by: Randy L. Wheeler

Garvin Industries' new Jeep Expedition Rack looks good and can back up those good looks with strength.
You try and you try, but you just can't seem to cram all your gear into the back of your Jeep. So you end up re-packing and prioritizing what you really need to bring against what you'd like to bring. Most of us that travel into the outback like to bring along gear that allows us to enjoy some of the comforts of home, but very rarely do we find the room to store these items.  Sure, you could add a tailgate mounted cargo rack or even tow a trailer, but each of these have their limitations.  So what is the intrepid pack rat to do, besides leave all those creature comforts at home? Rack it! Rack it you say?

Enter Garvin Industries, a leader in aftermarket rack systems for Sport Utility Vehicles and now, Jeep Wranglers ('87-'95 and '97-'99) and CJ's (CJ-7).   Their new Expedition Rack will fit with either your soft top, hard top, or NO top!.

The Rack

rack1.jpg (8899 bytes)

This new mount is strong yet simple to use.

The Expedition Rack has an engineered tilting feature that allows you to remove or install your top without removing the entire rack. The basic rack is constructed from 3/4-inch square steel tubing and the support brackets are heavy duty 1-inch square tubing. The rack components feature clean MIG-welded joints and Nylok nuts/bolts.

The rack is mounted to the body of the Jeep using the two rear body mount locations for the rear support struts and two windshield frame mounted support struts. The rear support struts feature an engineered bracket that allows the rack to pivot and tilt once the two support bars are disconnected.

Fit and finish on the rack and its accessories is excellent. The rack and its accessories arrived in meticulously wrapped, coded, and double-boxed segments. The sharp-looking black powder coating was intact upon receipt, and has remained chip-free to date.



rack2.jpg (5411 bytes)

The attachment system locks the rack onto the structure of your vehicle.
Putting the Expedition Rack together is straight forward, but does take some time. The instructions were clear and concise and each component of the rack had the necessary hardware packaged in its own bag for easy reference. 

The rack itself comes packaged as 5 separate "components": The front and rear corner pieces, the two side rails and the floor support bars.

Assembled, the rack measures roughly 4 1/2 feet wide by 6 feet long with 4-inch high side rails.
Once the rack has been assembled, the front and rear support bars can be installed.   The front bars mount to the existing windshield frame bracket using the two stock mounting holes.  New Grade 5 hex bolts are included, so you don't need to hassle with those pesky Torx bolts to re-assemble the bracket.  Simply remove the two front facing windshield bracket bolts, lay the support bar on the face of the bracket and install the two hex bolts, tighten and you're finished!  The rear support bars require some minor drilling for the installation of the two brackets.

The lower bracket uses a heavy duty steel plate that attaches to the existing rear body mount bolt. An additional hole is drilled through the body tub and a support plate is installed behind the tub and then bolted to the steel plate bracket.  The upper support bracket requires drilling two holes through the body tub and installing the bracket. 

The optional Hi-Lift Jack mount keeps the jack anchored safely and securely.

Photo Courtesy of Garvin Industries

The optional Spare Tire bracket kit.

rack_02.jpg (10094 bytes)

Tilt up support bars

1-person installation.
Notice the piece of lumber used as a support brace.

After the support bars have been installed, the rack can be mounted on top of the bars.   The rack is held in place using four carriage bolts and secured using oversized c-clamps.  Once securely fastened to the support bars, the rack is incredibly rigid and super stable.


Versatility is one of the most outstanding features of the Expedition Rack. This versatility translates into an effective means for holding a variety of tools, such as a Hi-Lift jack, a spare tire and other commercially available items. The rack also allows the use of any Yakima or Thule accessory to be mounted with those companies' main cross bars.

Hi-Lift Jack Mount

The optional Hi-Lift jack mount provides a safe and secure way to store your Hi-Lift jack. The brackets can be installed on the side rails of the rack or on the floor of the rack.  Since I often use my jack while on the trail, I opted to mount the Hi-Lift on the side rail of the rack where it's easily accessible.  The Hi-Lift jack is held in place by two 3/4-inch hex bolts.  While these bolts provide a rock solid mount, they do require a drive socket or open end wrench to remove. A better option would be to include wing-nut bolts instead of the hex end bolts. This would make it much easier and faster to remove the jack when you need it.

Spare Tire Carrier Mount

Another optional accessory is the Spare Tire Bracket Kit.  The kit is manufactured from heavy duty 1/4-inch steel plate and features a solid chain locking system and a user friendly "Y" handle hub to secure the tire to the rack.  The kit mounts directly to the tubular steel floor bars and is adjustable for just about any tire and wheel combination.

Driveway Testing

The selling point of this unit is it's engineered feature that allows the user to tilt the rack up to gain access to your Jeeps top.  While the literature claims this is easily accomplished by one person, I found it awkward trying to tilt the rack up and secure it with the supplied support brackets because I have an existing rear tailgate mounted trail rack, which didn't allow me to get a good position behind the rack.   If I didn't have the trail rack on the Jeep, this tilt up feature would have been as simple as  1-2-3. 

The solution - I attached a piece of rope to the front rail of the expedition rack and using that as a leverage point, was able to tilt the rack up into position.  Again, if I didn't have my trail rack mounted on the tailgate, this wouldn't be a problem. Now comes the part where you either need three hands or another person to attach the support bracket while you keep the rack in its tilted-up position. While I was able to attach the tilt up support bracket myself, it wasn't easy. Once the rack was secured in its tilted up configuration, removing the support bracket took a bit of coaxing.

The other problem I ran into once I got the rack installed was that my Jeep wouldn't fit into or out of my garage with the rack installed.  Prior to my recent Rubicon trip, I had to enlist the help of a friend to hoist the rack on the Jeep.   Another solution I found was to disengage the rear support bars from their top brackets, tilt the bars down and install the rack on the ground. Using a piece of lumber, I propped the rack up, connected the support bars to the rack and tilted the rack into position.  Again, using the piece of rope attached to the front of the rack as a leverage point, I was able to lower the rack into position without much hassle. 

Trail Testing

The Expedition Rack

A couple of days after I installed the Expedition Rack, I had the opportunity to run the Rubicon Trail. What a perfect chance to test this rack. One concern I had was whether the rack would make the Jeep too top heavy.  Since this was a maiden voyage of sorts, I opted not to install the spare tire on the rack, thus minimizing the load on top.   Parts of the Rubicon Trail don't mix well with overly top heavy rigs.  I loaded up my gear on the rack, strapped everything down and once on the trail, was pleasantly surprised that I couldn't even tell the rack was up there!  The rack is rock solid and it did not rattle or shake one bit while on the trail.

On the Rubicon Trail!

The only caution to consider with installing the Expedition Rack is too much stuff up there going to be a problem? The two primary concerns are that the added weight, if excessive (the Expedition rack is rated to handle 300 lbs., evenly distributed), can damage the mounting points, and can cause exaggerated body roll and thus an increased risk of roll over. This can be particularly true if you load heavy items up top and traverse steep cross slopes. Use caution in such cases, as always, and try to load most heavy items in your rig, stowing light but bulky items on the rack.


The Expedition Rack offers us Jeep owners an option for carrying more gear on those extended outback trips. With the sparse cargo space of most TJ's, YJ's and CJ's, any additional storage space is much sought after.  Rear mounted cargo racks provide a little more storage space, but not much.  Towing a trailer can give you an enormous amount of storage space, but at a premium.  With the Expedition Rack, you can add about 27-square feet of useable storage space to your vehicle.  The rack performed flawlessly on the trail and could even be used as an elevated platform for photography or trail spotting. The tilting feature of the rack was a bit awkward with my existing trail rack in place, but for those of you without a tailgate mounted rack, this feature works great, allowing access to your hard or soft top.  If you want more cargo space for all those creature comforts and a place to store your Hi-Lift jack or other trail accessories, check out this new rack.  Just say  "Rack it!".


Garvin Industries
Department ORN
316 Millar Ave.
El Cajon, CA 92020 U.S.A.
Phone: 619.440.7415
Fax: 619.440.0851

To receive free literature on applications and prices, e-mail to: Garvin Industries.

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