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The Road Chose Me: A 200 Night Review of the Ursa Minor J30 Pop-Top

 

The Ursa Minor J30 pop-up roof is the pivotal piece of my Jeep build that allows me to travel for two years around Africa. It completely transformed my Wrangler from an every day 4×4 to an actual house with a comfortable, spacious double bed. My J30 is a little special, and also gives me interior living space where I can stand up and walk around. After living 200 straight nights in the J30, and covering 6,000 miles over some of the roughest roads in the world in West Africa, I’m ready to give my thoughts and opinions on this transformative top.

J30 Overview

The J30 is a bolt-on replacement hardtop for the 2007-2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (4-door). The factory hard or soft top is removed, and the J30 is installed in about thirty minutes. Made of lightweight but durable fibreglass, weight increase is about 120lbs over the factory hard top, and 6″ of height is added.

From the very beginning I have never noticed any additional wind noise or a change in gas mileage for my already heavy Jeep.

Durability

The lower section of my J30 is not color coded to my Jeep (that’s an optional extra), and so it is coated with durable black Line-X. This coating has proven itself time and time again, with the top showing absolutely no scratches or marks from hundreds of hours driving down jungle tracks with branches trying to pinstripe the Jeep.

The canvas is thick and durable, and apart from a thick layer of dust, is as good as new. Same goes for the tough bug screen, which I rely heavily on to keep out Malaria.

All hinges and hardware are stainless steel, and look the same today as they did on day one.

Setup and Teardown

The opening portion of the J30 is held closed by a latch on the two front corners, and inside latches at the rear that are released via a pull-cord only accessible from inside the Jeep. After a walk around to release all latches, a quick push up from the inside opens the roof with assistance from two gas struts. A support pole is lowered to prevent the top accidentally closing in strong wind or heavy snow. With that, setup is complete.

Teardown is much the same process in reverse. With the rear glass closed I stand on the rear bumper and pull down on the built-in strap. As the roof comes down the canvas must be tucked in at the back, and built-in elastic does the job along the sides and front. Pushing down on the roof at the rear engages the latches, and with a quick walk around to the front corner latches teardown is complete in about one minute.

Ursa Minor also provide straps to pull the roof closed from the inside in the event of heavy rain, which work equally well.

I am able to leave all my bedding – two pillows and two sleeping bags – in the upstairs sleeping area, so there is no need to move those every day, and precious interior cargo space is not wasted.

Rain

I have pushed the J30 to the limit of rain testing, camping nightly in the West African wet season, where torrential downpours are virtually endless.

Even under these intense conditions, the J30 is impressively rain proof. The open top shields the walls from direct vertical rain, with a virtual river running off the front corners of the top.

The walls are made from tough, breathable, fade and water resistant Sunbrella which repels sideways rain well, and all zips are covered with another flap for added protection.

As with all fabric, repeated days of folding away the J30 while wet eventually causes moisture to soak through, and the inside will become damp, and over time even water logged (ask me know I know).

Drying out the J30 in the sun, or wiping it down with a dry towel before folding it away is the best way to avoid this. Ursa Minor also thoughtfully designed drip rails into the J30, preventing rain from pouring into open doors as it does with the factory hard top.

Interior LED Lighting

The lighting on the interior of the J30 is top-notch. A central push-style light illuminates the entire sleeping area in warm white. Also upstairs are two reading lights mounted on long, flexible arms. These lights are fantastic to read by, and can be directed to point in any direction, including up close and even outside.

All lighting has a very low current draw, essential to maintain the battery.

Optional Extras

Ursa Minor offer the J30 with optional extras. Some of which I chose to get, others I did not.

Side Opening Windows

The optional sliding windows installed in the rear of my J30 are strong and functional. The bug screen works well, and they allow cross-flow of air to the “downstairs” area. I open mine at every campsite, giving the fridge much needed cool air to breath.

Front Map Pockets

The optional front map pockets are above the two front seats, and are worth their weight in gold. Both of mine are stuffed full of maps, paperwork, documents and anything else the Military and Police seem to want to see on a daily basis.

USB Charging Ports

Ursa Minor offer the option of USB charging ports to be installed in the upstairs sleeping area and in the header bar above the front seats. I did not have them installed, though already wish I did. Somehow the number of USB-charged devices I have keeps growing, and being able to charge them from the sleeping area is something I dearly miss.

Ladder

Ursa Minor are currently working on a couple of ladder prototypes to allow easier access to and from the sleeping area from outside the Jeep. I can manage now by climbing up on the rear tires, though coming down it’s always tempting to put my foot on the rear fender, which is only plastic, and clearly not strong enough.

A ladder or step rail would be a very welcome addition.

Roof Rack

Ursa Minor offer multiple roof rack options, which I chose not to install on my roof.

Color Coding

Multiple options for color coding are available, including “perimeter paint” where the middle of the roof is white and the edges are painted to color match the Jeep. This is a great idea to reduce heat on dark coloured Jeeps.

Final Thoughts

To say that John and the crew at Ursa Minor are perfectionists would be selling them short. No detail is too small for their attention and every aspect of the camper, it’s installation and use has been thoroughly considered and designed.

It’s obvious these guys love what they do, and they use what they build.

J30 Pros

* Lightweight

* Low profile

* Huge Interior living space

* Durable construction

* Quick and Easy to install / remove

Cons

* More expensive than roof rack + RTT

I’m looking forward to at least 500 more nights in my J30 Jeep-house as I continue around Africa.

www.theroadchoseme.com

Dan Grec is an adventurer, snowboarder and photographer based in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Growing up in Australia gave Dan a passion for travel and exploration, and years of family road trips around the continent re-enforced that passion. In 2011 Dan set out in his Jeep Wrangler and drove 40,000miles from Alaska to Argentina, passing through some 16 countries over 22 months. You can connect with Dan, and learn more about his developing adventures at: The Road Chose Me