Liftoff: Garvin Wilderness Products Launches Line Of JL Racks

A few months ago, we made our way to El Cajon, California to see our friends at Garvin Wilderness Products. We were teased about Garvin’s developments of JL roof storage racks and got to see up close what the racks would look like when complete.

Now, Garvin is pulling back the veil as the launch of the racks is out in the open. Now available for the JL are Adventure and Expedition roof racks, as well as the Trail Rack that mounts over the spare tire out back.

After weeks of testing and development, the new JL racks have arrived. Pictured here is the Expedition rack for a four-door JL. Installed on it are the optional side ladders and wind deflector.

On hand to discuss the products and walk us through the features were the Garvin guys – father Bob and sons Chris and Ron. These were the minds behind the products, from start to completion, and would give us a fantastic glimpse into what it took to design and make them.

Between our last visit in August 2018 and now, things at Garvin Wilderness Products have been moving along. There were some speed bumps on the way that caused setbacks. “A customer came in with a standard-bumper Rubicon, and the rack wouldn’t fit his rig,” said Bob. “So we had to do a frantic re-do and it took us a couple of weeks to make a bracket that fits all versions of the bumpers.”

But the testing bore fruit, as Chris stated. “We put a pallet of about 600 pounds on top of the rack and found it flexed only a quarter-inch,” he said. “We were impressed. It meant that our rack could support a tent and two people sleeping inside.”

Despite being a no-drill kit, Garvin’s roof racks can support a large amount of weight – up to 600 pounds, which should accommodate two adults in a rooftop tent.

And what about installation? In this aspect, Garvin’s goal was to make something that was non-permanent, but not detrimental to structural integrity. “We wanted to make a kit that was no-drill,” explained Chris. “Drilling is the strongest way to go, but for folks that lease their Jeep or are squeamish about drilling a $60,000 vehicle, we had to look for another method. So we made it no-drill, and that saves some money and a headache, too.” The end result is that the rack mounts to the frame using brackets that run underneath the body and extend to the outside of the body.

The rear Trail Rack is one more storage space that can be used on a Jeep. It supports up to 75 pounds and will work with the Jeep's third brake light and rear-facing camera.

Strategically placed bump stops brace the rack to the body. They add stability to the rack and prevent it from shuddering and generating vibrational noise.

For the sake of stability and sound diffusion, Garvin also includes a set of bump stops for the rack. On the JL test bed, they were installed on the front and rear pillars. “The bump stops help with mitigating vibration,” said Chris. “They’re especially helpful when nearing the weight limit of the basket.”

As of now, the racks are available only for the four-door versions of the JL, but other ones are still in development. “We will have versions for the two-door eventually, and we know the powered top is coming out soon, so we’ll have a version for that too,” said Bob. “And we can’t forget the soft top versus hardtop Jeeps. On the JL, there’s quite a difference in height between those two top versions, so we will be working on making different rack setups to accommodate those.”

The front brackets of the roof rack make clever use of the hood hinges, piggybacking off of their location to add more sturdiness to the rack.

The racks that go over the roof of the Jeep are either the entry-level Adventure rack or premium Expedition rack, and in the rear, Garvin also offers the Trail rack. The Trail rack rests over the top of the rear tire and provides a little bit more storage space. “We designed the mounting brackets to use 1.25-inch square tubing, which makes it beefier,” explained Bob. “The basket is borrowed from the JK design, and it includes mounts for Rotopak fuel containers on either side.”

Bob showed us how to install a spotlight onto the front mounts of the new rack.

On the front side of the racks (meaning the hood and windshield area), Garvin went ahead and made it possible to install lights in strategic places. Mounts on either side of the hood allow for pod lights, and there may be developments to mount a light bar that stretches across the hood. The basket, however, is able to mount a 50-inch light bar over the top of the driver and help illuminate the way during nighttime driving.

The Trail rack mounts using the same holes for the spare tire mount on the rear door, and can support up to 75 pounds. “The internal integrity of the tailgate is a lot stronger than the JK,” commented Bob. “We like to think it’s useful for an ice chest, or to hold a dirty tow rope that you don’t want inside the cab,” said Ron.

Above the windshield, Bob and Chris installed a 50-inch light bar with easy-to-use brackets.

In terms of future developments, Garvin is looking to get involved in some other areas of the JL. “We’ve pretty much let go of doing any bumpers for the Jeep, but we are considering rock sliders,” said Chris. “I’m going to take apart the pieces there and see if they match the JK’s design, or if we need to build something new.”

With new places to store cargo on the JL, off-roaders will have the ability to pack more gear and have bigger outdoor adventures. Go check out the new products for the JL on Garvin’s website and Facebook page.

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About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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