Cali Raised LED Molle Panel System Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner
Initial Research & Decision Making
I’m a huge nerd for storage solutions and I am OCD about staying organized in all aspects of life. That’s why when I was exploring options to build out my trunk storage, the MOLLE panel and tray system immediately jumped out at me. Specifically for my needs, I’m running a leveled sleeping platform in my truck with no drawer system, so having the cargo tray was really important to me. After doing some admittedly rushed research, I landed on the Cali Raised LED MOLLE system. I got both the driver and passenger side with the cargo tray for endless possibilities.
If you’re not already familiar: a MOLLE panel is effectively a blank canvas for you to get creative with mounting anything and everything you can possibly imagine in your rig – from recovery gear to tools, to emergency supplies, to overlanding gear.
Add the cargo tray on top of that and you can get clever with how you organize your trunk. You can mount accessories using screws, bungee cords, ratchet straps, or other clamp-style mounts like Quickfist’s. I won’t go into detail about mounting accessories because there’s already a great article on that here, so this article will mostly focus on the Cali Raised system, my overall experience with buying and installing, likes/dislikes, and alternative options.
I chose Cali Raised for three main reasons: price point, no lead times, and cargo tray.
After promotional discount and remediation due to shipping errors, I ended up paying $550 out the door for two panels and the cargo tray.
I needed a quick turnaround for a Utah overlanding trip I was planning for and this gave me the most confidence in getting everything done in time. The tray had lips on both ends to prevent things from sliding off, multiple tie-down options and seemed to have better depth than other trays I compared.
Additionally, it provided enough ground clearance (18.5” with leveling platform, 21” stock) for large items like my cooler, cargo boxes, etc., and good clearance from the shelf to the headliner (17”) which allowed me to store larger items on the shelf while I sleep in the truck. Spoiler alert, while I’m happy with this system for now and it suits my needs just fine, I will most likely switch it out in the future for a more modular system.
Find It Online
- Cali Raised LED Molle Panel System: Check Price
Buying experience, installation, fitment
One of the biggest benefits of ordering from Cali Raised is that there were effectively no lead times. I needed to get this quick to prepare for my upcoming trip. This sounded great until I received the package. I received duplicates of the side mounting brackets and no top mounting brackets.
Additionally, the powder coat was slightly scratched in a few places. They packaged the contents well and put plenty of padding between the units to prevent damage, so I chalked this one up to a quality control issue. That was fine, but I quickly found that their customer service was almost non-existent.
Cali Raised was truly below the bar in this department. Long story short, after two weeks of being ghosted, I was finally able to escalate the issue to a customer service manager. They sent me a new system to resolve the blemishes and missing hardware.
When I received the second shipment, they sent the wrong mounting hardware again. Luckily, the manager was quick to act and overnighted me the correct pieces and provided a shipping label to return the mountain of damaged and incorrect parts that were accumulating in my garage.
It was a frustrating experience, to say the least. To their credit, they seem to be overhauling their customer service and shipping department, so hopefully, it has improved, but I won’t be willing to try again.
Installation was mostly straightforward. Here’s a quick video of the installation.
Everything mounts into the factory holes and no modifications need to be made to install. The video recommends installing both side panels, tightening down fully, and then installing each individual tray unit on the left and right before joining them in the middle.
After following these steps, the connector piece in the middle of the tray wasn’t lining up with the screw holes. I scratched my head for a bit and decided to assemble the tray together first, loosen the side panel mounting screws, and install the tray as one piece. Finally, I tightened everything down once it was all in place – much better than what they recommended.
Overall, the fitment of these is incredible.
The side panels hug the lines of the rear window closely and they extend all the way down to the wheel well, providing maximum real estate to mount everything you could possibly need.
Additionally, the placement of the cargo tray gives you the option to fill up the tray with all your gear and still hang things from the bottom of the tray. If my experience with their customer service wasn’t so horrible, I would probably be a bigger proponent of this product.
Final Thoughts & Comparison
After field-testing this setup on multiple weekend trips and a 10-day WA to UT overlanding trip, I’m happy with how this setup performed.
I can put dirty gear or hiking boots on the shelf, keeping my sleeping platform nice and clean, and it helps me stay organized on longer trips. The cargo tray provides enough clearance for the back seats to recline fully, and even when loaded with gear provides enough visibility out the back window.
After going off-roading, one of the side panel screws on each side came loose and caused an awful rattle, but I think it was because I didn’t tighten them down as much as I should have on the initial install. Once I tightened them, I didn’t have problems with them again.
This thing is super solid, can hold a lot of weight, and does not make any noise on or off-road.
That said, I thought 18.5” of ground clearance would be enough for sleeping, but I kept banging my knee and shin on it when moving around in bed at night. I eventually got used to moving around so that I wouldn’t hit it, but the fact that other competitors have modular tray mounting options makes this product significantly inferior in my opinion. Sure, it may be kind of a pain to even move the tray, and this makes it easy for you to set it and forget it, but it’s always nice to be able to change the setup as your needs evolve.
Additionally, on the main portion of the side panels, there are no screw holes which means that you’re relegated to the channels on the bottom half of the panels to screw in accessories. In the spirit of modularity, this is also another significant downside of this product.
In summary, the best part of this product is the fitment. Beyond that, it works just like any other MOLLE system does, but has some design flaws that make me wish I had gone a different direction.
In fact, I’ll probably end up switching it out for one of these products below:
- Alpha Foxtrot Designs – In my opinion the most attractive for my needs. The price point is even better than Cali Raised, you get complete modularity with tray mounting options, and you can even run 2 offset trays to maximize the storage options.
- Finn Fab – Brenan did a great install highlight on IG: @Trail4r on these panels and compared them directly to Rago. On the pricier end but justified due to the integrated and one-of-a-kind Rivnut and Blue Seas Accessory additions.
- Victory 4×4 – Speaking of cargo tray lip, this thing is HUGE. While it does provide an inch more ground clearance at 22”, it’s so bulky that it A) takes up valuable real estate on the side panels B) prevents you from clearing larger items on top of the tray, and C) prevents back seats from reclining.
- Rago – Modular tray mounting options; however, the side panel fitment doesn’t seem as great as other competitors. Probably won’t go with Rago because of this.
To reiterate, most of these MOLLE panels are essentially the same concept with some design differences that will suit different needs. The second main difference is customer service.
Do some research, ask the community, and get what will suit your needs the best. We’re here to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!