Don’t compromise on your holiday for lack of storage and load-carrying solutions! It doesn’t matter if you’re going on a solo trip or one with five kids, you never have enough storage room for everything you need. There are some very useful accessories that you can invest in to make sure you don’t need to leave anything behind on your next trip.
Bicycles, tents, gazebos, stand-up paddle boards, chairs, fishing rods; they’re often long, chunky or clumsy items. But holidays aren’t for compromise!
4WDs, caravans and camper trailers all have a finite amount of space. And even if you can fit it, do you really want some of these big bulky items bouncing around in your cabin, scratching trims and cabinetry?
The roof of your vehicle is the most obvious and convenient place to load items that might not fit within your 4WD, which is why vehicle manufacturers list a roof load capacity within their specifications to help you identify what you can and can’t put on your roof. Customers have a broad array of choice across a range of roof racks, bars, cages, boxes and platforms as well as an ever-expanding number of options for recreational water sport and bicycle carriers.
Having a roof rack fitted to your 4WD is essential for maximising your storage space and carrying ability. They allow you to carry almost anything you can’t (or don’t want to) fit in your vehicle. It means that you don’t have to leave the kids’ surfboards, kayaks, fishing rods or any other awkward bulky item you want at home, when you go on your next camping adventure,
When it comes to roof racks, there are a plethora of options to choose from. Here is a basic overview of some of the roof rack varieties on the market:
- Steel roof racks: The structural design is perfectly suited for load-carrying requirements of off roading and heavy-duty trade requirements.
- Aluminium roof racks: The lightweight alternative for carrying bulky or excess items, aluminium racks are perfect for owners who may wish to remove their rack between trips.
- Low-mounting flat racks: Extremely light with a super low mounting profile, these style racks are simple, flexible, perfect for access to low-height garages and can be personalised easily with a range of mounting accessories.
- Roof bars: Roof bars are perfect for easy installation of accessories, provide reduced wind noise and are sleek and simple in design.
Let’s clarify some terms
When we talk “roof racks”, we are referring to a platform-style rack, whether with or without guard rails. These include our ARB BASE Rack, the ARB Classic Tubular Roof Racks as well as Rhino-Rack’s Pioneer racks and trays.
Roof racks are available in a range of widths and lengths to suit a variety of vehicles and customer preferences. They are perfect for touring as they offer the most amount of real estate for attaching or strapping down long and short, big and small items such as swags, gazebos, tents, gas bottles, jerry cans, chainsaws, spare wheels, etc.
Most of the ARB roof racks can even be configured with different guard rails to suit your needs. One of the most common examples of this is the ARB trade rack, which provides side rails for securing and lashing loads, but open ends for easy loading and longer loads like timber, piping, conduit, etc.
Baskets are quite literally as the name suggests; a metal basket that you can put a variety of gear into, with edges that run around the side and mesh in between. These are usually fairly light duty and are not normally much more than a metre by a metre in diameter.
Some manufacturers will also refer to these as roof racks; however, when we refer to roof bars, we are talking about the singular bars that run the width of the vehicle. We have roof bars from Rhino-Rack and ARB available.
Roof bars are a popular choice for tradespeople, great for when you don’t need the coverage of a full roof rack, but still need somewhere to lay and lash a load. They are perfect for timber and equally useful for securing a swag or your fishing rods. Roof bars are commonly installed to the cabin of a dual-cab ute, with a roof rack installed over the canopy.
Roof boxes & bags
Roof boxes and bags from ARB and Thule are a great accessory to increase your luggage storage space. Weatherproof and lockable, a roof box or bag attaches to existing roof bars and is perfect dry storage for clothing, bags and even other camping or touring equipment.
How do you choose a roof rack
- Check the weight: Strong is good, heavy is not. Many racks are clunky and use heavy materials like steel, but you don’t have to sacrifice strength to lose weight. A well-engineered, all-aluminum rack will be 30 percent lighter than steel, with more strength and load carrying capacity.
- Go for modular: A modular rack will allow for easy assembly, and let you add rack slats for different uses—like constructing a full platform, swapping out accidental damage, and adding items like expedition rails. The rack can change for whatever you need at any given time.
- Check Out the Accessory Lineup: the best rack is one you’ll use for multiple purposes. Having the widest range of accessories creates endless adventure possibilities. Be sure your rack can accommodate mounts for water and fuel cans, roof top tents, bikes, skis, surfboards, axes, canoes/kayaks, and whatever else you may need. Because companies will make it difficult to put competitor’s accessories on their rack, be sure to make sure you’re not locking yourself out of options you really want.
- Strength and durability: there is no quicker way to ruin a trip than with a rack failure. If you plan on heading into the back country, a cheap rack might not make it. Make sure the rack manufacturer specializes in building gear that has been proven in harsh conditions. Don’t limit your adventure to asphalt just because you’re worried about rack strength. Some of the best camping spots are only accessible via fire roads and dirt trails!
- Low Profile: no matter what you put on your roof, it will impact noise and fuel economy. The good news is that it’s possible to mitigate that impact with a low-profile rack. (“Basket-style” racks will do the opposite. A lower profile makes loading and unloading gear easier, gives easier access to low parking garages, and creates less drag which means less noise and better fuel mileage.
- Wide Product Range: look for a company that makes racks and accessories for a wide variety of vehicles. More racks and more accessories will mean more options for you no matter what you’re driving. The company will also have a better understanding of potential solutions for your needs. It’s likely your rack will outlast your vehicle, so transferring it to your next set of wheels is always a good option.
- All Metal: more plastic components for both the rack and accessories means more chance for failure. Plastic becomes brittle, has inferior load rating, fades in the sun and breaks are much more likely. Companies will use cheap materials because of their lower cost but this is truly a case of you get what you pay for. Not worth the risk.
Some common roof rack questions
How much weight can you apply to the roof?
One of the most critical pieces of information that people overlook when installing roof racks onto a 4WD is the total weight the manufacturer has designed the roof to take. Every 4WD on the market has a roof loading capacity, and it’s based around the strength of the roof, and how it is supported.
For a large majority of 4WD’s, 100kg is the roof loading limit, with very few at 150 and 200kg. This is the total amount of weight you can put on the roof, and includes the weight of your roof racks themselves. If you exceed this rating, and damage occurs or you contribute to an accident because of it, your insurance company can legally decline or reduce a claim.
Beyond this, loading your roof up with more than what the manufacturer recommends is a recipe for something to go wrong. There have been plenty of instances of roof racks coming off roofs, or doing damage to vehicles because they were overloaded. To find out your roof load capacity, ring your vehicle manufacturer with your VIN handy.
Can you put a roof rack on any car?
Roof racks are vehicle specific. Whilst two vehicles roof’s may look similar there can easily be significant differences in them, and as a result each vehicle has its own specific fitment. While common components can be used across different models and makes, the correct positioning and measurements for a successful installation may vary.
How do the roof racks attach?
There are a myriad of ways to attach roof racks. Some make use of gutters and clamp around them, while others require holes to be drilled into your roof. There are some on the market that bolt directly to your factory length ways racks, and others that clamp to the roof by going around the metal on the inside where your doors shut.
The only reason I mention this is because the way the roof racks attach is directly related to how strong they are. Poor quality gutter clamps will slide easily, and those that are quick release are often not designed for off-road use. The strongest roof racks will spread the load over a large portion of the roof.
What should you be carrying on roof racks?
Roof racks should be used for light and bulky gear that is too hard to fit into the vehicle, along with solar panels and LPG bottles. It’s not a good idea to carry excessive amounts of fuel on the roof racks, but a jerry can or two isn’t the end of the world. Awkward items that have no chance of fitting inside your vehicle such as surfboards, kayaks and fishing rods are usually only able to be transported on roof racks. Stay under the total allowable roof rating, the maximum rating of the roof racks, drive sensibly and you’ll be just fine.
What’s the best material to use?
Most roof racks are made of aluminium or steel and sometimes have plastic components as well. Steel is cheaper than aluminium, which makes it popular. However, it’s also much heavier than aluminium and has a bad habit of rusting (even through powder coating) and putting rust spots on your roof (especially the cheap ones).
If you are going for small sized racks, you will get away with any material. However, the moment you go over around 30kg for the rack itself, you should be looking at aluminium. There are full-length steel cages weighing in at over 70kg on the market today, and if you put that on a 4WD that’s only rated for 100kg then you have a tiny amount of weight available to actually use on the rack. Considering the same full-length cage in aluminium is 15 to 25kg, there’s a major weight saving to be had. Combine this with the fact that they will never rust and wreck your roof, it’s a no brainer.
Are they rated for 4WDing, or just on road use?
If you want your roof racks for use off-road, make sure you ask whether they’re designed and rated for off-road use. Many will have a 60kg weight allowance, but only for on-road use. Not very useful, on a 4WD!
Spare tyres on roof racks
A lot of people carry spare tyres on their roof racks, and that’s fine providing you watch the total roof weight and can get it up and down.
If you are unsure about what I mean, try and lift your spare up onto your roof racks. I bet you’ll either struggle, or you won’t be able to do it. Usually, this is only when two tyres are needed, and there’s only one tyre carrier on the vehicle.
Roof rack accessories
One of the reasons roof racks are fitted is so various accessories can be fitted. These include awnings to give you some shade, spotlights or LED light bars (check with your authorities though), solar panels, shovel holders, high lift jack mounts and traction board mounts.
Do roof racks or bars damage your car?
Correctly installed and loaded roof bars should not cause any damage to the roof of your vehicle. Depending on what style roof your vehicle has, we have legs and fit kits specifically to suit every mounting style – not only to look good but to meet industry standards.
4 Tips to keep Your roof top load safe from thieves
It’s an unsavory topic but thieves are everywhere so you need to know what you can do to slow them down, deter them and hopefully stop them from pillaging your vehicle’s roof top cargo. Rhino-Rack offers a ton of accessories that come with locks, they even offer lockable straps, here are some good tips from them to keep your cargo safe at all times.
Four simple tips:
1. Position the lock on your strap to be up top of the load as it’s harder for thieves to reach.
2. The straps should be as tight as possible, without crushing your cargo. In this way you’re creating less slack for thieves. If they are struggling to get a cutting tool under the straps then it’s harder for them to slice.
3. Make the load look solid like it’s not going to budge. Which means no twist in the straps and hiding or strapping the loose ends this also helps reduce wind noise and the tapping of the straps on the roof of the car. Making your load look secure will deter most thieves as they try and find an easier target
4. Allow yourself time to set up your load carrying and securing correctly with the items listed above so you feel like you’ve done everything within your power.
What brand(s) to look at
Let’s talk products, we have all the best brands under one roof! When it comes to roof racks, roof bars and carriers, we at Trail Nomad really do have all the best brands under one roof, including ARB and Rhino-Rack (both Australian). You can rest assured that when opting for a solution from our website, you’re getting a top quality product and a range of choice for 4WDs unrivalled by any other.
ARB BASE Rack
ARB’s flagship product is the recently released BASE Rack – a low-profile, ultra-sleek and lightweight aluminium roof rack that offers unmatched versatility with its unique dovetail mounting system. The BASE Rack is available for an ever-growing range of the most popular 4WDs with applications for popular current and late model wagons, dual-cab utes and most ARB canopies. The BASE Rack is also complimented by a huge range of accessories that integrate seamlessly with the system including light bars, gas bottle, jerry can and spare wheel holders, tie-down points and straps, recovery board holders and more. ARB BASE Racks can be transformed from a flat rack into a trade rack or touring rack with the addition of optional and removable rail systems.
ARB Classic tubular aluminium and steel roof racks
ARB’s Classic Tubular Roof Rack is available in either steel or aluminium. It comes in a vast array of sizes, with mounting kits available for most popular 4WDs over the past 30 years. Further, the Classic Tubular Roof Rack is available with a range of railing configuration options, from no rail, trade rails, touring rails (for rooftop tents) and the full 360-degree touring deluxe configuration. Alloy racks are appointed with a mesh floor while the steel racks offer a simplified layout of lateral bars or optional steel mesh.
ARB Roof Bars
ARB Roof Bars are available for fitment to Classic and Classic Plus canopies as well as the ARB SportLid V. When installed with the ARB Classic and Classic Plus canopies, the ARB Roof Bars offer a 50-kilogram total roof load limit (across two bars). When fitted to the ARB SportLid V, a two-bar system is rated to a 75-kilogram dynamic load.
Rhino-Rack Roof trays
Rhino-Rack has an extensive range of flat roof racks and roof trays available in both steel and aluminium including the popular Pioneer platform rack.
Rhino-Rack trays come in all shapes and sizes, with mounting options that will accommodate both the serious 4WD tourer and trade or the light weekend and SUV application.
Rhino-Rack Roof bars
Rhino-Rack offers three types of roof bars in their range: Vortex, Heavy Duty and Euro. Each roof bar has a different style and application. All Rhino-Rack roof bars feature lockable legs for security and are offered for “door jam” installation, which requires no hard mounting to the vehicle. The Vortex bar is offered in a modern aerodynamic shape with a rubber strip running across the top of the bar to protect your load. The Euro has options for equipping vehicles with or without integrated roof rails.
Rhino-Rack winter, water sport and bike carriers
Kayak holders and loaders, stand-up paddle board carriers, boat loaders, snowboard carriers as well as a comprehensive range of bike carriers to attach to your roof, spare wheel or tow ball are all available within the Rhino-Rack range and can be ordered via mail, we only have these available on request.
Some loading tips
- Check the load rating of your vehicle and car roof rack: in order to safely store luggage on your roof rack it’s important to first check how much weight your vehicle can handle, and that means knowing what your load rating is. Roof racks will have a different weight rating to your car, so be sure to check both and not go over the lower rating. To correctly pack your roof rack in Perth before leaving home, keep a weight list of each item you plan to put on the roof. Exceeding the load rating can increase the centre of gravity of your vehicle, making it unbalanced.
- Pack the heaviest items in the car boot first: in order to avoid overloading your roof rack, the most practical way to pack your car is to put all the heaviest items in the boot. Start packing by fitting all the really weighty items into the boot, as your car will have a higher weight limit than the roof. All the larger, lighter items should be put aside to be packed onto the car roof rack.
- Distribute the weight evenly: adding a roof rack to your vehicle raises the centre of gravity, and while this in itself will not add any immediate danger, packing items badly on roof racks can. It’s important to distribute the weight of all items on the car roof rack, keeping the vehicle balanced and evenly weighted. Start by placing the heaviest items in the middle, then add items in a manner that equally distributes the weight to the left and right sides of your car.
- Avoid packing essential items on the roof rack: there is nothing worse than realising the item you need is packed neatly away, right in the middle of a full car roof rack. They can be a pain to pack, and an even bigger pain to unpack! Place all valuables and frequently required items inside the vehicle before you leave Perth, like under the seats, for easy access during a trip.
- Water and Dust Proof your items: with the wide range of additional accessories available today for your roof rack, there is no need to worry about exposing your belongings to the elements. A waterproof box or bag is a foolproof way to keep everything safe from the sometimes extreme Perth wind and rain. A quick fix method is to wrap your items in plastic bags, which would also keep them free from road dust and water damage.
- Accessory roller: Many ARB and Rhino- Rack solutions are compatible with an accessory roller, which can assist in sliding heavier or longer loads onto the roof rack.