No matter how much storage space you have in your rig, there never seems to be enough, does there?
Depending on how long you are on the road for and how much ‘stuff’ you decide you need, roof racks are considered by many to be a great solution. They don’t come cheap, however, even if you go second-hand. You are also faced with a few choices. What size? A full-length roof rack holds more, costs more and weighs more … some also say they can be noisier on the road? What material? Steel is a lot stronger than aluminum but it’s also a lot heavier.
Ultimately, the decision comes down to what sort of load you want to put on it and how big your budget is. For those of you in 4WDs, who like to get down some of the rougher tracks you also need to think about stability. A top-heavy vehicle can be a dangerous vehicle when the going gets seriously tough. You really need to sit down and decide what you want to put up there.
Before committing to your roof rack purchase decision, leading manufacturers recommend you also ask yourself a number of other important questions. Clearly, if your intention is to leave the racks on top of your vehicle as a permanent arrangement, aerodynamics and aesthetics are increasingly important. And, depending, on what you plan to store up top, perhaps a pod and the ability to key lock will be worth considering.
Alternatively, if – at least in the initial stages of your grey nomad wanderings – you are just planning a few shorter trips and you will be removing the roof racks when not ‘on the road’ you want something that will be fairly easy both to fit and to remove.
While many roof racks are designed to be put together and fitted by pretty much anyone, others may require holes to be drilled into the vehicle roof. If you are not particularly skilled at these sorts of jobs, it is certainly worth getting a specialist to install it as you don’t want to end up with a poor fit or to damage your vehicle before you have even hit your first dirt track.
Similarly, if you plan to keep your racks long-term and perhaps use them on your next vehicle you should ensure they will be transferable.
While there are many brands of roof rack now on the market, some of them favourites with the 4WD and grey nomad communities, there is happily now an increasing standardisation of fittings. Roof rack retailers report that many accessories are now interchangeable amongst brands and that makes life a lot easier.
And your roof racks will not be your only big decision. If you are going to carry wide loads you may need longer or overhanging crossbars. For the grey nomad hitting road for months or years at a time, a roof rack will often be required to carry out certain very specific duties. Happily, the innovation among manufactures ensures it is now easy to fit everything from boat loaders to bike carriers to your racks. Boat carriers can offer both rear and side loading capabilities and make throwing the tinny in for a quick fish an easy and non-daunting activity.
These days you can easily also take your kayak around the country with you, and special fittings that you can hang an awning from can be a Godsend when you’re in the heat of the north and shade is hard to come by.
As all of us of a certain age will also appreciate clever inventions that make it easy for one person to load heavy, awkward objects onto the roof of their vehicle are also fantastically useful.
So, is it worth adding a roof rack when you are considering a long-term trip? Jerry Anderson from Brisbane thinks so.
“I wasn’t convinced at first,” admits Jerry. “We got a three-quarter length aluminium rack for our LandCruiser and it’s been excellent. We don’t hear a thing as we drive along and it’s just given us some extra options, storage wise … and when we are in the wilds and are set up for a while I can collect firewood in it as well.”