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Old 09-11-2014, 02:47 PM   #1
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Pick up versus Jeep as Towed with off road potential

Can those who are experienced in mild mountain road and off road/trail exploration experience in the Western States comment on the necessity of having a Jeep to do it versus using a pick up truck as a towed vehicle?

We have no towing experience, and no idea how much interest we will have in exploring the desert and mountain trails while touring with a towed vehicle.

Short "demo" rides from dealerships point out the limited space and significant difference in comfort in a Jeep compared to a pick up or another more road oriented SUV. The Jeep really seems to be a "toy" suited only for short trips and limited passenger/goods carrying roles. Some well equipped Jeeps can go a long way from civilization, and our question is can a typical F150 do enough of that to suit the need for "mild" off road exposure while performing a much broader and heavier capacity task list at other times ie. carry bulky objects, carry heavier loads, tow significantly heavier trailers, carry bicycles inside clean and dry, fit longer tools and ski's inside securely, carry a Side by side, golf cart, or motorcycle, etc.

We don't know how much freedom there is to do off road back country exploration in the various Western States, and any of that that can be done within 200 miles of our home will involve far too much muddy hard work to be fun for "mature" explorers.

We only want to equip one vehicle to the "fleet" to be a towed vehicle, and are considering whether a "toy" for occasional back country exploration is worth it's short comings for the other 90% of the uses we would put it to. We expect that the vehicle cost, and the cost to set one up for towing is virtually the same for either a pick up, CRV, or a Jeep.

Those with experience with either or both vehicles for mild offroad trips in desert and mountainous regions are encouraged to respond. Thanks for offering your knowledge and opinions.

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Old 09-11-2014, 06:06 PM   #2
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Well, I have both a Wrangle and an F150 setup for towing, but I assume you don't want to do that. If you are going to do mild off road exploring and want a nicer ride, I would suggest a Grand Cherokee. We used to tow a 2001 and they are very nice. Pick the body style you like and the price you want to pay and go shopping. You want to get one that is 4 wheel drive and with a transfer case that has a neutral position.

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or a couple of different trailers
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Old 09-11-2014, 06:15 PM   #3
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We offroad a lot in Colorado with our Wranglet Unlimited. It is roomy, drives great and love it. We see a few pickups on the trails but they really don't work well in that arena.
2011 Winnebago Adventurer 35P
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Old 09-12-2014, 03:09 PM   #4
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Tin Man,
Well Sir, in all reality, trying to do the versatile jobs of both of the types of vehicles you're considering, with each other, is pretty close to impossible. Meaning, good quality off roading, in many, many off road trails, exploration areas and much more, is done very easily with a Jeep. But, trying to do those same trails, areas, and more with a longer wheel based truck, longer turning radiused vehicle, is, in many cases, IMPOSSIBLE.

And, on the other side, trying to haul toys, tools, big-awkward components, boxes, wheel barrows, a half yard of sand, and a few zillion other items, is IMPOSSIBLE in a jeep. Yep, the truck will ride considerably better for almost every inch of driving, than a Jeep will. But, that "better ride" and components that make it ride that way, will not do well off road.

Now, can you take a 4-wd pickup off road? Sure you can. Is it done, yep, sure is, on a daily basis. But, after covering some of the nicest, scenic, challenging, close-turn, tight spotted, rough and smooth trails in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, CA and more, in (7) different Jeep wranglers, over a 25 year span, I wouldn't take my 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 4x4 anywhere near any of those places I just mentioned.

Recreational four wheel driving means many things to many folks. Some nonchalantly meander on a dirt road and that in all reality, four wheel drive is not needed and call it "Off roading". Some, buy Jeep Rubicons, one of the best factory vehicles set up for off roading, right out of the box and, NEVER take it anywhere near the dirt. What a waste.

But, as stated, we've been to Moab Utah, for the Easter Jeep Safari, for several years and, it's pretty tough to find such a varyity of trails and runs, as they have there. You can find flat dirt roads and, seriously challenging places, if you like.

But, back to your issue. We've used both of the vehicles you're describing for a toad. Each has its purpose. Both will work as a toad. Both will work as a daily driver. Both can be and often, are manufactured as four wheel drive units. The Jeep by far, is considerably better suited for just about any off roading. It's smaller, (unless you get one of the newer ones that are four door then, it becomes way harder on the tighter trails for manipulations in tight situations. Most of the later Jeep suspensions are considerably more flexible which makes them way better suited for handling the rough ruts, un-even road conditions and more.

The truck, it way better suited for longer, more comfortable daily driving or touring, while away from your coach, ON PAVEMENT! One more thing, depending on which vehicle in question, be it a Jeep or truck, and, 2-door or, four door, extended cab or, four door or, regular cab, there's a considerable weight difference in towing.

Our Jeeps, all seven of them, were well over 4,000 lbs. All were closer to 4,500 lbs., as equipped for high quality off roading. Our present toad, the 2011 GMC Sierra Extended Cab 4x4, tips a certified scale at 5,300 lbs. In all reality, towing the truck is barely more noticeable than towing any of our other jeeps. Weight is weight, PERIOD!

I'd love to have both too. As stated, we "Jeeped" for over 25 years in many parts of the western U.S. and loved every minute of it. Exploration for me, is the name of the game, not trying to climb the highest hill or, twist the Jeep in half trying to prove a point in an obstacle that is guaranteed to cause body damage. Not for me or the wife. We really like seeing where "that dirt road goes" or this one or, where that trail leads etc.

But, based on how maneuverable ANY regular jeep is, in ANY off roading situation, I'd NEVER take our GMC in any place our Jeeps have been.

So, you have to decide, what the priority will be. As stated, a 4WD truck CAN do SOME off roading, but, it's just not suited for situations that might be around the next bend.
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Old 09-13-2014, 08:12 AM   #5
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Fire Up said this pretty well. It is the size and turning radius that limits a truck. I've had PU's chained all 4 wheels and they will go if you can drive. If you you know when to quit you can safely take a PU, however, it will get trail rash. Maybe a PU with a UTE in the back would work? Some of the roads here in CO are shared with Utility/Off Road 4 wheeler.
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Old 09-13-2014, 07:18 PM   #6
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If you're looking for the middle ground I have a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee for sale.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4X4 - RV & Motorhome Classifieds
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Old 09-13-2014, 07:32 PM   #7
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I have a Suzuki Grand Vitara and have used it in both the mountains and the desert. A short wheelbase vehicle will let you go much further than a long wheel base vehicle such as a pickup. The deserts of Arizona have small washes all through them. My Grand Vitara can go down into them and back out without hanging up. My friends don't even try these roads with their pickups. Of course the turning radius is important in the tight confines of forested mountains too. Lots of us with Cherokees, Grand Vitaras, CRVs etc. use them as trailers when being towed.
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Old 09-14-2014, 08:53 PM   #8
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Old 09-14-2014, 09:20 PM   #9
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I have had my "toy" Jeep GC in some pretty bad spots, so bad that the wife got out and walked. There is a lot of difference between the Jeep and a truck so you have to decide what is most important to you.

I think Fire Up pretty much covered it
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Old 09-14-2014, 10:43 PM   #10
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I'd get a Jeep. if you choose correctly it will even ride better than a pickup.
I don't know what model Jeep you are looking for but the 99-04 Grand Cherokee (AKA "WJ" )was a better off-roader than any model Jeep makes now except the Wrangler.
I had one but let it go. Should have kept it.
The WJ has straight axles front and rear with coil springs at all 4 corners. They also have a cable operated transfer case. (very reliable).
The Newer 07-up Wrangler 4 door is actually larger that the the WJ was.
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Old 09-15-2014, 01:24 PM   #11
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The real question is "what is off road"? IMO/IME, for what you mention, "...in mild mountain road and off road/trail exploration experience in the Western States..." a pickup will be fine. When folks talk about these extreme cases where your wheelbase and width will work against you I would argue that's not "mild mountain road", that's cases where people are purposely looking for the roughest trails they can find to challenge because that in itself is the hobby.

I suspect what you really mean is you just want to be able to go drive back into the boonies for scenery/recreation/etc. You're not looking to beat rocks into submission. Your 4x4 truck will do fine on 95%+ of all the "roads" and two-tracks out there. When things start to get dicey get out, turn around, especially if you are not in a group. Just go find some other fun road, they are unlimited.

The way I see it is, if you look at your total envelope of usage requirements the truck will beat the Jeep 95% of the time, for everything but "extreme" off-roading. The Jeep will beat the truck 5% of the time, in the toughest terrain. The choice, to me, is clear.

If you're going to be by yourself (meaning, with family, but not in a group of 4x4s) I'll give you a piece of advice: don't use the 4WD. Drive in 2WD. Then, when you get stuck, use the 4WD to get unstuck, and turn around. Because for sure when you get stuck in 4WD you're really stuck. Using a winch out west isn't always easy because there are often no trees.

Back in a previous life I was the lead off-road durability test engineer for GM. Which didn't make me any hot-shot off-roader. But I did make it a point to be able to drive the entire 4WD durability test course (back of the SanTan mountains , for those who know where that is) in 2WD. And I could do all of it except for a couple of very steep scree-covered hills that were probably at a 25 degree plus angle.

You don't need 4WD near as much as you think you do. What you need are good tires and skilled driving - which will come with practice. Then have the 4WD in your back pocket for when you mess up.

Again, just IMO. Good luck, have fun.
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Old 09-24-2014, 06:04 PM   #12
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We have a 12 JK Sport 2 dr. and installed Rancho RS9000xl shocks. They are adjustable and when driving on the road they are set on 2 it gives it a pretty nice ride for a short wheel base.
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Old 09-25-2014, 10:59 AM   #13
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Thanks for all the helpful replies, especially the thoughtful comparison by FireUp of the benefits of the two types of vehicles. Doug Sage's observation about having to consider traversing the steep short approach and departure angles of the washes in the Arizona desert really crystalized our choice in the direction of a new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited to use as a towed, as we didn't want to have the additional expenses of repairing or replacing expensive plastic spoilers, air dams, and fender/bumper parts on more streamlined vehicles.

Having now made the purchase of our first Jeep, we are looking forward to getting down south into areas where we can enjoy learning about desert and mountain trail exploring in the company of other off roaders. Thanks for the advice, hope to see you along the trails one day.
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Old 09-26-2014, 06:53 PM   #14
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Check out the Rancho RS9000 Xl adjustable shocks look at the ACE rock rails and Curry Enterprise base plate to hook a tow bar to.

Mody n Domy
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