G’day, Chris here again.
I’d like to share my thoughts on Roof Racks, their placement, load and safety.
It might be towing your van to your favourite fishing spot for the weekend, or exploring and travel as many miles as possible, maybe heading off into the deep wilderness or far outback with a group of mates. Everyone is different, but common amongst each pursuit is where to pack all the ‘necessities’ of travel and camping.
Without question the important element is storing and securing items safely.
This should include minimising damage to the item, but I put more emphasis on avoiding damage to some poor bugger travelling behind. To this end I only ever recommend using quality structures, especially with roof racks. I cringe when I see these silly, poor quality racks that would hardly qualify as a securing device on a tricycle let alone a vehicle at 100kph with a Kayak atop.
Check out our short podcast about Roof Racks,
But its not all about the ‘weight’ either.
Dynamic forces when travelling along and being passed by a B-double truck can cause more grief than you think.
I always consider the vehicle, the load, and the intended use.
As a 4WDer and tourer myself, I have seen what happens to poorly secured loads and the vehicles themselves.
When you’re choosing a rack, keep this line in mind, “If in doubt, track mount”. In other words, if you have options or you’re unsure of what is the best rack system, one that secures to your roof through multiple fixing points will always be the best bet. Obviously vehicles with roof gutters already have the preferred fixing system built in. Despite their availability I rarely suggest ‘pad mount’ type rack systems that ‘grip’ onto your door frame for a 4WD, as they will simply wear away your paint on rough roads.
Roof rack loads should always be the light, fluffy stuff you can’t fit elsewhere. Keep the big weighty stuff down low and keep your vehicle centre of gravity low.
Your bags of clothes, tents, etc can go in a weatherproof bag up top. This helps improve handling and comfort.
Another cringe for me is seeing a row of jerry cans of fuel across a roof rack, along with spare wheels, etc. There are plenty of options for long range tanks and spare wheel carriers nowadays so that few people venturing Outback need to resort to packing such items up high.
But, seeing owners with 80L of fuel sloshing about up top instead of investing in a long range tank is annoying and dangerous to other road users as well as themselves.
This opinion may not sit well with some, but if you are not prepared to invest in safe storage solutions when travelling for long distances in remote areas, stay home. There are too many other intelligent road users and families with kids at risk of your swaying, fuel laden vehicle.
I have had many people say that such a tank is not available for my vehicle, and it only has a 60L tank. Well then, it sounds like you have the wrong vehicle for long distance Outback travel. I don’t apologise for this view. I’m only thinking of other road users, including myself, who prefer not to intimately engage with your load or vehicle due to poor loading practices. Plus your insurance company may also look long and hard at your ‘custom’ creation when assessing who is at fault for the stray items scattered across the road.
But to end on a positive note, there are still plenty of good options in strong rack designs, and Australian made too. They also have a range of quality accessories that integrate with their rack systems so you can be confident it all works together as it should.
So think safe, pack safe and stay safe. It makes for a better trip when you all get home in one piece.
See you Outback. Chris