Very confused why the RR Pioneer Platform is so popular

Aunt Minnie

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I am in the process of selecting a roof rack for my 2020 JLU. The requirements for the rack are as follows:
  • High static and dynamic load capacity
  • Allows for easy hardtop removal using TopLift Pro hoist (I like to cruise topless frequently in the summer)
  • Versatile enough for extended overlanding trips, car camping, interstate road trips to Florida and family outings
    • Needs to be able to mount an RTT, bicycle mount, Yakima/Thule style rooftop cargo box (not all simultaneously)
    • Would be nice to be able to mount a few aux lights and a sunshade, although not an absolute necessity
I have selected the Rhino Rack Backbone system but need to decide between either the Pioneer Platform or three-crossbar mount (stealth "aero" bar or square "HD" bar options).

The Pioneer Platform is no doubt sexy as hell...it fits the entire "overland" aesthetic much better than standard bars. If I'm being honest, the platform looks A TON better than standard crossbars. However, after evaluating my typical use scenario, I question the platform's practicality and why it is so popular amongst bloggers and others on this forum.
  • It appears to be very difficult to mount certain types of accessories to the platform without serious modification. Examples include most rooftop tents and many rooftop cargo boxes, which rely on clamps that wrap underneath a crossbar for attachment. I have read posts and watched videos where people detail having to drill into the platform to mount an RTT.
  • Unless one upgrades to the taller "quick release" style mounting feet, it appears that there is very little clearance between the vehicle roof and platform, making mounting/dismounting of certain accessories a PITA (i.e. RTT). This seems to be a deal-breaker, unless one plans to leave their RTT permanently mounted to the platform. While the quick release mounting feet would allow easier access to the underside of the platform, they are more $$$ and raise the vehicle's center of gravity.
  • It appears that many mainstream rooftop accessories (RTT, bike mounts, kayak and ski/snowboard mounts, cargo boxes) are designed for use with crossbars.
If the above points are true, I am confused as to how the Pioneer Platform has become so popular? Looks aside, it would seem that mounting crossbars would be a much more practical (....and less expensive) solution.

Can someone please enlighten me on what major advantages the Pioneer offers over crossbars? Not trying to be snarky, just trying to understand the practical differences before making a sizeable investment for my vehicle. I am leaning crossbars given my use scenario, just want to make sure I'm not missing the boat on some obvious advantage that the platform offers.





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Fonzilla85

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Sounds like based on your needs, the platform may be the best option. The platform is easy to build and mount and it will give you the necessary specs, and size to mount your equipment.

I stopped reading when you mentioned Bloggers. Never mind those people or why it is that they like this or that, select accessories and gear that will meet your needs.

I selected the rhino rack system because it gives me the ability to move gear out of the Jeep and secure it on the rack. The rack allows me to remove it when not needed and easily store it. The rack has a great static weight rating and awesome build quality so I feel confident carrying equipment around in it.
 

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With the Quick Mount feet you have extra clearance to get in under the rack to connect and disconnect the tent mounting. If that still isn't enough, you can quickly release one side, prop it up a little more to gain the extra clearance.

I prefer the lower profile mounting feet to keep the rack closer to the roof, but it really is all about personal preference.

Yes, mounting a RTT can be a pain with the Pioneer Platform, but where the pioneer platform really shines is all the accessories to help you anchor other goodies to the rack.

Cargo Corners: https://www.northridge4x4.com/part/...6-rhino-rack-pioneer-cargo-corner-bracket-kit

Hi-Lift mount: https://www.northridge4x4.com/part/...rack-pioneer-high-lifting-jack-holder-bracket

Nautic stack for Kayakers: https://www.northridge4x4.com/part/rack-mounts-brackets/s520-rhino-rack-nautic-stack

Stow-It mounts for shovels, axes etc: https://www.northridge4x4.com/part/rack-accessories/rsit-rhino-rack-stow-it-utility-holder

Pioneer Eyes for easy tie down spots: https://www.northridge4x4.com/part/rack-accessories/43178-rhino-rack-pioneer-eye-4-bolt-kit

And more.
 

JeepVT

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I was going to get a RR PP and love how it looks, but I would have needed to drill into the PP to mount my tent. Not interested in that. Plus, unless I went with the higher height of the quick release version I would have needed to mount my tent to the PP before install and leave it the tent attached for removal. No way I could get underneath it to remove the tent. Not real interested in that either.

While a bit janky looking, I got the DeeZee rack. Have not installed, but I like the look of it for what I need and fairly easy to remove and easy to remove my tent when I want that off....and no drilling. It can also stay on the Hardtop so it can easily be removed with the hoist. I'm not sure if the hoist will be able to handle the added 100lbs or so of the RR and PP on top of the hardtop weight but my guess is it will.
 

Oncorhynchus

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I went with the 3 bar Vortex instead of the Pioneer platform exactly because there are more off-the-shelf accessories from a variety of vendors that are compatible with elliptical/aero cross bars. I have a large Yakima rooftop cargo box which is designed to clamp onto elliptical bars and this was a deal breaker for me regarding the Pioneer. I also have cargo bars on the family vehicle so I wanted to be able to share some accessories with the Jeep. The advantage of the platform is that you can modify it to exactly the layout you want.
 
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Aunt Minnie

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I went with the 3 bar Vortex instead of the Pioneer platform exactly because there are more off-the-shelf accessories from a variety of vendors that are compatible with elliptical/aero cross bars. I have a large Yakima rooftop cargo box which is designed to clamp onto elliptical bars and this was a deal breaker for me regarding the Pioneer. I also have cargo bars on the family vehicle so I wanted to be able to share some accessories with the Jeep.
This is the same conclusion I am coming to...just wanted to post because I see A LOT of pioneer platforms out there and started questioning their practicality, especially given the difficulties of mounting an RTT. As this is a pretty common overland accessory, I'm surprised that Rhino Rack hasn't made it easier to mount an RTT to the platform.

I too have a lot of "family-type" accessories that seem like they'd be easier to mount on crossbars (bikes, kayaks, snowboards, Thule cargo box).
 

nU7OuxIx

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I'm in the middle of purchasing something and have the same question. In the end, I think the cross bars are a better fit for me because it's easier to mount a RTT to. Although, I *think* you may be able to strap a box down behind the RTT but not sure. I just don't like the idea of having to drill into it instead of just having to clamp down on the bars. Plus, the off-road weight on it is something like 145lbs. A RTT is about 135-160lbs. After the RTT is up there, I'm not sure how many extra pounds that thing is able to hold.

I guess that's why they have two options. Everybody has their specific needs and if you want to mount more plus accessories then choose the pioneer platform.

The other thing I'm starting to question is the company itself. Their facebook page is littered with bad customer service calls and there's a lot out there on the BBB web site. I like the rhino rack, but I wonder why there's so much negativity about it.
 

Oncorhynchus

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If my kids were grown up and out of the house and I could use the Jeep as the only vehicle for automotive leisure then I probably would have gone with the Pioneer platform.
 

JeepVT

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I'm in the middle of purchasing something and have the same question. In the end, I think the cross bars are a better fit for me because it's easier to mount a RTT to. Although, I *think* you may be able to strap a box down behind the RTT but not sure. I just don't like the idea of having to drill into it instead of just having to clamp down on the bars. Plus, the off-road weight on it is something like 145lbs. A RTT is about 135-160lbs. After the RTT is up there, I'm not sure how many extra pounds that thing is able to hold.

I guess that's why they have two options. Everybody has their specific needs and if you want to mount more plus accessories then choose the pioneer platform.

The other thing I'm starting to question is the company itself. Their facebook page is littered with bad customer service calls and there's a lot out there on the BBB web site. I like the rhino rack, but I wonder why there's so much negativity about it.
Check out this video. Anecdotal and he's a character on his own but.....


I got the Deezee, but now I'm rethinking this and looking at a MEtalcloak rack.
 

xaugievike

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I like the look of the ARB base rack....but im not finding much on if their mounting system for the JL is out yet.
 

Bootloot

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I have a 2020 4dr Rubicon and decided to go with the Rhino backbone and pioneer rack system. I have both the low profile and the quick release feet. Overall, I am not happy with my purchase.

First for the good aspects of the platform. There is no doubt about it, that the platform; especially, with the low profile feet, looks awesome on a jeep. It is also relatively easy to install, including the backbone system. There are also lots of accessories you can get from Rhino and third parties. The system can hold a 250lbs dynamic load and around 720lbs static load (I have seen different numbers here). Which is enough for a large RTT and its occupants if you are limiting your use to non-off-road scenarios. I have used it like this and its been fine.

Now for the bad.

(1) I have had several issues with the quality of the backbone mounting components. I don't know the precise name, but the roof top mounting brackets, the ones that get bolted to your roof top and where the mounting feet are attached, are crap. They have a nut embedded into the mount where you bolt on the mounting feet. Several times now I have had the nut come lose when unbolting the platform from the Jeep. Its a huge pain to get it seated again, typically you have to unbolt the whole mounting bracket from the roof top, glue the nut back in, and reattached the mounting bracket, which includes having to apply a new coat of sealant.

(2) As many already pointed out, the fine print limits the dynamic load in off-road conditions to 145lb, which doesn't include the platform itself. The platform itself weighs about 60lbs. This leaves you 85lbs of payload. That's not a lot. Grant you, there are ton's of videos on YouTube of people using this system with a RTT that must exceed the off-road payload limit of this system and most don't seem to have a problem. However, there are incidents where there has been a rack failure and I am sure Rhino Rack won't take responsibility for any failure of the the rack where it was loaded beyond its off-road weight limit.

3) The quick release feet are the easier to use feet option. However, using the quick release feet raises the platform significantly higher, which in turns gives you a higher center of gravity. If you are carrying a heavy load, it makes a difference. It also doesn't look anywhere near as good. I will say, that the low profile feet aren't that much harder to remove than the quick release. That said, with either option, Rhino Rack provides a very puny bolt to secure it to the backbone system. Its one bolt per foot and It only an M8 bolt. Doesn't given you a lot of confidence.

4) Having the Pioneer rack installed will kill your XM radio reception. If XM radio is important to you, would either have to relocate the XM antenna, only keep the rack on when you need it (a pain to store) or remove the aluminum slat that sits over the antenna.

5) This system is expensive. Its modular, which gives you options, but each of those options will cost you. With both set of feet, the backbone system, the platform, and few other odds and ends, you could easy spend $2000. Now, that is a lot of money to spend for only a 85lbs payload capacity off-road.

So would I buy it again. Probably not; especially, for the overall cost of the system. If I were only using the roof rack for on-road use and were camping primarily in established camp ground, then its fine. However, if you plan on going off-road with your average RTT, then you are using it outside of the manufacturer specs.

Hope this helps!
 
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nU7OuxIx

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(2) As many already pointed out, the fine print limits the dynamic load in off-road conditions to 145lb, which doesn't include the platform itself. The platform itself weighs about 60lbs. This leaves you 85lbs of payload. That's not a lot. Grant you, there are ton's of videos on YouTube of people using this system with a RTT that must exceed the off-road payload limit of this system and most don't seem to have a problem. However, there are incidents where there has been a rack failure and I am sure Rhino Rack won't take responsibility for any failure of the the rack where it was loaded beyond its off-road weight limit.
This is one of my concerns as well. First, I don't want a ton of weight up there as it is. This is why I decided to pick one of the lighter tents. I also chose the bars vs the platform because the bars are probably much lighter. I'm not sure yet, but I saw one site saying they were 5lbs per bar.

The other thing I wonder is how much weight per bar. I would imagine a 3 bar system would be able to hold more weight than a 2 bar system, but the instructions don't say that. Is that 145lb rating per bar? It doesn't say.

I struggled with choosing a rack because I don't want an exoskeleton rack and I want to be able to take the bars off when not in use. This was the biggest reason why I ordered the rhino.

As for the bolts, yes, the single m8 bolt is of concern, and I'm wondering if it could be replaced by a class 10.9 bolt for more insurance. Regarding the rack flying off, I heard that story too and that was one story out of how many purchases? It may be helpful to add a bit of loctite to it so that it doesn't wiggle out.

I appreciate your feedback because it's good to let everybody know what they're getting themselves into before they drop over a grand on something that they think is going to work. I had a hard time deciding what to get and knowing this information will make me look at things a bit closer.
 
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(1) I have had several issues with the quality of the backbone mounting components. I don't know the precise name, but the roof top mounting brackets, the ones that get bolted to your roof top and where the mounting feet are attached, are crap. They have a nut embedded into the mount where you bolt on the mounting feet. Several times now I have had the bolt come lose. Its a huge pain to get it seated again, typically you have to unbolt the whole mounting bracket, glue the bolt in, and reattached the mounting bracket, which includes having to apply a new coat of sealant.

...

4) Having the Pioneer rack installed will kill your XM radio reception. If XM radio is important to you, would either have to relocate the XM antenna, only keep the rack on when you need it (a pain to store) or remove the aluminum slat that sits over the antenna.

5) This system is expensive. Its modular, which gives you options, but each of those options will cost you. With both set of feet, the backbone system, the platform, and few other odds and ends, you could easy spend $2000. Now, that is a lot of money to spend for only a 85lbs payload capacity off-road.

I just installed mine yesterday. While I agree it has it's downsides, it does offer a lot of capacity if you're not willing to go the route of the "external cage" look.

I had the same issue with #1 on the back two mounting points. I used a 20mm long bolt and it was able to grip the thread of the nut and pull it up. Don't go any longer than a 20mm bolt or you'll risk damaging the hard top.

I am not experiencing the same issue with #4. My Sirius is still working fine.

I totally agree with #5. I made my own attachment devices to avoid paying the Rhino Rack tax. I mount my Thule box, traction boards, and awning on mine.

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Bootloot

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This is one of my concerns as well. First, I don't want a ton of weight up there as it is. This is why I decided to pick one of the lighter tents. I also chose the bars vs the platform because the bars are probably much lighter. I'm not sure yet, but I saw one site saying they were 5lbs per bar.

The other thing I wonder is how much weight per bar. I would imagine a 3 bar system would be able to hold more weight than a 2 bar system, but the instructions don't say that. Is that 145lb rating per bar? It doesn't say.

I struggled with choosing a rack because I don't want an exoskeleton rack and I want to be able to take the bars off when not in use. This was the biggest reason why I ordered the rhino.

As for the bolts, yes, the single m8 bolt is of concern, and I'm wondering if it could be replaced by a class 10.9 bolt for more insurance. Regarding the rack flying off, I heard that story too and that was one story out of how many purchases? It may be helpful to add a bit of loctite to it so that it doesn't wiggle out.

I appreciate your feedback because it's good to let everybody know what they're getting themselves into before they drop over a grand on something that they think is going to work. I had a hard time deciding what to get and knowing this information will make me look at things a bit closer.
To answer the question in order
1) From the way I read the Rhino Rack paperwork, its 145lb off-road for the full bar system. This came from the installation manual for the low profile feet. So I would assume that the 2 bar system has a lower payload limit.

2) If your primary goal is to mount a roof top tent, then I would go with the crossbars. The big issue with the platform is that most roof top tents have aluminum cross beams underneath the tent that are designed to be clamped to a cross bar. You will need to be prepared to either relocate those crossbeams or drill a hole in the aluminum slates of the platform to bolt the tent securely to the platform. I have the Roam Adventure Co, Vagabond RTT and luckily the tent's mounting crossbeams are spaced where the bolts fit between the slots of the Pioneer rack's aluminum slats.

3) I think upgrading the bolt attaching the crossbar feet to the backbone brackets is probably a good idea. The bolts that came with my kit uses a stainless steel M8x20 fine thread bolt with a socket head cap that uses an Allen wrench to install. Any similar sized bolt should work. This is for the low profile feet. The challenge is that you don't have a lot of clearance above the bolt head because it installed inside the foot, this is especially true for the low profile feet. The quick release feet uses the same size bolt but with a different bolt head.

4) We have ran the platform on my Jeep full-time for about 7 months. We have taken it on several camping trips and we haven't had an issue with yet. That said, I also haven't taken it on any real off-road trails with the RTT installed yet. I am planning my first serious off-road camping trip for this July when we do the RimRocker trail. I am hoping we don't run into problems with the platform and the RTT we are carrying, we will be over the manufacturer specs by a good 75lbs.
 
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Aunt Minnie

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Thanks for all the responses everyone...very helpful. I am now strongly reconsidering going with another platform/rack system.

Are there any other racks/platforms on the market that bolt onto the hardtop, while still allowing decent payload capacity AND easy hardtop removal using the TopLift Pro removal system?
 

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