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Last year, we acquired two pups (one belonging to my 2nd oldest son). They were both the right size to ride in TJ, assuming I didn't have too much gear along (day trips would not be a problem). With the hard top on the TJ, they had no problem staying within the confines of the vehicle, regardless of the trail we ran. At the same time, they didn't get much of a chance to "sniff" the trail as it went by. Such is the compromise when running with a hard top.
Some of the trails I have been wanting to run are not what you would call hard top friendly. For those of you with a hard top, you know that it adds about 150 pounds of weight, mostly at the rear axle and slightly behind it. On top of that, if you start up a steep incline or attempt to climb over a large obstacle, that weight is transferred back past the rear axle quite a bit further and it certainly reduces the TJs ability to easily make the hill or obstacle. The chance of breaking the glass on a rock outcropping is significant on some trails. Given the cost of replacement glass, it was obvious that the hard top would have to come for some of these runs. But getting to and from the trails with the dogs in the back would prove interesting since I only had a bikini top to use in lieu of the hard top. My rear storage box didn't help matter either because it raised the pups up higher which made their falling out even easier.
Earlier this spring, at a local AZVJC get together, I got a chance to meet the owner of 4x4groupbuy.com, Jason LaLiberty, in person. He had a some Raingler.com nets on his TJ and after checking them out, I decided they might solve the problem with my dogs and no hard top. Summer was approaching and there was no hurry to get the nets just then. Wheelin' in 115 degree heat with no top is too much for me. So, I waited until this fall to get the nets. As luck would have it, Jason was doing some changes on his TJ and he sold me his used nets at a good price. I also exchanged some e-mail with Eddie Cline, from Raingler, and he was very helpful as well. One of the nets I got from Jason was not quite what I wanted for the rear of the vehicle (above the tail gate). Eddie thought their newer Partition Barrier might be more to my liking. Eddie had it out to me in just a few days. I was ready to give it a try.
The nets I got from Jason needed some cleaning. (hey, I said they were used) I spread the Raingler full net out on the driveway. A scrub brush, bucket of water, and some Simple Green worked very well to clean the nets. While scrubbing the Arizona trail dust away, it also gave me a chance to check out the strap fasteners and stitching. Even though Jason had used these for a while, I was glad to see that the strap fasteners were in good shape. In fact, there was no rust on any of the hardware and I didn't find any areas where the sewing was failing either. That in itself shows what kind of quality product Raingler is turning out. I know their webbing is rated against UV damage for 10 years. Since mine is parked in the garage, I expect quite a few years of use from these nets.
I solicited the help of my 6 foot + tall sons to help remove the top. The spare tire was removed first and then the hard top (easier to get the top off without the spare in way, IMO). For those that live in parts of world where winter equates to snow, I know you can appreciate taking the top off on Thanksgiving Day and working on the Jeep (in jeans and a t-shirt!....GRIN).
First to go on was the "Full Net", as Raingler calls it.
It attaches near the windshield (I strapped mine onto the roll bar) and extends
back to the rear of the factory bar. After I found an old milk crate to
stand on, it was a LOT easier to thread the straps through the fasteners (the
curse of having ample leg room when racking up frequent flyer miles).
Here is a shot of the full net from the rear of the vehicle. If you are wondering why I didn't dress up the ends of the straps, I was running on a fairly tight time schedule and decided I could get to those on the weekend when I had some more time.