Ode to an Ancient Jeep: Sleeping and Camping in a 1995 Jeep Cherokee

[Tristan’s Note: I had the pleasure of meeting up with SUV RVing reader and viewer Robert DeNike when I was in California in January. We had a great time chatting about adventures past and future, and we’ve kept in touch since then. He recently sent me a ton of fantastic photos and info about his sleeping/camping setup in his 1995 Jeep Cherokee Country. All of the photos and words below are his, but I will occasionally add my own thoughts, which will be in brackets. Thanks for sharing your adventure rig, Robert!]

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It came off the assembly line in 1995, before some of you were born. But 22 years later it still runs like a Swiss watch, taking me over rutted, boulder-strewn roads far from the maddening crowd.

I’m a backpacker, so the Jeep’s purpose in life is to get me to trailheads at the edges of North America’s great wilderness areas. After 10 days out there, I am thinking fondly of the Jeep and the little luxuries within. It’s always with great joy and relief that I catch sight of it as I emerge from the wilds, waiting there patiently like a loyal dog.

One-Man Show

The first modification I made was to remove the rear seat bench. Permanently. The seat back now folds down flat, creating a sizable cargo space. This left the seat belts hanging uselessly in the way, so I unscrewed and cut out all except mine. Finally, I detached the front passenger seat back so I can stretch out fully when lying down, which also opened up the cargo area even more.

The Jeep now accommodates exactly one rider: me. So if your wife or kids want to go camping with you, or even just shopping at the local Costco, forget it. But my wife would rather go to the dentist than go camping. That’s OK; I love her anyway. The point being: these modifications are for the committed solo SUVer only.

Photo Tour

Base layer: I start with a ThermaRest Z-Lite as padding for the mattress.
Base layer: I start with a Thermarest Z-Lite as padding for the mattress.
Plenty of leg-room on this flight: removing the front passenger seat allows me to stretch out with impunity.
Plenty of leg-room on this flight: removing the front passenger seat allows me to stretch out with impunity. The Thermarest LuxuryMap Mattress goes on top of the foam pad.
Bridging the gap: the space between the front and rear seats is covered with a simple plank and strip of carpet (a scavenged scrap from a local flooring outlet).
Bridging the gap: the space between the front and rear seats is covered with a simple plank and strip of carpet (a scavenged scrap from a local flooring outlet).

Bridging the gap: the space between the front and rear seats is covered with a simple plank and strip of carpet (a scavenged scrap from a local flooring outlet).
Bridging the gap: the space between the front and rear seats is covered with a simple plank and strip of carpet (a scavenged scrap from a local flooring outlet).
What lies beneath: soft, non-squishable items that I don’t need ready access to go in these shallow rear seat compartments.
What lies beneath: soft, non-squishable items that I don’t need ready access to go in these shallow rear seat compartments.
Filling the belly of the beast: start by loading the tubs toward the front of the cargo area. Water containers go in next.
Filling the belly of the beast: start by loading the tubs toward the front of the cargo area.
Filling the belly of the beast: start by loading the tubs toward the front of the cargo area. Water containers go in next.
Water containers go in next.
Chaos theory: soft, smaller items go in last and on top of the tubs. It may look like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but there’s a method to this madness, as we have seen. If I can still see over the top and out the rear window, I’m happy.
Chaos theory: soft, smaller items go in last and on top of the tubs. It may look like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but there’s a method to this madness, as we have seen. If I can still see over the top and out the rear window, I’m happy.
Stay calm and keep cool: conventional coolers leave your food swimming in meltwater before you’ve even made it out of the parking lot. Solution: nest a small tub inside a large one. Insert ice, small tub, then food, and your perishables will stay cold and dry.
Stay calm and keep cool: conventional coolers leave your food swimming in meltwater before you’ve even made it out of the parking lot. Solution: nest a small tub inside a large one. Insert ice, small tub, then food, and your perishables will stay cold and dry.
Stay calm and keep cool: conventional coolers leave your food swimming in meltwater before you’ve even made it out of the parking lot. Solution: nest a small tub inside a large one. Insert ice, small tub, then food, and your perishables will stay cold and dry.
Stay calm and keep cool: conventional coolers leave your food swimming in meltwater before you’ve even made it out of the parking lot. Solution: nest a small tub inside a large one. Insert ice, small tub, then food, and your perishables will stay cold and dry.
Stay calm and keep cool: conventional coolers leave your food swimming in meltwater before you’ve even made it out of the parking lot. Solution: nest a small tub inside a large one. Insert ice, small tub, then food, and your perishables will stay cold and dry.
Stay calm and keep cool: conventional coolers leave your food swimming in meltwater before you’ve even made it out of the parking lot. Solution: nest a small tub inside a large one. Insert ice, small tub, then food, and your perishables will stay cold and dry.
Stay calm and keep cool: conventional coolers leave your food swimming in meltwater before you’ve even made it out of the parking lot. Solution: nest a small tub inside a large one. Insert ice, small tub, then food, and your perishables will stay cold and dry.
Stay calm and keep cool: conventional coolers leave your food swimming in meltwater before you’ve even made it out of the parking lot. Solution: nest a small tub inside a large one. Insert ice, small tub, then food, and your perishables will stay cold and dry.
Man’s best friend: this porta-potty folds up into a package the size of a large briefcase. A collapsible military-grade shovel completes the set. Please pack out your used toilet paper and secure your deposit with a large rock to prevent coyotes from digging it up.
Man’s best friend: The Cleanwaste Go Anywhere Portable Toilet folds up into a package the size of a large briefcase. Please pack out your used toilet paper and secure your deposit with a large rock to prevent coyotes from digging it up.
Man’s best friend: this porta-potty folds up into a package the size of a large briefcase. A collapsible military-grade shovel completes the set. Please pack out your used toilet paper and secure your deposit with a large rock to prevent coyotes from digging it up.
Man’s best friend: this porta-potty folds up into a package the size of a large briefcase. A collapsible military-grade shovel completes the set. Please pack out your used toilet paper and secure your deposit with a large rock to prevent coyotes from digging it up. (The water bottle is for scale.)
April showers: the hood is a good place to put the solar shower when washing hands and dishes. A strap attached to the windshield wiper will prevent the shower from sliding off. When you’re ready to bathe, put the shower on the roof for greater elevation.
April showers: the hood is a good place to put the solar shower when washing hands and dishes. A strap attached to the windshield wiper will prevent the shower from sliding off. When you’re ready to bathe, put the shower on the roof for greater elevation.
April showers: the hood is a good place to put the solar shower when washing hands and dishes. A strap attached to the windshield wiper will prevent the shower from sliding off. When you’re ready to bathe, put the shower on the roof for greater elevation.
April showers: the hood is a good place to put the solar shower when washing hands and dishes. A strap attached to the windshield wiper will prevent the shower from sliding off. When you’re ready to bathe, put the shower on the roof for greater elevation.
Truncation modification: Dear Solar Shower Manufacturer…if you make the hose too long, we can’t get underneath it unless we hoist the unit to an impossible height. People, cut out a healthy section of the hose and rejoin the two ends with this thingamabob whose name eludes me, and a hose clamp.
Truncation modification: Dear Solar Shower Manufacturer…if you make the hose too long, we can’t get underneath it unless we hoist the unit to an impossible height. People, cut out a healthy section of the hose and rejoin the two ends with this brass barbed hose splicer and a hose clamp.
Let’s cook: nothing fancy here, just basic cookware. The burner stove is a little gem made by Stansport, and the windscreen is a Highrock Tall Compact Folding Stove Windscreen (which Tristan may have told me about, I can’t remember).
Let’s cook: nothing fancy here, just basic cookware. The burner stove is a little gem made by Stansport, and the windscreen is a Highrock Tall Compact Folding Stove Windscreen (which Tristan may have told me about, I can’t remember). [Tristan’s Note: Yep, I have it and it’s great.]
Let’s cook: nothing fancy here, just basic cookware. The burner stove is a little gem made by Stansport, and the windscreen is a Highrock Tall Compact Folding Stove Windscreen (which Tristan may have told me about, I can’t remember).
Let’s cook: nothing fancy here, just basic utensils. The burner stove is a little gem made by Stansport, and the windscreen is a Highrock Tall Compact Folding Stove Windscreen.
Let’s cook: nothing fancy here, just basic cookware. The burner stove is a little gem made by Stansport, and the windscreen is a Highrock Tall Compact Folding Stove Windscreen (which Tristan may have told me about, I can’t remember).
Let’s cook: nothing fancy here, just basic cookware. The burner stove is a little gem made by Stansport, and the windscreen is a Highrock Tall Compact Folding Stove Windscreen.
Moral dilemma: I resisted using propane canisters for years because I couldn’t stand the thought of them all ending up in a landfill. The CrunchIt tool allows me to sleep guilt-free. Screw it on, then perforate the canister as you unscrew it. The canister can now be safely recycled.
Moral dilemma: I resisted using propane canisters for years because I couldn’t stand the thought of them all ending up in a landfill.
Moral dilemma: I resisted using propane canisters for years because I couldn’t stand the thought of them all ending up in a landfill. The CrunchIt tool allows me to sleep guilt-free. Screw it on, then perforate the canister as you unscrew it. The canister can now be safely recycled.
Moral dilemma: The CrunchIt tool allows me to sleep guilt-free. Screw it on, then perforate the canister as you unscrew it. The canister can now be safely recycled.
Medicine man: I pack my health-related items in a small tub which I store in the front seat on top of the office tub. Use cups to compartmentalize small items so your medicine chest doesn’t turn into a tossed salad of toiletries.
Medicine man: I pack my health-related items in a small tub which I store in the front seat on top of the office tub. Use cups to compartmentalize small items so your medicine chest doesn’t turn into a tossed salad of toiletries.
Medicine man: I pack my health-related items in a small tub which I store in the front seat on top of the office tub. Use cups to compartmentalize small items so your medicine chest doesn’t turn into a tossed salad of toiletries.
Medicine man: I pack my health-related items in a small tub which I store in the front seat on top of the office tub. Use cups to compartmentalize small items so your medicine chest doesn’t turn into a tossed salad of toiletries.
Medicine man: I pack my health-related items in a small tub which I store in the front seat on top of the office tub. Use cups to compartmentalize small items so your medicine chest doesn’t turn into a tossed salad of toiletries.
Medicine man: I pack my health-related items in a small tub which I store in the front seat on top of the office tub. Use cups to compartmentalize small items so your medicine chest doesn’t turn into a tossed salad of toiletries.
Office job: This tub contains maps, documents, receipts, envelopes, electronics, adaptors, and other office supplies.
Office job: This tub contains maps, documents, receipts, envelopes, electronics, adaptors, and other office supplies.
Let there not be light: I custom-cut these windshield screens to cover every square inch of window glass. They block out the early morning sun if I want to sleep in; create a very effective awning on the rear tailgate window; and hide my gear from prying eyes when I’m in the backcountry for a week or two at a time.
Let there not be light: I custom-cut these windshield screens to cover every square inch of window glass. They block out the early morning sun if I want to sleep in; create a very effective awning on the rear tailgate window; and hide my gear from prying eyes when I’m in the backcountry for a week or two at a time.
The mummy: store your sleeping bag in a duffel bag. There are actually two sleeping bags in there, which come in handy when fall arrives. I can also pack the extra one in my backpack the day before leaving for a trek, and still have another to sleep in that night near the trailhead.
The mummy: store your sleeping bag in a duffel bag. There are actually two sleeping bags in there, which come in handy when fall arrives. I can also pack the extra one in my backpack the day before leaving for a trek, and still have another to sleep in that night near the trailhead. [Tristan’s Note: I also travel with two sleeping bags in the colder months and shoulder seasons. I like this much better than having one super-warm sleeping bag.]
High and dry: I store my backpacking (and ski mountaineering) gear in this vinyl, see-through dry bag when I’m not out in the wilds. I can leave it outside at night along with the tubs knowing the contents are protected from rain and moisture.
High and dry: I store my backpacking (and ski mountaineering) gear in this vinyl, see-through dry bag when I’m not out in the wilds. I can leave it outside at night along with the tubs knowing the contents are protected from rain and moisture.
Chairman of the board: the ThermaRest Luxury Map mattress rolls up and slips inside this purple stuff sack. Right: a Coleman folding chair.
Chairman of the board: the ThermaRest Luxury Map mattress rolls up and slips inside this purple stuff sack. Right: a Coleman folding chair.
To tent or not to tent: Unlike some SUVers who will remain nameless, I actually prefer sleeping in a tent sometimes. It seals insects out and provides ample ventilation when it rains: you can’t open your car windows very far on wet nights. For us gear hounds, it’s another toy to play with. But when it’s windy, there’s nothing like the security of your steel-walled vehicle. It’s like the Big Bad Wolf trying to blow down the Third Little Pig’s brick house: it ain’t gonna happen. And often there’s no sizeable, flat, smooth terrain to pitch the tent on. It also seems to depend a lot on my mood; sometimes I feel like sleeping in the tent and sometimes I don’t.
To tent or not to tent: Unlike some SUVers who will remain nameless [Tristan’s Note: Definitely me.], I actually prefer sleeping in a tent sometimes. It seals insects out and provides ample ventilation when it rains: you can’t open your car windows very far on wet nights. For us gear hounds, it’s another toy to play with. But when it’s windy, there’s nothing like the security of your steel-walled vehicle. It’s like the Big Bad Wolf trying to blow down the Third Little Pig’s brick house: it ain’t gonna happen. And often there’s no sizeable, flat, smooth terrain to pitch the tent on. It also seems to depend a lot on my mood; sometimes I feel like sleeping in the tent and sometimes I don’t.
Storage wars: I’ve even experimented with my tent as a storage shed in certain circumstances, but the jury is still out on how useful this is. The main point is this: in order to sleep in your vehicle, you need to empty it first. That means leaving gear outside and exposed to the elements. Store as much as possible in tubs or dry bags so you can leave them out at night.
Storage wars: I’ve even experimented with my tent as a storage shed in certain circumstances, but the jury is still out on how useful this is. The main point is this: in order to sleep in your vehicle, you need to empty it first. That means leaving gear outside and exposed to the elements. Store as much as possible in tubs or dry bags so you can leave them out at night.

Places My Jeep Has Taken Me

On the brink: Robber’s Roost area, Utah
On the brink: Robber’s Roost area, Utah
Chillin’ with the laundry: Robber’s Roost, Utah
Chillin’ with the laundry: Robber’s Roost, Utah
Redrock country: Red Canyon, Mexican Mountain Road, San Rafael River area
Redrock country: Red Canyon, Mexican Mountain Road, San Rafael River area, Utah
Redrock country: Red Canyon, Mexican Mountain Road, San Rafael River area
Redrock country: Red Canyon, Mexican Mountain Road, San Rafael River area, Utah
Made in the shade: here’s a simple awning setup. Anchor it to the vehicle by tying the forward end to the undercarriage. Stake out two poles at the aft end. Prop up the middle
Made in the shade: here’s a simple awning setup. Anchor it to the vehicle by tying the forward end to the undercarriage. Stake out two poles at the aft end. Prop up the middle.
Another day in paradise: Atwell Mill Campground, Mineral King area, Sequoia National Park
Another day in paradise: Atwell Mill Campground, Mineral King area, Sequoia National Park
A diaper for my baby: Mineral King has a marmot problem. They will climb up into your engine compartment and chew on wiring and hoses, a big problem if you’re at the end of a remote 20-mile dead-end road. This is the defense the Park Service recommends, believe it or not, with one exception: don’t leave your hood open. That works for packrats in the Mojave Desert, but not here.
A diaper for my baby: Mineral King has a marmot problem. They will climb up into your engine compartment and chew on wiring and hoses, a big problem if you’re at the end of a remote 20-mile dead-end road. This is the defense the Park Service recommends, believe it or not, with one exception: don’t leave your hood open. That works for packrats in the Mojave Desert, but not here. [Tristan’s Note: Also reminds me of the infamous porcupine problems in Canada’s Bugaboo Mountains.]
Would you like fries with that? This is what they were after, delicious hood insulation, and not so much my antifreeze, hoses, or wiring. But they made a real meal out of what would kill just about every other lifeform. I’ve had my vehicle attacked by killer wildlife in other locations, too: the White Mountains of California, the west slope of the Tetons in Wyoming, and the Olympics in Washington where I drove too far on an empty radiator. Oops.
Would you like fries with that? This is what they were after, delicious hood insulation, and not so much my antifreeze, hoses, or wiring. But they made a real meal out of what would kill just about every other lifeform. I’ve had my vehicle attacked by killer wildlife in other locations, too: the White Mountains of California, the west slope of the Tetons in Wyoming, and the Olympics in Washington where I drove too far on an empty radiator. Oops.
Marmot wars: Here is the Under Hood Animal Repeller by P3 International. It emits an ultrasonic siren which in theory keeps desperate rodents looking for their next fix away from your vehicle. I now place it on the engine block before heading off into the backcountry even for a day hike.
Marmot wars: Here is the Under Hood Animal Repeller by P3 International. It emits an ultrasonic siren which in theory keeps desperate rodents looking for their next fix away from your vehicle. I now place it on the engine block before heading off into the backcountry even for a day hike.
Valley of dreams: Saline Valley, Death Valley National Park
Valley of dreams: Saline Valley, Death Valley National Park
Looks can be deceiving: another beautiful September day at Dickinson Park in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, right?
Looks can be deceiving: another beautiful September day at Dickinson Park in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, right?
Wrong. Same campsite 24 hours later. Anything can happen in the Winds.
Wrong. Same campsite 24 hours later. Anything can happen in the Winds.
What came out must go back in: it all fit in there yesterday. Maybe I should just bury it here.
What came out must go back in: it all fit in there yesterday. Maybe I should just bury it here.

[Note: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links.]

2 thoughts on “Ode to an Ancient Jeep: Sleeping and Camping in a 1995 Jeep Cherokee”

  1. Best post ever!!!!!! It was very informative and funny. Thanks for the info. I don’t know what a marmot is but I’m bringing two tarps and a baseball bat to keep ’em out!!!!!

    Peace!
    Shemaj

    1. Glad you liked it, Shemaj! I agree, Robert did a great job here. Marmots are basically land beavers. They’re big, fat rodents that live in higher-elevation areas. Fun to see when you’re hiking, not fun to see when they’re eating your car.

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