Preparedness 101: Storage

One reason I love driving a [modified] Jeep is because with it we've got a veritable survival vehicle that can go almost anywhere if disaster strikes. If the Zombie Apocalypse happens I'm not going to be running around screaming, "What do we do?" Our family has a plan, and a big part of the plan is being prepared.

The Zombie Apocalypse may seem like a laughing matter and it's human nature to think that [insert natural or man-made disaster] won't happen to us. But it's good to be prepared...just in case. A greater reality for me is that hitting the trails and spending time in nature requires planning and forethought. Especially in the mountains, where it could snow on a July afternoon when it was 80 degrees that morning, being prepared when wheeling, hiking, or camping is a must.

Here's a reason I believe in being prepared: back in 2006 when my husband and I were first married we went on a two-week honeymoon trip around Colorado. Having been raised in the upper Midwest, this was my first experience in mountain country. At one point we went on a hike with some friends on a mountain trail near Durango, and since it was a warm day I dressed in my finest cotton gear - blue jeans, cotton tee, and a cotton hoodie just in case it was "chilly." No one said anything (like "cotton kills"?) so off we went. Around treeline it began to rain, and then it began to sleet (in the middle of July!). I've never been so cold in my life and because all my cotton finery was soaked (and wouldn't dry) I was literally freezing to death while my new husband complained about his feet hurting (really?!). All I could do was keep moving, and eventually we made it back to the trailhead (and warmer temps) but it took me the rest of the day to get warm. Since then I've tried to avoid such situations (death?) by learning as much as I can about how to be adequately prepared for anything that might happen, especially when heading out to the trails.

My husband may have coached me on appropriate mountain gear back in 2006 - my memory is a little fuzzy or maybe I just didn't...ahem...listen. Regardless, my husband is a believer in being prepared for anything that could happen, and I've learned a lot from him. Plus, I drive a Jeep that's open-air for half the year and I can tell you first-hand that having to dry out all your gear after riding in the rain really stinks! Thus, we decided to look at secure (and dry) storage options for both the cargo area behind the back seat, as well as get under-seat lockboxes for the front (easily accessible).

The front lockbox was easy. Ideally my husband would’ve liked to have a lockbox under each front seat, but for my year/model of Jeep and for the price point, I found only a driver’s side box which was fine. I opted for the Bestop locking storage and it has enough space for miscellaneous small items.

There were more options for the larger storage behind the back seat. Depending on your make and model of vehicle, you’ll find a multitude of choices from secure tailgate enclosures to small lockboxes to large lockboxes that fill the entire back cargo space (or sit in place of the back seat). I ended up choosing Mac’s Custom JK Storage Box which, while not the most expensive option, is up there in price but has several awesome pros:

  1. It’s large enough to fit a multitude of survival essentials;

  2. It locks to the floor (for extra security);

  3. It has a locking drawer (key lock plus padlock option) that also locks in place when fully opened (so if you’re parked on uneven terrain you don’t need to hold the drawer open when you’re getting your gear out of storage);

  4. The drawer has a lid that doubles as a work table (and slides back to reveal everything stored inside in the drawer);

  5. It does not require removal of the back seat (it sits behind, in the cargo area);

  6. It’s water resistant, which means rain and mud (!) stay outside the box;

  7. The entire storage box lifts up so you can still use the storage well beneath (although if you’re riding in the rain, don’t store anything underneath and make sure you pull that drain plug!);

  8. It comes with removable connectors which attach to the top of the box and allow items to be strapped on top for secure transport.

After using these storage options for a few months now, the positives definitely work as advertised and I’d recommend both the Bestop under-seat box and Mac’s Custom JK box to anyone with the appropriate make/model of Jeep. However, there are also some drawbacks to consider:

  1. The Bestop under-seat box opens when you unlock it with the key (and to keep it closed you lock it back up). The lock tends to stick and you’ve got to jiggle the key a bit to unlock the box, which is not handy if you’re in a hurry. Otherwise it’s no big deal, and for the price I won't complain.

  2. The Mac’s Storage Box sits against the back seat, and the locking floor piece extends under the back door. Because it takes up the entire back cargo space and is a tight fit, I discovered that the locking floor piece started to rub the paint off a 3” spot under my back door. My husband suggested adhering something to the door to protect it, so I attached a piece of rubber material which I cut to fit the problem area, both under the back door and on top of the box floor area. This has worked well to eliminate any further rubbing on my paint.

  3. Because I don’t have carpet in my Jeep, there’s nothing to insulate the back box from rattling or squeaking on the floor. Therefore, a small piece of carpet or rags are needed under the box to lessen the noise. After a few months this is still a work in progress but it does not deter me from recommending Mac’s Custom JK box as a great option (because I chose to take out the factory carpet this is my issue to fix, and not a problem with the box).

Other locking storage options are part of the stock Jeep and I also take advantage of these. The locking glove box and locking center console hold a variety of items from vehicle paperwork (insurance, registration) to phone chargers to jackets and hats, at the ready for cooler air as we increase in altitude. In addition, the seat covers have MOLLE system bags and while these do not lock, they do provide organized storage for everything else that’s not so valuable (but that I don’t want blowing around my open Jeep).

With all the storage options available, I'm sure you can find something that fits your vehicle and your lifestyle. There’s no reason you can’t have your open ride and be prepared to enjoy it too! Stay tuned for futher posts on preparedness because having a place to store your stuff is just a start - next you've got to fill it with essentials. Happy Trails!

Update: Here's a pack list for recovery and survival!

Update: Here's an easy fix for the squeak (which I thought was coming from the floor but turns out it's the drawer itself)!

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