Packing for the road less travelled

Packing of overland vehicles has changed dramatically over the last decade

Packing of overland vehicles has dramatically changed over the last decade.  Early examples of expedition vehicles could be seen sporting large steel roof racks adorned with spare wheels, jerry cans containing fuel and water and some cases even the kitchen sink.  The interior cargo areas of these explorers were packed to the roof with suitcases, metal trunks, sporting bags and even cardboard boxes.

In contrast, modern overland/offroad vehicles are now outfitted with purpose-built storage systems that provide dedicated secure storage solution for any vehicle on the market.  Packing systems or more accurately packing solutions is just that, finding the optimal way of storing and securing your overlanding/offroad gear. There is a myriad of factors that plays a roll in selecting the best packing system for your vehicle, such as purpose and or application, space, vehicle configuration, weight, cost and a host of others.

First and foremost, any packing system should add ‘value’ (not monetary, but rather functionality) to your vehicle.  A well thought out packing system/solution could mean the difference between setting up your base camp in 15 minutes or facing the dreaded task of unpacking your entire vehicle to find that crucial piece of camping equipment.

Five considerations when looking at packing systems/solutions

  • Needs versus wants, what do need to pack for your trip/excursion?
  • Keep it simple
  • Weight distribution/balance
  • Ease of access

Inside Out

Storage systems can be broken up into two major categories, namely interior or exterior storage systems; here are some of the most popular storage systems on the market today.

Roof Racks

Constructed from aluminium, these lightweight yet rigid storage systems provide a sizeable storage surface for larger lightweight equipment such as recovery boards, ground tents, spades, solar panels and storage boxes.  Roof racks can be utilized for the mounting of rooftop tents, awnings, spare wheels, water and fuel storage containers to name but a few.

Drawer Systems

Undoubtedly the ‘new kid on the block’ when it comes to Overlanding storage options.  Drawer systems have revolutionized the way that we ‘pack’ our vehicles.  Manufacturers pay close attention to critical design elements such as weight, size, usable space, modularity as well as accessibility.

Some manufacturers even incorporate accessibility for fridges, 12V battery systems and even water tanks in the overall design of their storage solutions.

Canopies

Love them or loath them, but one fact that cannot be denied, canopies are here to stay.

Steel and aluminium has proven to be far superior to traditional fibre glass canopies and provides superior strength, flexibility and customization.

Modern canopies include a tri door design that allows complete access to the entire load bay of any pickup.  Some innovative manufacturers have included storage capability for tables, kitchen and recovery modules in the gullwing doors yet again proving how versatile modern canopies have become.

Cargo Slides

Full-size cargo slides, seen by some as the ‘multitool’ of storage systems are designed to accept any object, large or small and is secured by lashing goods to anchor points around the tray.  Cargo slides were designed for pickups (single as well as double cabs) as an easy way to get access to storage boxes and other goods stored in the load bay of the vehicle.

Storage Boxes

When looking at South African overland builds, there is a golden thread present in most of the builds..….the humble storage crate or as its commonly referred to as ‘ammo boxes/crates’.

These versatile storage boxes offer sufficient packing space and are ideal for clothes, food, spare parts, recovery gear and much more.  Storage crates are available in either flat or height lid configurations and can be stacked on top of one another if needed.

There are a variety of canvas bags available for storage crates that include exterior dustproof bags, internal divider pockets (multiple configurations) for food, cleaning material or spare parts.

Concluding thoughts

There is no one size fits all when it comes to packing systems; as every overlander/offroaders needs vary.  Is there a right or wrong packing system/solution?

No, I am conscious of the overall weight of my vehicle.  I have adopted a minimal approach to my packing systems paying close attention to the centre of gravity of my vehicle.

In contrast, many overlanders believe that comfort should be the primary driver in selecting storage systems and compensate for the additional weight to their vehicles.

Irrespective of your storage solution/packing system, the most important thing is to engage low-range, lock your hubs and get ‘lost’ exploring nature and taking the road less travelled as much as possible.

Blog Author:  Chris Blatherwick