Roof rack tips for work and play

By Evan Spence 8 Min Read

As the old saying goes, time is money. This applies to both recreational four-wheel drivers and tradies who are using their vehicle’s roof racks for work during the week and as an escape machine as Friday afternoon rolls in. You can’t buy time back, so why waste it? 

On a recent solo camping trip up north, the thing I found the most frustrating was how long it took me to pack away camp. And I didn’t even have a crazy setup. Just a double swag and a simple 2.5m fold-out awning. For tradies using roof racks for storage of ladders or tools, this would be a daily battle that eats into productivity and overall profit. 

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In my case, getting the swag secured back on the roof took far too long. And I was in a rush due to an incoming tidal creek that needed to be crossed ASAP. I found the easiest method to tie it down was to physically climb on the roof. Then strap it down with ratchet straps around the slats in my roof platform. I say easiest, but it sure wasn’t easy. Less than ideal really.  

At that moment I thought it was either time to buy an expensive hardshell roof top tent or refine the way I do things as I just wasn’t having fun –  this process was taking too long. I decided it was time to refine what I have with some key tweaks. Here are some tips I’ve since incorporated to help make storing gear on a roof rack easier, safer and quicker.  

Roof rack tie down points 

If you have a platform-style roof rack, do yourself a favour and buy some tie-down points or eyelets. Your roof rack manufacturer will offer them as an accessory. Well, the good ones will. They shouldn’t cost much, budget from around $50. Tie-down points will, however, open up your storage possibilities dramatically. 

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These eyelets usually have a rectangle-shaped nut that simply slides into the channels of the platform. The eyelets have a male thread that is tightened into the nut. You can slide them the length of the roof rack slat, and position them basically anywhere on the roof rack. 

Tie-downs will give you the correct place to tie down your load without having to loop around the slats of the roof rack. Perfect for securing swags, kayaks, tool boxes, ladders… anything basically. And it makes the physical act of securing your tools or camping gear much quicker. That’s the aim of the game. 

Straps 

You see all sorts of straps on the market these days. In my opinion, it’s hard to beat a quality ratchet strap. They are versatile, strong and adjustable in length, securing loads to roof racks really well. 

Sure, they can be a little tricky to use if you are new to ratchet straps, but once you get the hang of them, you’ll never use an occy strap again. I’ve experimented with some modern straps recently. I always go back to the dependability of the ratchet strap, and leave a few in my storage drawers full-time. Give the ratchet mechanism a squirt of lubricant from time to time, make the effort to roll them up after use and they will look after you for a very long time. 

Shovels and Paddles 

I told you this was a work-and-play article. If you (like myself) enjoy kayaking and fishing, as well as camping (I’m not a tradie so won’t pretend to be), having a place to store long items like fishing rods, a paddle or a shovel is a hassle. 

Well, I should say it was a hassle. Because I installed a shovel/paddle holder recently. This has made my life much easier while on the road. It is simply secured to a channel in my roof platform, and I can clamp down securely whatever I need to. Not only does this free up space, but it also saves me time accessing these bits of gear when required. Also, I know they are actually secured and not going anywhere thanks to the sturdy design of this bracket.  

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Roof rack rollers 

If you are on the shorter side of life, something that shouldn’t be overlooked is a set of rollers on your roof rack. In my case, my swag is quite long, so I tend to rest it on the back edge of my roof rack and slide it into position. Same as my kayak which feels pretty heavy after using it for a few hours. 

I thought rollers on roof racks were purely for sliding an aluminium tinnie into place. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Rollers are perfect for the two previously mentioned products, but come in so handy for tradies using ladders as well as getting long bits of wood to the job site. Simply pop the ladder or timber in place, and slide it up on the roller. It’s safer, quicker and won’t potentially scratch the roof rack surface in the process. 

Mounting accessories

The neatest way to mount accessories such as an awning or recovery tracks to your roof rack is to use the correct bracket that is specific to the task. Gone are the days of drilling holes into roof racks and using ugly U-brackets from the hardware store to bolt on an awning. The same goes for recovery tracks.  

Having specific mounting brackets to suit the task makes the installation of the product quick and easy. More importantly, they make removing accessories simpler. This is important when you are bogged in the sand and need to access your recovery boards as quickly as possible. It’s also handy in the event you need to alter the roof rack layout to suit a different job or trip. 

Reputable roof rack manufacturers will have a swag of accessories available to suit their products. Do some research before you open your wallet. The range of accessories available could be more important to your needs than the roof rack itself.



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