The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is arguably one of the best four-wheel drives to come out of the United States. It is immensely capable, relatively affordable, and can be had with every off-road option while still retaining cloth seats and a manual transmission. Of course many Jeep owners have no intention of leaving their vehicle stock, and quickly begin to wade their way through the seemingly endless tide of cheap bolt-on accessories available in various parts catalogs. As most experienced builders and travelers know though, it isn’t the quantity of parts you put on your truck, but the quality that makes the difference. Mario Donovan, owner and president of AT Overland, knows this better than most, and learned it by spending a third of every year living out of his Jeeps. His latest build, this white JK, reflects the knowledge which comes with years of experience in the field, and the lessons learned along the way. The following information shows Mario’s perspective on the vehicle, and sheds some light on why it is the perfect fit for his needs.
I wanted to create a vehicle with a compact footprint that could support two people comfortably for 10 days at a time, while still being capable of tackling technical terrain such as the Rubicon. A Swiss Army knife with a 4:1 transfer case was the goal. Because I have a disdain for clutter, it was essential that there be a proper place for everything and that a sensible access plan existed. What that means is that items of an emergency nature such as a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, or toilet paper are readily accessible and not buried deep in a box. Other equipment that would be in frequent use such as a fridge, stove, and other galley related items would have to be easy to access, easy-to-use, and quickly put away. Overland travel frequently involves long days behind the wheel and it is important to be able to refuel the team with a hearty meal, be able to hydrate and to get comfortable nights sleep to have the energy to do all over again the following day. Because I refuse to settle for beans out of a can, I designed the super convenient Habitat kitchen area.
Often when people are setting up the vehicle, they get obsessed with recovery equipment and tools. While I agree that these things are important they do not need to be immediately accessible. In my opinion when you break down or get stuck, it is better to take a step back, have a cup of coffee and come up with a sensible game plan before pulling out all your toys. Besides you’ll have plenty of time, you’re stuck, are broken down, so you’re not going anywhere soon. I have tools broken down into two types of categories: Category 1 is commonly used tools such as pliers, 3 pound short handled sledge, screwdrivers etc that may be used in everyday maintenance tasks. These tools need to be easily accessible. Category 2 are the tools that don’t come out until you have something really broken such as the full socket set, electrical diagnostic tools etc. are buried deep. Essentially the storage plan is simple “things you need to get to a hurry and things you don’t”.
I spend over 120 days a year on the road, traveling the backcountry, field testing our equipment, or taking the long way to one of the many shows we attend each year. For that reason the vehicle must not only serve as a home on wheels but also as a functional office. The third seat was retained for the reason of providing a place where one can sit and open up the laptop, flick on the booster and access data signal to connect to the AT headquarters server. The secondary purpose of the 3rd seat is to be available in the event that a “fixer” must ride along for those restricted areas and funky border crossings we like.
There are times on these trips that the weather can be extremely uncooperative. If you have to be hunkered down someplace for a few days until the clouds part, it is nice to have some room to stretch out in. Being able to stand up and put your clothes vs. wiggling into your jeans while laying on your back or being crouched over in a conventional roof top tent is an absolute luxury. One year in Ouray on a photo shoot, we waited out 3 days of rain inside the Habitat, sitting in our chairs working on our laptops. It was downright civilized. During Hurricane Joaquin at the Overland Expo East when 9” of rain fell in two days, the Habitat was not only the driest place to be, the rear JK kitchen became the hub of social activity for our group churning out hot food & beverages and keeping the spirits up.
In short, an Overland vehicle is a tool. Tools in my opinion need to be suited to the job and be easy to use and maintain. Our JK Habitat conversion and the systems we build for them are exactly that: tools that not only get the job done, but done well.
– Mario Donovan
- Habitat top for 4 door Jeep JK Unlimited. Direct replacement for factory top, requires no modification. Top unfolds to reveal waterproof and breathable tent by NEMO Equipment, sleeping area with mattress for 2 persons and the ability to sleep 4 persons. Access to sleeping area is through hatch above rear passenger seats.
- AEV 3.5″ JK DualSport Suspension System SC. Includes Springs, Bilstein 5100 Shocks, Bumpstop Spacers, Rear Stabilizer End, Links, Rear Trackbar Tower, Rear Track Bar, Geometry Correction
- Front Control Arm Brackets Brake Line Drop Brackets, High Steer Kit, Heavy Duty Steering Damper, ProCal Module and Jack base.Tri-rate springs 3.5″ front, 4.5″
- AEV JK Premium Front Bumper includes Tow Loops, Off Road Light Brackets, Stainless Steel Mesh, Crush Cans , Crush Can Covers,Provision for mounting factory fog lights.
- AEV JK Snorkel Air Ram 2012 + 3.6 Gas JK I1
- 48” Hi-Lift X-TREME Jack. 5,000 lbs rating
- Jack Handle Isolator
- Hi-Lift Tight fitting neoprene jack cover.
- Rear Bumper water tank
- Mud Flaps
- Warn winch 9.5 ti.
- Viking 5/16 x 125′ synthetic winchline with black safety thimble and hook.
- Stage 1 Composite drawer for JK Unltd. LineX coated. 22′ W x 12.25′ H x 30′ L, contoured to fit with rear seats in place.
- Stage 2 Composite twin top loading compartment for JK Unltd, LineX coated with false bottom access to flex water tank (not incl) below in passenger foot well (22’W x 30L’ x 19′ H). Accessory compartment (7′ W x 25’L x 10.5′ H). Mechanicals panel below accessory compartment for pump switch, shower mixer, valves. (works with Stage 1 drawer. Requires removal of 60% rear seat) Does notinclude water tank or mechanicals.
- Nautic Junior Stainless Steel Hot Water Tank. 6 liters .12 volt heat element model, 200 watts. Requires 10 Ga wire for installation and 20A circuit breaker.
- Universal Pump + Strainer, 8 lpm (2.2 gpm), 12 volt Hp, 30 psi.
- External Hot/Cold Shower Point, mixer valve, Shower Head & Hose Assembly
- 13.2gal. Flexible Water Tank, 27-1/2′ x 27-1/2′ (used in JK Stage 2 storage).
- 6-Position Fuse Block with Ground. Max. 100A@32V DC.
- JK Rear Bracket, external, used as mounting plate for accessories.
- AT Custom Aluminum 5 lb Propane Cylinder Bracket & clamp.
- 5 lb Manchester propane cylinder
- Two level combo fridge/stove slide. Upper slide for fridge, lower slide for partner steel stove. 500 lb rated lock in/out slides.
- 2 Burner “Gas Control On End” 18″ Use 8′ Hose and Regulator. Forcombo slide.
- Transit Slide Lock for Engel MT35 & MT45 Fridges.
- Engel MT-45 liter Fridge/Freezer.
- Insulating Transit Bag for Engel MT45 Fridge
- 2 x 6 LED Rectangular HD Flood Light 4’x6′ (12/24VDC) installed on rear tire carrier post. Wired to reverse circuit.
- Stainless Steel drop down table with removable bamboo cutting board.
- AT Jeep JK Rear Cargo Rack. Clamps to roll bar. Allows clearance for AT Combo Slide and fridge. Powder coated steel – black.
- AEV Savegre Black 17×8.5 Wheels : 5×5 (+10mm offset).
- 5 General Tire AT2 Grabbers 35×12.50×17
- Yaesu 7900 2M/440 Mobile 50 Watt on 144MHz, 40 Watts on 430Mhz..
- 2 Meter and 440 MHz antenna Approx 34″ high.
- NEMO antennae mount, 17 ft cable, BC connector
- 2 x Deka AGM, sealed valve regulated battery 34M-950 785Amps CCA
- Mounting Plate for Dual Battery relay, LVD. & accessories. Or for
- Air 7 Port Manifold.
- 30A 12V Adjustable low voltage disconnect. Protects battery fromover-discharge. Disconnect range from 9.5V to 11.5V. Draw: Above cutoff 8mA: Below cutoff 800uA. Re-connects at 1V above set disconnect.
- National Luna Split Charging Kit with Intelligent Solenoid and remote Controller.
- A Pillar switch pod
- 4 x USB power ports
- Dual Battery Tray
- ExtremeAire Magnum Compressor 12 volt, 80 Amp Circuit Breaker, 4 Gauge Cable
- Skids & Plates: 7 Port manifold and gauges, Air compressor skid plate.
- JK Air Compressor Skid for mounting Extreme Air & magnum to drivers side frame rail
- Shocks, JK +3.5″ to 4.5″ – AEV-tuned Bilstein 5160 Remote Reservoir kit upgrade
- Wilson Electronics Cell Phone Booster
- 2 Baja Designs Squadron Combo LED Light. Spot & Wide Cornering
- JK Dash Dock for use in conjunction with RAM mounts for navigation equipment
- JK Conceal Carry Security Drawer under driver’s seat