Reviewer's Notebook: Inside Armor: Seat Covers and Mats

Inside Armor: Seat Covers and Mats

Nov. 01, 2005 By Randy Burleson
Keeping a clean interior in the midst of a nasty trail exterior is difficult. Sand, slush, mud, and muck all wreak havoc on fabrics and carpet. Though spouses and Sierra Club members might suggest that the best solution is to stay off dirty trails and stick to sanitary paved roads, other solutions are nearly as effective and a heckuvalot more enjoyable.


Seat Covers

With seat covers the choices are fairly simple: high quality fixed covers, or economical removable covers. We tested one of each type, a fixed neoprene cover from Wet Okole of Hawaii, and a removable utility cover from Cabelas, of Nebraska.


Wet Okole Seat Covers

Wet Okole manufactures their seat covers from neoprene, the material used in wetsuits. This soft, durable material comes in many colors, wears well, and provides temperate seating; it stays cool in the summer, but warms quickly in winter. Wet Okole's neoprene seat skins are waterproof, washable, and stain-resistant, and they make an excellent seat covering for the dirty rigors of off-road usage.


Wet Okole's bench seat covers are just as well-tailored as their bucket seat covers.
Wet Okole makes Universal and Custom-fit seat covers to fit a range of budgets and needs. Universal covers fit bucket seats in a wide variety of makes and models, and utilize neoprene only on the actually seat and back, with Lycra on the sides. Because even the universal covers are made to order, they can be had with any one of over two dozen colors of neoprene.

The Custom seat covers are 100% neoprene, and are made for bucket seats as well as 60/40, 50/50 and 40/20/40 split bench seats. They are made to order for each year, make, and model of vehicle, with one or two different neoprene colors. As with the Universal, the Custom covers feature padding to further increase the comfort of factory seating.


Wet Okole's Universal seat cover on the left and custom fit on the right.
We tested the Wet Okole covers in Randy's California-based Amigo and in Idaho with the WomBAT, and have been very pleased with the covers. They resist snagging well, as proven by Randy's 130-pound Newfoundland dog. They proved themselves comfortable in both of our different climates. In the north, the neoprene seat covers felt noticeably more comfortable than the factory cloth/vinyl mix, warming quickly in spite of sub-zero temperatures. Down south, the neoprene stays relatively cool, even in southern California's blazing summer sun. Third degree burns from the stock vinyl inserts are a thing of the past. The seat's padding is also a real plus, especially with high-mileage, well-worn seats.

Wet Okole seat covers stay amazingly clean, but if a hundred-plus-pound muddy dog gets a bit confused about where he's supposed to sit in the truck, they also clean up well. A quick trip through the washer lifts most stains away entirely.

Once mounted, these seat covers stay on until you take them off -- far better than any others we've used. Most other seat covers seem to remove themselves routinely in the process of everyday ingress/egress. The Wet Okole tenacious fit is a result of perfect tailoring and clever adjustable buckle straps. The Universal seat cover uses two adjustable straps that sneak between the seat bottom and the back, connecting under the seat. The Custom seat cover uses these two fore and aft straps, as well as two more that criss-cross them, running side to side under the seat.


Wet Okole seat covers fit like a glove and look good inside Project WomBAT.
With Universal seat covers, Randy's only regret was not purchasing a set of Custom covers. After almost four years of use and abuse, the Lycra on the Universals is starting to lose its elasticity. The seat cover itself still looks great and stays well-affixed to the seat, but the Lycra looks a bit worn... but not yet torn.

Project WomBAT's Custom seat covers fit the seat-body like a glove, but the headrest cover was slightly less snug, showing some excess material at its bottom. Also, the stock Trooper seats feature a stash pocket on their back side that is covered and not readily accessible with the covers on. A nice option would be to have a slash opening in the back to allow continued use of these handy stock pockets.

Randy's stock seats, underneath Wet Okole's protective armor, are still in nearly new condition even after almost 4 years. Wet Okole protects seats and improves vehicle appearance with solid color, two-tone, or even custom designs.

Sport Seat Shields

The Sport Seat Shield fits well and provides quick, easy seat protection.
Sometimes you need quick and temporary protection for your seats. A spur of the moment hunting trip, a cell phone call from a friend up to his axles, or just changing a flat on a muddy back road... Most off-road enthusiasts will have little difficulty recalling an event that needed something more than a towel to keep the grunge off the seats. Cabelas, the largest outfitter of outdoor gear in the world, markets the Sport Seat Shield for these situations. Inexpensive yet waterproof, this coated nylon seat cover mounts quickly with its elastic trim. The seat cover holds snugly to bucket seats, and stays put during all but the most repeated clambering in/out of the seat.

The Sport Seat Shields' biggest advantage comes from their convenience. They roll up quickly, and remain that way thanks to a simple Velcro tab. Rolled up, they stay under your seats and out of the way seats until duty calls.

Rolled up tightly, ready to be stored within easy reach.

With this kind of easy stowage, the Sport Seat Shields protect well when you are covered with mud or are sopping wet. At these times the covers' lack of breath-ability is not a hindrance, but rather a benefit. They can even be rolled up into themselves when muddy, thus allowing the mess to remain on the cover and not on you. After use, a quick hose-down rinses off the dirt and mud.

WeatherTech Floor Mats

WeatherTech's mats look rugged and massive.
Made either of carpet or flat rubber or vinyl, factory floor mats offer only marginal protection in the city, and they fail miserably when it comes to handling tracked-in dirt from wheeling adventures. Even if the mud and water that the factory mats do catch is a problem, because stock mats tend to retain some of the dirt and moisture indefinitely. Basically, carpet or vinyl mats don't catch all the mud, and the dirt and water that they do catch stains them.

Designers at MacNeill devised WeatherTech mats to address these problems, with voids and dams that provide a combined 1.5 quart capacity. The extremely tough, yet pliable rubber that makes up WeatherTech Mats remains flexible well below freezing, anchors itself firmly to prevent sliding around the footwell. WeatherTech mats can handle just about any kind of slop that can be tracked in, the stuff that would normally drip or drain off boots and permanently stain carpet.


The WeatherTech mats easily capture liquids and solids.
The WeatherTech mat performed well all winter. El Nino-related warming and cooling spells provided an amazing amount of slush and mud for testing purposes. These outstanding mats proved themselves again and again in the resulting inclement weather. The mats have amazing capacity - sufficient enough to handle everything tracked in, even during this particularly muddy spring. Their fantastic pliability allowed them to drape evenly over the Trooper's unusual floorpan and transmission tunnel contours. Each mat weighs almost five pounds -- and that weight combines with a textured underside to keep them from sliding around the floor.

After a trail ride, interior cleanup is a snap. Like many off-road enthusiasts, the mats benefit from a good hose-down after particularly snowy or muddy adventures. Cleanup is fast and easy with a quick shot from a hose and perhaps a quick brushing. The mats' thick, tough rubber promises years of reliable service.



Seats can be hideously expensive to clean, repair, or replace, and few seats will fit the truck as well as the seats that the engineers and ergonomists designed for it. Fitting non-stock seats will likely require custom fabrication to achieve a sturdy and safe installation.

It only seems logical to thoroughly protect your seating investment. With solutions from Wet Okole and Cabelas, your interior can be as well armored as the bottom side of your truck.



For more information, contact:
Wet Okole Hawaii
1727 Superior Ave.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
714-548-3921 FAX
1 Cabela Dr.
Sidney, Nebraska 69160
800-237-4444 Newsletter
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