Planning your next adventure is easier when you know it'll be easy to haul all your gear. With the proper roof rack on your vehicle, you can bring your bike, kayak, extra equipment, and even a rooftop tent with you.
Rack expert Andrew Pasquella from helped us compile the ten things you should look for when buying a rack for your vehicle. Front Runner Outfitters is a vehicle-based adventure gear company with Africa-proven, elephant-strength camp gear. They build racks that can be used for weekend camping trips or month long overland excursions, and understand that traveling with family can leave little room for everyone's gear.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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!
5. 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.
6. Product Support
Fly-by-night rack companies are out there. They sell poorly made rip-offs, take your money, and disappear. Stick with companies that have been around for decades and can offer you live customer service to assist in rack installation or questions about performance.
7. Learn from the Pros
Take a look at what some of your adventure heroes are using. Maybe it’s a hardened explorer like , or a famous adventurer photographer like , who needs the best equipment to get him to the hardest to reach places. Folks who need the toughest gear for their daily life have been through enough experimentation to know what works.
8. 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.
9. 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.