Editor’s note: Andrew Barber loves the mystery of the wilderness, and his 2008 Jeep Wrangler is his preferred method for investigating. He spends his time outdoors, all over Vermont (and the rest of New England), but he’s got his sights set on bigger adventures in the future.
Growing up in rural Vermont, I have always been an amateur outdoor adventurer. I enjoy hiking, trail running, kayaking, skiing, and trying to get as close as I can to wild animals I probably shouldn’t get close to. I never really had an interest in automotive until I was in college. While I was there, I made friends with someone who showed me what a well-built vehicle is capable of in the wild. We would go out and explore the backwoods of Vermont in his 1980-something Toyota 4Runner on the weekends. I became hooked instantly. Once I graduated college, it was time to buy an new vehicle and I knew it would have to be something I could venture into the wilderness with. The decision to get a Jeep was an easy one, considering I had been driving around my mother’s TJ every chance I could get.
Four years later, I have explored miles of abandoned roads and trails all around Vermont. While doing so, I have also picked up photography as skill. I find so many cool places while wandering and I wanted to find a way to share them. While setting up my camera, I try not only to get a good Jeep pose, but also share the scenic spots I find and show the types of environments my Jeep has traversed through.
Luckily, Vermont has an array of trail environments. My Jeep has seen it all. I have traveled through mud, snow, ice, rocky roads, ledges, water-crossings, long distance highway trips, and pothole-riddled I-95 outside NYC. (I broke some U-joints there.) While a well-built Jeep is always capable, arguably the most important factor (other than the engine) of any type of travel would be the tires. If you don’t have good tires, you will be limited.
I knew from the beginning I wanted to go with BFGoodrich® All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires. I’m currently running a 285/70/R17 tire on Black Rock wheels that have 4.25” backspacing with a Teraflex 2.5” suspension lift. This combination gives me plenty of tire room and clearance for almost any obstacle.
The tires are rugged, have great sidewall protection, and are one of the most favored tires in the overloading community. I have read many accounts by professional overlanders that these tires are well worthy of any conditions, and those accounts have all proven to be true. As mentioned before, I have traveled through all types of terrain, and my KO2s are awesome. They are smooth on pavement, and perform very well in snow and mud — two things Vermont has a lot of. I have had them for three of the four years I’ve owned my Jeep, and I don’t plan on changing tires anytime soon. When it’s time for new ones, I will be going with BFGoodrich again.
Wilderness exploration has been and always will be a big hobby of mine, and I hope to plan bigger journeys in the future. I am slowly building up my Jeep, and hope to start giving overlanding a shot soon. I have had a lot of practice with rough terrain here in Vermont, and I’ve learned so much about driving off-road, wrenching, and what equipment is truly necessary for traveling deep into the woods without cellphone service or anyone knowing where you’re located.
The mystery behind what I’ll find out there is what keeps me going back. You never know what you’re going to see. Whether a large animal, an abandoned house, a runaway convict, a cool Jeep trail, or just a nice place to take a picture, I’m always ready for a surprise. The more practice I get, the more adventurous I become, and I have no plans of stopping anytime soon. My ultimate adventure would be to ship my Jeep over to Africa or Australia and travel across one of the continents. I still feel I have a lot to learn before I do that, but I will get there eventually. Until then, I will continue to find new places on a more local scale, plan a cross country trip, and practice my photography.
Here are my current vehicle specs:
- 2008 Jeep Wrangler JK X
- BFGoodrich® All-Terrain T/A KO2 (285/70/R17) on Black Rock 909 Type-D 17x9 Wheels
- Teraflex 2.5” Suspension Lift with Rough Country Easy Disconnect swaybar links
- Warn Zeon 10s Winch
- JCR Offroad Crusader Midwidth Bumpers (Front and Rear)
- JCR Offroad Classic Rock Sliders
- Carbon Offroad front axle shafts
- Hi-Lift Jack mounted on sportbar with River Raider Offroad mount
- Bartact Seat Covers
- Bestop Trektop NX
- A pair of KC lights on the front and rear bumpers, and a lightbar
- My all-time favorite mod: a shift knob replica of John Hammond’s mosquito in amber cane from the movie Jurassic Park. I made it myself.
Keep up with Andrew Barber’s adventures on Instagram at @gothewild.