My name is Rob Spencer, I drive a 2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport that has, through time, evolved into the most fun vehicle I’ve ever owned.
I bought my first Jeep back in 1993. Yup, the YJ – the square light classic. Anyways, being drawn to the outdoors in a way that allowed me to escape from the crowds could only be optioned through a 4×4 vehicle. Overlanding was just called camping back then, and although the gear wasn’t quite as cool as it is today, the friendship, food, challenges and campfire conversations were every bit as great!
[ THE INSPO ]
For me, the Jeep has always been a blank canvas. A way to express my creativity through building out a vehicle that represents who I am and what I love to do. That’s why my current Jeep is easily my favorite. It is so far removed from the 4-door Wrangler it used to be. I love it! Don’t get me wrong, as a 4-door Wrangler it was pretty awesome too, but I’ve always dreamed of being behind the wheel of a unique, one-of-a-kind that I built. So, once my son was old enough to have his own car, I went to work! Each new look got me closer to the perfect rig for me. I guess it’s never really finished though, owning a Jeep means you will always be evolving to the wants and needs of the day. That’s part of the fun.
Although I believe we continue to change our rigs, I also think it is important to always stick to the parts and brands you believe in. There is nothing worse than buying a bumper that you were “sold” as the greatest only to be disappointed by the experience. Through the years I’ve tried sticking to this…
The brand must have great customer service. They have to believe in their products and brand enough to back it when things go wrong. If a company doesn’t give the customer the best experience possible, I have no desire to buy their product regardless of how good it may be. From there, the products have to be well made. Lastly, I try and find the best pricing. Pricing for me is third because often great products come with higher price tags. I’d rather wait and save than buy twice because I chose to go with a lessor, but cheaper product. TeraFlex has been my favorite brand in the industry, though. The customer service and experience is amazing, the products are proven, and the design tends to fit with my flavor. Remember, though, you are the artist of your rig, so don’t settle. If you can’t find it…make it! If you don’t know how, there are plenty of cool places that can help you bring your vision to life.
[ EXPLORE AND EXPERIENCE ]
I am an explorer. I love seeing new places and things. I love dreaming about the history that got us here, and I love getting out there to try to find an untouched piece of ground that has never been stepped on. For that, I have had to build a rig that is comfortable to drive and capable of tackling just about everything you throw at it. Some bought and installed, and some built from my mind to my Jeep, but all designed to allow me to be true to my soul. Get out and explore!
I am fortunate enough to do what I do as my career. My job is to explore, learn and share life with people that love the things I love. Part of that is to also share the experiences I have with products and brands. I try and do anything I can do myself. If it bolts on, I’m pretty good to go. If it’s mechanically easy to do, I’ll try it. From there though we all can’t do everything. So, I need to rely on people that have more experience, know more and have the skill set to fill in my weaknesses.
[ THE FAVES ]
Everyone has their favorite mods, right? Usually it’s the newest mod I’ve done. For me though, it would have to be in this order:
My favorite mod is the addition of KC HiLiTES lights. Lighting is important, but the KC brand is so much more than just a light. The friends I’ve made there, the experiences I never would have had if it weren’t for the KC family inviting me out to, and their love for the experience makes them hands down my favorite.
Then it’s the Front Runner roof top tent. I love the Front Runner brand and their tent is outstanding. Obviously, tents are very similar in many ways, but the fact that the Front Runner tent weighs less than 100 pounds makes all the difference in the world to me. It keeps my rig top light and I can add it and remove it by myself without rupturing any major organs. I also can’t forget about the SnoMaster refrigerator! Going from ice chest to frig is a game changer, and SnoMaster makes one of the, if not the best refrigerator in the industry.
After that, it’s the truck bed conversion kit. I love the look and utility. It was easy to do, and has held up so well for years now. That last favorite mod is the long arm kit. I went with the TeraFlex long arm with the Alpine Long Control Arms. I’ve always had a great experience with TeraFlex so when deciding to change something so important it was a no brainer on whose kit I go with.
The next mod I’m doing is a front passenger seat delete. I want to build out a nice deck for my dog Pete with a little storage underneath. You know, as I look back at the modifications and purchased gear along this journey, I realized that we all kind of go through the same process. We overbuild and overbuy, minimize and get the right gear and then settle in with what works for us best as individuals. It’s a fun cycle, but costly sometimes for sure.
[ THE OUTDOORS AND BEYOND ]
I found something special and healing in nature and our place in Creation, well if we allow ourselves to embrace it anyway. I do what I do first because of what it has done for me. I do what I do now, because if I can connect even one person to the things that I’ve experienced through my journey in life outdoors. I know one by one the world will become a better place.
One of the most amazing trips I’ve had was my first trip to Death Valley. It’s one of the most awesome and amazing places! So, we got there and set up a base camp. Nothing special; a lot of other folks were also visiting the park. From there though, we travelled out to see some of the most beautiful things you could ever see. Specifically a place they call the Racetrack Playa. It’s this scenic giant dry lake bed that gets so windy during the wet winter months that the rocks get blown across the muddy surface. When the ground dries, the rocks look like they’ve been racing on the cracked dry lake bed.
I am definitely a desert guy. The big skies, the beautiful sunsets, there’s nothing like it. Luckily for me, here in the Southwest there are plenty of public lands and plenty of desert! You can never go wrong with Joshua Tree though. It’s a big National Park out here on the West Coast with all of the beauty of the California desert represented.
I am heading toward Florida next. Traveling from coast to coast, as much off-road as possible. From Florida we will head up into North Carolina and take a ferry to Cape Lookout National Seashore and spend some time there where we can do some camping and wheeling. It should be an awesome time.
[ SOUND ADVICE ]
Usually, trails are harder in our minds than they really are. Taking it slow with a good spotter will get you through just about anything safe and sound. There was one time, however, that a friend, my wife and I were taking her brand new JK out for a test run in Bee Canyon and found ourselves in some of the craziest terrain I’ve been in. I’m sure it seemed worse because it was at night, but at one point I found myself backing out for at least a 1/4 mile on a single track with each side washed out. One mistake and it was a long way down!
When it comes to planning a trip, spending the time preparing before you leave makes all the difference in the world. Once you decide where to go then you decide what you need. I start with tools and recovery gear first. Take the proper tools and gear for the place you are going. Then it’s navigation. Always spend time mapping out the route. Also make sure you update and download your maps to your GPS. Don’t rely on a signal. I am a fan of old school maps, too. Try and keep some in your rig for emergencies. From there it’s food planning, and finally clothing and personal gear. A couple notables – take gas and plenty of water. Charge your comms if they aren’t built-in, and if you can get yourself some type of solar charging for radios and phones…do it.
I always give my rig the once over and check for easy stuff like making sure the fluids are at the right levels, the battery is healthy, spare tire is good to go and then make a small kit with some brake fluid and transmission fluid. Just a few things that are common and could easily make all the difference in the world.
ARMOR, BUMPERS, SLIDERS:
Quadratec Aluminum Full Skid plate system, Genright aluminum front and rear bumpers, Teraflex Aluminum rock sliders
Full exterior Line-X, DV8 Off-Road truck conversion kit, AEV hood and snorkel, Bestop core doors
Quadratec Q-Performance Stealth winch, 12,000 lbs with synthetic rope, Factor 55 fairlead, Factor 55 Ultrahook, Factor
55 HitchLink, Factor 55 Tree Saver strap, Warn D-Ring shackles, Bartact recovery straps
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Teraflex Suspension Long Arm kit with Alpine Arms, Falcon Series 3.3 shocks, Falcon Nexus EF 2.2 steering stabilizer, TeraFlex HD track bar, TeraFlex HD drag link, TeraFlex high steer kit, TeraFlex HD oversized brake rotor kit
LIGHTING / MOUNTS:
KC HiLiTES Gravity LED headlights, KC HiLites Gravity LED G46 driving beams on A-pillars, KC HiLites Overhead XCross bar with Gravity LED G46 driving beams