Ursa Minor Jeep Wrangler First Drive
Base Camp: Want a Wrangler That's Even More Versatile? Now You Can Camp in One.
Since the 2007 model year, approximately 350,000 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited models (four-doors) have been built. That's a solid base of owners with real enthusiasm for off-road adventure. This platform, which Jeep designated as the JK series, is forecast to continue essentially unchanged for the next few years. For those current JK owners -- and for those who'll buy a JK-based Unlimited in the future -- there's a new way to experience life off the beaten path.
Ursa Minor Vehicles, a company based in San Diego, California, recently designed the J30 Camper, a comfortable pop-up camper for two people that replaces the factory top on any four-door Wrangler, whether a soft- or hardtop version. And the installation is relatively quick and easy. This compact yet spacious J30 is unlike nearly any other camper out there, in that it's capable of serious exploration yet is almost unnoticeable during daily driving. Ursa Minor's aftermarket product does not violate the integrity of any Jeep factory metal and utilizes the same factory holes used to attach the stock top, making it a relatively straightforward and removable conversion.
Ursa Minor Vehicles was founded on a long history of composite manufacturing. In the camping world, Ursa Minor is best known for the ECamper, a pop-up camper for the Honda Element launched five years ago. While the ECamper remains a popular conversion for Ursa Minor despite the discontinuation of the Element in 2011, many customers were interested in a similar product that could go further into the back country, based on a true 4WD off-road vehicle like a Jeep.
"There's 78 inches of standing room in the access way. Even someone well over 6 feet tall can stand up inside."
The Wrangler Unlimited was a perfect fit. With the rear seat folded flat, the cargo compartment area yields plenty of cargo space for a cooler, sleeping bags, table, chairs, and other camping equipment. If you want even more room for a longer adventure, you can unbolt the JK's rear seats. The pop-up camper's sleek design adds just 6 inches of exterior height over a stock top, allowing room for roof racks, but it's still low enough to fit in most garages. Should you wish to remove the pop-up top for the winter and replace it with a factory hard- or soft-top, you can disconnect one plug and unbolt and remove the top.
The J30 Camper provides sleeping quarters that comfortably accommodate two adults in a 4x7-foot bed. When the camper is in the raised position, the foot of the bed is 18 inches high while the height to your shoulder area (when the camper is raised) measures 32 inches high. There's 78 inches of standing room in the access way -- even someone well over 6 feet tall can stand up inside. The mattress is made of thick, comfortable foam pads covered in removable and washable Sunbrella outdoor fabric, a tough, breathable, fade, and water-resistant canvas. Two removable panels provide access to the sleeping area.
To open the camper, first flip open the two locks on the front corners of the vehicle, and from the interior, pull a lanyard to release the two mechanical latches in the rear corners. Then, while still inside the Jeep, simply raise the pop-top to the open position by pushing your arms upward through the access way. Like the bed pad covers, the tent is constructed of Sunbrella. Large screened panels allow full cross and fore and aft ventilation. If you want complete ventilation and visibility, you can unzip and open the screened windows.
Ursa Minor has the construction of lightweight pop-up camper shells down pat. A layer of marine white gel-coat is sprayed on the inside of a custom-designed mold. The fiberglass layers are aligned and set in place, the mold covered, and a vacuum drawn. Resin is then pulled by the vacuum into the mold to create a light, stiff part. Ursa Minor equips the inside of the sleeping area with several low-current LED lights, including two adjustable-arm reading lights, and 12-volt and USB power ports are available. The base suggested retail price is $5250, and for an additional cost, you can have the J30 Camper painted to exactly match the exterior of the Jeep. This includes base coat, color coat, and clear coat.
Ursa Minor can install solid walls in place of the cargo-compartment windows that come with the factory hardtop, or windows can be installed. The camper's DC electricals (wiring, plugs, fuses, harness, etc.) are connected directly to the chassis battery, so that the LED lights and power ports can be put in service when the ignition switch is off. Ursa Minor also offers Thule or Yakima roof racks to accommodate a kayak, bicycle, or cargo box. The only caveat is that you should minimize the amount of weight carried on the roof, so don't plan to carry water or fuel cans up there.
There are two ways you can buy a J30 Camper from Ursa Minor Vehicles. First, you can make a reservation in advance with a deposit and bring your four-door Wrangler to San Diego for installation in an afternoon. Alternatively, the company can crate and ship the completed pop-top direct to you, and you can install it yourself or take it to an installer. In addition to some basic standard hand tools, you'll need a couple of friends to help hoist the pop-up into place. Jeep dealers are often willing to install the J30 Camper, and you can ask about financing one with a new-vehicle purchase. Ursa Minor Vehicles will work directly with the dealer to arrange payment and shipment.
Ursa Minor VehiclesChula Vista, CA