A few weeks ago we looked at mid-sized SUVs and the increasing number of pint-sized RVs to suit. Downsizing has many ramifications, particularly on storage, reducing the capacity to carry all the gear you want. So it’s fitting that, this month, we turn our attention to making the best use of the available space, with the emphasis on safety, particularly for those offroad forays.
For blacktop adventures, you may well get away with tossing all your gear into the back of the car and RV, with little consideration to additional restraints, but travelling across bumpy terrain requires a total rethink. Here’s my top five considerations for the safe carriage of your gear for outback touring.
EASE OF ACCESS
It goes without saying that easy access to your belongings bodes well for a stress-free trip. Goods need to be easily accessible, based on the frequency of use. While cupboards provide good storage potential, storage drawers improve on that further, with slides and drawers providing better storage and easier access than cupboards – something worth factoring into any RV purchase.
VEHICLE STORAGE SYSTEMS
Speaking of drawers, many owners have some sort of storage system installed in their vehicle to help organise and cart all their goodies. This can be as simple as a homemade false floor to section off some of the space while providing a solid mount for a fridge. A fridge slide improves on that again, allowing the fridge to extend out of the vehicle and improving access to the contents of the fridge.
Commercial storage drawers offer improved access, fit and finish. These are often supplied with side wing kits with enclosed storage around the rear wheel arches to make the best use of the available space.
The best systems mount the fridge as close to the floor as possible, next to a couple of vertically stacked drawers for easy access to your equipment. There are many variations on the same theme which can vary in design, weight and integrated features such as water tanks, cargo barriers and table storage.
Flush-mounted restraints or cargo hooks provide a secure mount for straps to keep cargo secured without impeding use at other times. Nested boxes work well, designed in such a way as to lock into each other when stacked one on one, ensuring they don’t move around in transit when restrained.
Heavy items such as jerry cans, generators, solar panels, fridges and gas cylinders carried in RV lockers and boxes need restraining to avoid damage to the vehicle and other equipment.
In years gone by, rope was the choice material for restraining cargo with the user requiring some skill in knots and tensioning to make it work. These days, webbing straps with cam locks or ratchet tensioning mechanisms simplify the process. Just respect the mounting surface, as ply drawer tops will bend under duress.
A cargo barrier is a rated wire mesh screen that protects the occupants from moving cargo. In an accident or vehicle rollover, vehicle occupants can be seriously injured by cargo, particularly heavy items. While the restraint of cargo goes a long way on its own to prevent occupant injury, a cargo barrier offers second-level protection.
The cost of setting up a vehicle for touring can run into the thousands by the time you factor in a quality storage system, cargo barrier, fridge and fridge slide and various restraint systems. You can reduce your costs by buying secondhand gear or even making some items yourself.
We always work off the principle of buy once, buy right; meaning do your research, speak to other owners, and work out exactly what you want and the best design for your application. Then buy a quality unit to suit. Corrugations in the outback will quickly highlight the weaknesses of inferior materials and designs.
I hope that provides some food for thought for easy access and safe storage for outback travel. I’m looking forward to putting this into practice once again this year as we prepare for a well-earned break!
See you on the trails.