JKU / JLU as a family travel vehicle

jonathon

Active member
I’m buying a new 4wd in the near future and had pretty much settled on a Ram 2500 6.4 Hemi. Really like the Ram and the convenience of the large bed. However, I recently had the opportunity to drive a JLU for a week and put 500 miles on it. To sum it up, I loved it but don’t know if the size will work for us. My wife and I have a toddler and since he was born we haven’t done a lot of long trips, just local camping here in the PNW. Before he was born we tent camped across the country and all over the PNW and want to start doing that again. Our travel vehicle then was a 2nd gen Tacoma DCSB and it was no where near fully loaded with all our gear.

We’ve made several trips in our Outback, but it’s stuffed with the roof rack loaded. Obviously the JLU has more cargo space so that may be less of an issue. Our current tent is a Springbar 10x7 so I’m sure that doesn’t help the space situation. I also think a fridge in place of a large cooler would probably save some space.

The size of the Jeep is just about perfect for our forest roads and BLM land in central Oregon. Being able to do some real 4wd trails is attractive too. I currently have a GMT400 K2500 that I use for firewood and Home Depot runs, but the lack of AC and cabin noise make it less than comfortable for long trips.

So, for those with kids, is a JLU a practical for long trips? Or do you just make it work because it’s a great 4wd?

I’ve also thought about a Gladiator... my wife thinks they are hideous but it’ll be my vehicle so that’s not an issue.
 

mac214

New member
As soon as I read this I thought Gladiator may be a perfect fit..... until the last line. My wife and I drove both and really had some pluses and minuses for both the Gladiator and JLUR but in the end, the cargo area of the truck won out especially for our plans with it. She wasn’t totally sold on the looks of the Gladiator either.

I think a lot of the styling people don’t like is how similar it is to the Wrangler but then see the truck bed. With that said, it has very quickly grown on me and my wife. I couldn’t be happier and think it will be a perfect platform for what we want to do. We have 3 little ones, so the bed was a welcome addition plus the slightly larger rear seat, while minimal, makes a difference with the car seats.

Plus, I think the aftermarket will have some really cool options for the Gladiator giving it some very interesting utility for different uses.






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jonathon

Active member
I have not driven a Gladiator. Is the rear seat bigger? Does it do the 60/40 split?

My local dealer has a Gladiator Sport S with a 6 speed I might have to go drive. Miss my 6 speed Tacoma.
 

mac214

New member
I have not driven a Gladiator. Is the rear seat bigger? Does it do the 60/40 split?

My local dealer has a Gladiator Sport S with a 6 speed I might have to go drive. Miss my 6 speed Tacoma.
There is another 3” in the back. The seat backs fold forward to allow access to the small rear storage behind the seats and the seat bottoms fold up for under seat storage.

The 8 speed auto is a game changer for tire upgrades, etc... I am a die hard manual lover and sold my ‘99 BMW 540/6 when I decided to buy this, but the auto on these is awesome. I would recommend driving both.

I would definitely test drive one as a comparison to the JL. My wife and I both noticed the added smoothness from the extra wheelbase, but there are obvious additional benefits from the shorter wheel base depending on you planned terrain. If a Rubicon is not in your sights, at the very least you need to be adding the Max Tow package on the Sport for the D44 axles, etc...


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jadmt

Well-known member
I have had 4 jku's and I would not want to be dealing with a child seat. Before you commit try getting a child seat in and out. rear door openings are just not great for that. other than that they are great as a family rig.

I just test drove a couple of Gladiators at Dave Smith on Friday and OH MY. they are nice.
 

Beowulf

Expedition Leader
When we had our child we had an LJ. Only two doors. The car seat was not a big deal. Just pick them up in the baby seat and set them in. Then climb in yourself and finish the job. Remember, they will be in a car seat you take in and out for only a little while. After that it is easy.
I still have that vehicle and love it more than any vehicle I’ve ever owned. If I’d listened to everyone else, I’d sold it and be regretting it now.
The only way to know if you can live with the minor inconvenience is to try it.
 

JK4AER

New member
I had two kidos in car seats with a JKU and was happy. Longest trip we did was about 8 hours. I now have a Gladiator and my boys are 10 and 11 and it works for us. Haven't made a long trip yet but that will change in a month when we do a 9 hour trip.
 

billiebob

Well-known member
The 4 door Wrangler is a perfect vehicle for a family of 4. The only maybe drawback is the space behind the rear seats. But cab space for 2 adults and 2 kids is ideal. There are many smoother riding vehicles but none with the agility/capability/reliability of a Wrangler.

Given that we grew up with 2 kids and a Honda Wagon as our overlander..... A JKU/JLU is an awesome option.
 
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shays4me

Adventurer
I had a 16 Cummins ram 2500 crew and it was more comfy for the whole family all the way around. More room, better seats, less wind noise, etc.. That being said we had a jku before the ram and we have another one now. We just liked the jeep too much to stay with the ram. I have two girls still at home and we use it over our sedan for long trips. I have done the rear seat recline mod and that helps on longer trips with my older teans. The jku really fits our needs and wants and it's a ton more fun than the ram was.
 

LilPoppa

Adventurer
We're a family of four plus a dog (kids are 10 and 12 now) who travel and camp with a JKUR. I just switched out all our bulky camping gear for backpacking stuff. We have plenty of room. The longest we've gone off-grid was 8 days, but we had a water source.
 

tgil

Active member
I have had 4 jku's and I would not want to be dealing with a child seat. Before you commit try getting a child seat in and out. rear door openings are just not great for that. other than that they are great as a family rig.

I just test drove a couple of Gladiators at Dave Smith on Friday and OH MY. they are nice.
Molle Platform Solutions makes a fix for the rear doors not opening up far enough. I love my JKU, the JLU has more creature comforts.
 

kdeleon

Observer
Family of four here, and we've had thousands of adventure miles in the JKU. I do have a roof rack to transport additional boxes up top, plus an RTT for the fam. This allows me to keep the essentials in the rear cargo. A jeep is a compromise so all depends on how you plan to use it. Other comparable vehicle like the 4Runner may fit your lifestyle better. However none other allows for riding top down which makes it a great fun family vehicle!
 

wild1

Adventurer
I’m buying a new 4wd in the near future and had pretty much settled on a Ram 2500 6.4 Hemi. Really like the Ram and the convenience of the large bed. However, I recently had the opportunity to drive a JLU for a week and put 500 miles on it. To sum it up, I loved it but don’t know if the size will work for us. My wife and I have a toddler and since he was born we haven’t done a lot of long trips, just local camping here in the PNW. Before he was born we tent camped across the country and all over the PNW and want to start doing that again. Our travel vehicle then was a 2nd gen Tacoma DCSB and it was no where near fully loaded with all our gear.

We’ve made several trips in our Outback, but it’s stuffed with the roof rack loaded. Obviously the JLU has more cargo space so that may be less of an issue. Our current tent is a Springbar 10x7 so I’m sure that doesn’t help the space situation. I also think a fridge in place of a large cooler would probably save some space.

The size of the Jeep is just about perfect for our forest roads and BLM land in central Oregon. Being able to do some real 4wd trails is attractive too. I currently have a GMT400 K2500 that I use for firewood and Home Depot runs, but the lack of AC and cabin noise make it less than comfortable for long trips.

So, for those with kids, is a JLU a practical for long trips? Or do you just make it work because it’s a great 4wd?

I’ve also thought about a Gladiator... my wife thinks they are hideous but it’ll be my vehicle so that’s not an issue.
I have a 2018 3500 Ram and a 2019 JLUR and they are definitely at the opposite ends of the spectrum though both will work for what you propose. Unless you really intend to use the Jeep up to it's potential I think you will have to make a lot of compromises for the benefits. A crewcab shortbox with a topper is the perfect family traveling machine in our experience.
 

jonathon

Active member
Very good feedback back thank you all!

I’m going to go check out a Gladiator. The idea of getting Dana 44 axles no matter the trim is attractive.

We had a 5th gen 4Runner for about a year. It was a good truck and definitely had enough room but it wasn’t ideal for a daily for my wife so we downsized and bought the Outback - miss the T4R but no regrets as the Outback gets 10mpg better, does better in the snow, and my wife loves it. She’s going to drive the wheels off of it. That said the JLU we drove was a much better driving vehicle.

I totally see where a Ram would fit in for us too.

I guess choices are good to have?
 

billiebob

Well-known member
One thing about looking at bigger or diesel pickups, they also get heavier and if you get stuck....
I'd sooner be stuck in a Samurai than a diesel dually quadcab.

Buy as big as you need but buy the smallest that will work.
 
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