Our 2021 Jeep Gladiator - Achillia

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I'll start off with a short back story. Earlier this year we lost my wife's beloved 2017 Wrangler Unlimited name Smoochy to a reckless driver that rear ended us. It was built up nearly perfect for what we wanted but came to a sudden end. Here it is on one of it's last trips.

20201030_103929 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

We had a decision to make. We wanted another Jeep but thought that the Gladiator would make for a better camping rig due to it's increased payload and more space in the bed. We also didn't have the 3+ years to build it up as we already had two planned trips for this year so we decided to start of with a Rubicon. Specifically a 2021 Gladiator Rubicon, manual, soft top, with the tow package. Nearly the bottom of the line for a Rubicon.

20210501_181723 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

We got a pretty decent settlement from the insurance company so we were able to knock out a few accessories right away. We got a new rear bumper with integrated drawer, soft topper, bed rack, and new fenders.

20210509_181344 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20210509_181430 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20210509_181451 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20210523_154905 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

We were also able to pull many of the parts off poor Smoochy that would work with the Gladiator. The wheels and tires (35" Toyo Open Country ATII), front bumper with winch, headlights, and fog lights. We did a quick weekend trip to one of our favorite spots in the Tillamook State Forest for a shake down run and quickly realized that the stock Rubicon suspension was WAY too soft. We felt that we may get sea sick from the way it swayed so we ordered the AEV 2.5" Dualsport lift. That changed everything and now Achillia rides so much nicer especially when loaded down.

20210718_181955 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

Fast forward to August of this year when Jeep announced a new color for the Wrangler. Tuscandero Pink would be an order only color for a very limited time. In all fairness the Gladiator was a compromise for my wife. We wanted a capable vehicle with enough space for us and our gear. What she really wanted, even before her JKU, was a two door Wrangler. With the crazy used car market we were able to sell a couple of our commuter cars ('17 eGolf and '02 Audi allroad) to make room for her new Wrangler.

3cd9dd6b-032f-464d-9ffc-2350e43fa64c by Wayne Larson, on Flickr
 
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This created a small problem. Since the bumper and headlights came off of her old Smoochy she wanted them on her new Wrangler as a tribute. That left the front of Achillia a bit naked so I got a new front bumper, winch, and headlights so that she could have the older stuff. The good thing about the Wrangler/Gladiator is that they are pretty much legos where it's very easy to swap out parts. After a couple of hours of swapping parts Achillia has a new face. I personally like this look better and it allows me to add a couple of offroad lights a bit easier then the other bumper.

20211121_150652 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20211121_154114 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20211122_161015 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20211121_181911 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

And that's where we stand today. As you can see we also used our existing RTT and awning. In the future I want to change out the front fenders to ones that offer more tire coverage. We also need to work on organizing the bed space without losing that space for actual truck stuff. I have a couple of ideas but that will be down the road.

20210716_154902[1] by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

Overall we are very happy with the Gladiator as a camping rig. It has not set a foot wrong and with some minor tweaks will be perfect for our use.
 
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Very nice.. .love the color on the gladiator.
Thanks! It really looks good in the sun.

Not much has been done but I did finally get wider front fenders installed. They do a great job at keep the crap from flying around.

Also, we knew about this but got to deal with it first hand last month. While camping on the Oregon coast a snow storm came through all the way down to sea level. Not wanting to tow the trailer over the pass back home on snowy roads we left early and saw this when we stopped. LEDs are great for lighting the road but terrible at melting the snow. :laughing:

20211225_124330 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

I also changed out the tail lights because I hated how far out the stock ones would stick out. They were just asking to be banged on a tree or rock somewhere so I got some new Oracle tail lights that sit much closer to the bed.

20211224_145121 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

We have a super busy spring and summer coming up. Not a whole lot of overlanding type camping is planned unfortunately but some very fun offroading trips are in the cards. Easter Jeep Safari, Jeepers Jamboree, a couple of family RV trips, perhaps another trip to the North Rim. With all that happening probably the only upgrades I'll be doing this year are new tires since these 35s are pretty close to the end of their life and a trailer brake controller. I'll work on the camping upgrades next winter in the off season.
 
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samba

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Thanks! It really looks good in the sun.

Not much has been done but I did finally get wider front fenders installed. They do a great job at keep the crap from flying around.

Also, we knew about this but got to deal with it first hand last month. While camping on the Oregon coast a snow storm came through all the way down to sea level. Not wanting to tow the trailer over the pass back home on snowy roads we left early and saw this when we stopped. LEDs are great for lighting the road but terrible at melting the snow. :laughing:

20211225_124330 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

I also changed out the tail lights because I hated how far out the stock ones would stick out. They were just asking to be banged on a tree or rock somewhere so I got some new Oracle tail lights that sit much closer to the bed.

20211224_145121 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

We have a super busy spring and summer coming up. Not a whole lot of overlanding type camping is planned unfortunately but some very fun offroading trips are in the cards. Easter Jeep Safari, Jeepers Jamboree, a couple of family RV trips, perhaps another trip to the North Rim. With all that happening probably the only upgrades I'll be doing this year are new tires since these 35s are pretty close to the end of their life and a trailer brake controller. I'll work on the camping upgrades next winter in the off season.
Hopefully you get to go out overlanding more often, and we get to see more cool pictures.

I totally agree on the fender flares issue. What do you average in terms of combined mpg. ?
How is the rear seat livability of this gladiator. Have you done long trips with 4 people in the truck.
 

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Hopefully you get to go out overlanding more often, and we get to see more cool pictures.

I totally agree on the fender flares issue. What do you average in terms of combined mpg. ?
How is the rear seat livability of this gladiator. Have you done long trips with 4 people in the truck.
On the highway not towing I get around 17mpg fully loaded down (RTT, awning, full bed of gear, etc). Towing the trailer shown in the picture I get around 12mpg.

The rear seat is our pet's domain on trips so they have plenty of leg room. :laughing: I did have three people (me, wife, brother in law) on a trip to the coast (~1.5 hour drive) and my brother in law said he had plenty of room with not problems.

Here are the usual rear seat crewmates. Romeo is the naked dog, Babycat (aka Adventure Cat) in the middle, and Mya the wiener dog.

20210724_153105 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr
 
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samba

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On the highway not towing I get around 17mpg fully loaded down (RTT, awning, full bed of gear, etc). Towing the trailer shown in the picture I get around 12mpg.

The rear seat is our pet's domain on trips so they have plenty of leg room. :laughing: I did have three people (me, wife, brother in law) on a trip to the coast (~1.5 hour drive) and my brother in law said he had plenty of room with not problems.

Here are the usual rear seat crewmates. Romeo is the naked dog, Babycat (aka Adventure Cat) in the middle, and Mya the wiener dog.

20210724_153105 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr
Hahaha, that's excellent and an adorable photo.

17mpg is pretty decent for highway, all things considered.
 

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Next up was I needed to install some aux switches somewhere. I know the "correct" way was to just buy the OEM switch panel and harness but it is a huge pain to install. Also, we still had the Rough Country Aux switch panel and relays from Smoochy sitting the garage so I got to figuring out the best way to use them in a Gladiator.

I started out trying to figure out where to put the switches. The windshield mount that came with it was for a JK and I wasn't all that fond of that location anyway. I prefer things to be tucked away for a cleaner look so I decided on the center arm rest. It is super deep and tends to be a black hole for most things so I found a tray on Amazon that fits the console. This looked to work perfectly because there was room for four switches (five if I really packed them in there) and still a bit of room for stuff.

20210910_180248 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20210911_192518 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20210911_192531 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20210911_193459 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20211002_172339 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

That was the easy part. Next I need to figure out a place to put the relay panel. My first thought was under the passenger front seat. We typically don't have any passenger in the back to kick it and it would allow easy access to it.

20211007_170930 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

I routed the power cables through one of the drain plugs in the floor to make for some easy wiring.

20211009_173851 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

Next I needed to cover the panel. The original cover only allowed wire access through the bottom of the mounting plate. This works well if the panel is suspended like it would be in the engine bay (I briefly thought about putting it in the engine bay) but I was mounting it flat so I need access at the sides. I made up a new cover with my 3D printer with cut outs and it works great.

20211010_182103 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

Lastly I had to get the cable bundle from the panel to the switches. I was in a hurry trying to get this together for a trip we had to the north rim of the Grand Canyon so I simply routed it through the little cut out in the arm rest temporarily. This worked well in a pinch but I had more permanent plans.

20211007_170949 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr
 

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We had a great time on our trip and got to camp right on the rim (the same place that is shown with the first picture of Smoochy).

20211027_181544 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

But I realized that under the passenger seat wasn't going to cut it. There wasn't a great way to secure the panel and it was right in front of the floor vent. There is also the worry that if/when we do a deep water crossing that it could get wet down there. With that I decided that behind the rear seats was a better place.

20220215_173552 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20220215_173604 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

Now the relay panel was out of the way of everything and it was still easily accessible. With that mounted now it was time for the switch wires to be better routed. I took out the center console and drilled a 3/4" hole into the center cubby just in front of the parking brake.

20220215_185639 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20220215_185834 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

WARNING!! Super blurry picture. Sorry.

20220215_190505 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20220215_190551 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr
 

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Routing the switch wires wasn't too difficult. The bundle came down on the passenger side with another wire bundle and then went under the carpet straight back to the rear seats.

20220215_191046 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20220215_192734 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20220215_192914 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20220215_193315 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

I normally like to cut the wires pretty close to length but I didn't have the correct Deustch connector tool to separate the connector and it will be nice if I have to move it to have a little slack.

20220215_193740 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20220215_193931 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

The cover fits nicely as well. I may need to reprint that with the name the other way now. :)

20220215_194005 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

Now with that harness tucked away nicely the switch panel portion is all done.

20220215_200440 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

Even the little light still is usable.

20220215_200451 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr
 

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Now I needed to route the lighting wires. The reason for the temporary stuff earlier was we were going to be on about 70 miles of dusty trails in Arizona with about 20 other rigs. We learned that having chase lights in that situation was very beneficial to seeing the vehicle in front of you so we had to mount some up quickly.

20220225_161738 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

The wires used to route through the drain plug with the power wires but there is a drain plug under the rear seats that would work much better now.

20220217_164148 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20220217_165707 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

I added some clips to help keep things tidy and we were in business.

20220217_165859 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

20220217_165832 by Wayne Larson, on Flickr

Now with that all buttoned up it should be pretty easy when I have other accessories to power. I have a couple of KC Cyclones that I got for free that I'll probably use as rock lights and I want to get a pair of spots for the front bumper. That leaves one switch left that I'm not sure what I'll use for it.
 

Eventyr_jt

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Very cool rig! I like the unique mounting solutions you have come up with for your wiring.
How do you like the rack/Softopper combination? I didn’t like the idea of not being able to put the Softopper down. Is it easy to roll up the sides?
 

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Very cool rig! I like the unique mounting solutions you have come up with for your wiring.
How do you like the rack/Softopper combination? I didn’t like the idea of not being able to put the Softopper down. Is it easy to roll up the sides?
To be honest I haven't rolled up the sides and really haven't needed to. Even with the sides rolled up you can't really access the bed because of the rack and the topper supports. I have put the topper down though as we still use this as a truck so hardware duties happen every so often. To drop the top you do unfasten the snaps like normal but you will need to go into the bed and pull the pin on the pivot so the framework drops down below the rack. Then just fold it back. Not super easy but very doable. I do really like the soft topper though. The rack allows us to attach items on the outside (tent, shovel, jack, water, etc) so we can access them easier without having to get into the bed. The topper keeps things inside dry and surprisingly mostly dust free.

I do admit that not having side access is a pain sometimes to get stuff out. I'm planning on getting a full width bed slide so that I can slide everything out when needed but that's a bit down the road. For now it suits our needs great.
 

Eventyr_jt

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Very cool rig! I like the unique mounting solutions you have come up with for your wiring.
How do you like the rack/Softopper combination? I didn’t like the idea of not being able to put the Softopper down. Is it easy to roll up the sides?
To be honest I haven't rolled up the sides and really haven't needed to. Even with the sides rolled up you can't really access the bed because of the rack and the topper supports. I have put the topper down though as we still use this as a truck so hardware duties happen every so often. To drop the top you do unfasten the snaps like normal but you will need to go into the bed and pull the pin on the pivot so the framework drops down below the rack. Then just fold it back. Not super easy but very doable. I do really like the soft topper though. The rack allows us to attach items on the outside (tent, shovel, jack, water, etc) so we can access them easier without having to get into the bed. The topper keeps things inside dry and surprisingly mostly dust free.

I do admit that not having side access is a pain sometimes to get stuff out. I'm planning on getting a full width bed slide so that I can slide everything out when needed but that's a bit down the road. For now it suits our needs great.
I have my bed pretty packed. Up front (cab end) I have a custom Packout tool box plate. I can swap out boxes, but the main tool box usually stays on the driver side. Passenger side changes per the trip - Hi Lift winch kit, XL Packout with camping supplies, Packout basket, etc.

Next I built a kitchen/sleeping platform. It folds out over the Packout toward the front, and over the drawer toward the gate. I have a tent that fits over the end of the tailgate.
I installed an 813 fabrication bed side compressor box and ran my canopy lights, fridge power, and outlets. The fridge is mounted on a DIY slide screwed to the bed.
My next project is to complete the compressor install inside the bed side box.
I get into the sides of my Softopper several times a week. Losing that access would be a no-go.

I’m glad you setup is working well for you! This is my 2nd softopper. It was the first thing I bought when I got the Gladiator.