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From day one, safety was a primary factor in the build of our 100 series. Having been indirectly involved in several roll-overs or flops, I’m all too familiar with the effects of a small object becoming a projectile. From tools to recovery gear to phones and tablets, all of these can become dangerous to vehicle occupants. With long distance travel a primary application, I knew that I would be traveling with a lot of gear. My search for a more useful replacement to the cramped third row had begun. Initially, I looked at simple, removable storage solutions such as action packers, aluminum boxes and the always handy, milk crates. While these options provide a fair amount of utility, they are often hard to secure. In one rear end collision, the driver doing the rear ending experienced an impact hard enough to move a “well secured” spare tire into the middle row of seats hard enough to break the mounting brackets and bend the seats forward. Had a passenger been in the middle row, this impact could have injured an occupant.
The search for a more permanent, secure, and useful alternative was on. The first consideration was material. Wood, offers some warmth, often lower cost, ease of repair and the potential to self-build. Unfortunately, every wooden drawer system I had experienced to date had fitment issues due to swelling and shrinking and were very heavy. Not being a woodworker meant that building my own system, even a simple one, was out. Polycarbonate systems were not available in my application, so this option was dismissed. Poly is also known to suffer from strength to weight issues making systems very heavy.
I had heard rumblings in 2010 that ARB would be bringing the Outback Solutions line of drawers to the US market along with several vehicle specific fit kits. Having used ARB products in the past, I knew that this wasn’t something that they would skimp on. I immediately gave them a call to discuss options. Wanting a level platform in the back, I purchased two medium depth (RD1045US) drawers along with the 100 series fit kit (100AIRFKUS). I found out that I had ordered one of the first sets of drawers to be imported and no one had any experience with the install. Installation was initially accomplished by Safari-Ltd in Grand Junction and was fairly straight forward. Instructions included several photos but at times some guessing had to be done. I’d estimate it took the guys two hours to do the install.
The construction of the drawers is top notch. Made of galvanized steel with integrated slide rails, the drawers are rated to hold a hefty 220lbs each! The frames are also steel and feature integrated rollers that slide smoothly. The drawers feature the best handles in the industry. They are large, easy to operate and can be operated with the heaviest of gloves or mittens. The ability to lock them also adds some peace of mind. The fit kit is one of my favorite features. With dozens of vehicles to choose from, a clean, professional and custom solution can be implemented. The fit kit features removable storage panels and handy locations to mount accessories. I’ve mounted a BlueSea battery disconnect, USB and 12V power outlets, fuse block and inverter.
The drawers aren’t without a couple of negatives. First, the drawers only extend approximately 80% when open. This hasn’t been a major concern but could make larger objects a little harder to install. Second, and the biggest frustration I have had with the system are the locks that hold the drawer open. While convenient, they are designed with a miniscule plastic tab to hold things open. This part (RDSTP) has failed four times in four years. Removal of a drawer to replace is acquired and time consuming. Thankfully, ARB has provided these replacements at no cost but a better solution needs to be implemented.
My initial configuration was two like sized drawers and the fit kit. For my refrigerator, I’ve been struggling with a love hate relationship with the Tembo Tusk drop slide. If you have seen this device, you will understand. On a personal level, I love the drop slide. The engineering, the build quality and the customer support of Tembo Tusk are exceptional. In practice, the slide is imperfect. When the fridge is filled to the perfect level, the slide can operate with one hand. When full, it’s tough for me, impossible for my wife. Therein lies the problem, and my wife is buff so it’s not a brute strength issue. To counteract this, I decided to change things up a bit. I ditched the Drop Slide and purchased the short roller drawer (affectionately called the map drawer) with the roller top (RF1045). The roller top is stable, will easily facilitate an 80lb, fully loaded fridge (if fact, it’s rated to hold 165lbs!), and is only moderately annoying in that I now have to reach an extra 4-6” for a beverage. Overall, it’s been a great change with more storage space and more convenience. I will note that the top drawer now touches the middle row seat. Over time this could potentially wear through the leather, so use this configuration at your own risk. The safety, reliability and utility of a drawer system has made it one of, if not my favorite upgrades to the 100 series.
Outback Solutions Drawer Systems (Prices Vary)
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