This blog post is being written to answer the question "Should I get a Jeep soft top or a Jeep summer top for the nice weather?"
and is really written for the new, confused Jeep owner (just like I used to be... and sometimes still am!) I will try and answer all the questions people ask on the phone when they call about this topic. My Jeep came with a hardtop and as summer approached, I wanted, of course, to be able to be topless in the Jeep. But what top to get --- a soft top that you can fold back or a summertime top like a Bestop Bikini Top or Bestop Safari Top?
It can be very confusing. Hopefully, after this short blog post, you'll know everything you need to know to make a decision.
One note. Readers, please chime in with any additional information that can help others.
Jeep Hardtop owners who want to go topless in the summer have 3 choices and I've listed my pros/cons on each choice.
1. Remove your hard top. Replace it with nothing. Enjoy.
- Doesn't cost you anything.
- You enjoy the open air feeling all the time.
- You don't need to fiddle with setting up any top.
- People smile at you when you drive by. (They're jealous.)
- It's a chick or guy magnet.
- When it rains, you get wet.
- When it's cool, you'll need to bundle up.
- When it's cold, you'll wish you had a top.
- People laugh at you when you drive by. (They're glad it's you, not them, getting soaked in the storm.)
- Other Jeep owners empathize.
60 degrees and sunny feels a lot cooler traveling in an open air Jeep at 30-40mph and when the sun goes down, it can feel actually cold.
2. Remove your hardtop. Replace it with a Jeep Soft Top.
- Flexibility. You can get the open air feeling by removing your side windows and rear window or enjoy a true topless experience by folding the top all the way back.
- When it gets cold, the mosquitoes and black flies are attacking, or when it rains, you can fold the top back up, pop in the windows and you will be fully enclosed again.
- A soft top is expensive. It will run you $500 - $1200 depending upon the year/model Jeep you have.
- Until you are a pro at it, the process of folding the top up and down, and zipping out/in the windows will take you 15-30 minutes.
- If you are short, it is virtually impossible to do alone. (I have to climb up onto the Jeep or sometimes IN the Jeep to manage this alone and if someone is around, I'll always beg for help.)
- When you do fold the top down, you first have to take out the windows and store them somewhere. If you don't store them safely in a clean, dirt free area, pretty soon you won't be able to see out of them. It's amazing how scratched up they can get. [ Shameless Plug for a product we carry: The Cloverpatch Window Roll for Jeeps is a simple, affordable solution that lets you take your windows with you, but keeps them safely stored, rolled up and out of the way. ]
NOTES: If you've never had a soft top before, make sure you choose one that comes with all the hardware - the "bows" that act as it's moving frame (or "skeleton"), holding the fabric on. In the Bestop Line, this is the Bestop Supertop product line. (If you already have the soft top hardware and just need the replacement fabric, you would choose the Bestop Replace-A-Top, which uses existing hardware.)
3. Remove your Jeep hard top. Replace it with a Jeep summer top.
Think of a summertime top as simply a "tarp" or "sheet" that connects to your Jeep's frame and covers the area above your head. Given that the area on the sides of you is completely open, a summer top doesn't offer much protection from anything other than a hot sun or light rain. It shades your head and eyes.
There are 2 styles of summer top.
Material sized to cover JUST the 2 front seats of the Jeep. Bestop calls this their Bikini Top (and they've trademarked that name, even though it's become a universal term for this type of top). Rampage Products calls theirs the "California Top" or the "Brief". Vertically Driven Products calls theirs the "Brief Top".
If you have passengers in the backseat and want to be considerate, then you can choose the style that covers the area above the front seats and the back seats. This is a larger area to cover. This is Bestop's Safari Tops, Rampage Products "Island Topper" or Combo Brief (love that product!) or Vertically Driven Product's "Full Brief". Every vendor names their product differently but the main point is coverage for just the front seats or coverage for both front and back.
Ok, now, with a summertime top you will need an attachment point up at the top of your windshield. They don't use the attachment points your hardtop or soft top did. That means you need to purchase an additional piece of hardware called a Jeep Windshield Channel and attach it to your Jeep. This is nothing more than a long piece of metal that screws (older Jeeps) or clamps (newer Jeeps) onto your windshield, and provides a channel for the summer top to slide into.
So, here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of a summer top.
- A true open air feel, while avoiding sunburn and some light raindrops. You'll see a lot of summer tops out on the trail, when the folks know they'll be out in the sun all day and want some protection.
- A summertime solution that will cost you under $200 (top and windshield channel), and often much less.
- Cold, mosquitoes, sudden rainstorms.
- Also, when you want to remove the top and replace it with a hard top or soft top, you need to remove the windshield channel too. (Windshield channels and soft tops can't be used at the same time.*)
Frankly, we sell a lot of summer top to these types of Jeep owners:
- Jeepers who live in dry climates where is rarely rains.
- Folks who can house their Jeep in the garage when the weather stinks.
- Owners whose Jeep is not their daily driver, but just a fun vehicle to take out on nice, sunny days.
- And finally, to those hardcore Jeepers who don't give a damn about the weather, the bugs, etc. Their motto is, "If you wanted to be comfortable, you should have purchased a Honda." (I love those guys!)
* One of our favorite products is the Spiderweb Shade Top which does not require a windshield channel and can stay on your Jeep even when you put your soft or hard top back on. This shadetop bungees to your rollbar. Pretty neat.
Personally, here are my stats:
-live in New England with extremely unpredictable weather
-my Jeep is my daily driver
-I have yet to snag a parking space in the garage
Thus, I have a soft top on my Jeep and can enjoy the weather when it's great, and stay warm and dry when it's crappy out.
But if I moved to Arizona or Nevada where it rains 2 days a year, I'd go bikini top all the way (sorry passengers in the back seat. Get your own Jeep!)
Hope that helped a little bit. Post your questions/comments here and we'll try and answer them for you. Which top do you have and why?