When Brian Barnhill purchased his ’10 Wrangler, his focus was on having a good wheeling vehicle. With no kids and trail exploration as his primary focus, he liked what the two-door offered over the longer Unlimited JK. As his build progressed over the years, so did his use for it. While trails were still important, he found that he and his wife especially enjoyed camping off-the-grid.
Happy with the way the Jeep performed on- and off-road, he decided that rather than trade out his two-door for a four-door model, he would instead move his camping essentials to a separate trailer. This custom trailer setup would be built in such a way that it would be durable enough to tow to remote destinations and act as basecamp for when he’s ready to hit the trail. We were intrigued with the setup, so we caught up with the fifth-generation blueberry farmer in coastal North Carolina to get a closer look.
ChassisThe Jeep came long before the trailer, as did his initial build direction. Up front, the stock front bumper was swapped in favor of a JCR Mauler stubby. It was paired with a Warn XD 9000 winch with Spydura synthetic line and a Factor 55 FlatLink. Like the front, the rear bumper was sourced from JCR and is a Crusader series with the Adventure tire carrier option. This setup allows Barnhill to secure a pair of RotopaX fuel containers, a Hi-Lift Jack, and his fullsize spare.
Barnhill picked the Smittybilt rocker guards because they also allow him to easily access the roof of the Jeep. Adding front-to-back protection under the JK are an assortment of skidplates from EVO Mfg. Suspending the rig is a medley of parts from Rubicon Express, Fox, and Rock Krawler. In total, the JK has around 4 inches of lift, which is aided by front and rear Currie Antirock sway bars. This leaves plenty of room for the Jeep’s 37x12.50R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers to travel uninterrupted. To ensure the mud-terrain radials stay securely on the wheels at single-digit pressures off-road, each was bolted to a 17x9 Machete beadlock from KMC Wheels.
DrivetrainNestled next to the 3.8L V-6 you’ll find an ARB compressor along with a Genesis dual-battery system and twin Odyssey PC1500 batteries. Aside from a MagnaFlow exhaust, the V-6 remains mostly stock. It’s backed by the stock six-speed manual transmission and NVG 241 transfer case. The factory drivelines have been replaced with a more durable set from Adam’s Driveshafts and now spin a Dynatrac ProRock Ultimate 44 front axle and Dynatrac XD60 outback.
Paired with the ProRock front are RCV Performance axleshafts and Reid Racing steering knuckles, which use Barnes 4WD off-set rod ends and aluminum steering links. Making the system steer smoothly is a PSC Motorsports hydraulic-assist steering system. Both axles were fit with Eaton ELockers and 5.13 gears.
Body and InteriorThe front buckets were draped in Bartac seat covers, and a Tuffy underseat lock box was added. In place of the rear seat is a slide deck system that secures his ARB Fridge/Freezer and extra gear. There’s also a Garmin Glo that’s connected to Barnhill’s tablet for added navigation, and a Uniden 510 CB radio to keep him connected. Controlling the lockers and an assortment of lighting upgrades is a switch panel from sPOD.
Speaking of lights, this JK has a good assortment. Handling the practical needs are LED headlights from Truck-Lite; while the lightbar, pod, and rock lights are all from Black Oak LED. Attached to the Jeep’s hardtop is a Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform with Backbone, which secures his Maxtrax recovery boards and waterproof gear boxes. Astute readers will also notice that the stock JK fenders were trimmed for added tire clearance.
Trailer BitsThe custom steel-framed trailer is what gives the Barnhill’s the ability to camp with ease. The 3,500-pound axle has the leaf springs placed on top, which is necessary to clear the 35-inch-tall BFG all-terrain tires. A custom swing-out tire carrier holds a fullsize spare, along with a RotopaX fuel and water can. The main storage compartment is 4 feet by 4 feet, so there’s plenty of room for hauling.
Sitting atop the main bin is a Smittybilt rooftop tent. One the side, you’ll find a stock tool supply, while the CO2 and propane tanks are secured near the front. The tongue box holds the dual-battery setup and onboard charger, which help power the assortment of LEDs throughout the trailer, among other things. To connect the JK to the trailer, a Max Coupler multi-axis hitch was used.
Why This Jeep?It’s no secret that overlanding is a growing branch of the off-road enthusiast tree, but this Jeep is far from an Instagram poser. Watching Brian and his wife, Johanna, move around the Jeep, it’s obvious that the two are accustomed to using the setup. We also dig that this couple has figured out a great solution that allows them to maintain a capable Jeep and still have all of the conveniences they want out of a camping setup.
Hard FactsVehicle: ’10 Jeep Wrangler JK
Engine: 3.8L V-6
Transmission: NSG-370 six-speed manual
Transfer Case: NVG 241
Suspension: 4-in Rubicon Express w/Fox shocks and Rock Krawler control arms
Axles: Dynatrac ProRock Ultimate 44 front, Dynatrac ProRock XD 60 rear, 5.13 gears, Eaton ELockers
Wheels: 17x9 KMC Machete beadlock
Tires: 37x12.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler