I have decided to do another crazy “van life” adventure – this time in a Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s a much smaller space than the van I had last time and I’m sure it’ll come with some adjustments to adapt to living in the limited space. It seems roomy enough so far, but I’m guessing I’ll have to do all my bathing outside of the vehicle. Same for the bathroom.
What spurred this? Well, the company I work for switched to work-from-home in early March due to the COVID-19 scare, like many other companies did. As of three weeks ago, they said we can work from anywhere indefinitely – with a strong emphasis on anywhere. A week ago they gave the list of states they’re allowed to employ in and I immediately began the process of “moving” to South Dakota, which was one of the allowed states. For those who don’t know, South Dakota is one of four states (SD, FL, TX, and NV) that is very friendly to full-time travelers. They make it easy to get a license there and register vehicles while not having a permanent address. It’s an added bonus that they also don’t have any state income tax or property tax. Imagine how much money you would save if you didn’t have any rent/mortgage or state income tax.
When they first made the announcement, I thought about doing another van build. Heck, I even looked for vans. However, I decided to give my Jeep a try for three main reasons:
- I already owned it. No additional money needed to be spent.
- It’d be way cheaper and quicker to get the build done. It took me months to build my van out and it only took me three hours to build my Jeep.
- And lastly, because it was already on my mind from the end of last year when I was going to travel but found my current job instead.
The build basically consisted of making a box to put a camping mattress on. The tricky part was that the entire rear of the Jeep slopes upward because the seats don’t fold entirely flat. I had to prop up a board until it was level and then scribe the slope of the Jeep onto the board and cut it out. Having the raised bed gives me a ton of storage underneath, as well as giving me a level surface to sleep on.
Cost: about $300. That’s for the wood, mattress, a foldable toilet, a small USB fan, and a few other minor things.
Since I’m not modifying the structure of the Jeep in any way, I still needed a way to have ventilation. That’s when I found the Roadie, a really cool product to turn basically any SUV into a tent. It wraps around the rear doors, providing a small awning to divert rain and some sun. I bought one for each door to allow for cross-ventilation. They make similar products that turn the tailgate area into a tent, but I simply don’t trust that it would keep water out if it were to rain.
Cost: $80 and some change.
The most expensive part of my build was the solar setup. I bought a Jackery Explorer 500 and a 100W solar panel to go with it. They make a bigger Jackery that I would have liked to get, but didn’t have any in stock at the time of my purchase. The one I bought should be enough power to last me a week at a time if I conserve what I can. Other than charging it with the solar panel, I can also charge it with the Jeep’s cigarette lighter or a regular AC outlet (which the Jeep also has). The only downside to the 500 is I heard it uses a PWM charge controller whereas the bigger Jackery 1000 uses a more efficient MPPT charge controller. I haven’t seen any official specs stating either, so I’m not sure if that’s true.
Since the Jeep has an outlet and multiple USB ports for charging, I probably didn’t have to buy the solar charger but it makes things a lot more convenient. I’d rather not have to start the Jeep up just to charge my laptop during the day. Solar was one of the few things from my van build that I loved having, except this setup is portable so I can also use it at my tiny house (which I am right now).
Cost: $750. It was $450 for the Jackery and $300 for the solar panel. I bought the Jackery on sale, so the normal price is a little bit higher.