Overlanders love experiencing the deep corners and remote places of nature. But this also means having limited storage capabilities. When it’s only you and your vehicle, you must travel lightly. But you don’t have to leave your outdoor recreational equipment at home because it won’t fit in your 4Runner. Instead, add an overlanding roof rack to your setup.
These racks give you extra storage space to bring whatever makes your outdoor adventure memorable. Let’s look at a handful of the best overland roof racks you can buy!
What Are Overland Roof Racks Used for?
There are many types of overlanding roof racks. There are rails, cross bars, and racks. However, their function is the generally the same. They provide additional storage for outdoor gear. Some overlanders need a place for a rooftop tent, while others require a place to transport their fishing rods or kayaks. Luggage racks store bulky items you can’t fit in your vehicle.
The main difference between rails, cross bars, and racks is how you attach them to the roof. Rails run front to back and sit on either side of the top of your vehicle. Cross bars are two beams that run side to side on the roof. Racks use cross bars or a platform to provide additional storage.
Things to Consider When Buying An Overland Roof Rack
When you discover that you need an overland roof rack, there are a few key factors to determine which type is best for your travels. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all rack that will work for everyone.
Most universal roof racks aren’t suitable for overlanding. These are for the Disney vacationer or beachgoer. You’ll want to find a brand specializing in overlanding roof racks for your vehicle. For example, at Roof Top Overland, you can select “Shop By Vehicle.” If you choose the Toyota 4Runner, a list of dozens of options from Prinsu, Cali Raised, Eezi-Awn, and more brands will appear that fit that vehicle.
When looking for standard overlanding vehicles that companies manufacture roof racks for expressly, consider a Toyota Tacoma, Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover, and Toyota Land Cruiser in addition to the Toyota 4Runner. If you don’t have a vehicle yet, these are excellent options because you’ll find specially-made products for your overlanding adventures.
Weight of Rack
There are two weights to consider. First, how much weight can the roof of your vehicle carry? Second, how much weight can the roof rack hold? You can potentially damage the car if you overload the top. You can also damage the rack if you load it with too much weight.
Car manufacturers have roof load limits and payload limits. You’ll find the load limit for your vehicle in the owner’s manual. However, remember that various models can have differing payloads. Ensure the load limit is for your specific model. Consider the weight of the overland roof rack and the cargo you’ll put on it when determining if you’ll exceed the roof load limit.
You’ll not only have to choose a roof rack within the load limit of your vehicle, but you’ll also need to know how much weight you’re putting on the rack. If you plan on traveling with two kayaks, the roof rack needs to hold that much weight safely.
This extra weight, and the load it holds, can change the center of gravity of the vehicle. Center of gravity determines how far to the side the vehicle can tip without tipping over. In some serious overland situations, this can be very important to keep as low as possible.
Material of Rack
There are a few materials you’ll find when searching for an overlanding roof rack. Aluminum is standard because it’s rust-resistant. It’s also solid but lightweight, which is ideal when considering roof load limits.
Steel is also standard. It’s incredibly strong, but the downsides are that steel is heavy and prone to rusting. Another material is soft neoprene/polyester, which is exceptionally lightweight. However, these roof racks are only suitable for light loads since the material isn’t very robust. Consider what you’ll be transporting and your vehicle’s roof load limit when determining the best material for your situation.
Type of Load
Another critical factor when choosing an overland roof rack is what you’ll be toting around. Are you bringing bikes or setting up a rooftop tent? Are you transporting storage totes or fishing poles? You’ll need a specific setup depending on what type of load you’re carrying. This factor will also affect the material you’ll want.
Aerodynamics and Height
Finally, aerodynamics may be important when overlanding if you have a lot of pavement driving before you hit the trail. However if your trails are close by, this may not be as much of a factor. In addition, if your vehicle is already modified for high clearance, remember the added height of an overland roof rack. Not only do you need to take exact measurements to know your height when going under overpasses and potentially low-clearance bridges, but the height – and weight it has on it – is going to change the center of gravity of your vehicle. This can change how it handles some off-road situations.
Pro Tip: Get the inside scoop on the 11 Top Essential Pieces of Gear You Need for Overlanding.
5 Best Overlanding Roof Racks for Your Adventure
Now that you know what to look for, here are five companies that specialize in overlanding roof racks. You’ll find vehicle-specific and top-quality racks that manufacturers build to last.
1. Prinsu Overland Roof Rack
Prinsu makes overlanding roof racks for the Chevy Colorado, Toyota 4Runner, Subaru Crosstrek, Ford Ranger, and more. You can easily select the make and model of your vehicle to find vehicle-specific roof racks. In addition to overland roof racks, you’ll find water storage solutions, fuel storage, lighting, and more accessories to add to your camping gear. Prinsu is a brand that overlanders have trusted and relied on for years.
2. Front Runner Overland Roof Rack
Like Prinsu, Front Runner is a brand overlanders trust to help make their adventures more enjoyable. You can quickly find the type of roof rack you’re looking for, from Slimsport and truck bed racks to canopy rack kits. This is why knowing what kind of load you’re carrying is crucial. You’ll find racks to suit all types of vehicles, like a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van, Land Rover, and Jeep Gladiator.
3. ARB Overland Roof Rack
ARB manufactures base racks and classic racks for overlanders. Super low profile and lightweight, the base racks won’t leave you concerned about height restrictions or load limits. The traditional roof racks come with or without gutters, and in various sizes, so you can choose what works best for your camping needs. These steel racks are durable and robust but heavier.
Do you need a roll cage for your overland adventure vehicle? Find out here.
4. Garvin Overland Roof Rack
Garvin has been manufacturing roof racks in America since 1975. The company builds them to last with steel tubing and framing, providing ample support for whatever load you’re transporting. Gavin also makes vehicle-specific overland roof racks. You can search for racks to suit a Jeep Gladiator, Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and other vehicles.
5. Rhino-Rack Overland Roof Rack
Finally, another well-known brand in the overlanding community is Rhino-Rack. From Ford and Chevrolet to Toyota and Jeep, Rhino-Rack manufactures roof racks for all types of vehicles. It’s convenient to find roof racks for your specific car as well. Enter the make, model, and year of the vehicle. Then you’ll load all the overland roof racks that work for your car. For example, there are only cross-bar roof racks available for a 2019 Nissan Pathfinder.
How Do I Know How Much Weight My Roof Can Hold?
The only way to know precisely how much weight your roof can hold is by looking at the owner’s manual. If you can’t find it, you should call the manufacturer. Remember, one Jeep Wrangler might not have the same payload capacity or load limit as another. The year and model type might make a difference. Therefore, it’s crucial to know the exact load limit of your vehicle, so you can travel safely and protect its integrity.
Pro Tip: Don’t get stuck in a rough spot by packing these 8 Critical Recovery Gear You Must Have Off-Road and Overlanding.
What Are the Best Restraints to Use With An Overlanding Roof Rack?
When you finally have your overlanding roof rack, there are a few ways you can restrain your cargo. You can use tie-downs or straps with a clamp buckle. These are straightforward to use because you can manually tighten the payload for each trip. Bungee cords work similarly but are better to use with lighter loads.
Heavy cargo may require chains because of the more substantial material. If you’re worried about theft, you can also easily attach a padlock while away from the campsite. Cable locks can also deter theft.
Finally, ratchet straps are another option. However, because of the tightness of the restraint, you don’t want to use ratchet straps on fragile cargo. The straps could damage it.
Did you know? There are some fantastic overlanding trails in Texas! Check them out.
Choose the Best Overland Roof Rack to Carry Your Gear This Camping Season
Whether you need an overland roof rack is going to depend on your adventure. Day trips are a different matter than multi-day expeditions, and may not require one. But, no matter where you’re adventuring next—the shores of Baja, the red canyons of Utah, or the deep forests of Maine—adding an overlanding roof rack will help you transport your gear. Whether you need a place to store extra blankets or to transport your paddle board, there are many excellent options. You don’t have to leave anything at home!
Have you looked into purchasing an overland roof rack? Tell us in the comments!
Become A Mortons On The Move Insider
Join 10,000+ other adventurers to receive educating, entertaining, and inspiring articles about RV Travel Destinations, RV Gear, and Off-Grid Living to jump-start your adventures today!