Before I bought my JK, I drove a few TJ's looking for the right one. I really, really wanted a TJ Rubicon with lower mileage. If I could have found an Unlimited, I probably would have paid a premium for it. I knew exactly what I wanted and I was even looking for a particular colour. Nothing about a JK appealed to me, like the amount of electronic gizmos in it, the cost of the aftermarket stuff compared to the TJ or the overall dimensions of the damn thing. It just seemed like they wouldn't fit. Anywhere.
But then I drove my buddies '11 one night. Just driving it around, I kinda liked it. Decided "yea, I could see myself in one of these. But just for a DD and cruiser". Well, a few more botched attempts to get into a TJ Rubi and I was kinda down in the dumps about the whole process. An add popped up for a JK Rubi, in the one really unique colour that appealed to me for that year, so I sent them a message. End of the week, I drove home in it. It was literally twice what I wanted to pay, but, for a JK Rubicon that year and mileage, it was a good price. Plus it came with both tops, how cool is that.
In reality, looking for what I wanted (TJ Rubicon, manual, lower km's, good shape, pretty stock) I was looking at an honest 10-13k $. Even then, the newest TJ is still 7 years old. My JK, at the time, was 2. Dealerships aren't really interested in them because they aren't around, private sellers think they have a cash cow. And I live in the east, so finding one in halfways decent shape is a chore in itself, let alone being picky
First long driving impression: my Jeep is my DD. Along with my wheeler. And it does both pretty damn well. If I were to get a TJ rather than my JK, it had the same fate. Thank every god in the sky I went the way I did. I know, if I didn't know better, I wouldn't know better. But the JK drives so much nicer than a comparable TJ. I've driven both quite a bit. 2 of them even had the same tires. The JK was far more comfy and I didn't feel like I was shoulder to shoulder with my adult passenger.
So here I am with my new Jeep, I started looking around and researching everything about it deeper. Holy shit it was overwhelming at first. But I learned that the JK, especially the Rubicons, had stronger axles from the factory. TJ R's had a 44 that shared parts with the 30. JK R's have some issues to address, but overall are very stout. A JK R can run a 35" tire with minimal work and sensible driving. A TJ R would have to have some serious upgrades to the axle if you wanted it to be reliable. Plus, the air lockers were kinda finicky. The E lockers I have are pretty reliable so far. Another upgrade over the TJ was the steering. TJ's had some funky Y steering going on. JK's are pretty simple as it goes draglink to knuckle, tierod to both knuckles.
But my real eye opener was when I took it wheeling the first time. Holy Shit. Between the super low range I had, the lockers and the fact that there are a ton of JK's on the trails, I never once felt like I was up shit creek because of the overall size of the Jeep. Granted, I haven't really pushed the Jeep beyond what I felt comfortable doing, but it has conquered some tough sections that I approached thinking "well, maybe..." With some selective and calm driving, it walked them fairly easy.
Overall, I'm extremely happy with my JK decision vs. TJ. It made sense on paper (reliable DD, capable wheeler, tough enough to survive me) , and it's been working in real life since. Yes, there are issues with the JK. But really, what Jeep goes without issues. The TJ's had the infamous oil pump drive assembly that liked to give up the ghost, costing alot of guys their engines. Then there was the D44 rear locker/limited slip combo that you had to tiptoe around. Everything has their shortcomings. But I think you'd be extremely happy with a JK for your intended purposes. Especially if you plan on taking any more than one person camping with you. The JKU is untouchable for space. Who knows, you may end up driving it everyday cause it's just so enjoyable