roof rack

Tips for Increasing Cargo Room

Family road trips can create lifelong memories, but they can also generate frustration and discomfort if the kids, Grandma or your spouse has to squeeze between packed luggage like a Tetris block.

There’s an easy fix, however: External cargo carriers give you more room and flexibility. They do come with a few drawbacks, but nothing compared to an unhappy family member on vacation.

For a roomier ride, consider increasing your cargo space with one of the following options:

Roof Racks

roof rackRemovable roof racks come in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs and can increase your carrying capacity by several degrees. Simple cross-bar racks allow you to strap a suitcase or two on top of your rig. A cargo bag will hold more and offers protection from the elements – not to mention the mess impacted insects leave behind. Like a cargo bag, a basket-type rack will increase your capacity greatly but doesn’t offer the same protection – although it’s easy enough to wrap your luggage in a tarp.

While they offer convenience and ease of transport, roof racks will impact fuel efficiency due to increased drag, according to

Hitch Racks

hitch rackA hitch can be used for so much more than just towing a boat; innovative capitalists have repurposed the singular-use hitch to become everything from a bike rack to a cargo carrier. Hitch-rack cargo carriers don’t typically have the carrying capacity of a roof-top model, but they will handle a large cooler or a few large pieces of luggage.

A hitch-model cargo carrier likely doesn’t impact fuel efficiency in same way as a rooftop one because it doesn’t impact “the ‘frontal area’ presented to the wind,” according to But consider wrapping at least the underside of your gear as road grime, dirt and moisture will be thrown on it from your tires.


tow trailerWhen you need the most room, tow-behind trailers give you not only the most cargo capacity but also flexibility. Depending upon your vehicle’s tow rating, you can get anything from a small, sporty trailer perfect for weekend getaways (which even most cars can haul) to large open or enclosed trailers suitable for transporting everything in your home – or even barn (you’ll need a big rig for these trailers).

Smaller trailers offer easy access and protection for your luggage, and the loss of fuel efficiency isn’t horrible – but, according to, as the size of the trailer increases, so does the drag and, hence, the number of stops you’ll make at the gas station. Enclosed trailers also offer a great deal of protection, not just from road debris, squished insects, moisture and mud, but also from criminals – hitch trailers and roof racks can only be secured to a certain degree, and when you stop for food or roadside attractions, you’ll either have to pack the gear back in the vehicle, not venture too far for too long or gamble that nobody will mess with it.

If you don’t opt for a secure tow-behind trailer, you’ll need to secure your load. Ratchet tie-downs, cargo nets, or even Bungee cords are good options.


Featured photo courtesy of John Martinez Pavliga via Flickr

Other photos courtesy of:

CZmarlin via Wikimedia

vikapproved via Flickr

Georg Sander via Flickr

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Brian Lynn
As an editor and writer for such publications as and Outdoor Life, Brian has extensive experience in the outdoors realm. However, his knowledge comes with at the price of experience. You can learn a lot from him because he’s done most of it wrong the first time and can tell you all about what you should do instead.

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