Traveler's Gear Box: Hauling Your Gear Around

Yakima offers a number of solutions to your gear-hauling quandries, and some even feature built-in bottle openers! Yakima images.

Gear junkies know that there are two general categories for gear: The items that you use when you're off playing, and the items you need to get the aforementioned items you use to the starting point. That's why, if you paddle or ski or bike, you need a good rack system.

These days there are two leaders in the rack business, Yakima and Thule. Due to compatibility issues, one usually ends up being a Yak fan or a Thule user. It really does come down to a coin toss. I must admit to falling into the Yak camp, for no other reason than when I got around to needing racks those friends of mine who already had them had Yaks and so I joined the band, as it were.

Whether you go with Yakima or Thule, you need a rack that works for you, not one that makes you work. In other words, if you're too short or not strong enough to hoist your mountain bike high overhead so you can load it on a roof-mounted rack, you might be wise to go with a rack that mounts on the rear of your rig (or carry a small step-stool, as one acquaintance of mine did).

The Quickback 3 is Yakima's solution for hauling your bikes behind you, not overhead. Retailing at a buck shy of $200, this trunk-mounted rack comes with a series of labeled straps to ease the learning process the first time you put the rack on your car. The buckles, of course, are coated and the mounting feet padded so as not to scratch your car's finish. While this model handles three bikes, Yakima also makes some cousins of the Quickback 3 -- the Quickback 2, the King Joe (2 and 3), the Little Joe 3, and Super Joe (2 & 3) -- to meet your needs in both numbers of bikes and whether you're driving a station wagon, an SUV with a hatch, or a sedan. They've even got a Spare Joe 2 that mounts -- you got it -- on your spare tire, and, of course, there are racks for pickup trucks.

There also are solutions to getting your boat on your rig by yourself. Yakima's solution is the Showboat, a $100 extension arm that slides out to the side of your roof, thus allowing you to lift one end of your boat onto the arm and then lift the other end and slide the entire craft onto your rack.

Thule answers the one-person dilemma with its Hulavator, a $550 lift system that uncoils like a Transformer from the roof of your rig to the side so you don't have to shoulder-press your boat all the way up onto the roof. Once your boat is in the Hulavator you strap it tight and then push the Hulavator, which employs gas-filled pistons to help out your muscles, back into its ready-to-roll position atop the roof. (Note to Yak rack owners: The Hulavator will work with your base roof rack.)

Yet another solution to the boat- or bike-hauling dilemma is Yakima's RackandRoll, a two-wheeled trailer. Available in widths of 66 (MSRP $2,149) and 78 (MSRP $2,300) inches, these anodized aluminum units allow you to mix and match your gear as they can haul boats and bikes at the same time. Depending on how many bikes or boats you're hauling, you can even fit a cargo box on the trailer. Shocks are included to allow room for a little bounce down the highway without damaging your gear.

The trailer comes with crossbars, to which you affix the various accessories for hauling the toys of your choice. The 66-inch-wide trailer can handle up to 250 pounds, while the 78-inch version can haul 300 pounds. Accessories range from a kickstand (MSRP $49) to keep the trailer's tongue elevated when it's not in your rig's hitch, a tongue-extension kit (MSRP $179) if your boat runs up to 22 feet long, heavy duty shocks (MSRP $119), a safety wand (MSRP $29) that affixes to the rear of the trailer to help you out when it comes to backing up, and, of course, a spare tire (MSRP $189). When you're not towing it, the trailer breaks down and can be left hanging on a garage wall.

Pros: These days there seems to be a rack design to meet just about everyone's tastes and needs, and they are fairly durable, so with a little TLC they should serve you well for many excursions. The Yak bike racks feature one other great innovation -- integrated bottle openers!

Cons: Just about everything is an accessory to the base model racks, including locks and/or locking systems, which means your investment can quickly ramp up depending on how many toys you have (road bike, mountain bike, skis, canoe, kayak, gear box...).

Comments

I went a different route. Whether it is a better route depends on needs vs wants.

We drive a 10 year old CR-V with a four cylinder engine. It's our family's "big" vehicle. We really like this vehicle and bought it new 185K miles ago. We get ~25 mpg all the time with it. We'd like to have a huge SUV or van but don't want to fuel or maintain it the rest of the year. Or drive a large vehicle. We'll likely replace this CR-V with another CR-V in another 100K miles.

Our cargo/projects/camping hauler was once a simple 5x8 utility trailer with 12 inch tires. I upgraded that trailer to a wooden floor from expanded steel wire and welded up a steel tailgate/ramp for it over the years. We removed one of the leaf springs leafs so it had a little suspension movement. The axle was rated for 2300 lbs and we generally hauled 300 lbs on it. For ten years+ it was a good hauler.

The down side to that trailer was the open top. Nothing was secure despite bike locks and chains. Everything was exposed to the weather. We looked a little like the Clampett's arriving everywhere because the trailer towards the end of our ownership was needing a third paintjob. I also never installed proper bike racks or a cargo box. I was going to do that and then I had a different train of thought that I'll detail below. It was HEAVY despite it's small size.

We sold that trailer for about the same price as I originally purchased it for and sniffled a little as it rode away with it's new owner. Lots of our family history with that trailer.

The trailer you reviewed is a great upgrade from what we had for camping. Proper bike racks, some weathertight cargo space, etc. Still though it is open to the weather and I don't want $1200 worth of bicycles to be exposed to the road spray, the grit and the oil of the wet highways when we get caught out in bad weather. When we park somewhere with an opentop trailer I worry about being out of sight of the trailer and fear somebody would take our stuff. Just having stuff visible is half the danger.

Still I like the lightness and the ease with which this Yakima could be stored!

I looked at small enclosed trailers sold by several American manufacturers and most were either VERY expensive (the kind sold to the hot rod or motorcycle enthusiasts) or very large and heavy requiring more vehicle than we want or need for family commuter duties the rest of the year.

I spent three years in Italy back in the early 90s and the good people there had really small and economical trailers to pull behind their 1.6L family sedans and hatchbacks. These were basically plywood luggage boxes with wheels. Some had clever features like the ability to be stored on the tailgate beside a wall. I wanted something more substantial than that but it didn't have to be too HD b/c our bikes don't weigh much. They almost met our criteria. Covered. Lightweight. Lockable. Stands on the tailgate for storage. I began to price building one at home. I got prices for torsion axles, wheels, tongues, plywood, locks, and lighting.

I looked around some more on the European websites and more right ideas for a small but very useful trailer. (cue Thomas the Train music...)

There are a dozen+ brands of small steel galvanized trailers that I found on European websites. I began looking to see what I could buy in the USA from those companies. "Easyline" was an option but I not HD enough I thought. Wanted larger wheels. We decided that if we were going to sell our old utility trailer on which we had hauled our tablesaw, our VW Beetle body, our whole house-full of belongings three times when we moved around after college - that we wanted something in between a plywood box and an American style HD trailer.

I settled on a Thule trailer -errrr, a Brenderup actually. As I understand it Thule sold Brenderup trailers under the Thule name for a while and then gave it up to sell HD American style trailers. The Thule trailers are aluminum at least and lighter than their all-steel American-style cousins but much more HD than we wanted.

Another option was a modified teardrop trailer that I built so the kitchen section could be removed and bikes put into the sleeping area for travel. I could design it easily enough but to be honest I didn't have the time to build it. And the cost would be higher.

I was able to buy a Brenderup 1205S from the Midland, TX Brenderup distributor along with a second set of sides (it's modular) giving me a taller trailer when I want to install them (~10 minutes), and a plastic locking top. It's met all our needs. Lightweight at 300-400 lbs. Lockable. Covered. Weathertight (I had to add weatherstriping to the trailer in several places at very minimal cost). Stores on the tailgate if I want. It has an independent torsion-elastic suspension meaning no springs - just rubber mounted suspension that works very well under all the on-road and off-road conditions I have thrown at it. It's rated to carry 1650 lbs.

Using scrap wood my sons and I built an inside bike rack and bench/utility table over three evenings earlier this month. I ripped a pine 2x4 and place each stick along the edges of the floor beside the walls. If I remain settled on this design I'll rebuild the racks with oak or some other more durable wood and make them look better with stain and sealant.

Made two crossmembers out of aluminum and screwed them to the pine boards I placed along the walls. Bolted two $80 Yakima (?) "Honda OEM" bike racks to the middle positions and two Delta fork mounts at the outside positions. The middle positions are for child/teen sized bikes and the outer positions will fit anything. Actually I can carry four adult sized mtn bikes but the top is not tall enough. I could leave the top at home...

Those outer bikes need the handlebar stem to be loosened (one 6mm allen head screw) so the handlebars can be turned sideways. 3 mins to ready a bike to ride after a trailer ride.

Behind the bike is what looks like a wooden bench from a stage coach. It lifts out to be used for a bench or table or left in place it carries our stove/grille in the base and our camping gear on top. Left in place it is the prefect height for a work surface for food prep or camp repairs.

We "could" sew a tent to snap to the top and trailer and make an old style VW poptop camper from the trailer. Sleep on the trailer floor at night with the top up, haul bikes during the day.

The trailer has not been altered at all. Not even screws to hold anything in place. Just closing the tailgate locks the racks and bench in place. It can all be removed with no tools and 2 mins of work. We also built a removable floor that allows us to leave the bikes at home and place gear above the bike racks.

It is not as minimalist as the Yakima trailer which might be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your needs and expectations but it is well suited for my family. I want to do some serious cross-country travel and prefer everything buttoned up and strapped down inside the trailer rather than on or in our car with us.

This past weekend we hauled about 1/3 of a rick of firewood inside the trailer to a BSA campout. It was rainy and muddy. I could have gotten more wood into the trailer but didn't need to. It also carried all our weekend camping gear including our Coleman Roadtrip grill (bulky thing but nice to cook on). I drove about 70 miles at ~65 mph on the interstate without a wobble. The drive into the BSA campground was VERY muddy and/or gravel. We unloaded and had a good time. For the trip back without the firewood I reorganized the trailer into 6-8 Rubbermaid containers each carrying different parts of our gear. One had our trash. One had our muddy clothes and footwear. One carried the tents and poles and lights. One container had everything else. Our food container was back there too. Other containers were empty.

My mileage for the trip was still about 24-25 mpg.

My point in replying to this review is not to bash the Yakima or any other small trailer but the draw attention to alternatives to driving a large vehicle year round or on vacation. This a great way to travel and still have space for stuff. It works well for us since we split often our vacation time between tent camping and hotel rooms. We like to bike with our kids. Won't afford an RV or the large tow vehicles nice as they are.

A smaller tow vehicle is so much easier to fuel and park the rest of the year. Even with this trailer it is easy to squeeze down narrow streets or trails. In a parking lot I simply pull straight through two end to end parking spaces. I can also park it in two side by side spaces by backing in and causing the trailer to rotate 90 degrees to the side. Took some practice!

We can also chain the trailer to a tree in a campground if we want to leave it during a day trip to town for shopping. Or just leave it hitched to the car because much of the time I don't know it is there. No worries about ripping the bikes off of the roof rack going under a fast-food canopy either.

Small trailers like the Yakima and Brenderup are well suited for small car/CUV tow vehicles so regardless what the cost of fuel does over the next ten years, we can adapt.

Joe Average,

Some great input! As you noted, it often comes down to the rig you're driving and how ingenious you are.

One more quick comment. Hope I did not imply that the trailer I bought was aluminum. Thule's new non-Brenderup sourced trailers are aluminum. Mine is galvanized steel. The payload capacity is less than the 1600 lbs I quoted. 1300 lbs is the payload limit. I've had about 1000 lbs of steel on mine and it did find. Find a HD trailer for regualr work carrying really heavy loads though. Was stronger and stiffer than my old 5x8 utility trailer however.

Where is a good place to see other people's solutions to carrying their camp gear, bikes and canoes? Always looking for better ideas. Won't part with the trailer but what goes inside might adapt a little.

Itching to camp in the Smoky Mtns one more time this fall before the daytime temps get too low for our kids to enjoy themselves.

I wonder if there's any chance you (or Kurt) could add a photo or two to your description. I'm having a hard time formulating a mental image. Thanks

Hello, I enjoyed reading your comments on the 1205 trailer. I purchased a 1900 trailer with the extension sides from the Midland, TX distributor and added a tongue box as well. GREAT TRAILER! Just wish I could find parts/spare tires stateside.

I posted some pics of our Brenderup and some other pics I have found around the web:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alittleofeverything/