part of the trip I need something that’ll handle cooler/colder temperatures in early June. It needs to be bigger than the one I have now, since my legs have felt kind of cramped. After a lot of research, I went with Big Agnes Torchlight 30 Regular. Expandable and temperature rated at 30 degrees.

Two very important camping items are your tent and sleeping bag, and I only trust REI for those things. More stuff to get, likely through Amazon/eBay, and at Lowes/HomeDepot. More to come.

Skids for the new Dana 44s

So if you’ve been reading my blog, you’d know that I swapped out my Dana 30/35s for a set of Dana 44s about a month ago. I toyed with the idea of regearing the stock axles, but decided that would be silly. Ok, so my buddies talked sense into me. I’m so glad I listened, Cumberland Crawlerz is an incredibe club.

I assumed I could buy the same Rough Country differential skids for the new axles, but they don’t make them for Dana 44s. So I started looking around. Some of my friends recommended Metal Cloak, but while their rear diff skid plate was the perfect design, their front skid plate requires also requires their diff plate. Um, nah.

I did a lot of research, and asked a bunch of people, including folks who have YouTube/Wordpress blogs. The feedback I got leaned heavily towards skid plates and not diff covers. Probably a 60/40 split. The only skid plates I could find to fit the Dana 44s are made by Rancho. Pretty good design at 1/4″ thick steel. These meet my requirements, including providing the ability to slide over anything I might land on.

Rancho’s front diff skid attaches with four front facing bolts, and a U bolt to hold the back end up and out of the way. Their rear diff skid is much the same design, though the U bolt is replaced with a bent piece of the same 1/4″ thick steel. Here’s the installed product. Clearance loss is minimal at 5/16″, less than 1/8″ distance between the diff and the skid plate.

A few of my buddies are all saying I should get diff covers, but based on my riding style, and the research I’ve done, they don’t make much sense for me. That said, WhistlinDiesel might need diff covers, since he’s…well…

Cooking On The Rubicon Trail

The Rubicon Trail will be a three day trip, so I need a decent cooking kit.

I spent weeks deciding on what tailgate table to buy. I needed something that could hold a decent stove. I also wanted it to be easy to clean, and it had to have a slide out. I went with an Outback Adventures TrailGater. Its a smart design. The table is stainless steel (easy to clean), and it has a slide out bamboo table. The backsplash is made of thick powder coated aluminum.

I was pleasantly surprised to find they’re rated at 40 pounds, more than enough for my needs. The quick releases are brilliant, just a bit of pressure secures the table in the stowed position. No rattling, extremely stable when stowed. The back splash part is heavy duty, and the hardware is high quality…and American made!

The hardware is very well designed, the unit doesn’t rattle at all.

I decided long ago I was going to get a Cook Partner 22″ 2 Burner Stove. I met a number of folks at Moab last year who swear by this model. Its made of very thick welded aluminum, designed to be easy to disassemble and clean, is fully serviceable, and weighs 17 pounds. Partners Steel has an 8-10 weeks lead time, but I was able to find a place that had one in stock. I got a veterans discount, free shipping, and no tax.

Having hypoglicemia, the stove is one item I was absolutely not going to cut corners on. Partners Steel makes 16 and 18 inch models, but those aren’t wide enough to heat a 10 inch pan and coffeemaker at the same time. These stoves are ultra tough, so they’re easy to store away, you can even stack stuff on it.

I need to get a 5 pound propane tank, but I need to sort out how it’ll be refilled. I want to avoid having to swap tanks, since I will be mounting it to the roll cage on the right side of the cargo area. Of course I bought the stove that has the propane hose connector on the left. The plan is to not have to move the tank, since it’ll be secured, but just run the hose to the stove.

The twin drawers should be installed in a week or two. I need to fabricate a cargo area platform. I’m not interested in paying the rediculous price of a commercial offering. Besides, everyone I met at Moab created their own. The stove will mount on the left, so it can slide out when I need to get to it, and I’ll have a 5 gallon water container with a hose and spigot for cleaning things.

More to come…

ARB Dual Compressor relocated…finally

I bought a portable ARB portable dual compressor (CKMTP12) when I was at Moab last year (because spending 2 hours airing back up with a cheap compressor is silly). I recently converted it to an on board unit (CKMTA12), mounting it under the passenger seat. Very pleased with the result. Its out of the way, and the air hose is plenty long enough to reach all four tires. A buddy is working on a four hose solution, so I can fill all tires at once.

ARB’s kit is very well designed, however if you start with a CKMTP12 (portable) unit, you’ll need to buy a hose with ends that point in opposite directions. Since the CKMTP12 has a hose with ends that face in the same direction. As we all know (ok, I now know), you can’t twist these hoses. I tried to MacGuyver the cables, but was advised to just get the right cable cut.

I asked Main Line Overland about getting a hose for the new setup, and they recommended Kelly Industrial Supply. They did an awesome job, the custom cut hose did the trick! $40 and it took 10 minutes. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now I’m waiting for some 10 AWG wiring to come in. Before our property manager got The Hub installed, a good number of our Amazon orders got returned. I have high hopes that problem is now resolved.

Bumper/tire carrier, fridge, and storage

When I was shopping for a rear bumer/tire carrier, I had some pretty bad experiences with the usual online vendors. I decided to look for a reputable fabricator. My requirements were simple. Two mount points to distribute the load, and provisions to mount a Hi-Lift and two RotoPAX fuel containers.

I asked around, and a couple friends gave glowing recommendations for Robert of DirtWorx. I made a call, told him what I was looking for, boom…he is fabricating one for me that covers the above. Hand made in the USA baby!

While I wait for Robert to do his magic, I’m working on the cargo area. I need storage and a fridge on a slider. After asking some experienced overlanders, I decided on a Dometic CFX3 35 fridge. It is sitting on my counter, keeping snacks cold until I get it mounted in the Jeep. Great design, very good power management, and it comes with an iOS app to manage/monitor the unit.

For storage a few recommended IronMan4x4 twin drawers. After comparing with other options, they sure have a great reputation for being durable, and the price is right. They’ll arrive on Tuesday. The only gripe I have is, they don’t make “wings”. So I’ll need to come up with a clever way to seal the left and right sides, between the unit and the cargo walls.

For the fridge slide, I just need something that’s strong and locks securely. Little did I know the same company makes sliders! I was happy to see they make the perfect slider, and again, the price is right. This is one accessory that has to be right. The above storage unit has a 220 pound capacity. The Dometic fridge is 37.5 pounds. Sounds like this setup is going to be fine.

More to come…