Five Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Roof Rack

Five Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Roof Rack

by Stephan Edwards

Last week we talked at length about some of the baseline considerations for choosing a roof rack for your adventure vehicle. Thinking about how much roof space you want to take up, what you want to carry, and the overall weight of your kit will help guide your decision. 

But once you've got that nice, shiny new rack on order, how do you best take advantage of all that storage real estate? Well, fellow explorers, read on as we take a look some of the more popular mounting solutions for all your gear, and how to effectively deploy them. 

Jeep with roof rack

Stick With a Brand

You should think about modern roof racks less as a stand alone accessory, and more as a comprehensive, multi-faceted storage system. All the major roof rack manufacturers - whether it might be CBI, Eezi-Awn, Prinsu, or Rhino-Rack - offer a range of accessories and mounting solutions that are designed specifically for their racks.

While it is possible to mix and match some of these accessories, you'll always be guaranteed a perfect fit if you stick with the add-ons built by the maker of your rack. Ryan from XO gives us an overview about how and why this works best, with the versatile Eezi-Awn K9 system as an example.

Not only do Eezi-Awn's mounting solutions secure up other Eezi-Awn products, like their roof tents and awnings, they also build others specifically designed to accept accessories from other manufacturers, like AluBox and MaxTrax.

Plan Ahead...

This strategy seems like a no brainer, but there are some important variables to take into account when you're sketching out your rack-based storage. Like we discussed last week, weight is the most important factor - not only the static and dynamic load ratings of the rack, but also the overall carrying capacity of the vehicle itself.

Eezi-Awn Roof Rack

All vehicles have a payload rating calculated by the manufacturer. This is the total amount of weight your rig can carry in or on the vehicle, including the humans. Upgrading your suspension and brakes can help increase your payload, but staying under that figure maintains a good threshold of safety for handling, stress on your tires, and braking distance. Even if your rack can take on 1000 pounds, it may outstrip your truck or van's payload limit just by adding up all the stuff you carry inside. So, count the ounces and pounds and plan accordingly, even the weight of the rack and your accessories. It adds up quickly.

Eezi-Awn jerry can roof mount

Eezi-Awn's jerry can mount is rugged and built to last, but carrying fuel on the roof is heavy.

A second factor in planning your roof storage is space - think about the overall square footage that your rack will provide, and measure out your accessories, tools, recovery gear, and other items carefully. Will that bike rack, and the bike, really fit next to the spare wheel? Are your MaxTrax mounts going to interfere with the awning? How about that light bar you're eyeballing? Will it make it difficult to easily access the Zarges boxes? I know I tend to get overly ambitious about how much stuff I can fit on my rack, and I usually have to check myself.

Before you even buy your accessories, you can tape out the dimensions of your rack on the floor of your garage or your driveway and experiment with how and where your gear might mount up. It will save you some headaches down the road.

...But, Stay Flexible

One of the great features of the modern flat rack is its modularity. Don't think you have to lock yourself into one storage strategy or another. As your overlanding ambitions and experience change, as new gear and products come into your kit, or as your family grows, you may want to shake up what your roof rack does for you.

Consider Prinsu's crossbar design - its standardized t-slot shape means that down the road you can be flexible with its functionality. From tie-downs to roof top tent mounts, you'll know that you can start fresh with a new storage solution, and the base rack will be ready for it.  

Prinsu roof rack cross bars

Prinsu's T-Slot crossbars

Think About Professional Installation

A high quality roof rack is a big investment in your overland rig, and if installed correctly, should give you many, many years of trouble free service. It should last the life of your vehicle given normal use. Most brands have moved toward racks designed for specific models of vehicles, from Tacomas to Sprinters. 

Where possible, your roof rack will mount directly to your rig's existing roof rails -  exactly where the truck's manufacturer built in the most strength and rigidity. The rack will come with all the correct hardware and clear instructions, and with the help of a few friends you can install it in an afternoon. But in the case of vehicles without factory roof rails, or if you want to add some complex components like lighting, a more involved installation will be in order.

This might mean removing the headliner, running wires, drilling holes in your roof or firewall, and sealing up those holes correctly to prevent leaks. You can get a feel for what's involved in this process in XO's build video of their Toyota Tundra. It's not for the faint of heart.

Get Creative!

With your rack in place, and your gear sorted to meet your space and weight requirements, it's time to add those accessories. Some can take on a huge range of functions, like the humble tie down ring. Another example is Eezi-Awn's Accessory Adapter Set, which turns the sides of your roof rack into a mounting solution for all kinds of things, like axes, Hi Lift Jacks, lights, awnings, or even a shower

Eezi-Awn Accessory Bracket

Eezi-Awn Accessory Adapter Set

Others are much more product specific, like pin mounts for MaxTrax recovery boards, or the DMOS Delta Shovel Mount, which is bespoke storage for the extremely cool DMOS Delta Shovel.

DMOS Delta Shovel Mount

In all cases, think creatively about the space you have, and try to keep the weight and profile of your roof loads as low as you can. Share your roof rack hacks or storage ideas with the Overlander community down in the comments!

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