Jeeps aren’t exactly known for their cavernous interior, so you want to make the most of every precious square foot. When we brought home this 2006 Wrangler Unlimited (aka LJ) recently, it was a blank slate with a stock interior. The interior was not only stock but clean too, and we want to keep it that way. At odds with this goal is our insistence on carrying spare tools, parts, recovery gear, and a first aid kit at all times. While these items are great for the trail, we have found that we use our Bubba Rope, fire extinguisher, and contents of our first aid kit more around town for hapless strangers than we do when we are on the trail with prepared wheelers.
We didn’t want to use up all of our interior space before we even loaded an ice chest or a tent though, so we had to get creative. Products from Smittybilt, WeatherTech, and Mac’s Custom Tie Downs were added to store and secure our gear inside of our new Jeep where it would be organized and easy to reach but wouldn’t take up every square inch. The foundation for all of this was Smittybilt’s G.E.A.R seat covers and tailgate cover. These use a MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) attachment system, which allowed us to strap bags and pouches to the seats and tailgate of the Jeep. On a budget we would start with the tailgate cover and front WeatherTech floor liners and then add the seat covers and rear floor liners as our budget allowed. Whether you add these products all at once or piecemeal, they are all easy to install and make your Jeep more functional in a matter of minutes.
Our LJ benefits from more cargo space than a normal TJ, but no one is confusing it with a Ford Excursion. We typically carry a first aid kit, recovery gear, tools, jumper cables, and spare fluids—and that’s just for day-to-day use! When we hit the trail we add a cooler and camping gear, so space is even more of a premium.
WeatherTech’s floor liners are the first addition we make to any vehicle we add to our fleet. While they cost a little more than the generic, cut-to-fit mats you find at the parts store, the money is well worth it. Digital laser measurements of interior surfaces offer a consistently perfect fit that installs in seconds and never moves around under foot.
The Smittybilt G.E.A.R. tailgate cover accepts interchangeable PAL/MOLLE storage pouches. Manufactured from 600-denier polyester, they are completely UV stable and are available in black, tan, or olive drab.
The tailgate cover came with self-tapping screws for installation, but there are no extras. Once we smoked a few of the self-tappers trying to get through spot welds we drilled pilot holes and added larger hardware. We plan to mount some weight on the tailgate and don’t want the cover to come tearing off.
Smittybilt includes two MOLLE bags with the tailgate cover. We filled one with our first aid kit and the other with spare fluids, duct tape, bailing wire, hose clamps, and a tire plug kit. We considered putting our recovery gear on the tailgate and the fluids on the back of the rear seat, but we often fold the seat forward and didn’t want to risk spilling any oil or brake fluid.
We like to carry at least one 2 1/2-pound fire extinguisher in each vehicle we own (two is even better). They need to be easily accessible and not buried under the fold-and-tumble back seat. This Smittybilt neoprene extinguisher mount uses hook-and-loop fasteners to securely attach the fire extinguisher to the roll bar, where it doesn’t take up any space yet is easy to reach.
Just like the tailgate cover, Smittybilt’s G.E.A.R. seat covers are manufactured from rugged 600-denier polyester and accept PAL/MOLLE storage pouches, which are included with the seat covers. We didn’t mount any pouches on the front seats to maximize legroom in the second row, but we did strap our jumper cables and recover gear to the back of the second-row seat. These don’t protrude far enough to inhibit use of the fold-and-tumble rear seat.
The front seat covers have a zippered compartment at the front that makes the perfect place to store tire deflators, sunscreen, tissues, and other small items that we use every time we are on the trail. These things are easy to lose and can rattle around if they are buried at the bottom of the center console, so the Smittybilt seat covers are a great solution to keep them at hand.
The MOLLE bags have hook-and-loop fasteners that accept patches like this American flag. We ordered custom patches with the contents of each pouch (fluids, recovery, and first aid in our case). These were inexpensive and add a nice touch to the interior of our Wrangler. While we know already know what is in each pouch, when someone is helping you with recovery or a medical emergency but is not familiar with your vehicle, these labels simplify the situation.
The final piece of the puzzle was this VersaTie rail from Mac’s Custom Tie Downs. These extruded aluminum rails are rated at 3,000 pounds minimum breaking strength and have provisions every inch to locate attachment points. The versatility allows us to carry gear for a day trip or a week on the trail.