I’ve tried again, again, and again (and again) to perfect the storage solution that allows us to sleep in our Nissan Xterra. And each time I finish one, I’m excited about it until I’ve used it a few days in a row. All the flaws become glaringly obvious. This time however, I think I got it right… but our next multi-day trip isn’t for a few weeks. So the final verdict is out still.
Problem to Address
Most all of the boxes shared some major issues that have all been addressed with the Raingler system. Let’s cover those first.
- Plywood is heavy. Completely empty with only the box in place, I’d lose about 1/2″ of ride height. And taking it in and out is always a pain.
- Dog friendliness (and safety) is difficult to achieve when you lower the distance between the floor and the roof.
- Tetris is fun enough on your Gameboy, but playing it every single day to make and break camp gets really old. Especially when you roll into camp when it’s dark/cold/raining/snowing/etc.
- Returning the truck to stock is a must when it spends the average week as a daily driver. As much as I can boast about dirt-road-mileage and nights camped each year, the reality is that most of the time it’s my daily driver and not having my rear seats or cargo area or full payload capacity is a real bummer.
The latest rendition I hinted to awhile back with the last expo box fail. And yes, it’s heavily based upon Raingler’s top-notch cargo nets. But one glaring difference with this “expo box” is that it’s not a box at all. It’s an entire system that makes use of the entire interior and exterior of the vehicle.
Tetris is created by having to move things. So the more things that can be in the same place when driving and sleeping, the better. The truth is, there’s just not that much room inside the X to be able to sleep and hangout (during crappy weather) inside for two humans and a dog. And making the box deeper and deeper to swallow more gear makes the interior a coffin. The solution is to get the gear out of the truck. The Sidekick fits perfectly between the hatch and the wet box on an Xterra, swallows four 60L duffel bags with odds-and-ends. And when positioned all the way to the passenger side, it also still allows enough space to haul firewood, a Sthil chainsaw box or other items.
Now with the interior free of everyone’s crap — there’s not to much left we need to store. The cooler is heavy and loading/unloading it is a chore. And in bear country, it would ideally always be inside the truck.
The first RSNX net is installed as a shelf that supports the cooler at camp and when sleeping (hangs above our feet) — but is aided by two Action Packers that hold our kitchen and dry food (more items that should always be inside in bear country) when driving. The net at the top and AP’s at the bottom are also our first pet barrier, keeping June from getting rear of the back doors.
Lunch is as easy as pulling the two Action Packers out. And camp setup simply means they’re going in the backseat foot wells to create a longer sleeping space. A 1/2″ piece of 8-ply is cut to fit between the two and wrap around the center console. The same piece of plywood can also be used as a shower mat or base for a Hi-Lift. And during transit, simply hides between the bed and floor — leaving the foot wells open to storing long items like chairs and a table.
The second RSNX net acts as a pet barrier that separates the front seats from the back. While driving, this keeps June in the back, and while sleeping, keeps her in the front.
Now here’s the best part, our bed is always out and ready to go. Making camp involves (1) moving the Action Packers and (2) setting-up June’s sleeping platform. That’s it.
The last part of our system is a large ceiling net makes it easy to get to things like jackets, rain coats, blankets and backpacks during the day or when stopped. Anything you want to get to without getting out or opening the Sidekick. It’s also the perfect place to put your clothes when changing or sleeping in the X.
And that’s it. There’s all of 18 straps to take the X from stock to overland ready. The cargo nets don’t weigh anything, pack down to nothing when not in use, and won’t ever squeak, rattle, or warp. Nothing to build, assemble, or headliner to ruin. It’s so simple that it’s no wonder it took me two years to figure out.