FAQ's

Jeep campers have a lot of questions about our jeep camper. We've tried to answer all the questions below. If you have a question that we haven't answered, please send it to us. We'll answer it as soon as we can.

Which way do you sleep in the camper?

You can sleep either way. There is plenty of headroom room at the front of the Jeep camper. When alone in Jeep campers, most sleep with their head to the rear. When two people are sleeping, some couples find sleeping easier with their heads toward the front of the camper. They feel it makes it easier to get in and out without disturbing their partner. 

jeep campers sleeping

What size is the mattress?

The Exped Megamat Duo is 78" long by 52" wide. Conventional full-size sheets will fit the mattress. Jeep campers will find this mattress to be very comfortable and warm.  

Can bedding stay in place when closing the camper?

Yes, Jeep campers can leave bedding or sleeping bags on the mattress. Your pillows can stay in place when you close the camper top, as long as they are somewhat compressible. As an example, the sleeping bags shown are inexpensive 0-degree bags that are not very compressible. The Thermarest pillows are somewhat compressible. All can remain in place. 

How do I get out when the gate is closed?

We install a pull handle on the inside of the tailgate. It activates the latch, so Jeep campers can open the gate from the inside. Some smaller people also find it easy to exit through one of the rear passenger doors. 

Jeep campers can open tailgate from the inside

How do I close the tailgate from the inside?

We install a pull strap on the tailgate. Jeep campers use the strap to help pull the tailgate shut. It is the top strap shown in this picture. 

Jeep campers use tailgate strap to shut tailgate

Is the camper human proof?

There are three safety considerations to be aware of:

  1. Always make sure you latch the front latches before traveling. If you forget, the front of the camper roof can lift at highway speeds, and damage the hinges. 
  2. Remove the exhaust plug from the Exped Megamat whenever you close the camper. This makes it easier to close the camper. Also, if you leave the plug in place and go up in altitude, the mattress will try and blow up like a balloon.  
  3. Never use a catalytic heater in the Jeep Wrangler camper. This type of heater is safe when you can provide enough space around it. But we've never seen an uncrowded Jeep. 
Can I store things in the bed platform?

With the mattress in place you can store smaller flat items. You may be able to store a hunting rifle or shotgun. 

If you remove the mattress, you can store things like skis in the camper.

Is the Hatchet Camper a 4 season camper?

The Hatchet Camper will handle high winds and a snow load. The side tent walls are not insulated, but the rest of the camper has more insulation than most campers on the market. 

The camper's roof has a 3/8" layer of foam sandwiched in the fiberglass. There is also a quarter inch of headliner that traps some air and helps to prevent condensation. The bed platform has 3/4" of foam. The Exped Megamat has an R-value of 9.5.

Jeep campers will find that all these things add up to a camper that sleeps much warmer than a rooftop tent.   

I don't use traction boards. Can I put something else up there?

Yes, as long as the item is similar in weight to the traction boards. One of our customers found a nice firewood gaiter, called the Woodgaiter

What is the hit to gas mileage?

There is minimal hit to fuel economy around town. Less than moving from 33's to 35's. On the highway, customers report losing about 1 mpg at interstate speeds. 

What is it like driving on-road?

You will notice a little bit more body roll in corners than a stock Jeep. But less roll than if you had a RTT on a rack. This depends somewhat on your suspension.

You will hear a few clunks if you go over a speed bump or over a rolled curb at the end of a driveway. The Jeep is a little quieter than stock below highway speeds. At highway speeds, wind noise is about the same. 

What is it like driving off-road?

Customers report that they don't notice the camper off-road. It does make some noise, but it doesn't rise above the usual noises from everything else in the Jeep.

Does my Jeep need a lift for the Hatchet Camper?

No. The camper weighs just under 200 lbs, and the weight is centered over the passenger compartment. So it's like having an adult male in the back seat. 

How much does the camper weigh?

The Hatchet Camper comes in at just under 200 lbs, not including traction boards or solar panels. Traction boards weigh about 20 lbs, and solar panels weigh 5-6 lbs each. 

How much height does the camper add?

The Hatchet Camper adds 10 inches to the height of the Jeep. Visually, it looks like more than 10 inches. The distance from the rain gutters to the high point of the hardtop is about 3 inches. So the camper roof overlaps the hardtop by 3".

Can I remove the camper?

Yes, but it is a bit of a project. It's much easier if you have a 2 post lift or a hoist that can handle 200 lbs. If you do, then you can remove the camper as a unit, which speeds things up. 

Can I sell the camper by itself?

Yes, you can. The entire camper can be removed and installed on another Jeep. You will need another hardtop or soft-top for your Jeep. Other than modifications to the hardtop, there is only one permanent modification to the body of the Jeep. That change is a 1/2" hole on the bottom of the tailgate for the release handle.  

Will the Hatchet Camper go on a soft-top?

No, it will not. Holes would need to be made in the soft-top.

Can I use the camper with no top at all?

No. The lid is supported by the rain gutters when closed. Without the hardtop, there would be no support and nothing to latch the lid to. So Jeep campers cannot use the camper with no hardtop.  

Will the camper go on a Jeep Wrangler JKU?

No, it will not. There are too many differences between the two Jeeps. We are evaluating making a camper for the JKU.

Will you make a camper for the Ford Bronco?

We are evaluating the Bronco and a couple other vehicles for the next camper, but we have not decided yet. 

Will you make a camper for a 2-door Jeep?

No, we will not. The roof is too short. 

Can I still use the freedom panels?

If you removed the camper and slide rails, you could still use the freedom panels. However, they will each have a 1.25" hole at the front outside edge. 

Can you color match the camper top?

No, at this time we cannot. 

Can I add an awning to the Hatchet Camper?

Yes, we make two awnings for the camper. One is a side awning that will attach to either side of the camper. It provides 10% more coverage than a typical 8' roll-out style awning. 

The other is an awning for the rear of the camper. 

What are the benefits of the Hatchet Side Awning?

There are several benefits:

  1. The awning performs much better in the wind than a conventional awning.
  2. The Side Awning offers multiple setup configurations that protect in differing weather conditions. 
  3. Jeep campers can attach the awning to either side of the camper. The mounting track is already built into both sides.
  4. The ripstop polyester fabric absorbs no water, unlike nylon or poly/cotton blends used in some awnings. Drying time is much faster than nylon or cotton blend fabrics. 
  5. There is no hit to the mpg from the awning. A conventional awning reduces mpg. 
  6. The awning weighs less than 7 lbs, compared to more than 30 lbs for a typical 8' awning. 
  7. There is no effect on the center of gravity.
  8. There is no risk of theft while you're parked. 
  9. There is no wind noise while you're driving.
  10. There is no risk of snagging tree branches on the trail. 
How long does it take to set up the Side Awning?

Setup or takedown time of the Side Awning is similar to a standard awning.

What are the benefits of the Hatchet Rear Awning?

The Hatchet Rear Awning:

  1. Is supported by poles that extend/retract from the camper. They are faster to deploy than conventional vertical poles.
  2. Can be stowed under the rear tent skirt, which speeds setup and takedown. And doesn't use any storage space in the Jeep cargo area. 
  3. Weighs about 5 lbs, which is much lighter than a conventional awning. 
  4. Presents no risk of theft. 
  5. Uses polyester ripstop fabric, which absorbs no water. It drys much faster than nylon or cotton blend fabrics. 
Can I add a conventional awning to the Hatchet Camper?

No. We designed our own awning, which we believe has many advantages versus a conventional awning. 

Can I add a 270 degree awning to the Hatchet Camper?

No. We designed our own side and rear awnings for the camper. They offer similar coverage to a 270 degree awning. In addition, they weigh much less, and don't pose a risk of theft. 

 

I got a tear in my awning. How can I patch it?

The awning fabric is coated on both sides with silicone, which means some repair tapes will not stick to it. You need to use repair tape intended for silicone. We recommend GEAR AID Tenacious Tape Silnylon Repair Patches. You can find them on Amazon. (These patches are different than we recommend for repairing our tent.)

What routine maintenance should be done?

There are a few things you can do to maintain your camper.

  1. Occasionally wipe down the front and side edge seals, especially If you travel in dusty areas.
  2. With the lid up, clean the Jeep hardtop rain gutters. Small stones can accumulate there.
  3. If you camp in a dusty area, wipe down the slick strips inside the camper and on the underside of the bed platform in front. They are plastic which attracts dust. 
  4. If the sliding action of the camper gets more difficult due to dust exposure over time, first clean the visible portions of the slick strips with Windex. Then lubricate them with silicone spray. 
How should I wash the outside of the camper?

We use the high-pressure wand at the local car wash. Please keep the end of the wand about 2 ft away from the camper. 

How should I clean the tent?

General Cleaning:

  • Brush off loose dirt (or blow off with compressed air)

  • Prepare a solution of 2 ounces mild soap (e.g. Woolite or Dawn dishwashing liquid) and 1 gallon lukewarm water

  • Use a soft bristle brush to clean

  • Rinse thoroughly with cold water

  • Air dry

 

Deep Cleaning for Tough Stains:

  • Prepare a solution of 1 cup bleach and 1 gallon water.

  • Lightly spray the solution on the non-coated side. Be careful not to soak the fabric as overexposure to harsh chemicals may damage the fabric’s coating. Do not leave on longer than 2 minutes.

  • Rinse immediately and thoroughly, then air dry.

  • Note: After using bleach or other harsh cleaners, Hydrofend may require a retreatment to restore its water repellency. We recommend using 303® Fabric GuardTM.

Can the camper go through a drive through car wash?

We recommend not using a drive-through car wash, either touch-free or touchless. We are not sure how high-pressure water will affect the solar panel(s) or their electrical connections. Also, some drive-through car washes may not be tall enough. 

How should I clean the solar panel?

We recommend using Windex and paper towels. It is best to clean the panel in the shade, if possible. 

How much solar power do I need?

This is almost like asking "How big a lift do I need?". No one answer fits all. 

Considerations:

If your electrical loads are light (fridge and LED lighting):

  • And you camp in the sunny southwest
  • And you don't stay in one place for long

One 100-watt panel should be sufficient. 

If you:

  • Have heavier electrical loads
  • Stay in one place for several days
  • Camp where it's cloudy or rainy

You will probably want two solar panels, or a house battery, a charger, and a solar panel. 

What solar panels do you use?

Currently, we use Renogy flexible solar panels that are rated at 100 watts. Keep in mind that the 100 watt rating is in optimal conditions, which do not occur often.

My solar charge controller history shows that the panel has put out as much as 110 watts. But on average, the panel is putting out 70-80 watts. And that is in Denver, where the sun is strong. 

How do you install the solar panel(s)?

We use an adhesive called SealBond 105 to mount the solar panels to the roof. The same adhesive is also used to adhere aluminum to aluminum and also to fiberglass. 

We highly recommend the adhesive. 

Is it better to charge the Jeep battery or a house battery?

The Jeep battery system is more complex than what many vehicles have. It is also somewhat difficult to jump-start.

So we recommend using a house battery if space and budget allow it. We don't have one in the Hatchet Jeep yet, but that is the plan down the road. 

 

Is a house battery and a DC-DC charger better than solar?

Depending on how you travel and camp, a house battery and DC-DC charger can be a great solution. A DC-DC charger is a more reliable way of charging the battery than a solar panel. 

If your load is a typical fridge and led lighting:

  • And you are driving somewhere every day or two while off-road, a house battery and charger usually are sufficient.
  • And you park somewhere for 2 days or more, you'll probably also want a solar panel.

If you have higher than typical electrical loads, you'll probably want a house battery and a solar panel. 

What solar charge controller do you use?

There is a Victron SmartSolar MPPT 75/15 charge controller mounted on the fusebox under the hood of the Hatchet Jeep. I have the 2.0 turbo, so it's gets hot underhood. Despite the harsh environment, the Victron has performed flawlessly for a couple of years. 

A few features that I really like:

  1. You can monitor the system from your phone, and the key info loads fast on the first screen.
  2. The load can be turned on or off from the phone.
  3. The user can program their own load disconnect/connect values. For example, I have my load set to turn off if the main battery voltage drops below 12vdc. I rarely have any perishbles in the fridge, so I prioritize keeping my battery healthy.
What house battery and DC-DC charger do you use?

We do not have a house battery or DC-DC charger in the Hatchet Jeep. 

There are many quality batteries out there, but from what I have seen, the Expion 360 batteries are made to a high standard.

There are also a lot of good DC-DC chargers, and I can't offer an opinion on the quality of any of them. However, the RecArc DC-DC charger offers a feature I haven't seen anywhere else: dual input capability. 

That means it will charge the house battery from either the alternator while driving or from the solar panel if parked. That seems like a valuable feature. 

 

 

Does the satellite antenna need to be relocated?

The satellite antenna only needs to be relocated if you want two solar panels on the camper roof. The satellite antenna is offset to the passenger side of the Jeep. If only one solar panel is installed, we will install it on the driver's side of the Jeep. The panel does not interfere with the antenna when located on the driver's side.

Other than the solar panel, the rest of the camper is transparent to satellite radio signals.

Does the GPS antenna need to be relocated?

The GPS antenna only needs to be relocated if you also use satellite radio and need to relocate it. If you don't have satellite radio, or don't use it, you do not need to relocate the GPS antenna. 

The OEM GPS and satellite antennas are co-located in the same housing and share the same coaxial cable that feeds the signal to the infotainment system. If the two antennas did not share the same cable, the GPS antenna would never need to be relocated 

Does the cellular antenna need to be relocated?

The Jeep has a cellular antenna that is used for over-the-air software updates and also to provide a signal for the wifi hotspot. It is co-located with the wifi hotspot in a plastic housing on top of the roll bar. 

This antenna does not need to be relocated. 

Where do you place the relocated antennas?

To be clear, we do not actually relocate the OEM antenna(s). We add aftermarket satellite and GPS antennas and plug them into the back of the infotainment head unit. The OEM antennas are simply left in place and unplugged. 

We place the aftermarket antennas in the upper left corner of the camper roof (on the inside). This location results in no interference. 

Can the antennas be relocated later on?

Yes, adding aftermarket antennas is pretty easy and can be done down the road if you want.

 

Who will install the camper?

We install the camper at our shop in Castle Rock, CO.

Where do you run the solar and power wiring in the Jeep?

The solar and power wiring enter the Jeep from the rear edge of the driver's freedom panel, near the outside edge. 

We will leave a coil of wiring attached to the rear seat driver's side grab handle on the B pillar. We provide 13ft of wire, which is sufficient to either run to the Jeep battery or to any location inside the Jeep cabin. 

The wire to the solar panels is a heavier gauge than the load wiring, so they are easy to tell apart.

We test the panels for voltage output before installation and also at the end of the wire harness in the cabin after installation. In addition, we provide voltage to the wire harness to verify that the light and USB charger are functioning correctly.  

What should I do to prepare for installation?

There are a couple of things you can do that speed up the installation process:

  • Please arrive with the Jeep recently washed, weather permitting. 
  • Please remove any accessories attached to the rear roll bar. 
  • If you are local, please arrive with the Jeep as empty as possible. 
Do I need my own hardtop?

Yes, it is helpful if you have your own hardtop. We sometimes find them for sale locally, but this is unpredictable. 

How long does it take to install the camper?

Installation takes approximately 7 hours. We usually start at 8am. After the install is done, we also plan on showing you how the camper works and answering all of your questions. This can take an hour or two. 

Can I watch during installation?

You can, but you should know that installation time will approximately double due to the conversations that take place. 

Can I leave my camping gear in your shop during installation?

Yes, you can. But please be aware that our shop always has some dust in it. We will cover your gear with a tarp, but can't guarantee that it remains dust free. 

It is best if any bedding, pillows, sleeping bags etc. are packed in a bag. 

What should I do while you are installing the camper?

We will take you back to your hotel or to some other location in Castle Rock. Downtown Castle Rock is just a couple miles north of our shop. 

Castle Rock dates to the 1870's and has a charming little downtown full of restaurants, micro-breweries, shops, and a museum. Nearby there are walking and biking trails that run along Plum Creek. There are also nearby open space areas for hiking and mountain biking.

For more information on Castle Rock, check out VisitCastleRock.org.

 

What is the camper roof made from?

We install the camper at our shop in Castle Rock, CO.

What is the camper bed platform made from?

The camper weighs just under 200 lbs, including the mattress, but not including solar panels or traction boards. 

What supports the weight of the camper?

When the camper is set up, all of the weight of the camper and the occupants passes through to the roll bar. The weight is evenly distributed over six mounting points. 

When the camper is closed, the weight of the camper roof, traction boards, etc., is supported by the rain gutters. This is approximately 100 lbs if traction boards are on the roof. The roll bar still supports the weight of the bed platform, mattress, and slide rails. 

The weight is evenly distributed over the entire length of the rain gutters. If you compare this to OEM and aftermarket roof racks, you will see that they are rated to a higher weight, with the weight distributed over a much smaller portion of the rain gutters.  

What modifications are made to the Jeep body?

The only modification to the Jeep body is a 1/2" hole in the bottom of the tailgate. This hole allows the gate release handle that we install to function.

The tailgate is made from cast magnesium so will not rust due to the hole.

Is the roll bar modified?

No, we do not modify the roll bar. The holes we use are pre-existing. 

Do you modify the existing hardtop?

Yes, we modify the OEM Jeep hardtop. The benefit of this approach is that all of the door seals, the glass, and the glass seals are OEM quality. 

The rear quarter windows, wiper, and defroster are also retained. 

What fabric is used in the tent?

The tent fabric is made from 8oz solution-dyed polyester. The fabric has a water-repellent finish on the outside and a coating on the inside that makes it highly water-resistant. 

"Solution-dyed" means that the color is actually melted into the raw material when produced. When non-solution dyed fabrics are produce, the dye is applied afterward. Only synthetic fabrics such as polyester or acrylic can be solution dyed.

Polyester is preferred over nylon because it does not absorb water, and is much more UV stable. 

The fabric manufacturer provides a limited warranty covering "the fabric becoming unserviceable because of loss of color or strength from normal usage and exposure conditions, including sunlight, mildew and atmospheric chemicals."

The fabric manufacturer is planning on the fabric being used in a marine environment with 24/7/365 exposure to sun and weather. 

And the fabric is made in the U.S. We don't disclose the name because it is really hard to find suitable fabrics. But, at least one other camper manufacturer is also using it. 

What is the headliner made from?

The headliner is made from synthetic material and intended for the marine market. It is about 1/4" thick and traps enough air to provide some insulation. It also helps prevent condensation. 

Are the fasteners made from stainless steel?

Any fasteners or latches on the outside of the camper are made from stainless steel. Bolts used on the inside of the camper are typically stainless steel. Nuts on the inside are typically zinc-coated or coated with yellow chromate.

Is the roof strong enough to stand on?

Yes, it is. However, our insurance company believes that should you stand on the roof, you will undoubtedly fall off and die on the spot. Then, any personal injury lawyer nearby will claim your body and sue us for damages. Since this would be unfortunate for everybody involved, we recommend that you NEVER STAND ON THE ROOF. 

Does altering the hardtop compromise the safety of the Jeep?

No. The Jeep hardtop does not provide significant rollover protection in an accident. If it did, Jeep would not be able to sell a Wrangler with a soft top, which certainly provides no rollover protection. 

The body and roll bar provides all the strength needed to pass federal crash and rollover tests. 

 

What are the slide rails made from?

The slide rails support the weight of the camper and allow it to slide. They are made from 3/16" 5052 aluminum. The aluminum is laser cut and bent in Utah, and powder coated locally. 

Philosophy

Well, you can't really build a Jeep without a build philosophy, can you? (And, if you're in agreement, you're welcome to join a group I founded. It's called Overthinkers Anonymous.)

My last build, on a Tacoma, got a little overbuilt. After the camper was installed, the truck was about 1000 lbs over stock weight. It was heavy feeling both around town and going up to the mountains.

So, for this build, I was determined to keep it as minimalistic and light as possible. My Jeep is my daily driver, and I wanted to keep the daily drive enjoyable. 

Interior

The big mod on the inside is the Goose Gear Stealth Sleep Package. I love it because it's like having an unfinished basement in the Jeep. It creates about seven cubic feet of usable, hidden storage. And removing the rear seats shed about 60 lbs. 

Another thing I love is the Goose Gear Tailgate Table. It has a stainless shelf, which is great for food prep. The shelf doesn't need support cables, and it doesn't rattle. 

I've added running water to the Jeep. I have a 5 gallon EZPack JerryFlexTM soft-sided Jerry can under the GG floor. I also mounted a pressure-activated water pump on the underside of the floor. A SHURFLO faucet is on the rear cargo bulkhead. I love having running water next to the table. 

I have a Kenwood T-281a ham radio (KE0FBY) in my center console. I mounted it there to keep it out of sight. The T281a is a mil-spec 65-watt radio. I'm really happy with it. The only downside is that it is a single-band radio. 

I plan on two more mods:

  1. An ARB dual compressor will go under the front passenger seat.
  2. I need a tablet mount for the front grab bar. 
Exterior

Bumpers - I have the OEM steel bumpers on the Hatchet Jeep, and I like them. I'm pretty sure they are the lightest steel bumpers available. The rear bumper has a solid step for getting in and out of the camper. 

Winch - I have a 12k Superwinch mounted in the front bumper. I like the winch, but it's slightly too large to fit most winch carriers. I got it to fit by using a mini grinder...

Sliders - I have Roam JL Rock Rails, which are frame mounted. I bought them because I really like the flat steps, and I didn't want my old dog accidentally stepping through a tubular rail. They've held up well through two winters with no rust.

Hinge steps - I got these primarily because we were developing the camper, and they got used a lot. Now that we're done, they don't get used as much. They are high quality and sturdy, with a stainless steel step.

Tires & Wheels

I have KO2 315/70 R17 C-rated tires on the Jeep. At the time, they were one of the lightest 35's, and also one of the only C-rated 35's. I don't see the need for D or E 35" rated tires on a vehicle as light as a Jeep. The C's will flex better offroad and ride better on the road. The KO2's are good in the snow. Reportedly not great in mud, but that doesn't matter much in the southwest. I run them at about 30psi cold.

If I were shopping today, I would look at the Nitto Ridge Grappler and Trail Grappler. They are both available in a 35 x 11.5, which is the narrowest 35 that I know of. One advantage to these tires is that they will mount on the OEM wheels.

My wheels are 17 x 9 Shoks, by Fuel. They weigh about 26 lbs each. The OEM wheels weigh about 24 lbs. Many aftermarket wheels are over 30 lbs, and it's possible to buy name-brand 17" wheels that weigh 36 lbs.  

So it's possible to buy wheels and tires that add 20 lbs to each corner versus what I have. I know that would be noticeable in ride, acceleration, braking and mpg.  

I wanted to maintain all those things as close to stock as possible, so I looked for light wheels and tires.  

Suspension

The Hatchet Jeep has a 2.5" Overland Plus lift by Clayton Offroad. They are from the east coast, and the lift is made in the US. I bought this lift because:

  1. It has the heaviest-rated springs on the market.
  2. The bushings are dual durometer and maintenance-free. 

Many lifts aimed at people who rock crawl have springs that are not substantially heavier than the stock springs. Between overland gear and trade show gear, I sometimes end up with a lot of weight in the back. This lift handles the weight really well, and the Jeep feels very planted on the highway. Much more so than it did with stock springs. 

Clayton rates their springs clearly with the weight needed to compress the spring one inch. I wish all manufacturers did this, but many don't. 

I also looked at OME and AEV lift kits, but they don't rate their springs the same way. So it's a little hard to know what you're getting.