In preparation for more camping this year (if we’re allowed out lol) I was thinking about improvements to the camping set up. One problem area that jumps out is the storage of small items and other camping kit. The smaller, easy to misplace items that need a dedicated home and to be at hands reach.
We currently use cheap storage boxes from B&Q. These quickly become unorganised at camp and as some people have commented on my YouTube channel, I “pay too much attention to detail“… how rude, but they’re not wrong 😂.
Organisation is essential to a smooth and enjoyable camping trip.
There are many good quality storage bins and drawer systems for the more serious overland build but that is overkill for us.
To reiterate the goal of our dream Jimny camper set up… we do not want any mods that would mean the Jimny is transformed from its main purpose as our daily driver. We don’t want to be driving around each day in an overland style vehicle. Neither do we want it loaded down with permanently fixed equipment, drawer systems, slide out kitchens, etc.
Space comes at a premium in the Jimny however one possible solution for the storage of small items is the inside of the tailgate door.
There seem to be 2 approaches people take for tailgates in the off road and overland world. Fold down tables and molle panels, or a combination of both.
Adrian at ROAM has one of the nicest rear table set ups I’ve seen. You can just see it in the distance here. Unfortunately I can’t find any close up shots.
EssexJimny has an awesome molle set up on his Jimny that ticks a lot of boxes for us. Nice touch with the bottle of vino mate! 🥳
It would save me a lot of time to buy the molle set online. It’s a good deal for what you get. However, the problem is I don’t want to put holes in the plastic trim (so I can return the Jimny to stock if I decide to sell it) and want to mount heavier items too, such as a camping axe. A rigid panel would serve our purposes better, avoiding any potential sag and if there’s any rattles it’ll drive me nuts!
The storage pouches and fixings need to be removable for the occasions where one, or both of us sleep in the Jimny. We don’t want to roll over in our sleep and chop our heads off on a camping axe 😉. This mod needs to retain the 180cm flat lay length to allow enough head room to sleep in the Jimny when the need arises.
Design mock up
I try to visualise things before I make them. Using accurate measurements where possible. When it comes to buying the pouches I’ll work to the remaining space around my camping axe and bushcraft knife. However, I may or may not mount these, time will tell.
I want to keep the Jimny as lightweight as possible. As such I chose to use to use Black Aluminium Composite Sheet as the backing plate to mount the molle panel to. Some of the key features listed on their website included:
Aluminium composite sheet has a polythene core sandwiched by a thin sheet of aluminium on either side. Available in a deep black with a matte finish on one side and a gloss finish on the other.
- High stiffness and dimensional stability
- Easy to work with/fabricate
- Simple to cut, router fold and bend
- High resistance to weather and corrosion
- Low thermal expansion
The sides of the sheet look like an aluminium and plastic sandwich so they needed something to finish off the edges. I found this Rubber U Channel Edging on eBay that works perfectly.
Removing the plastic trim
I watch a Japanese youtube channel that makes some cool stuff. One video he posted shows how to remove the trim. Give him some love if you find it useful 😀 but it’s very easy to do.
Cutting the shape
I traced around the trim with a marker to get the general shape. The top notch isn’t perfectly aligned to the centre so make sure you use the stock trim to get the right shape.
The panel I bought has a gloss finish on one side and matt on the other. I went with the matt finish on show. I guess either would look fine.
Using a Dremel cutting disc I roughly cut the shape then hand sanded it smooth ready to fix the rubber outer trim.
The shape of the Jimny rear panel has a raised notch at the top and it was crying out for something to fill that void. I thought about securing additional quick fists however the idea of being able to quickly remove the entire molle panel appeals to our overall build goals of a daily driver and part-time recreational vehicle.
To finish the edges nicely I found some 3mm rubber U channel edging on eBay. This just slotted on, so far I’ve not needed to glue it.
I opted for something aesthetic and made a leather badge to screw directly onto the panel. It’s easily removable so I can make a bunch of different colours later should we wish too.
Fitting the backing panel
To ensure the panel will sit flush against the door I needed to replace one of the bolts with a flatter head as it was protruding out 10mm.
To attach the panel I inserted 8 x M5 rivnuts into the standard panel holes that the plastic trim mounts onto marked on the image below. If I decide to revert back to the original stock trim all I’ll need to do is carefully drill out the rivnuts.
The holes I drilled in the panel weren’t perfectly matched up so they ended up bigger than they should have been. I used some M5 black stainless steel flat washers with 25mm diameter along with M5 button head screws. This covered my shoddy measuring errors 🤭.
To help close the gaps between the panel and the door I added some 5m Black Foam Draught Excluder Tape Single Sided Closed Cell 10mm Wide x 6mm.
Here’s the finished backing panel installed.
I’ve driven around to make sure there’s no squeaks or rattles and it feels very solid and ready for the next stage to make the molle panel itself.
I’ve ordered 2 samples of high density plastic, 3mm and 5mm thick to see which one I’ll use. I did consider an aluminium sheet but I believe this will do just as good a job and hopefully be easier to work with.
UPDATE: If I make the backing panel again to tidy up the misplaced holes I’ll likely choose a different material. It’s easy to dent the Aluminium composite sheet when securing the molle panel to it. It’s not going to cause any failures in the mod but I’ll probably make it out of aluminium next time. However I’ll need to account for the shape of the rear door more if I use a more rigid backing panel.
Making the molle panel
I ordered the plastic panel 950mm x 250mm x 3mm you could go with 5mm thickness if you want it more sturdy. It’s tricky to know what the best size would be and I know from a friend on Instagram that he made his 1000mm x 300mm so mine will definitely fit.
Here’s the panel with the molle sizing grid I made. Once lined up and stuck to the panel it was ready to start cutting the holes 🥴.
It took around 20 minutes to realise this idea totally sucked.
Drilling 512 holes, cutting 128 squares and sanding them smooth would be an absolute nightmare. The decision to bail on this idea was forced by the fact I cannot guarantee a finish quality I’d be happy with. Every time I open the tailgate looking at 128 holes that are all misshapen would drive me crazy.
Back to the drawing board. I hunted around to see if there was a suitable option to get the panel frabricated. The main problem I encountered is creating a file suitable for companies that offer these services.
I found a company online called Fractory. This looked like a great option in respect to material options and cost. However I would still need to create a STEP file which is some sort of CAD file.
The first attempt was exporting a SketchUp design to a .DXF file. After sending it in for a quotation it turns out my file was just a long line 😂. They rang me to help suggest ways to fix the file, pointing out Autodesk Fusion 360 as some software I should try.
3D software is confusing for beginners but trusty YouTube came to the rescue. After watching hours of tutorials I was ready to give it a try.
What a fun piece of software this turned out to be! I’ll definitely be playing more with this and have some ideas brewing for the Jimny camping build.
After a few days work I managed to create a perfectly aligned panel. The measurements are 960mm by 260mm with an 80mm radius curve on the bottom sides to match the shape of the backing panel. With the correct hole sizing and spacing for molle panels.
I placed the order on the 8th of April on their the website. You simply upload a file and pick your materials and coating. The costs can mount up, so I chose 3mm aluminium and the cutting service only. If I had a larger budget powder coating would have been great.
ETA for delivery 20th April.
Panel test fit
The panel arrived safely on the 16th of April! Impressive given the Coronavirus lockdown situation. It looks awesome and of course is accurate to my cad file measurements.
To attach the molle panel I used M5 rivnuts direct into the backing panel. To create the right amount of spacing between the two panels I used 1″ spacers. Plastic or metal will do depending on strength need.
I did some research online regarding how you paint aluminium and apparently a few coats of Self-Etching Primer is needed. Just follow the instructions on the can.
To prepare it to be painted I first smoothed any sharp edges then added 2 thin coats of primer and left it for 24 hours to cure. After which I added 3 top coats. I left it for a few days to make sure it was dry.
Wonders never cease. It worked out great!
Truth be told I didn’t expect it to come out as well as it did and it’s rock solid. There’s no rubbing or catching on any of the trim or the Suzuki rubber boot liner.
I wholeheartedly recommend good quality molle pouches as they fit and hold in place better than the cheaper ones. These have more structure to them too due to the inner lining and that helps a lot with reducing the sagging and shuffling around.
The green first aid kit in the demo video below is a cheap pouch and it doesn’t have the same number of molle loops as the ones I got from Military1st, so that’s going the journey. I’ve ordered a rip away first aid kit which will be way more useful in SHTF situations.
Now that I’m mounting my camping axe to the side of the Jimny I think I could have secured the molle panel to the original plastic panel if I were to drill holes in it. That would have saved the need to make the backing panel.
I still managed to mount one of our knifes in a handy location for chopping some food up. Yeah, it’s no kitchen knife but it cuts anything and we’re not aiming for Michelin Star campsite cooking.
As always I end up spending more than I expected but that’s ok. It’s fun, I’ll get a lot of use out of it and it’s my own unique creation. DIY is a positive hobby that keeps me out of trouble.
- Aluminium Composite Panel = £31.77
- Aluminium Molle Panel = £89.11
- Self-Etching Primer & Black Metal Spray Paint = £27.64
- Fittings = £3.99
- Molle Pouches = £122.80
- Rip Away Molle Pouch = £8.00
- Quick Fist Clamps = £13.50
- Molle Knife Holder = £19.00
Total = £315.81
I bought expensive molle pouches but you can get ones far cheaper, I’m just very particular and wanted those exact styles. You would probably spend £50 to fill the whole panel on AliExpress.
Links here if you need them.
Hope this article has been useful to spur you on to making something for your set up. If I can do it anyone can.