Roof Racks for Campers: Types, Installation, and Cargo Recommendations

15 min read
Last Updated: Jun 9, 2024
BY: Matt Keepnes
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Cargo racks for campers are a great way to increase the storage capacity of your camper, allowing you to bring along all the gear and equipment you need for your camping trip. There are a variety of cargo rack options available, each with its own set of features and benefits.

Introduction to Cargo Racks for Campers

A cargo rack is a useful accessory for campers who need to transport additional items but don't have enough space in their camper. Cargo racks are available in different types, including roof racks, hitch-mounted carriers, bumper racks, and front racks, each with unique features and benefits.

The primary purpose of cargo racks is to increase the storage capacity of your camper and make it easier to transport gear and equipment for your outdoor adventures. With a cargo rack, you can carry larger items like bikes, kayaks, and canoes, as well as smaller items like coolers, camping chairs, and propane tanks.

In this guide, we'll provide an overview of the different types of cargo racks available for campers, the benefits of using a cargo rack, and factors to consider when choosing the right type of rack for your needs. We'll also provide tips on how to install and use each type of cargo rack, how to properly load and secure your cargo, and safety considerations for driving with a loaded cargo rack. By the end of this guide, you'll have the knowledge you need to select the best cargo rack for your camping adventures.

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Overview of the different types of cargo racks available

There are several types of cargo racks available for campers, each with unique features and benefits. Here are some of the most common types of cargo racks:

Roof Racks:

Roof racks are designed to sit on top of your camper and offer a versatile way to transport large items like kayaks, canoes, and bikes. They are typically made of aluminum or steel and can be mounted directly to the roof or to existing roof rails. Roof racks can be permanently attached or removable, depending on your needs.

Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carriers:

Hitch-mounted cargo carriers attach to the rear of your camper's hitch and are an excellent option for carrying items like coolers, camping chairs, and other gear. They can either be open or enclosed and come in a variety of sizes and weight capacities. Hitch-mounted cargo carriers are easy to install and remove and offer quick access to your gear.

Bumper Racks:

Bumper racks attach to the rear bumper of your camper and are ideal for carrying smaller items like propane tanks or portable generators. They are typically made of steel and have a weight capacity of up to 100 pounds.

Front Racks:

Front racks are designed to attach to the front of your camper and can be used to carry items like firewood or coolers. They are typically made of aluminum or steel and have a weight capacity of up to 300 pounds.

Each type of cargo rack has its advantages and disadvantages, and the type of rack you choose will depend on your specific needs and the type of gear you need to transport. In the next sections, we'll discuss the features and benefits of each type of cargo rack in more detail.

Benefits of using a cargo rack for your camper

Using a cargo rack for your camper can offer several benefits, including:

Increased Storage Capacity:

Cargo racks can significantly increase the storage capacity of your camper, allowing you to transport more gear and equipment. This is especially useful for longer trips where you need to bring more supplies.

Versatility:

Cargo racks come in various types and sizes, allowing you to choose the type of rack that best suits your needs. For example, roof racks are perfect for carrying large items like kayaks or bikes, while hitch-mounted cargo carriers are ideal for carrying gear that won't fit in the camper.

Convenience:

Cargo racks offer a convenient way to transport your gear and equipment, making it easy to access everything you need during your camping trip. You can also quickly and easily load and unload your gear with a cargo rack.

Improved Safety:

By transporting gear on a cargo rack, you can reduce the risk of injuries or damage to your camper's interior. For example, carrying bikes inside your camper can be challenging, and they can cause damage to the interior. With a cargo rack, you can transport your bikes safely and securely outside of the camper.

More Comfortable Ride:

With a cargo rack, you can free up space inside your camper, making the ride more comfortable for everyone. You'll have more legroom and space to relax, making your camping trip more enjoyable.

Overall,

using a cargo rack can significantly enhance your camping experience and make it easier to transport gear and equipment. By choosing the right type of cargo rack for your needs and properly securing your gear, you can enjoy a safe and comfortable ride to your destination.

Roof Racks for Campers

Roof racks are a popular type of cargo rack for campers that sit on top of the camper's roof. Here are some of the features and benefits of using a roof rack:

Features:

  • Typically made of aluminum or steel
  • Can be permanently attached or removable
  • Available in different sizes and weight capacities
  • Can be mounted directly to the roof or to existing roof rails
  • Designed to carry large items like kayaks, canoes, and bikes

Benefits:

  • Offers a versatile way to transport large items that won't fit inside the camper
  • Frees up space inside the camper for more comfort
  • Improves safety by reducing the risk of damage to the camper's interior
  • Allows for quick and easy access to gear and equipment
  • Increases the storage capacity of your camper

When selecting a roof rack for your camper, consider the weight capacity of the rack and the weight of the items you plan to transport. It's essential to ensure that the rack can support the weight of your gear and that it's properly installed and secured to avoid any accidents while driving. Additionally, if your camper doesn't have existing roof rails, you'll need to purchase a roof rack system that includes all the necessary components for installation. Roof racks can be a great addition to your camper, providing a convenient and practical way to transport large items on your camping adventures.

How to install and use a roof rack

Installing and using a roof rack for your camper can be a straightforward process. Here are the general steps for installing and using a roof rack:

  • Choose the Right Rack: First, you need to choose a roof rack that is compatible with your camper. Consider the weight capacity of the rack, the type of gear you'll be carrying, and whether you want a permanent or removable rack.
  • Position the Rack: Once you have your roof rack, position it on top of your camper, making sure it's centered and level.
  • Attach the Rack: Attach the roof rack to the camper's roof or existing roof rails, following the manufacturer's instructions. This typically involves using bolts, screws, or clamps to secure the rack to the roof.
  • Load Your Gear: Once your roof rack is securely attached, you can load your gear onto the rack. Be sure to follow any weight and size limits specified by the rack's manufacturer, and secure your gear to the rack using straps or other tie-downs.
  • Check Your Clearance: Before you hit the road, make sure that your gear and roof rack do not interfere with any obstructions like trees, overpasses, or garages. Check the clearance by driving slowly and carefully, and making any necessary adjustments before starting your trip.
  • Drive Carefully: When driving with a roof rack, be mindful of the additional height and weight on your camper. Drive carefully and avoid sudden turns or stops, which can cause your gear to shift and potentially damage your camper.
  • Unload Your Gear: When you reach your destination, carefully unload your gear from the roof rack. Again, make sure that your gear does not exceed the weight limits of the rack and take care not to damage your camper.

Overall, installing and using a roof rack for your camper can be a straightforward process if you follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and take the necessary precautions when driving. With a roof rack, you can expand your storage capacity and transport large items safely and efficiently on your camping adventures.

Types of cargo that are best suited for a roof rack

Roof racks are designed to carry a variety of gear and equipment, but some items are better suited for this type of cargo rack than others. Here are some examples of gear that are best suited for a roof rack:

Kayaks and Canoes:

Roof racks are a great way to transport kayaks and canoes safely and securely. Many roof racks are designed specifically for this purpose and can accommodate different sizes and shapes of kayaks and canoes.

Bikes:

Roof racks are ideal for transporting bikes on your camper. You can use a bike rack that attaches to the roof rack, or you can use a fork mount bike rack that secures the front wheel of the bike to the roof rack.

Skis and Snowboards:

Roof racks are perfect for transporting skis and snowboards, keeping them safe and secure during transport. Look for a roof rack that has ski or snowboard attachments or pads to prevent damage to your gear.

Cargo Boxes:

Cargo boxes are a great way to increase your storage capacity when traveling with your camper. You can attach the cargo box to the roof rack and use it to carry extra gear and equipment.

Camping Gear:

You can also use roof racks to transport camping gear like tents, sleeping bags, and chairs. Just make sure that your gear is packed securely and tied down with straps to prevent it from shifting or falling during transport.

When using a roof rack to transport gear, it's essential to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and ensure that your gear is properly secured to the rack. You should also be aware of any weight limits specified by the rack's manufacturer and avoid overloading the rack, which can be dangerous and cause damage to your camper.

Hitch-Mounted Cargo Carriers for Campers

Hitch-mounted cargo carriers are a popular choice for campers who need to transport extra gear and equipment. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of using a hitch-mounted cargo carrier, factors to consider when choosing a carrier, and tips on how to properly load and secure cargo on a hitch-mounted carrier.

Advantages:

  • Easy to install and remove
  • Can carry heavier loads than roof racks
  • Don't add extra height to the camper
  • More affordable than other cargo rack options
  • Can be used with most types of campers and vehicles

Disadvantages:

  • Can block access to the rear of the camper or vehicle
  • Can affect handling and stability while driving
  • Requires a trailer hitch
  • Can reduce fuel efficiency
  • May require additional lighting and reflectors for safety

Factors to consider when choosing a hitch-mounted carrier:

  • Weight capacity: Make sure the carrier can handle the weight of your gear and equipment.
  • Size and dimensions: Consider the size of the carrier and make sure it fits your needs and the size of your camper.
  • Type of carrier: Choose between open or enclosed carriers, depending on the type of gear you're transporting.
  • Compatibility: Ensure the carrier is compatible with your trailer hitch and the type of camper or vehicle you have.
  • Quality and durability: Look for a carrier that is well-built, durable, and can withstand the elements.

How to properly load and secure cargo on a hitch-mounted carrier:

  1. Make sure your gear is properly packed and secured before loading it onto the carrier.
  2. Load the heaviest items first, distributing the weight evenly.
  3. Use tie-down straps to secure your gear to the carrier, making sure it is snug and won't move during transport.
  4. Use additional straps or bungee cords to secure any loose or flapping items, such as tarps or covers.
  5. Check the carrier and your gear periodically during transport to make sure everything is secure and hasn't shifted.
  6. When unloading, take care not to damage your gear or the carrier, and unload the heaviest items first.

Properly loading and securing your gear on a hitch-mounted carrier is critical for safe and successful transport. Follow these tips and the manufacturer's instructions carefully to ensure your gear arrives at your destination in good condition.

Bumper Cargo Racks for Campers

Bumper cargo racks are another type of cargo rack that is popular with campers. Here are some pros and cons of using a bumper cargo rack, tips on how to install and use a bumper cargo rack, and some recommended cargo types for a bumper rack.

Pros:

  • Relatively low cost compared to other types of cargo racks
  • Easy to install and remove
  • Can be used with most types of campers and vehicles
  • Can be used in conjunction with a hitch-mounted carrier for added storage

Cons:

  • Limited weight capacity compared to other types of cargo racks
  • Can block access to the rear of the camper or vehicle
  • May affect handling and stability while driving
  • May require additional lighting and reflectors for safety

How to install and use a bumper cargo rack:

  1. Choose the right type of bumper rack for your camper or vehicle. Consider the weight capacity, size, and compatibility with your bumper and any existing trailer hitches.
  2. Install the bumper rack according to the manufacturer's instructions, making sure it is securely attached to the bumper.
  3. Load your gear onto the rack, starting with the heaviest items and making sure to distribute the weight evenly.
  4. Use tie-down straps or bungee cords to secure your gear to the rack, making sure it is snug and won't move during transport.
  5. Check the rack and your gear periodically during transport to make sure everything is secure and hasn't shifted.

Recommended cargo types for a bumper rack:

Bumper cargo racks are best suited for smaller items that are lightweight and not too bulky. Here are some examples of gear that are suitable for a bumper rack:

  • Propane tanks
  • Camping chairs
  • Coolers
  • Firewood
  • Fishing gear
  • Small toolboxes

When using a bumper rack to transport gear, it's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and ensure that your gear is properly secured to the rack. You should also be aware of any weight limits specified by the rack's manufacturer and avoid overloading the rack, which can be dangerous and cause damage to your camper.

Front Cargo Racks for Campers

Front cargo racks for campers are another option for those looking to increase their storage space. Here are some benefits and drawbacks of front cargo racks, tips on how to install and use a front cargo rack, and some recommended cargo types for a front rack.

Benefits:

  • Additional storage space without affecting handling and stability while driving
  • Provides easy access to gear, especially when camping in remote areas
  • Can be used to store items that are too dirty or bulky to be stored inside the camper
  • May improve fuel efficiency by reducing wind resistance compared to roof racks

Drawbacks:

  • May affect the front-end balance of the vehicle and handling in certain driving conditions, such as during strong crosswinds or off-road driving
  • Can block headlights and visibility for the driver
  • May require modification of the camper or vehicle to install

How to install and use a front cargo rack:

  1. Choose the right type of front cargo rack for your camper or vehicle. Consider the weight capacity, size, and compatibility with your front bumper and any existing attachments or modifications.
  2. Install the front cargo rack according to the manufacturer's instructions, making sure it is securely attached to the front bumper or frame of the vehicle.
  3. Load your gear onto the rack, starting with the heaviest items and making sure to distribute the weight evenly.
  4. Use tie-down straps or bungee cords to secure your gear to the rack, making sure it is snug and won't move during transport.
  5. Check the rack and your gear periodically during transport to make sure everything is secure and hasn't shifted.

Types of cargo that work well on a front rack:

Front cargo racks are ideal for storing items that are small and lightweight, but that you still want to keep within easy reach. Here are some examples of gear that work well on a front rack:

  • Fuel cans
  • Water containers
  • Small toolboxes
  • Tarps and ropes
  • Small coolers
  • Extra batteries

When using a front cargo rack, make sure you are aware of any weight limits specified by the rack's manufacturer and avoid overloading the rack, which can be dangerous and cause damage to your camper. You should also be aware of any local regulations that may restrict the use of front cargo racks, such as height restrictions or laws prohibiting the obstruction of the driver's view.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

To recap, cargo racks for campers are a great way to increase storage space for gear and equipment while on the road. They come in various types, including roof racks, hitch-mounted carriers, bumper cargo racks, and front cargo racks. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the best one for you will depend on your specific needs, vehicle, and cargo.

When choosing a cargo rack, it's important to consider factors such as weight capacity, compatibility with your vehicle, ease of installation and use, and the types of cargo you plan to transport. It's also crucial to load and secure your gear properly, following the manufacturer's instructions and any local regulations.

Overall, using a cargo rack on your camper can greatly enhance your camping experience, providing more space and convenience for your gear and equipment. With the right cargo rack and proper use and maintenance, you can enjoy safe and stress-free travels, no matter where your adventures take you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the weight limit for a typical roof rack on a camper?

The weight limit for a roof rack on a camper can vary depending on the make and model. In general, most roof racks have weight limits between 100-200 pounds, but it's important to check the manufacturer's specifications to ensure that you don't exceed the weight limit.

Are cargo racks difficult to install on a camper?

The installation process for a cargo rack can vary depending on the type of rack and the make and model of the camper. Some racks may require professional installation, while others can be installed by the owner with the help of a few tools and some basic knowledge. Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions for the specific rack you are installing.

Can I use a cargo rack on any type of camper?

Not all campers are compatible with all types of cargo racks. It's important to choose a cargo rack that is compatible with your specific make and model of camper. For example, a roof rack may not be suitable for a camper with a low clearance, while a front cargo rack may not be appropriate for a camper without a suitable front bumper.

Can I use a cargo rack to transport bikes or kayaks?

Yes, cargo racks can be used to transport bikes, kayaks, and other outdoor equipment. However, it's important to choose a cargo rack that is designed for the specific type of gear you are transporting and to ensure that it is properly secured.

Do I need to remove my cargo rack when I'm not using it?

It depends on the type of cargo rack you have installed. Some cargo racks, such as roof racks, can remain on the camper even when not in use. Other types of cargo racks, such as hitch-mounted carriers, may need to be removed when not in use to avoid obstructing access to the rear of the camper. Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions for the specific rack you are using.

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creator of RoofboxTop.com

Matt Keepnes

Matt Keepnes, travel enthusiast and creator of RoofboxTop.com. I share expert tips on car storage solutions for seamless travels, combining personal experiences with practical advice.

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