Capable – that’s a word that every off-roader wants to use when talking about their rig. We all want to have our vehicles ready to take on any challenge, whether it’s surmounting a rocky obstacle, recovering from a tricky off-road trap, or deploying camp for the night. Garvin Industries Products wants the same, and follows through with a wide variety of racks that specialize in Jeeps, as well as other applications.
By giving customers the ability to store more items on their truck or Jeep, their racks have turned what was a decent weekend warrior into ready-for-anything overlanding machines. We recently had the opportunity to chat with some of these customers. In doing so, we found out how Garvin’s racks changed not only their Jeep, but also the way they off-road.
Each of the customers – Leighton O’Connor, Jamie Newton, and John Messer – hails from a different background and calling in life, but all are proud owners of Garvin Wilderness racks. Let’s dive in and talk with these fellows to see how they use their rack and what it’s changed about their off-roading experience.
Leighton O’Connor’s Jeep Goes The Extra Mile
Leighton O’Connor is a man that practices what he preaches, and he should know how to do that better than anyone. As a church minister in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, the man made a decision last year to live a life for others and show kindness to homeless people all over the country.
“I did outreach to homeless people in 46 cities,” he said. “I partnered with local Jeep and off-road clubs in each city to give out hygiene kits, blankets, food, water, hugs, and Bibles. Starting in Lynnfield, I went west, hitting Indianapolis, Chicago, Denver, and then shot up north to Calgary, and then did 2,000 miles all the way to Anchorage.”
From there, Leighton then drove south another 2,000 miles to Seattle and began the long way home. He went south and turned left at San Diego, making an arch from there all through the deep South and running up along the East Coast until he reached home. “Each of the cities I traveled to was among the top 50 in America for the number of homeless living there,” he said. “All told, it was over 27,000 miles of driving. I did some off-roading here and there, but I kept it pretty tame. I was by myself most of the time.”
As a one-man operation, Leighton relied on himself and the good graces of others to make it from place to place. And all through this experience, his Expedition rack from Garvin Wilderness Racks kept him equipped. “I put the essentials on the rack,” he commented.
“I had two large bins on it, both of which had various supplies, tent, tarps, air mattress and winter clothes,” he continued. “I also had tracks strapped to the rack, along with a six-gallon fuel tank. Each corner of the rack had LED lights, and these were very helpful because I usually set up camp somewhere isolated and dark. I had a wind deflector on the front, and attached to the deflector was a booster antenna for my cell phone.”
Few folks will ever attempt a cross-country trip like the one Leighton did, and do it for such a great cause to boot. It was a journey of nearly 30,000 miles, working with the homeless to improve their lives, and it imparted some unique teachings to Leighton. “I learned that we live in a beautiful country with very beautiful people, but we don’t take care of the people who are experiencing homelessness,” he said. “We don’t take care of the people who served in the military and protected our country.”
For 2020, Leighton had plans that unfortunately got shut down by the COVID-19 outbreak. “I was planning to 3,000-mile trip to Newfoundland and Labrador, but Canada is only letting in people for essential travel,” he said. “So I’m changing my plans up. Rather than Canada, I’m going to go to Tennessee for a couple of events and meet up with colleagues.”
Jamie Newton’s JK Works And Plays
Jamie Newton has many outdoor passions, including hunting and fishing in his home state of Michigan. But the through-line of his love for the outdoors is owning a Jeep. “I’ve owned a CJ-5, a CJ-7, a YJ, and since 2012, a JK,” opened Jamie. “Suffice it to say, I’m a Jeep guy!”
Piled on top of these hobbies are Jamie’s day job, as well as side gig working as a repairman and builder. His JK pulls double duty as daily driver and weekend warrior, so having a rack that can help with these role changes proves invaluable. “My Jeep is indeed used to its full potential on and off-road,” he commented.
Jamie went into further detail about how the rack works for him on his trips. “Hunting and fishing require a ton of gear, and the Garvin rack is my absolute savior,” he said. “I’ve gotten packing down to a science. And the flexibility of the flooring system allows me to slide the floor supports side to side. This helps accommodate various Pelican cases, gun cases, and coolers.”
After successful hunting trips, Jamie uses the rack to transport a deer back to his home. And to load up for a fishing trip, Jamie uses the rack to store a canoe and motor, or two kayaks and paddles if it’s just him and his sons.
Adding to the rack’s utility is how well it works with his side gig. “I’ve hauled eight-foot sheets of drywall, lumber, closet doors and exterior doors,” he said. “I’ve also hauled plumbing pipe, electrical conduit, and windows. I can throw a ladder and a shop vac up there. Four months ago, I used the rack to transport baseboard moldings for an entire 1,700-square-foot home.”
With the Garvin rack striking the ideal balance in Jamie’s work and play, he’s become a happy camper (pun intended). “The Garvin rack is a well-used and functional tool that allows me to have my cake and eat it too,” he concluded.
John Messer’s “Swamp Thing” Gets Down And Dirty
There’s a curious story behind John Messer and his 2019 Jeep Wrangler JL. “I was itching to get into a new JL, but to do so, I took one with a less-than-desirable paint color,” he explained. “But eventually I embraced it. Then I heard that they were filming the new version of Swamp Thing near my hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina. And there are quite a few swamps around the area. So I named my Jeep ‘Swamp Thing.'”
With its new identity, John’s Jeep has made a complete 180 from an ugly duckling to a capable machine. “To me, it’s still in its early stages, but it’s got some goodies,” commented John. “It’s on a 2.5-inch Rough Country lift, running 35-inch Dick Cepek Trail Country EXP tires and custom bronze Rocktrix wheels.”
Naturally, Swamp Thing never leaves home without its Garvin Wilderness rack. “The first thing that appealed to me about this rack was the price point,” he said. “It was around $200 to $800 less than other racks. I also liked that I didn’t have to do any drilling.”
“This is the half-size Adventure rack,” he continued. “I went with half because it fit my needs. It lets me mount a rooftop tent, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of noise going down the highway.”
With his JL all tricked out and ready to go, John likes to take Swamp Thing out on the town. “I’ve enjoyed doing Uber and Lyft rides with it,” he said. “I don’t do it a lot, but I know people around here get a kick out of it. It’s fun.”
He also is keen to get back and do some off-roading when things return to normal. “I can’t wait to get back into some trail riding and relaxing at the end of the week,” he said. “It’ll be nice when I can do some off-the-grid adventures with my wife and daughter.”
Racks For Every Jeep
If we’ve learned anything from talking with John, Jamie, and Leighton, it’s that racks play a part in any Jeep build. For work, play, or whatever lies between, a Garvin rack is ready to do the job.