It’s the official vehicle of Park City, Utah. Or so it seems from driving Route 224 on any given day.
I bought my first Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon in 2017. That was the JK model, which ran from 2007 until 2018. I’ve since upgraded to a 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, which is the second year for the new JL model…the fourth generation of the popular Wrangler platform.
I initially bought the Wrangler to have a convertible option in the summer. It wasn’t for off-roading, per se, and I made no modifications. This time around, though, the pandemic has inspired me to explore off-grid camping and overlanding throughout the Utah backcountry. And, well, the stock Rubicon just won’t do. After much research, the following is the list of upgrades to make it more off-road capable along with setting it apart from so many other Jeep Wrangler JLs in my hometown.
1. Mopar 2” Lift Kit with Fox Series Shocks ($1,675)
The lift kit is a first step for any Jeep Wrangler build, and it’s ideal to go with a factory-supported version to be certain about compatibility and performance. With the Rubicon variant, this 2-inch kit will accommodate up to 37” tires. It includes beefier Fox shocks that are specifically designed for the Wrangler, along with control arms that improve turning and off-road handling.
2. Mopar Functional Bead Lock Wheels ($520/wheel)
The stock Rubicon wheels are fine. They look great, and you can simply add bigger tires. But if you also want to improve performance, while giving your Jeep a better look, these beadlock-capable wheels are classy, understated and flexible. First, they increase the offset over the factory wheels, which give it a wider and more stable stance. The key components, though, are the included beadlock rings. These are not street legal (DOT approved), but they enable you to run much lower air pressure for extreme off-road terrain. Otherwise, you’ll do a standard DOT tire mount with the silver trim rings, which have the same look as the beadlocks.
When you go with bigger tires, the standard tire mount might seem to work. But over time, that added weight will wear on the tailgate hinges. Best to upgrade to this Jeep-branded reinforcement, which can handle up to 37-inch tires. Plus, it’s compatible with the backup camera.
4. Go Rhino Dominator Extreme DDS Sliders ($481)
My stock Rubicon came with a simple rail, which protects the body but doesn’t offer a step. When you lift the Jeep and swap out for bigger tires, most people—especially my 11-year-old daughter—will want a step for getting in and out of the Jeep. Not to mention loading gear on the roof. These sliders from Go Rhino offer body protection in rock crawling terrain as well as a grippy step. They swap out easily with no cutting or drilling.
5. Go Rhino Rockline Full Front Bumper ($578)
The front bumper upgrade can increase approach angles and provide a range of different lighting and recovery options, while beefing up the look. The Rockline from Go Rhino has space for four cube lights (two on each side), as well as a 20-inch light bar…all of which are protected within the bumper itself. You can mount up to a 12,000-pound winch (with the optional winch bracket) along with the optional skid plate for added protection. No drilling or cutting required.
6. Go Rhino SRM500 Roof Rack ($550)
Personally, I have two main use cases for the roof rack: ski racks in the winter and an overlanding tent in the summer. The SRM500 from Go Rhino is ideal for both. This size mounts exclusively to the hard top, so it comes off as a single piece when you want to go topless. It’s low profile, as well, sitting very close to the roof top.
7. BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 Tires ($261/tire)
The Rubicon comes stock with BF Goodrich KO2 tires, but it’s the 33-inch version. In going up to the 35-inch size, you could opt for the more aggressive KM3. However, if you want something that is ideal for all-season for driving in the snow, along with taking it off-road, it makes more sense to stick with the KO2 and just go bigger.
8. BF Goodrich Off Road Wiper Blades ($70)
Stock wipers are minimum viable. But if you’ll encounter mud and snow on a regular basis, these high-performance wipers from BF Goodrich provide off-road-worthy wiping power. The treaded design channels snow and water away from the blade, thus reducing freezing.
9. KC C-Series LED Light Bar ($303)
With a range of six to 50 inches, the C-Series light bar from KC has a lot of range. With the Go Rhino Rockline bumper (above), it’s designed for a 20-inch bar that mounts behind the protective mesh. This gives you 10,800 lumens of light, which is projected as a combination of eight-degree spot and 90-degree spread patterns. So this is really an all-purpose light bar that’s a good starting point, as well as being the center of a bigger lighting package.
10. KC 3” C-Series LED Pair Pack System ($172)
The KC C-Series LED cube lights provide maximum range and flexibility. They are sold in pairs and can be configured as spot or flood lights with the option of clear or amber light colors. The Go Rhino Rockline bumper (above) has mounts for two lights each on either side, so you can mix and match based on your on- and off-road driving needs.