Care to Carry More?: Getting a Cargo Carrier for Your Vehicle
Going on an out-of-town camping trip? Bringing the whole family? Fitting your entire family AND everyone's luggage into your vehicle can be a logistical nightmare. Seats are for people. Why squeeze in beside your luggage? With a cargo carrier, you can have more room for your family by having your luggage secured to the roof or rear of your vehicle. Bring anyone you want, and everything you need, to anywhere you want. You get to look at your packed, loaded-to-the-roof vehicle, and wonder at how much stuff it takes to "get away from it all." Here are some things to consider:
Rooftop carriers and hitch carriers
Rooftop cargo carriers, as the name more than suggests, are mounted on the roof of your vehicle (usually through your vehicle's roof racks). These are capable of bearing great loads because they provide more surface area and all the weight is fully supported by your vehicle. They are also more secure because would-be thieves would have a harder time getting to them.
However, a rooftop carrier greatly affects your vehicle's aerodynamics. As you pick up speed, you will feel the wind pushing against your luggage, slowing you down and lowering your gas mileage. You also have to be concerned about the added height this will give your vehicle—which could be a problem in low vertical clearance situations. Another problem you can have is the risk of scratching the roof of your vehicle when loading and unloading your luggage.
Hitch cargo carriers are mounted at the rear of your vehicle (usually through the use of trailer hitches). Although these still add weight to your vehicle, they don't interfere as much with your vehicle's aerodynamics so your gas mileage won't suffer as much. They are also much easier to access.
However, the ease of access that a hitch cargo carrier provides could also be a problem as this would also make it easier for unlawful elements to get to your luggage. Another problem is how your luggage is at risk of bearing the full brunt of rear-end collisions. You will also find that a hitch carrier blocks access to the trunk or hatch of your vehicle.
Hard and soft cargo carriers
You also have the option of either getting either a cargo carrier that encases your luggage in a hard, sturdy shell, or a softer, bag-like carrier.
Hard cargo carriers are sturdier and protect your luggage. However, they are also more expensive and will require you to secure the items inside so they don't move and get damaged in transit.
Soft cargo carriers are lighter and easier to mount on your vehicle. They also adjust to the size of your luggage. However, they are not as heavy-duty as hard cargo carriers.
Have Room for Everything: Installing a Cargo Carrier
With a cargo carrier, you can put your luggage on the roof of your vehicle, leaving more space inside your ride's cabin for you and your family. No longer would you need to share a seat with your cumbersome luggage. If your vehicle already has a roof rack, installing a rooftop cargo carrier can be much easier than having to decide what (or who) to leave behind.
Difficulty Level: Easy
Here's what you'll need:
- Step stool
- Cargo carrier
- Cargo carrier manufacturer manual
- Vehicle owner manual
And here are the steps:
- Open the restraining clamps on your rooftop cargo carrier. This involves loosening the wing screws you will find under the clamps.
- Using the step stool and with an assistant to help you, lift your cargo carrier and place it on top of your vehicle. Make sure the rear clamps are aligned to the rear rack bar and the front clamps are aligned to the front rack bar of your ride. You can position the cargo carrier dead center or closer to one side of the vehicle for easier loading and unloading.
- Secure the cargo carrier to your vehicle by pushing the clamps closed under the front and rear roof rack bars and tightening the wing screws.
- When installing a roof bag or a "soft shell" rooftop cargo carrier, you can simply tie them into place by wrapping the straps over the corresponding roof rack bar, threading the end through the slider under the carrier, and pulling it tight. Tug on all the straps to make sure they are secure.
Refer to both the cargo carrier manufacturer manual and your vehicle owner manual for specifications that may require you to deviate from these general instructions. Know the weight limit that your cargo carrier can hold and keep your luggage within that limit. Enjoy your trip!