Along For The Ride: Goose Gear Plate System for JKU
Goose Gear Plate System for JKU
“Do you have it in mahogany?” I asked jokingly, as I shared a campfire with Brian Fulton, owner of Goose Gear, a manufacturer of unique, high-quality storage solutions for overland vehicles.
Brian replied, “In theory, we can use any kind of wood, but you could just go with the natural birch that we normally use, and then treat it in any way that you prefer.”
While I wasn’t serious at first, the idea of having a natural wood plate system started to appeal to me, as I imagined a warm “homey” aesthetic inside my camper-converted 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, which is also my full-time residence.
“Let’s do it!” I chimed.
Then and there, I placed my order for a bare-wood plate system, which normally comes treated with black Line-X for maximum durability. I’d be sacrificing some durability for aesthetics, but I wanted to have fun with it, and there would be no loss of utility.
What is it?
The purpose of a plate system is to serve as a building foundation for the interior of your overland vehicle. It adds flat surfaces that can be used to install cabinetry, drawer systems, fridge slides, and so on.
Furthermore, plate systems are often utilized as living spaces or sleeping platforms, as an alternative to that of a camper or a roof-top tent.
In the case of the Goose Gear plate system for Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, it features multiple cubbies that convert awkward negative spaces, such as fender contours and foot wells, into efficient storage spaces.
As one who lives in his Jeep full-time, I have to think like a backpacker, and make the most efficient use of space possible in order to be comfortable. In this regard, a platform system that maximizes functional space is almost a necessity.
My Jeep is equipped with a J30 camper conversion by Ursa Minor. Unlike a rooftop tent, this is a whole replacement hard-top with a pop-up camper built-in. It is accessed by two hatches above the back seat of the Jeep, and the tent portion is very much a part of the interior of the Jeep.
Normally, I would travel with the 40 percent section of the back seat up, and the 60 percent section would be folded down.
The 40 section is my entrance and exit. It is where I sit, take off my shoes, and sometimes do work on my computer (like I’m doing right now).
The 60 section is my standing platform. It is my living space. It is where I might change clothes, make lunch, and access the camper above. With the 60 percent section of the rear seat installed, it folds down into a bulky, uneven surface with an awkward gap separating it from the cargo area.
The Goose Gear plate system with the optional 60 percent platform enables one to remove the 60 section rear seat completely, and replaces it with a perfectly flat platform that joins seamlessly with the rear cargo area and adds two spacious storage cubbies down below, in the space formerly occupied by the folded seat.
So the rear plate system with the fender cubbies and the 60 percent platform are absolutely perfect for my needs. This configuration would complement my Ursa Minor J30 camper setup extraordinarily well.
Preparing the Platform
I’m going to start right off my saying that I am not a woodworker, and I definitely stepped out of my comfort-zone by making a special request for a bare-wood system. There was the matter of selecting a treatment for the wood, to offer some protection and water resistance, and then applying that treatment.
It sounds easy in writing, but since I had never done it before, I stumbled through the process clumsily, and the end result was crude, and not nearly on par with the quality of the Line-X finish.
Nevertheless, I followed through.
I first set off to find a treatment that was durable, and non-toxic. As the Jeep is my full-time living-space, off-gassing was a concern, and I did not want to contend with a nauseating odor.
Googling ensued. I considered both polyurethane varnishes, and water-based varnishes, and ended up going with an organic, supposedly edible varnish called Ecos Woodshield. While I strive to be “green” my main goal here was to minimize toxic odor, and this varnish reviewed very favorably in that regard.
Over the course of a few weeks, I would apply multiple coats of varnish, predominantly on the exposed surfaces, and then a coat or two on the back surfaces and edges. Initially, the varnish applied nicely, yielding a smooth satin finish that felt pretty durable. However, some running and drips that had dried on the edges caused me to sand and re-coat some parts of the platform.
Another benefit of having a wooden plate system is the ability to use it as a mounting surface for electrical components, such as outlets and switches.
In my case, at least one 12V power outlet is essential to power my refrigerator, as the plate system does delete, or require one to relocate, the factory outlet.
I did even better by ordering two marine socket panels online. Each panel consisted of one 12V outlet, and one dual-USB outlet. These panels would then be installed in a safe, convenient location on the side of both the driver and passenger fender plates.
This required me to drill a couple of holes in each fender plate, install the socket panels, and then assemble a wiring harness that I could route to my auxiliary fuse block behind my Jeep’s glove compartment.
I performed this work on the bench so it was ready-to-go for the final install.
Preparing the Jeep
While the installation of the plate system is very straightforward, there is some documentation available on Goose Gear’s website that covers vehicle preparation, and the installation of the core components.
First, one has to remove all of the tie-down loops and plastic trim layers from the cargo area. This includes the plastic under-floor storage bowl, the carpeted cover, the roll-bar surrounds on each rear fender, and the side-mounted 12V outlet and subwoofer if equipped.
Then, if installing the optional 60 platform, the 60 rear seat has to come out, and a seat delete bracket has to be installed to retain the 40 section.
Removing the rear seatbelt on the passenger side is optional, but it should be specified whether or not you are going to do so when ordering your system, so the appropriate fender plate is provided for a cleaner look.
All rear carpet can stay in place.
The most challenging part of the install is probably removing the passenger rear seat belt assembly, and the 60 section of the rear seat. The associated bolts will put up a fight, so you’re going to want to have a breaker bar and some penetrating oil.
Onto the Install
First the fender cubbies go in.
These require some bench assembly so the forward-facing panels can be bolted to the side panels. This creates the structural box. In my case, I installed my power outlets on both forward-facing panels, so I carefully routed my wiring as I positioned each cubby over their respective fenders.
The Goose Gear plate system utilizes extruded aluminum channels with slide nuts to facilitate assembly. It’s a very clean and clever system, but you do have to take some care to ensure that the slide nuts are correctly positioned throughout the process. It may require a flashlight and peering into bolt holes from time-to-time.
A tab bolted to one of the hardtop eyelets on the edge of the Jeep’s tub keeps the fender cubbies in place, while the side panels seat nicely behind the tailgate seal. Goose Gear made considerations for the tailgate retaining arm, and all rear wiring is nicely accommodated.
Assembly of the fender cubbies is concluded by installing the rollbar and seatbelt surrounds on top of each fender plate, resulting in a very clean, finished appearance.
Following the fender cubbies, the floor of the main cargo area slides in and is attached via four bolts, utilizing holes that were formerly occupied by tie-down loops.
Finally, the platform that installs in place of the 60 percent rear seat mates to the main cargo platform using three bolts, and an aluminum bracket ties it to the floor utilizing the existing rear seat bolts. Drilling might be required in the aluminum bracket due to variations in tolerances from vehicle-to-vehicle.
It’s a fun project, and installation can be performed by one person in a single day. However, I recommend taking a whole weekend to do so at a more relaxed and careful pace.
It’s important to note that everyone is going to utilize a plate system differently, as it’s a foundation that adds functionality to one’s interior, enabling one to build on that foundation, whether its for additional storage, living space, or a bed.
For my application, it vastly increased the living space in the back of my Jeep. With my camper deployed, I now have more room to stand up and change clothes on a sturdy, level platform.
My clothes, which used to be stored in hanging shelves that obscured the side window were relocated to under the floor. Subsequently, I now have better visibility while driving.
It opened up some bottlenecks that grant me better access to gear that I use on a regular basis. My cooking equipment and portable toilet can now be access without shifting gear around. I can now access my recovery gear in the rear compartment without emptying the Jeep.
My 12V fridge is now safely bolted to the floor, as opposed to being held down by straps, and the electric sockets that I installed provide me with a convenient place to power and recharge my accessories.
I have odds-and-ends such as binoculars, lanterns, and flip-flops that now have a home in the fender cubbies.
I’m am extremely pleased with the system, and if you’re an overlander, or if you live out of your vehicle like I do, the Goose Gear plate system is a game-changer.