Luke's 2020 Gladiator

Luke

Adventurist
Moderator
#3
Well since I haven't been good at keeping this post up to date, here it goes:

This truck is more capable out of the factory than anything I've ever owned, so I took the Gladiator out and ran it through the paces bone stock on a few trips before doing anything to it.


Anza Borrego:

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Coos Bay, Oregon:

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All in all the Gladiator handled everything off road with ease, the only problem I has was in the dunes in Oregon because I couldn't deflate the tires enough as I hadn't bought a compressor yet. On road the truck did great, although the wind noise from the non insulated hard top took some getting used to compared to the Ram. All in all I was happy with it stock, and so came time for DVX19...
 

Luke

Adventurist
Moderator
#4
DVX19 brought us to Death Valley this past year, which meant dust. Lots of dust. So I bought the Tyger Auto tri-fold soft cover, which was the cheapest cover I could find while waiting for bigger and better things.

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I have to say that for the price I was extremely happy with it. The seals on the cover didn't let any dust in. It all came in though the tailgate, which I feel seals very poorly out of the factory compared to any other truck I've owned.

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The trip was a blast! This was the first time I needed to put the truck into 4 low, and the 4:1 transfer case and the 8 speed transmission made it easy to crawl over everything. Although, there was definitely some scraping, which meant bigger tires and rock sliders...
 
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Luke

Adventurist
Moderator
#5
First up was tires. I decided to go with 35x12.50x17 Falken Wildpeak AT3s and put them on the stock wheels.




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The bigger tires made it slightly higher off the ground, and quite a bit more difficult for Erika (my wife) to get in the truck since she was in the later stages of her pregnancy at the time. I wanted to wait for White Knuckle Offroad, but due to the circumstances, something else had to be put on in the meantime. I went with the Ace Engineering Gladiator Sliders, and I am not particularly happy with them - they'll be coming off soon. They bolt into the body mount bolts, which doesn't seem like a particularly good idea, and they're also supposed to be made to work in combination with the factory rubi rails, but the drivers side silder sits about a milimeter away from the rubi rail and rattles horribly on washboard roads.




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With the tires and the sliders on, it was time to get out and see how the improvement was:




Big Bear (2N02):

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Obligatory Pre-COVID Hanger 24 stop:

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DRV:

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The 35's don't seem like much of an upgrade from the stock 33's, but they made a world of difference offroad in both clearance and comfort on rocky and washboard roads, and the fact that they fit (as well as the spare underneath the truck) on the stock suspension is awesome.
 

Luke

Adventurist
Moderator
#6
Teddy was born shortly after DRV on April 5, 2020:

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This meant one thing... seat covers!



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I went to Wet Okole, and they made the template for the Gladiators. They came out perfect, and they even add a little more cushion to the seat. They're made of wet suit material, so they are waterproof and super easy to clean.
 
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Luke

Adventurist
Moderator
#7
The next thing I bought was the Slumberjack Overland Utility Bin, which can attach directly to the tailgate. My thinking was that this would be great given that the full size spare fits underneath truck... but I keep taking it off when I get to camp because the tailgate is usually down, and then it's a pain to try and get back on the tailgate when it's full. It also rubbed the clear coat off in a few spots, which really isn't that big of a deal, but the truck is still fairly new and I'd like to keep it nice while I can. So I need to figure out another way to mount it.


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Luke

Adventurist
Moderator
#8
Finally the day I was waiting for...



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On went the Vagabond! After dealing with the RTT on the Ram and spending 20 minutes at the end of every trip getting mad at a zipper, the camper was a necessary upgrade for our newly growing family. I kept it simple and didn't go with many options so that I could build it and add things as I figure out what I want. The options I went with we're:
  • White Powder Coat: To match the truck, and also help with the heat since we do a lot of desert camping here in Southern California
  • Ceiling Fan: Because it's hot in Southern California.
  • Insulation: Again, to help with the heat, and to keep the heat in during the winter.
Other than that I'll figure it out as we go! There are already a few upgrades planned:
  • Awning: Because shade. Currently I have my eyes set on the Alu-Cab 270 Shadow Awning, which is expensive, but I also know that I wont use it if I need to setup poles and guy lines every time I want shade. A lot of the trips we go on we don't spend a lot of time in one place, so quick setup and take down is a must.
  • L-Track Rails on the Sides of the Camper: Because are you really Overlanding if you don't bolt accessories to every square inch of available space?
  • Refrigerator: Because coolers suck.
  • 2nd Battery System: Because things need power. Everything is already bought and ready to go in. I'll post on that later.
Other than that, I'll figure it out as we go. So far we have a few trips in the camper, and it is exponentially better than a RTT. It takes 30 seconds to setup camp and about a minute to pop it down. Waking up with a view out of one of the giant windows is a big plus, and the Freedom Panels still have room to come off.

Here's some photos, courtesy of Phil at Vagabond because I was so excited I forgot to take many:

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The first trip with the family in the camper to Big Bear:



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Luke

Adventurist
Moderator
#9
Right before the Vagabond went on, I found a good deal on the Mopar Stubby Bumper on Offerup. I've always liked the look of the stubby bumpers on Jeeps, it's ready to go for a winch in the future, and it's steel. The only thing I didn't realize at the time was for for some reason, the fog lights in the stock plastic bumper don't fit in the steel Mopar factory bumper. Since I had to order new lights, I decided to go with the KC Hilites Amber Fog Lights. I am definitely happy with them, they're more than bright enough, and the amber lights help cut through the dust.

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Another thing I've added since the Vagabond was put on was Rok Blok, which was highly recommended by the guys at Vagabond to help seal out any dust coming in through the tailgate. It's essentially a rubber expansion joint that bridges the gap between the tailgate and the bed of the truck. I put it on before a trip to Coyote Flats, and it worked brilliantly. The only problem was that the 3M tape didn't stick to the Line-X bedliner for very long. I'm going to take some sand paper to it and get some sort of adhesive or epoxy to get it to stay and see how it goes.

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Luke

Adventurist
Moderator
#10
There will be more news and posts coming in the next few weeks regarding new suspension (there was a VERY drastic decline in on road performance and handling with the stock suspension and the weight of the camper), sliders, and the interior build out for the camper. But I think I'm pretty well caught up for now.
 
#12
...On road the truck did great, although the wind noise from the non insulated hard top took some getting used to compared to the Ram. All in all I was happy with it stock, and so came time for DVX19...
Pretty good looking JT you've got there. I had the Ace Engineering sliders w/ rubi rails on my JKU and it was a decent enough combo for me, but I never had any rattling because they were pretty tight in how they paired up.

How's the wind noise with that camper on the back? I loved my JKU, but the wind noise was terrible and my Kargo Master Pro roof rack made it much worse; I'm not sure the utility was worth the. I ruined my hearing with too much rock n' roll in my 20's and the wind noise in the Jeep made conversations near impossible. I have a hard time keeping up with conversations in bars or restaurants, and the Jeep was much the same for me.
 

Luke

Adventurist
Moderator
#13
Pretty good looking JT you've got there. I had the Ace Engineering sliders w/ rubi rails on my JKU and it was a decent enough combo for me, but I never had any rattling because they were pretty tight in how they paired up.

How's the wind noise with that camper on the back? I loved my JKU, but the wind noise was terrible and my Kargo Master Pro roof rack made it much worse; I'm not sure the utility was worth the. I ruined my hearing with too much rock n' roll in my 20's and the wind noise in the Jeep made conversations near impossible. I have a hard time keeping up with conversations in bars or restaurants, and the Jeep was much the same for me.
Thank you! Those sliders have rattled from day 1. The passenger side is good - they sit about .5” away from the rubi rail, so they don’t rattle at all. It’s just the drivers side that rattles because it sits so close. I like the frame mounts on the White Knuckle sliders better and you can use a Hi-Lift right on the sliders.

Surprisingly, I really haven’t noticed much of an a noise increase with the camper.
 

Dave

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Founder
Senior Staff
Editor
#16
Thank you! Those sliders have rattled from day 1. The passenger side is good - they sit about .5” away from the rubi rail, so they don’t rattle at all. It’s just the drivers side that rattles because it sits so close. I like the frame mounts on the White Knuckle sliders better and you can use a Hi-Lift right on the sliders.

Surprisingly, I really haven’t noticed much of an a noise increase with the camper.
Get a wedge of rubber or something and wedge it in there. Good chance that it’s easily silenced.
 

Luke

Adventurist
Moderator
#18
Get a wedge of rubber or something and wedge it in there. Good chance that it’s easily silenced.
I've been thinking that for a while, but I always forgot to do it when I get home. Hopefully they're only on for a few more weeks.

I have a sledge hammer that could create a little more separation.
I've got a 12 pounder sitting in my work truck... Might have to give it a try. :jeep
 

Luke

Adventurist
Moderator
#19
So after a little research, I've finally figured out why my satellite radio no longer works... Like the JL, the satellite radio antenna for the JT is mounted dead center on the center post underneath the hardtop. So if you are planning on putting on some sort of camper or rack, it's probably best to relocate it first like I didn't do.

I've found a bracket to remount it that was made for the JLs, and I've emailed them to see if it will work for the JTs as well.

https://maximus-3.com/home/maximus-3-jl-satellite-antenna-relocation-bracket


We'll see how much of a project this becomes now that the camper is already on... I can't imagine that it's going to be east to get under there to reroute the wiring.
 

Dave

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Founder
Senior Staff
Editor
#20
Easy fix: Save money on fees and ditch the satellite radio altogether.

I use Spotify and it's way better anyways, I have full control of what I listen to (music, podcasts, specific bands) and can save playlists for offline use when there is no signal, and the SOUND QUALITY is light years better than satellite radio (when music is saved on the highest fidelity setting).
 
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