Emily: The Jeep Geek Post

In Emily and I, Jessie and I, Life Is Short, Travel by David99 Comments

This one’s not going to appeal to everyone, but for those of you wanting to know more about Emily (my Jeep, and my home for the next year, starting a week from today), here’s the scoop. Yesterday I got her back from the shop after a few last minute modifications and she’s now ready to roll.

First, she’s a 2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited – Sahara Edition. The next step up, the Rubicon comes a little more trail-ready but then Jeep makes those decisions for you, and I wanted to do that myself. So I got the Sahara. Front and rear bumpers, expedition rack, ladder and back racks are all from Garvin Wilderness Products. There’s a Warn XD9000i winch and PIAA driving lights on the front. The suspension is a 3.5  inch lift from American Expedition Vehicles. Pro Comp Rock Crawler steel wheels and Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires. All that meant I needed new gear ratios, so they did that too (going to 4.88, which means nothing to me just yet except that it gives me more torque to pull what is fast becoming a 5,000lb Jeep.).

Total Vertical Clearance? 8’4″ No parking garages for this girl.
ARB compressor under the hood for inflating tires and blowing dust off my sensors (totally probably kidding about that last bit.) :-)

Under the hood there’s an ARB compressor for inflating tires (above), and the back holds an Engel 35 fridge/freezer and a Partner Steel propane stove on a double-slide from Adventure Trailers (below). The propane tank is a really little one from Kanz Outdoors, mounted beautifully in a custom cage to the back right-hand roll-bar. The back seats have been removed and put in storage in order to hold a little more cargo/crap, all in Zarges cases that are easy to stack and secure with ratchet-straps. The raised air intake (snorkel) is from American Expedition Vehicles.

Engel 35 fridge & Partner Steel stove on double slide from Adventure Trailers.

Up top, mounted to the Garvin expedition racks there’s a Columbus Variant Autohome rooftop tent, the large one, with room in front on the rack for 2 smaller Zarges cases (not shown), in which I keep stuff I don’t usually need, because frankly it’s a pain to pull them down. I found a solid and simple awning from The Camping Lab to protect from rain and sun. Here’s a shot from earlier this year showing the tent and awning up.

AutoHome tent up, Camping Lab awning out.

Shovel and Axe from Lee Valley Tools. Denali+ First Aid kit from Wilderness Medical Systems. Solar power, lamps, and extra 12v power from Goal Zero. And I got two sweet folding camp chairs from the Kermit Chair Company, that I adore. They’re beautifully handmade in Tennessee and roll up to nothing. Add a couple Go-Pro video cameras and as few extra clothes and other stuff as possible, and we’re ready to roll.

Emily and I, and friends along the way, are taking 2012 to drive, to take our time and explore and photograph National Parks, State Forests, and BLM lands in the American West. If you see us, say hi.

If you got through all that and have no idea what it all means, you’re in good company. I don’t either. This is a steep learning curve for me. But did I giggle like a little girl when I first attached the Jeep to a gigantic tree and winched it across the yard? Yes I did. And is it awesome that I have a fridge – and a freezer should I so need – in my Jeep? Also yes. And am I being a little bit like a little boy about all this? There is a distinct possibility, yes. But as Winnie the Pooh suggested, this is all too important to be taken seriously.

I’ll do a blog post about the intended route in the coming days. If you made it through this without your eyes glossing over you might be just the kind of person that would enjoy the OVERLAND EXPO in Arizona. This year it’s May 18-20 and I’d love to see you there.



  1. Ethan Garrity

    Love the “totally probably kidding” about the air compressor.
    How many beers under the awning do you suppose will be consumed while watching the sunset? It seems like so much has taken place (me just reading about it) since, “The Fall” last year. If you stop anywhere near Southwest MI, I’ll cook on the grill for you.

  2. Author

    Thanks Ethan! I’m going to guess there will be a few beers and many a bottle of red wine, had under this awning, likely with a tripod at my side and a remote shutter release in my hand. :-)

  3. Glenn Dixon

    Thanks for sharing, great to see you ready to hit the road! I’m fairly sure most of life’s problems can be solved with a beefy air compressor and a solid winch, and/or combination of the two. And if not, at-least it will be a fun solution!

  4. Dianne - Bunny Trails

    I actually DO understand everything you said up there. I even read it to my husband, because I knew he would love hearing about it. While we haven’t done a whole lot of jeeping in awhile (motor replacement, etc.), here’s a shot from some time back of ours. http://bunny-trails.blogspot.com/2007/04/its-jeep-thing.html

    It’s is back on the road with a new (to the jeep) motor, so we’ll be hitting the trail this summer, no doubt.

    Oh, our jeep is named Speedy. Somehow, when our boys were little, they thought the jeep was our fastest vehicle. It wasn’t, bu it felt like it to them. We’ve now had Speedy for almost 18 years. Never have we owned any vehicle for such a length of time.

    Excited to see/hear about your travels with Emily. Hope you make it to Colorado on this route. :-)

  5. David G

    I love the phrase “totally probably” ….. attempted reassurance without any kind of commitment :)

  6. Valerie

    Really, who needs the Giotto’s rocket blower when you’ve got an air compressor under the hood?1? 😉
    Emily looks FABULOUS!

  7. Author

    Dianne – Thanks for the link. Speedy looks like a lot of fun. I do hope to get to Colorado this year, so if you read mention of me coming your way, give me a holler! :-)

  8. Donna Osborne

    Impressive, I love your Emily! Indeed you are ready to roll! Have a great adventure and keep us posted. Hopefully i will see you driving thru Denver on way to Arizona. Enjoy Life and God Bless!

  9. Luc Langouet

    David, I am sorry, I have to do it. The power come from your engine and nothing in the drive train add power. Any change in your drive train give you either more speed with less torque OR less speed with more torque. I assume they did the last, in off road you need torque not speed. (on hwy you are going to consume more gas…).
    You are my mentor in photography and will never argue with you on this subject in mechanics it is different. If you go thru the Shenandoah valley in Virginia let me know and we could share some wine and good food.

  10. Steven D

    David, it’s so exciting to see you kitted back up to resume your nomadic state of wandering. If I said I was a little jealous, it would be a gross understatement.

    You mention my awesome state of Oregon in your travel plans. As you’ve already near-drowned on the Coast, perhaps a journey through Central Oregon is in order? Fabulous scenery of nearly every imaginable kind!

    Plus, if you make it through Bend, I know of at least a few folks here who would like to meet you and buy you some of our famous Central Oregon brew.

    May God bless you in your travels!

  11. Celeste

    Totally jealous of the Autohome rooftop tent. I didn’t know they existed, and now I will have to have one. My camera gear addiction has been replaced by roving gear addiction. I don’t think it will be any cheaper.

  12. Rod

    Awesome setup. I’m very jealous. One question – do you plan on removing the stove from the slider before cooking? I hope so, otherwise (from experience) you are going to have Emily full of steam and grease – neither of which are conducive to clean camera gear. Happy trails!

  13. Nicole Young

    You really need to hold on to Emily after your trip … she’ll be GOLD if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse. :) Hope to catch you somewhere along your trip, David!

  14. Paul Bousquet

    That is one awesome mobile “home” David, best of luck with it and your upcoming adventure. Looking forward to seeing some video from those Go-Pros & of course the images. Also, hope to meet you if the opportunity arises in New England.

  15. Di

    That Emily, she’s kind of sexy. Seems like you’re going to have a most excellent year. Looking forward to reading your tales from the road.

  16. lynn park

    i do think little boys would giggle if they winched a tree across a yard!

    what about sleeping? will Emily be able to keep you comfortable with a good inflatable mattress or futon-y type thing or is it sleeping bag city?

  17. Lisa

    Looking forward to hearing of your adventures! The National Parks are such a treasure to see. Lived in CO, NC, and MT before ending up in AL. Still dreaming about being back in CO, so I hope to see your photos from the mountains across the land and live vicariously through your travels. I’ll honk the blue Prius at you should our paths cross. Thanks for sharing!

  18. RadaZ

    Thank you for this post. I love to get organised before a trip, and I need to say – you sure know how to do it. I’m so getting the Goal Zero kit! ;>

  19. Author

    Thanks, Luc. You’re right about the torque. I just used the wrong word. It’s all kind of new for me.

    Lynn – You are too kind! :-)

    Paul Bousquet – Where are you located in New England?

    Nicole – Be back in the Pacific Northwest before you know it!

  20. Author

    Mark Olwick – Yeah, you did. I took Jessie off the road and will be selling her. A number of reasons, not the least for now is that the Land Rover is tough to drive with these feet. And the Jeep has more room. Sad to see the diesel Defender go, though. So Jessie’s ready to sell. Or she won’t and in a year I’ll do some work on her, give her a coat of paint, and ship it to the UK and keep it in Europe with family there.

  21. Rob


    Great looking rig and very practical. You’ve inspired me for our next trip around Oz !

  22. Skijeeper

    Nice rig, I am very jealous. If you get to SE WA state, I am sure the local 4×4 group would love to host you for a meeting or dinner.

  23. Jon Mandrell

    You will absolutely love the kermit chairs! No one quite understands until they actually sit in one. Godspeed!

  24. Martin


    that is one trip I sure envy you! being able to just drive from one beautiful place to another and spending dusk and/or dawn there to snap pictures is one thing I surely would like to do… if you should ever come to Europe on your trip, exp. to Munich, Germany, I’d love to hang out with you :) (you know, we have beautiful mountains, too) 😉


  25. Steve Kalman

    I didn’t see a fire extinguisher on the list. Might be useful, tho we always hope not.

    Also, stop by your local firehouse and ask the rescue truck workers to show you the compression pads they hook up to the air compressor. Those pads will lift Emily easily. Should you get a flat in a spot where a jack is too awkward or unsafe to use, these pads will lift her up so you can change it. Even on level ground, it’s a lot less work. They’re about the size of a pillow, but deflated. Those folks will let you figure out if you can attach one to your system, possibly with an adapter.

    All the best for your journey


  26. Author

    Thanks, Steve. Yes, there is a fire extinguisher. I’ve seen those compression pads you refer to, though you can get something similar in the 4×4 world that just inflates via the exhaust system. Quite amazing, actually. Not sure this compressor has the power to lift a 5K lb jeep but the exhaust ones would. For now my hi-lift jack will have to do. :-)

  27. Marty

    So I’m sitting here surrounded by Jeep brochures trying to decide which Wrangler to buy (feeling guilty about all the $$$ of bells and whistles), then I read your posting. O.M.G! I didn’t know all that stuff existed. AND, now it makes what I want look cheap! WOO HOO! I can’t wait to read of your wonderful adventures! God speed……

  28. Chris Johansson

    Nice, love this project and the fact that you take action. As you said before, many of us dream about it;)

    Gonna have a close eay on you and the little miss.

    Best of luck.


  29. Author

    Easy, Marty, this is a long, slippery, path that leads to all kinds of things you never knew you needed but once you discover them you find you simply can’t live without them. This is not for the faint of heart. :-) Have fun! :-)

  30. Pingback: David du Chemin, the uksnow and kick ass jeeps « Drop Tables

  31. Chris Plante

    Don’t be shy to talk about Jeep gear. It’s gives others ideas on how to trick out our trucks… I mean, customize our photography tools. I like the idea of adding a compressor.

    A few months ago I bought a 2011 Dodge 1500 4×4 with the hopes of one day using it for a long term road trip. Though, I also wanted a vehicle to provide larger storage and safety than my Cavalier when travelling western Canada for work. I finally have time to photography it this month.

  32. Janna

    Would love to have you stop by Glendale Community College photography department when you swing through Phoenix, AZ….. Share a story of craft and vision. The dept is working on approval of an associates degree. A nice upgrade from the typical certificate programs offered at most. We have more students now than ever! Myself included. So, if you need to hydrate, we will have a glass of water waiting for you;)

  33. Kristina

    Celeste, its not any less expensive.
    David. Awesome. Just plain Awesome. My hubby and I are currently working on kitting up our ’90 Wrangler for my summer/fall in Montana. So if you happen to be in near Missoula Facebook a shout out, I’d be happy to buy you a glass of wine or an ice cream cone. Its the least I can do for all the stories and inspiration you have given.

  34. DaveB

    Love the details… but must admit I kept thinking of a variety of Wiserhood commercials (sorry a Canadian thing)… but here is one of many…

  35. Author

    DaveB – Thanks to you I just spent an unretrievable chunk of my life watching Wiserhood commercials. Great commercials, but too bad about the swill they’re selling as whisky. :-) Still, great commercials…

  36. Brian

    Love it, I’ll try keeping up with your journey. We do what we can with our ’08 Sahara and ’84 Scrambler. We hope to venture longer stints once the kids are older and on their own!

    Great kit list! Happy trails – Brian

  37. Mark


    Just one thing that I can see to add: Get yourself some mosquito netting that you can add to drape around/over the awning. Come late spring, it’ll be worth it. Four sides, give it an extra foot or two of length to drop onto the ground (no floor), and one big zipper to get in and out.

  38. BobE

    David, We plan on touring the 4 corners area in October…Arches, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, etc. We hope to see Emily’s profile on the horizon on one of those trips! I found a jeep rental place that has trails rated, with the highest rated requiring a winch, and I’m thinking “YIPPEE!”, and my wife saying “NOT ON YOUR LIFE!” Enjoy the trip…looking forward to your photos!

  39. Tammy

    My husband and I have signed up for the Overland Expo so maybe our paths will cross. I look forward to your postcards from the road.

  40. James schwartz / candy man

    My wife just sent a link to your blog. It’s very nice to see your face again! Pretty jeep. Cameras and such aren’t my thing but I’ll stick my head in from time to time to see how you’re keeping. God bless, my friend.

  41. Author

    James – I can, in fact. Or I will be able to if I want. I need to put a couple spacers in the roof rack if I want to do this without scraping the roof, and I doubt I’ll ever need or want to do this, but I can get the front panels off if I want an unobstructed view of my beautiful roof rack. :-)

  42. James Davidson

    Yeah I knew the view wouldn’t be much better, but glad you can still get some “sunroof air” if needed! Maybe just paint some clouds on the ceiling instead. :)

  43. Dale Janzen

    I have to say, I think I’m anticipating the adventure(s) of the year ahead of you at least as much as you are, David! I’m eagerly awaiting your musings… your reports… and your images from the great big ‘out there’! In the words of Mat Kearney… ‘Push the pedal down… watch the world around… fly by us’. May the miles be kind, my friend!

  44. Jeff Urquhart

    If you are out on cape cod send me an email .we have have a mother inlaw suite and would love to show you around the cape jeff

  45. Pete

    Awesome, I love a good gear post…not camera gear that is. Cant’ wait to start hearing more adventures from the road. I had a great chat with one of the guys in a band we saw recently about a tour he did on dualsport bikes and it’s inspiring stuff.

  46. Dave Uhlig

    I believe we used to work together a bit at The Travel Photographers Network. If you are anywhere near the Heartland, give me a shout. We have a cabin on Lewis and Clark Lake, on the South Dakota and Nebraska border, great four wheeling and great photos! Nice work on the jeep. I also have the Sahara, and couldn’t be happier. Take care and safe travels.

  47. Michael Meek

    Okay, I gotta know “how much!” In dollars, please. Oh, you got guts. There is a lot of hardship on the road. Not many of us get out there and endure the discomfort, the endless chores that keep yourelf and your gear clean and enabling so that you can get to the next place. And waking up in the morning and not knowing where you are going that day or week or month is both freeing and oppressing. But, oh to be connected to the land and waters, to the sun and rain and wind, that’s heaven, yes? Good luck out there and may you prosper in all the ways that count.

  48. Riki Schmigel

    I am not sure what any of the car jargon means, but if pops out a tent I want it. This is the perfect adventure vehicle. Enjoy your travels and fridge.

  49. esquissewei

    Jessie has gone to paradise, now emily is your new companion. Jessie remembers me of your incredible journey in Italy last year. So emotionnal, and what a fantastic story. Thanks David for sharing your adventure that way :-)

  50. Shane Carlson

    David, have been a longtime fan of your work, blog, and books, but now I am thoroughly impressed with you as a well rounded renaissance man.

    I am also a member of the overland community and live in Northern Nevada near Lake Tahoe and the Eastern Sierras.

    We have a pretty active group of overlanders here and should your travels bring you near us, several of us would love to offer you our hospitality (Shade, Food, Drink, trail guide for abandoned mining towns, desert and mountain views, a place for repairs or maintenance for Emily, etc).

    Between myself, Chris Dickerson (owner of Sierra 4×4 Outfitters, Sierra 4×4 Trailers, and Hannibal Safari USA http://www.hannibalusa.com), and J. Courtenay Brandon (American Sahara http://www.americansahara.com/), and a host of others. I am sure we could help out in any way, and more than anything, we love to host fellow overlanders and adventurers as they come through the area (there is a lot you can miss out on if you don’t know the area).

    Feel free to reach out if your travels take you this way. Otherwise, hopefully some of us might see you at Overland Expo in May.

    Safe Travels,


  51. Dave

    Wow, you’re living the photographer’s dream! I hope your trip is amazing and changes your life along the way. I definitely look forward to seeing the photos.

    If you happen to come through Fort Worth, TX for some reason :), give us a shout out!

  52. david

    sounds like more than a little fun. good luck on your trip. one small bit of information. the propane tank in the back of your jeep is not safe and is against fire codes. if the valve leaks, you have alot of propane in the jeep and a new convertible.

  53. Author

    Shane, that’s really cool of you, thank you. I’ll try to remember to reach out to you when I get closer. I’d love to pick your brains, go for a drive, or share a meal with you or any of the guys you mentioned. Local intel and hospitality is one of the joys of traveling like this. Will you be at the Expo? Drop me an email – david@pixelatedimage.com

  54. Sue Sheen

    Incredibly kitted out photo runner! I love it! Would you mind if I cloned her and named her Gerard (along with an obvious gender alteration)? Could so visualize Emily and Gerard meeting up in the hills while mad owners were off shooting the earth’s bounty! A frozen Montreal lass can dream, can’t she?! Safe and happy travels, David – can’t wait to see the results.

  55. Phil

    As big new fan of your work and books, I was quite amused by your posting on your new jeep. Looks good! I’m heading down the same path right now. I bought a 2011 FJ Cruiser and I’m busy researching all the ways I can pour money into it! I have a ways to go to catch up to you though. Through my research I discovered the Overland Journal and Expo and now I’m hooked. Great magazine and my dog and I are heading to the Expo for the first time in May. Hopefully we can catch up with you and have a beer.

  56. RVAphotography

    first, that’s just sweeeeet, as a photographer and fellow jeeper..LOVE IT!! but I must make a quandary, what size tire did you go to? I’m concerned your 4:88’s might be too much gearing, I have an XJ (boxy cherokee) that’s 5″lift on 33×12.50.15r goodyear MTR’s and I have 4:10’s and at highway speeds I push 2800-2900rpms. Anywho- Love your work, love what you do, and love that you’re a fellow JEEPER!!

  57. Jenn Grover

    David, great build. I really like what you have done in terms of storage.

    How is the tripod mounted? I am looking for easy access to my tripod and this seems like a really great solution.

  58. Thomas

    This is awesome. I would love to track you on your trip. Not for stalking purposes….but to live through you. I am stuck and unable to do something like this for a few years. I am jealous beyond belief. Stay safe.

  59. Michael

    Having been a Jeeper since “79, I am totally jealous. My 06 Rubicon is tricked out, just not quite as much. One piece of advice…get familiar with your hi lift and be extremely careful with it.They can be dangerous if not handled properly.

  60. Adam LeBlanc

    I am almost positive this is the same Jeep i saw on Saturday, February 18, around noon, about to pull onto the highway by a Petro-can near Fredericton, New Brunswick.

  61. Author

    Adam – There’s a very good chance that was me. Not many like Emily out there and I was at a Petro-Can in the area about the same time. Small world. :-)

  62. Author

    Jenn – I use simple straps with fastex buckles. I tied them to the roll-bars and now just clip the buckles on and off to access the tripod. My larger tripod, which I use more often is slid under a platform I’ve had built where the rear seats once sat, and is easily pulled out once I open the rear door.

  63. Adam LeBlanc

    Glad i got to see it, because my friend and I had no idea what that was on the roof, i assumed it was some sort of camper but really didn’t know lol. Well, it was good to see it, nice Jeep, definitely stood out from the crowd, i’m always keeping my eyes peeled for different rigs around the area.

  64. Marc

    Sounds like one phenomenal and epic journey! Many safe travels. If you head through Middle Missouri don’t be afraid to give a shout!

  65. Jen Gunyon

    My eyes didn’t actually gloss over while reading Emily’s stats, I was glued and excited to read all her mods :) I’m aiming to get a Jeep sometime this year and would deck it out like Emily if I could! Who needs a house? lol If you decide to cross the border, come to British Columbia to explore our amazing parks and head north to Terrace for a coastal treat :) Happy Trails! Jen

  66. Paula

    My jeep has a winch, shovel, and a compressor. I’ve used the winch and the shovel. :) Don’t have the frig, and my stove is a little propane thing that can heat water…my only priority. I carry a little tent but sleep in the jeep half the time. You are missing two of the most important things needed out west…an extra gas can. And room for lots and lots of water…oh! and duct tape! :) Enjoy the ride. Sounds like a fabulous adventure! And nothing will top Utah….

  67. Emily

    You know, I’ve never known of a vehicle named after me! 😉 But I am stoked that it’s a Jeep! There’s some fun Jeep trails up by me, I am only one house away from the Tonto National Forest, and not far at all from the Verde River. I’d love to meet your Emily!

  68. Jorge

    Hello David, Great looking truck you have.. I may get one to explore and photograph Central America in the coming years.. My brother in law own 4 Jeeps dealership so I may get a good deal on one..

    I own 2 land rover defenders 110, 2006 they are park in my home country of Chile now waiting for my next adventure in South America.. you should come along in one of my trips.. I don’t know when you started reciving Overland Journal Magazine (I’m South America senior photographer for OJ) the summer 2010 issue has my cover shot and one of my defender. Scott Brady is a close friend and we had done some trips together in SA we spend 16 days wine testing around Chile and Argentina…

    I hope to see you in May at the Overland Expo

    Keep the good work and those eBooks coming..I have every single one!

    Be well

    Jorge Valdes

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