The late George Carlin had an entire standup routine about “stuff.” How your house is just a place to keep your stuff, and that you have to lock it up when you leave so nobody steals your stuff while you’re out getting more stuff! He also related how when we go on vacation, we need to take some of our stuff with us. Not everything, mind you, but probably at least two suitcases worth of stuff – a smaller version of the stuff in your house.
Back when George was on the road performing this routine, his Dodge Dart easily could have fit those two suitcases (and more) in the trunk, and seat six people comfortably on a long road trip. These days, the amount of stuff we choose to bring with us on vacation has outgrown the cargo space available in many vehicles.
Many SUVs have folding second- and third-row seats to create extra room, but it becomes a compromise when faced with the decision between more people or more stuff. Short of pulling a trailer or renting a box truck, we must get more creative to bring all our stuff with us wherever we’re going. Fortunately, a variety of racks, carriers and other cargo solutions are available to help with our road trips.
Roof racks are a common sight atop everything from compact cars to minivans. Many vehicles feature factory roof rails, which provide a secure base upon which a set of crossbars can be attached, creating a platform for luggage and sports equipment. Universal crossbar kits also can be purchased for vehicles without existing roof rails. Roof racks can be used to transport things like lumber and plywood more safely, provided they don’t exceed the weight limits of the crossbars or roof rails. Specialized carriers for kayaks, skis and bicycles are easily mounted to these crossbars, but customers always should be mindful of height clearances at the parking garage, drive-thru or even their own home garage!
The original rooftop carriers were hard clamshell cases built to protect cargo from the elements, but soft water-resistant cargo bags are now more popular. I recently sold a soft cargo bag to a customer heading on vacation. Unfortunately, the design of the bag let it sit directly on the roof of his SUV, strapped to the crossbars of his roof rack. For most vehicles, this is no problem, but it interfered with the operation and enjoyment of the power sunroof in his SUV. The fine print of the user’s guide also recommended against laying the bag directly on panoramic or other sunroof glass. We brainstormed a few expedient DIY workarounds, but ultimately, he decided to return the cargo bag and pack a little less stuff.
For vehicles with an installed hitch receiver, multiple bicycles also can be secured at the rear of the vehicle, although unloading a hatchback equipped with a bike carrier is a trial in patience. Another popular hitch-mounted accessory is the cargo basket carrier. I’ve seen customers use these to transport everything from bikes to coolers, and during hunting season, many have been spotted with a deer in the basket!
Heavy-duty models with side-loading ramps are designed for easy loading of snowblowers and mobility scooters. Hitch-mounted bed extenders can overcome the design features of today’s four-door trucks with their 4-, 5- and 6-foot bed lengths. These extenders can support up to 500 pounds, allowing your customer to load boards and other overlength cargo in an otherwise too-short bed.