With age comes experience. With experience comes gear. With gear comes storage challenges. We’ve logged thousands of trail miles over the years, and our list of gear that we take on a given outing has grown a good bit from our early days of battling at the local mudpit.
Fast-forward to our latest build platform—an ’18 Jeep JL Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Like many of you, we picked the Rubicon for its out-of-the box off-road prowess and checked the Unlimited box for the much-needed rear doors. Hauling more than just yourself off-road can make a seemingly roomy platform quickly feel small. While the cargo area of the JL isn’t bad, haphazardly stacking gear in the back isn’t a safe or useful solution.
Fortunately for us, ARB has expanded its legendary cargo drawer system line to include the all-new Unlimited JL platform. ARB offers an assortment of universal and vehicle-specific modular roller drawer systems that allow you to easily transform your rig’s cargo area into an organized oasis. While the cargo box itself takes up a bit of room, the fact that you are essentially raising the floor of the cargo area means you are getting even more space to haul gear.
An entirely bolt-in system, we picked up the RDRF790 Outback Solutions Roller Drawer System and JL-specific JL4DFKIK side floor install kit. While the install typically takes a few hours using nothing more than handtools, we should mention that the side floor kit is only offered for JLs without the factory subwoofer in the cargo area—a feature that our JL happens to have.
Despite this, we felt we could modify the passenger-side portion of the side floor kit and make it work. In fact, we managed to do just that, but it did add an extra hour or so to the job. So, was it all worth it? Read on to find out.
The only real prep needed to install the drawer system is to unbolt the stock tie-downs in the cargo area. Once these are gone, you can simply slide out the rear cargo cubby cover.
You won’t find any chintzy plastic hiding under the drawer bottom. ARB builds the drawer system more similar to a high-end toolbox versus the peg-in-hole dresser you probably had growing up. Since we opted for the JL-specific mounts, we bolted the provided legs to the metal base of the box.
Once the floor mounts were bolted on, it was secured to the Jeep. Next, we attached the bracer legs for the side covers.
This was very straightforward on the driver side, as a total of six bolts secure the front and rear legs. With the side floor kit pieces bolted in, we slid and then clicked the top cover down into place.
Since our JL came from the factory with the optional rear subwoofer, we had to modify the passenger-side floor kit a good bit. We ended up making a cardboard template and traced it onto the provided side floor closeout panel. Once we cut it out, we measured the distances needed for the front and rear support and trimmed them as well. We found an air saw worked fine for cutting, and we were extremely impressed at how the durable commercial-grade carpet handled our amateur carpentry work.
While there isn’t a tremendous amount of room for storage on the passenger side, it’s worth noting that if you have a little time and skill with cutting tools, you can make this work. It’s unknown at the time of publication if ARB will be offering a future side floor kit that will work with the JL’s OE speaker.
The drawer and roller floor (more on that in a minute) run on purpose-folded stainless steel runners. ARB has found that these offer the best surface for smooth, reliable, and quiet operation.
In a very practical sense, the drawer system is sort of like putting an extra trunk in the back of the JL. Yes, you do lose access to the original underfloor compartment, but you more than make up for it with the added storage.
The drawer itself measures 28.7x25.7x8.6 inches. To put that in perspective, we found it fits a fullsize toolbag, portable air compressor, recovery gear bag, oil/spare parts bag, and jumper cable bag. Even with the added weight, we had no trouble opening and closing the drawer.
Another feature we enjoy is the fact that you can slide the floor (top of the drawer system) out a little over 15 inches. This is nice for a work area and is handy if you want to access something in the back of the cooler in our case.
Speaking of coolers, we’ve been using the ARB Fridge Freezer for over 10 years. In fact, our 2007 model Fridge Freezer is currently being used as a fulltime garage freezer. With that being the case, we got a new one for trips. This particular unit is a 35L version, which is about the biggest you can strap onto the drawer system in the back of a JL.
If you don’t mind rotating beverages in as you need them, the 35L Fridge Freezer is plenty for a multiday excursion. We typically power it up in the garage the night before a trip so it’s cool and ready to load the next morning. Once it’s charged, it takes very little power to keep things cool. Since we share this cooler between a few other vehicles, we didn’t want a complicated or more permanent mount. A simple ratchet strap works fine for keeping it in place.
While our JL is fit with a hardtop, once we peel off the hard layer, we’ll take full advantage of the fact that the drawer is lockable. Another nice feature is that ARB designed the system with mechanisms that “lock” the drawer and sliding floor in place when they are open. This is especially handy when you are digging through your gear on an incline.
On the Go
Anytime we add something with moving pieces, we’re curious if it’s going to rattle. Thankfully, this setup is extremely quiet. We expected to hear a little noise off-road, but it hasn’t been something that we’ve noticed much. Given that we typically keep the main drawer empty for our day-to-day needs, it’s extremely convenient to store our daily stuff on the go. The fact that we no longer have to use a half dozen ratchet straps to keep our gear bags in place is something we like as well. Overall, we found this upgrade soothes our desire to be organized and makes for a practical and safe way to haul our gear.