Loading up for fun: Roof racks and gear carriers

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A day mountain biking, a weekend kayaking or a holiday with the kids. Our cars make it all possible. Without strict weight limits on luggage, road travellers have the freedom to take enough gear to make the most out of any adventure. Of course, that also comes with challenges to load all that gear. Thankfully, a range of equipment is available to car owners to help cart sporting gear, as well as general luggage, safely and with greater ease.

While car insurance can give you an ease of mind for unforeseen problems when you are away from home, to ensure you make the most out of your open-road adventure, this guide provides a brief outline of products that can allow you to efficiently load your car for a fun-filled trip.

Roof racks and roof rack carriers

Roof racks are great for loading bulky gear and equipment. And when combined with roof rack accessories to attach bicycles, canoes, surfboards or more to your car, they are easy to use.

The large range of roof racks and accessories on the market make finding a roof rack to suit both your vehicle and the type of gear you are loading easy.

Roof racks are pretty simple: each rack (there are usually 2 in a set) includes a cross bar and bracket to be attached to your vehicle. The type of car you have will determine the type of bracket and the length of the bar you require. In addition, many commercially-available roof racks offer a square bar or a more aerodynamic bar for those concerned about both wind noise from the bar and potential increased drag that could use up more fuel.

Equipment can be either carried directly on the roof rack or by using rack-mounted carriers:

Bike carriers vary in the number of bikes they can hold and the way they hold a bike. One common form of bike roof carrier has the bike wheels sitting in a channel - attached with straps, and a supporting arm holding the bike frame. An alterative design requires removing the front wheel and attaching the front forks to a mounting point on the rack. If you don't want to put the front wheel in the boot, another roof rack accessory can separately attach the front wheel to the rack.

 Transporting your surfboard is easy with the use of a roof rack.

Surfboard carriers mostly utilise a pad and strap system that can attach to existing roof racks.

Canoes and kayaks are transported via a saddle carrier system. This system consists of four or more padded holders that the craft rests on and it is strapped in place.

Roof boxes - generally waterproof - are for transporting your cargo on the top of your vehicle. Measured in litres, these roof boxes generally feature an aerodynamic lid and come in various sizes. When choosing the one that best suits you, you should have in mind the overall weight and volume of cargo to be carried, the design, locking system, ease of mounting, convenience of loading and straps inside the box to tie down your cargo. Some companies also sell luggage bags that fit snugly inside your roof box to maximise the space.

Roof baskets are also great for extra luggage. The baskets generally attach to a roof rack, although products are also available that include mounting brackets. The downside to a roof basket is that without a protective locking waterproof cover your gear is more susceptible to both the weather and thieves. Some companies also sell bags designed specifically to fit their roof basket.

Rear-mounted carriers

Rear-mounted carriers are frequently used to transport bicycles or luggage. They can be mounted on a towbar, connect directly to a towbar hitch, or can even be fitted to the rear of a vehicle without a towbar.

Rear mounted bike carriers, fitted onto the towbar of your vehicle, are great for carrying multiple bicycles without having to lift them too high. Also available are baskets and storage boxes.

Factors to consider when installing rear-mounted carriers include: the weight they can hold, the ease of installation and whether the carrier has a tilt function that permits convenient boot access.

Soft racks

Soft racks are a cost effective alternative to the roof rack system mentioned above. The soft rack does not rely on bars and merely consists of fastening straps. It works by strapping the item down onto the roof, bringing the straps through the doors and fastening to the vehicle by connecting one end of one strap to the other. Soft racks are often used for surfboards. Some racks are designed to allow you to carry multiple boards on the roof of your vehicle.