Reviewer's Notebook: Garvin Industries Wilderness Roof Rack Part II

Nov. 01, 2005 By Dr. Sean Michael

Garvin's roomy roof rack and accessories allow elbow room inside the truck while ... so you don't have to leave out the kitchen sink.
Garvin offers the Wilderness Roof Rack in a vast array of rack sizes, attachment systems, and accessory mounts. Clever component-based design allows Garvin to deliver standard components that assemble into a rugged steel rack to match your truck, or dozens of other vehicle applications, as well as fiberglass truck caps.

In the Part I of this review, Project WomBAT reviewed the rugged rack itself, a steel frame MIG-welded from 3/4" steel tubing (.065" wall thickness). With Garvin's outstanding reputation, I knew the rack would fit well and stand up to extreme use, but Garvin's wealth of accessories really make it an effective system.


The Accessories

A complete rack system needs multiple accessories, depending on each individual's needs. Garvin Industries selected key items that need to be stowed on vehicles, and designing unique accessories to fit them.

The problem is that with as many toys as there are to put on a rack, designing, manfacturing, and stocking brackets is a HUGE task. Unlike their peers in the rack marketplace, Garvin garvin decided to make their rack systems work with rack accessories from other rack manufacturers. This allows consumers to use existing accessories for other racks on a Wilderness Roof Rack, choosing the best accessories for their needs from Garvin, as well as other vendors. With all the companies in the roof rack market, the choices are almost limitless.

This flexibility allowed me to accessorized Project WomBAT's rack with the key specialty items manufactured by Garvin and sample other manufacturers' options.


Pull Pal Mounting Bracket

Project WomBAT reviewed Garvin's Pull Pal holder, in Part I. This bracket easily and effectively stows this unwieldy, weighty two-piece winch anchor. Even when muddy, the Pull Pal easily mounts to the bracket with a simple bolt and plate system.


Garvin's clever brackets safely suspend the jack overhead.

Hi-Lift Jack Mounting Bracket

Garvin clearly put significant thought into their Hi-Lift jack mounting bracket. A weighty Hi-Lift jack stored overhead could be a recipe for body damage, yours and the truck's... with Garvin's sturdy mount, the Hi-Lift jack drops into a cradle at either end of the handle and ratcheting mechanism. The bracket mount retains the jack without need for a second set of hands, and clamping the Hi-Lift on the rack requires simply tightening two bolts. These bolts prevent movement, rattles, and squeaks.

That's it.

No jack falling on your head, and no one-handed jack-balancing wrench-retrieval ballet. The two bolts go through ratchet holes on the jack upright, so a mud-coated Hi-Lift mounts just as easily as a clean one. Garvin also supplies a lock plate for securing the jack with a padlock.

Garvin has other brackets that cradle Forrest Tool's Max Tool and a full length shovel.

Max Tool Mounting Bracket

Garvin makes a two-part bracket to store other long and potentially mucky items, a shovel, and/or the Forrest Tool's Max Tool. These brackets clamp to the Wilderness Accessories Rack with Garvin's plate steel clamp system, and use stacked, formed plates to grip the Max Tool and shovel. Washers, bolts, and wing nuts compress these formed plates to securely store the accessories and prevent movement. Garvin didn't design a locking mechanism into this bracket, but a short locked cable wrapped tightly around the rack and tools easily prevents 'tool walk-away.

32-inch tires won't fit too many places, but Garvin's roof rack is big enough for multiple spare tires. Several of the other pictures in this article show the tire and its mounting from a side view.

Spare Tire Bracket

I ran into problems fitting 32-inch tires on Project WomBAT's stock spare tire mount. Garvin's spare tire bracket allowed me to move the spare up and out of the way. How often do you really need it anyway?

The bracket clamps the spare tire, holding it on its side between the rack floor and a triangular plate that slips over the rim center. Bolt length and a number of fine-tuning options allow mounting a wide range of tire/wheel sizes. The large Y-shaped handle lets you crank the wheel plate tightly, silencing potential rattles and squeaks. Garvin provides a chain and ring system to accept a padlock.

Retrieving the spare when needed and replacing it when finished does take more effort, but keeping the tire outside the vehicle and up top keeps it and your vehicle's interior much cleaner.

The gas can holder allows fast and easy attachment and removal.

Gas Can Holder

Garvin recently released a gas can holder for the Wilderness Accessories Rack, and Project WomBAT tested one of the first production units. The bracket wraps the can from the sides with metal supports, and uses a cam-lock buckled nylon strap through the gas can handle. The resulting snug ride still allows faster removal than traditional locking metal L-strap brackets. As a trade off for this convenience, Garvin's gas can holder lacks built-in locking options. As with the shovel and Max Tool, though, ingenuity and a cable lock easily secure your gas cab from theft. Garvin's can holder mounts to the rack's cross members but braces against the flooring, so this bracket requires installation of the flooring kit.

If you use only one or two gas cans, like most of us, the Garvin bracket works great. To carry a full expedition's worth of water and fuel, though, a custom-built holder would secure more cans in less space.


Bike Rack Adapters

Most safari-style racks don't provide for mounting bikes, skis, canoes, and the like. Garvin's rack does, by allowing use of many of their competition's brackets.

Project WomBAT tested Garvin's bike adapter with Yakima bike brackets. Garvin's adapter essentially creates a short section of round Yakima-style crossbar, allowing use of Yakima's standard C-clips just as you would on a real Yakima crossbar. The adapter mounts to the sides of the rack with Garvin's usual over-built powder-coated steel clamp system. Strong, solid, and simple, this design allows one Yakima carrier per adapter.

Need to mount more bikes/holders? Add another adapter. Need to mount a fleet of bikes? Garvin's Yakima or Thule crossbar adapter mounts the bars from your old rack (or steel pipe of a similar size) atop the Wilderness Rack's sides. With these bars in place, you can mount most Yakima or Thule accessories to the bar, and thus, the Wilderness Rack.



Assembling the various Garvin components generally requires only a few minutes. The challenge lies in trying to optimally distribute the brackets and the mounte d gear. Project WomBAT's brackets arrived in several shipments, so I had the opp ortunity to try out several mounting locations for different components.


Unwieldy recovery gear stows on top. Really, where else COULD you store a sand ladder?

One quibble: the bolts that retain the brackets are not always the same size between brackets. Making them the same size would reduce the amount of clambering about to obtain the correct wrench. This minor detail only pertains to the setup phase.


Thoughts on Mounting Locations

WomBAT is laid out with the following things in mind:
  • Distribute heavy items like a Hi-Lift or spare tire in the center of the rack rather than on a side.
  • Mount brackets on the side rails to preserve floor space.
  • Mount regularly-accessed items, like roof bags, where they can be easily accessed.
  • Plan on rearranging several times.
I found that the Pull Pal mounts easily to the end rails, the side rails, OR the flooring, but the Hi-Lift, fits on the side rails best due to its length. I mounted the spare tire forward, centered for best weight distribution. I need regular access to the Cabelas Roof Rack Carrier, so I mounted that at the back of the Wilderness Rack, by the Trooper's step-up cargo doors. I mounted the gas can above the Trooper's fuel filler door, to ease gas station fillups and siphon-hose transfers to WomBAT's main tank.

The Max Tool/shovel bracket protrudes significantly to the side, and in heavily wooded areas, saplings and branches can bend the long bracket bolts. Branches can also wedge themselves between the cargo and the rack side rails. I borrowed an idea from Camel Trophy trucks and adapted Garvin's Universal Light Brackets to run brush cables from the brush guard to the rack. These cables help guide overhanging flora over the rack and its contents. Another trick is to mount the shovel blade with the tip of the spade pointed inwards.


Garvin's universal light brackets provide a sturdy platform for WomBAT's PIAA lighting system.


Garvin's accessories are very solid and easy to use. Wingnut-and-bolt attachments anchor items securely, but do take some time to operate. Garvin designs the versatile Wilderness Roof Rack and accessories for a lifetime of hard use.

The components use standard hardware store nuts and bolts, and you can even mount everything from PIAA lights to a sea kayak to a sand ladder on it. What more could you ask for in a rack. Hmm, how about a universal ladder accessory?


Project WomBAT crossing the Golden Crack, on Golden Spike Trail in Moab, UT. The Garvin rack makes a handy place to hang some 'rail meat' when trying to cross tippy challenges.
The rack and its attachments work so well that you may end up with too much weight stowed too high. Exercise common sense and pay attention to your rig's stated maximum roof capacity and you'll be safe, unless you do a lot of high-speed cornering or cross-slope trails. With that in mind, I unpacked the vast majority of WomBAT's top load before attempting Golden Spike Trail, in Moab, UT, at Moab 'Zu Zoo II.

Check out the Wilderness Roof Rack, Part I Review for coverage of:

  • the rack
  • flooring kit
  • standard light bracket
  • universal light bracket
  • Pull Pal holder

To receive free literature on applications and prices, call or e-mail:
Garvin Industries
316 Millar Ave.
El Cajon, CA 92020
FAX 619.440.0851
e-mail: Garvin Industries Newsletter
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