The 5th Gen Toyota 4Runner has an impressive 47.2 cubic square feet of rear cargo space behind its passenger row seats. With this row laid flat, the cargo space opens up to a roomy 89.7 cubic feet of space. Although the 4Runner’s cargo area is very spacious, this does not mean it has ample storage areas for items that must remain easily accessible (albeit infrequently used). Sure, it is spacious for boxes, coolers, luggage, etc… but what about smaller every day carry items? I found rear storage areas quite limited. The cargo area has two trays built atop the rear wheel wells and a cubby for miscellaneous items on the right side of the vehicle. This does not include the hide-away cubby for the tire iron and bottle jack.
I quickly found the wheel well trays and cubby full of reusable grocery bags and other smaller items my wife and I use throughout the week. This left little room for other necessities I wanted for offroading and camping. After weeks of perusing a few online forums, I stumbled across Rago Fabrication’s Modular Storage Panels (MSP) which fill the areas in front of the rear cargo windows. A handful of other companies manufacture and sell similar panels, but one of the reasons I decided to buy from Rago Fabrication is that they are a small veteran family owned company. It’s satisfying being able to support home-grown American businesses (especially veterans) who produce quality products. Hopefully this is not just a “millennial” feeling…
The MSPs are Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE) panels that allow the mounting of MOLLE pouches and packs of various sizes. Of course, other mounting methods can be used to fasten tools or equipment to the MSPs such as Quick Fist clamps, zip ties, or simple velcro straps. Using the MSPs, I’m able to store items that I only use semi-frequently in an easy-to-access area while keeping the actual cargo area clutter-free for larger items (i.e. coolers, dog kennel, luggage, etc.).
Installing the MSPs was very straightforward. Each MSP mounts to three factory install points on each side of the cargo area, two of which are factory-installed hooks, and match the profile of the rear cargo area windows. I don’t have any photos of the installation, but it took about an hour to install each panel after reviewing the instructional video on Rago Fabrication’s website.
This was my first big add-on to the 4Runner. Although the MSP’s original price was a bit steep for my taste, I was able to purchase them at a discount after receiving a decent 15% off coupon code (I call this, the “tax plus some discount”) via email. If you are interested in purchasing the MSPs and saving some funds for other upgrades, I would recommend waiting for a seasonal or flash sale. Rago Fabrication holds these quite frequently if you follow them over social media or enthusiast forums. Another way to save on this investment is to buy the MSPs raw steel and sand and paint them yourself, which is not hard to do with the correct time and materials. They also have options to buy either driver- or passenger-side only MSPs.
Like most fabricated-to-order items, it took about a month to receive the MSPs after ordering. The MSPs are made of laser cut and CNC rolled 1/8” steel, and are available shipped either raw steel or powder coated matte black. I elected to have them powder coated to minimize rust over time. Furthermore, the MSPs ship with aluminum standoffs and stainless steel mounting hardware which came neatly packed with some Rago Fabrication swag and a Dad Root Beer Barrel candy.
Here is what I have currently mounted on the MSPs:
20’ extension cord
Morakniv Companion knife
Small MOLLE dump pouch
Misc. para cord
Dog poo bags
Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade (in cover)
First Aid Kit
Large MOLLE Utility Pouch 1
NOCO GB40 Li-Ion Battery Jump Starter
Large MOLLE Utility Pouch 2
4x Husky 1”x12’ Ratchet Tie Downs
Fiskars X7 14” Hatchet (mounted via Quick Fists)
Conclusions and Recommendations:
It is easy enough to attach MOLLE pouches to the MSP, even when weaving the straps through the panel crossbars. However, it is almost impossible to bolt on holders (i.e. Quick Fist Clamps) while the MSP is mounted onto the Runner. It is much easier to remove the MSP and add on new mounts.
Buy MOLLE pouches and bags. You can find them in many different sizes and colors via online retailers. They are great for keeping smaller gear organized. Take the panels off of your car to mount pouches and bags, and plan well to maximize space efficiency.
At first I was worried that the MSPs would block my rear view while reversing. The 4Runner’s standard rearview camera has alleviated most of those concerns. However, it is still important to remain cautious while backing out of parking stalls and being aware of oncoming cars or pedestrians. The gaps in the MSP still allow you to see through the window (depending on how much equipment is mounted on the panels).
Keep in mind that the MSPs are an aftermarket product that has not been tested in a controlled environment. This means that if you get into an accident, things could go bad. You do not want to use the MSPs if you have a third row seat. You also should not mount any heavy objects to the MSPs that could turn into a projectile in the event of an accident.
Some people (myself included) have mounted hatchets, shovels, fire extinguishers, etc. to the MSPs. These are often fastened by Quick Fist clamps or other hardware. Generally, you will want to mount these items securely below the level of the rear passenger row when it is upright. In the event of an accident (like a rear end) and the unfortunate event any items were to detach from the MSP, it is likely the items will hit the seatback rather than the driver’s or passenger’s head.
Be mindful and aware that installing these panels (whether from Rago Fabrication or another manufacturer) could affect side-curtain airbag performance. This is a lesser discussed topic but still one to be aware of. Rago Fabrication themselves state that “[t]he installer as well as the purchaser of our products is advised to use our products at their own discretion and will analyze the risks involved for their own situation.“ This is because the 5th Gen Toyota 4Runner has side curtain airbags that run from the front to the rear of the vehicle. From what I could determine from a few forum photos, one of the (generic) panel mounting points is located above the airbag deployment line. The remaining two mounts points are below the airbag deployment line and do not appear to interfere with airbag deployment. However, the shape of the panel and its mounting brackets (and because the panel follows the contour of the rear cargo windows) may affect airbag deployment. These are just observations i have made from a few posts on public forums - don’t take my word for it.