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Open Air: JKU Net Options (with DIY net windows!)

Dawn on the rocks

Don’t let the dogs out! Our best trail friends love an open air ride for much of the year, but keeping a dog inside a topless and doorless Jeep can be a challenge. Here are some options I’ve used for keeping our furry friends contained, plus a DIY net window project for a JKU!

Leash run system – a few years ago friends of ours tied a heavy climbing rope securely inside the center of their Jeep roof area then hooked their dog’s leash to it. (The dog should wear a harness as opposed to just a collar, if you try this option). We tried this with our older dog at first but he kept getting tangled up and I was constantly worried that he’d fall out the open door, even though he was tied off.

Dog seatbelt – keeps dogs contained but they can’t move around. It’s an option if you have a dog that is content to ride quietly. But what Jeep dog rides quietly?! Not ours, they’re too excited – for the love of Jeeping!! So, I quickly moved on to net options...

Smittybilt cargo net – this is the back cargo net I’ve used for years now, and love! It works absolutely great. Since I have a JKU (4-door) I also use back door surrounds to provide structure for the cargo net so it’s not flapping around. These go on in the spring and stay til fall (as does the net). This cargo net keeps camping gear in the back cargo area, and when not filled our younger dog rides in the back cargo space atop the storage box. The cargo net keeps him inside but allows him to take in all the awesome smells of the Great Outdoors!

Net trail half doors – the purpose of half doors, for me, is to give the feel of an open ride yet keep stuff contained (such as dogs, or camping gear). That’s why I chose to use steel trail doors with nets, instead of solid half doors. Love ‘em!

Net windows – specifically for keeping dogs inside the Jeep, or camping gear contained, I added net rear windows above the rear half doors. For a number of years I used Safari Straps cargo nets. These worked ok for the purpose of containment but were not user-friendly. The alligator cinches at each of the four corners had to be loosened and then re-attached any time I wanted to use the back doors so it was a pain to take extra people with me on a whim or put large items in the back seat. Take-off of both window nets took about 10 minutes each time, as did putting them back on again. Plus the metal O-rings at each corner of the nets had to be just-so or they would vibrate against the Jeep when driving down the road – an annoyance, but I was also concerned about paint chipping.

So – this year I decided to make myself better net rear windows and here’s how, if you’re handy with a sewing machine (or know someone who is!). These nets have five quick-release clips so they can be unclipped from the door and surrounds, and clipped up in the ceiling area so they’re out of the way – in about a minute’s time!

DIY Net Windows

Materials -

2” webbing (for long straps between windows – these lay over top of Jeep sport bars), 20 yards

1” webbing (for both net windows), 25 yards

Thread (I used all-purpose)

Marking pencil or pen

Measuring tape

Pins, scissors, sewing machine

Lighter (for sealing edges of webbing)

Design -

jeep window nets

Process -

Gather materials needed.

For each window -

Cut 2 pieces of 2” webbing 20” long.

Cut 4 pieces of 1” webbing 20” long.

These will be the up and down (tall) pieces of the window.

Cut 5 pieces of 1” webbing 27” long.

These will be the side to side (wide) pieces of the window.

Mark on 1” marks about every 4” (approx. 4” squares for windows) to assist in assembling the window grid. Like so -

Melt ends of webbing with lighter to seal them, so they don’t fray.

Lay out net windows in grid pattern using marks as guides.

Pin. (You’ll see extra marks in this photo – my measurements were a little off at first; this was a learn-as-I-went process).

Repeat for other window.

Next cut the long 2” straps that connect the two windows. These lay over top of the Jeep sport bars. Cut 3 pieces of 2” webbing at least 61” long. Cutting longer is better – when you fit the windows to your Jeep you can take up the slack in each of these straps to fit your vehicle, then sew accordingly. Pin these three long straps to the top of each window net to connect them.

Also, cut your 1” webbing straps for each quick-release clip buckle. I put three on the bottom of each window, and two on each side – front and back. I’m not including length measurements for these straps as you’ll need to fit to your Jeep and determine how long you want each of them. I also added some Velcro to keep each strap secured next to the clip, without flapping in the wind. Pin each of these clip straps to each window.

Try the net windows on your Jeep! Adjust where needed.

Sew. This is the most laborious part of the whole process. Plan on at least a couple hours solid work.

Done? Put the net windows on for the season! On my Jeep I chose to put the net windows on first, over the sport bars. Then the back cargo net. Then the bikini top/sunshade.

For easy access to the Jeep’s back seat, unclip each window, fold up toward ceiling, then re-clip where appropriate. Since I have the back cargo net installed I just clip 2-3 places on that and the windows stay up and out of the way when needed.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Trails!

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