North American expeditions: roof racks vs. trailers

Discussion in 'Trailer Tech' started by Exiled, Jul 10, 2005.

roof rack vs. trailer on North American expeditions

  1. Roof racks are the only way to go, no lost traction

    38 vote(s)
    33.9%
  2. Trailers are better, no COG or significant mileage issues

    26 vote(s)
    23.2%
  3. I need both for the kinds of trips I'm planning

    31 vote(s)
    27.7%
  4. Neither one, I travel light, with everything inside the rig

    17 vote(s)
    15.2%
  1. Exiled

    Exiled

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    There are many places in the world where a roof rack is really the only option for expeditions, due to the road conditions. But in North America, where both options are viable, there tends to be a lot of differing opinions. There's been threads in the past favoring one or the other, so I'd like to condense it back to a single thread for the archives, and hear what you have to say.

    FWIW, I have both, an INTI expedition roof rack and a modified ex-military M416 1/4 ton trailer. Both have their uses, but I think the decision to use one or the other is based on the condition of the terrain and the distances I will travel.

    Lot's of pro's and con's, let's hear them!
     
  2. Mike S

    Mike S

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    EX

    I beleive that this depends a LOT on the country you will be going into, and how many people you will have in each vehicle.

    I travel mainly in the Great Basin and ajacent areas - eastern OR, Eastern WA, NV, AZ, etc. Ocassionally to Baja. The trailer is simple better for hauling stuff. Why?

    1. Carries more than my 60

    2. The trailer allows me to carry 20 gallons of fuel, 38 gallons of water, extra spare tire, etc. This means I can stay in the desert in a dry camp for a week or more.

    3. The trailer can be dropped off to form a base camp, and if equipped with locks etc. is pretty secure.

    4. With the trailer carrying most of the gear, my dog crates can go into the truck, and a rooftop tent or small boat can go on the roof rack.

    5. The tail gate is a great kitchen area, and a large kitchen box can be carried in the trailer. his means a lot less unpacking and repacking when moving.

    6. Sleeping in the truck sucks. I like a tent on the trailer or rooftop.

    Mike
     
  3. sandcruiser

    sandcruiser

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    oops. I voted too quickly!
    I prefer a roof rack- my philosophy is that if you need a trailer, you've got too much stuff with you.

    having said that- in North America I can think of a number of places that have fire-road access where you could set up a base camp with a trailer then wheel during the day, returning to base camp each night. under those circumstances, I like the trailer.

    But after hauling our trailer through Baja.... I learned to absolutely despise it. I don't think I would ever pull one again unless it has another vehicle on it.
     
  4. Exiled

    Exiled

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    Do you think that had more to do with "Gimpy" than anything else? My friend Alex just got back from spending 8 weeks in Baja with his FJ60 and converted M416, and his experience was the complete opposite. Just wondering?
     
  5. Koffer

    Koffer

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    Everyone needs a trailer (please buy 1 or 3)
    DSCF0793.JPG
     
  6. timbercruiser

    timbercruiser

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    Price check on cdnM101s, please.
     
  7. sandcruiser

    sandcruiser

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    Certainly Gimpy is not the poster child for great OR trailers!!

    With a better suspension he would have been much less a hassle...
    but I often found that on sand a trailer was a drag (literally) and in town it was simply horrific- Mexico wasn't built for the length of a 60 and a trailer. We had to disconnect just to park sometimes.

    In the end, I would rather just travel more lightly.

    Now- If I were towing something that was a serious offroad trialer with a popup camper - sort of like the Who Needs A Road guys, but better offroad, that might have been worth the hassle.

    To me the best thing about a trailer would be that, in theory, you could have it all kitted out and ready to go "at a moment's notice" so that when an unexpected weekend trip pops up you could just pack a bag, hitch up the trailer and go.

    Certainly if kids or other passengers are involved in a single rig, a trailer could make a big difference in terms of packing space...

    But trailers also cost more on bridges/toll roads in some places, are tougher to negotiate in town, and add quite a bit of overall cost ot the vehicle setup. For my camping/travelling style those negatives seem to outweigh the extra space.



     
  8. Koffer

    Koffer

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  9. timbercruiser

    timbercruiser

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    Cool! I know some people who may be interested. (But don't hold your breath)
     
  10. e9999

    e9999 You want to do what...? Moderator

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    well, I did spend a week+ at a time camping in a campground (i.e. some water and food available) a number of times in Baja, and with 2 kids it was hard to pack it all in the 100. Didn't have a usable roof rack though, admittedly. For more than a week+ or for more seriously wild camping (with all water etc brought in) I don't think I could pack it all in without a HD roof rack. There the trailer would come in very handy, esp. with extra gas, food and water...
    For what we do in Baja, I can't imagine that the trailer extra length would be an issue, and mine has an 8' bed plus tongue...
    Throw in a couple of bikes and a kayak and you *need* the trailer!
     
  11. sandcruiser

    sandcruiser

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    FWIW: Thought I'd put forth what it was that I think would be important in an OR trailer-- #1 good suspension with shocks. I know, many don't use shocks. I was told by a boat guy that there are special trailer springs that are self-dampening. I don't know.... some used shocks at the junkyard couln't hurt anything.

    #2: clearance. If the trailer isn't at least an inch or two taller than the vehicle, it might not be able to follow you. I refer to axle clearance as well as sheet metal. I swapped Gimpy over to SOA and that was better than SUA, but of course that only works if you've got an SUA cruiser. Then again-- the axle housing on a trailer can be a lot thinner than a cruiser, which would give you an inch or two of clearance.

    #3: weight distribution. Saw a trick system on a boat recently that consisted of a tube with a valve in the center. Used to adjust side to side weight issues... the idea was that you could put water in one side or the other and that would add weight to that side. Maybe that could be adapted front-back. Not sure. But definately keep in mind that the water tank will weigh less on the way home than it does on the way there... and if your spare tire is the counter balance, you'll have balance issues later.

    #4: width. Trailer has got to be narrower than the cruiser. Track width, however, should be real similar to the back wheels (which are narrower than the front).

    #5: Markers. A flag or two will help you spot the back corners of the trailer when you are in tight conditions. A light at night would be real handy too.

    I guess those are the biggies. Brakes are a really good idea, but add a lot of cost. I'm sure someone could fab up some sort of air brake system like on big rigs. that would be great.

    I could probably come up with a much longer list, but I'm tired so I'm stopping. Just wanted to add a little extra info to the conversation.
     
  12. Cruiserdrew

    Cruiserdrew On the way there SILVER Star

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    For me-roof rack. I wouldn't want the extra length. 3 summers ago, we spent a month on the road through the Great Basin and the National Parks of the southwest. It was a bit tight for the 4 of us in the 80 series, but all of the soft stuff was up on the factory roof rack in one of those roof bags. That made things tolerable. Now that I have a much larger roof rack, it wouldn't be a big deal. With the family in tow, I didn't do real off camber stuff, though we did do the White Rim in Canyonlands NP.

    Now with that said, I would love to have one of Koffer's trailers, but I have no where to put it, But my 60 towing one of those would be super cool.
     
  13. Exiled

    Exiled

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    Drew, I've never had a chance to play with a Canadian M101, but the M416 stands up. For YEARS I packed my wife's Jetta and my trailer in a one-car garage, I would back the trailer up all the way to the back, then stand it up, then park the Jetta under the tongue. Works great, that's how it sits today (see picture), the only difference is that I now have a 2-car garage, and the rest of the bay is filled with assorted crap (rolling tool box, mower, Cruiser's second spare tire, semi-assembled roof rack, etc...
    trailer extended tongue.jpg
     
  14. Mike S

    Mike S

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    Steve

    Let me share my thoughts/experiences on the points you brought up...

    I run 31X10.5 tires on 7" rims and inflate to about 12- 15 lbs. depending on load. I am running leaf srpings sprung over. Shocks are critical in a driven wheel and during braking and manuovers. I have not had any problems running the trailer on trails that could be helped by shocks, since my trailer anly weighs about 1200 lbs loaded.

    Using the standard HD trailer axle and the tires above, I have 14" below the axle - - again, no problems.


    These are legitimate issues. I tried to design my trailer so that ALL the weight of the water tanks is to the rear of the axle. There are four 5 gallon gas cans - two infront of the axle, and two to the rear. This helps the balance problem. Even at that, with the spare and the batteries on the tongue, I can open the tail gate and stand on it, and it will not tip - even when the water tank is full. I weigh about 165 lbs.

    Agree. I set my sxle up so the trailer wheels track in the same tracks as the cruiser. Trailer is slightly narrower than the truck.


    Absolutely correct. Any help spotting is great. As is a LONG tongue when you're in the rough stuff. An adjsutable tongue length is a really good idea - it provides close up towing on the highway, and better manouvering on a trail.

    Electric trailer brakes can be set up for a trailer with standard hubs that can be ordered from the trailer parts suppliers. If the trailer is going to be over 1500#, I would say mandatory. Not especially expensive. I didn't put brakes on my trailer and have not had a problem.

     
  15. Shahram

    Shahram I ain't got herpes no more.

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    For what it's worth, I'd have to go with roof racks. In my opinion, a trailer is just way too much trouble. Having a trailer is like a second vehicle, one that can't get you out of trouble, and you end up depending on its payload to make you comfortable. That said, if there's more than four adults going in one vehicle, a trailer would be necessary for getting remote for any length of time. But for two or three people, a sturdy roof rack to carry the light and bulky crap, and water and fuel down below, should be okay. If there's not enough room, leave one of the prima donas at home.
    I have brought up to five people in my vehicle for long trips off-road (one week between stops in civilization). My rule of thumb was this: people hike the Appalachian trail, or backpack great distances with what they have on their backs. A backpack. I don't rule a trip with an iron fist, so I go with the airline rule: You get a duffle bag and a carry-on. Any more than that, and you're cramping our space, and limiting more important cargo, like water.
    The problem I've run into is a lot of my guests are gearheads. They've got all the latest swag, and they want to bring it. I have a personal list of stuff that everybody needs to bring for themselves. Then there's camp stuff. We don't need two stoves, three camp kitchens, three purifiers, etc. so we have communal stuff, and everyone brings only that which is necessary to their own comfort or safety: bedding, shelter, hygiene, clothing, personal tools, entertainment.
    It really cuts down on space and weight when you limit the amount of space each person can occupy. Setup and takedown gets easier, and of course, the amount of clutter becomes easier to deal with. Most importantly, less fuel used is less fuel needed.
    The way I look at it is this: if you've got that much gear and those many people, get a pickup truck to go with you. It'll lighten the load, and get two passengers out. If you're going to have a second vehicle, it might as well be one that can tow you out of a jam or go for help.
     
  16. sandcruiser

    sandcruiser

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    For long stretches of Mexican blazing asphalt at 100+ degrees, I wasn't happy with such low tire pressure... the tires we ahd on the trailer were visibly worn after only 3K miles compared to the vehicle tires... and those same Mexican roads are pretty bumpy, so high pressure meant a jumpy gimp trialer. Which, of course, I attribute the very poor craftsmanship of said trailer.

    I'd love to spend the time and money to build a great trailer, I just don't have any real need to do so as the rack and some cautious packing have proven to be entirely sufficient for my needs. Those needs rarely include more than a week of dry camping. I suppose that if one were to plan on spending more than a week, with no access to water with more than four people... then a trailer would certainly become a very attractive option.

    If I were to do a trailer again, I would definately go with some very low-tread tires on the trailer that are the same size as the tow vehicle. Not bald, mind you, but a good street tread pattern with LOOOONG wear. They aren't driven wheels anyway and the side slipping is probably not that different with an MT than it is with a M/S rated street tire. The decrease in rolling resistance can only help with the challenge of towing. As long as the size is the same they can act as a serviceable spare. No sense in wasting expensive rubber on something that doesn't need it.... except the very valid reason that the aggro tread does look awfully cool! :)

     
  17. dmc

    dmc

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    I'm glad this thread came up. Henry as you know I'm trying to work my way toward expedition trips. My experience has always been roof racks. I'm comfortable with them and the capacity they bring. I like the concept of the trailer but I think in execution it's a lot of work. I don't have or carry enough stuff to justify either to be honest. Aside from fuel and water all my gear will fit very easily in the back of the 80. I'll find out in the next few months with my next trip.
    dmc
     
  18. Mark W

    Mark W

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    I use and like/dislike both roof racks and trailers. One thing I have not seen mentioned above... High weight cargo. We're heading out next week on a 350+ mile trail run. Not back roads, trails. At an average (pessimistic to be sure) of 5mpg on the trail that means at least 70 gallons per rig. and that doesn't provide much extra for "just in case". That's twelve 5 gallon cans in addition to the tanks in the '40s. That's a LOT of weight on top of each rig. If the option is a roof rack or a trailer... I'd much rather put 31 cans below the bedline of an M416 rather than putting it on top of two or three SOA '40s.


    Mark...
     
  19. Owyhee Jackass

    Owyhee Jackass

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    I go both ways. With the family, I can get by with just the roof rack. If we're taking bikes, canoe, kayaks then I use the trailer.

    It all depends on what is on the agenda, and where we're going.

    I shuttle rafters and kayakers into a remote river. When I do this, both are necessary. Trailer (with a "roof" rack) and a full rack on the 80. The last group I took was 7 adult men (8 counting me) 2 rafts with frames, 3 kayaks, a mountain bike, 2 huge coolers, 2 dry boxes... Granted this is not an 'expedition' just a 3-hour shuttle ride out into the desert. But it does require 4x4 and the ability to haul a lot of crap.

    The trailer is much easier to load/unload than a roof rack.

    The rack has to come off every now and then, that is a pain.

    I like the M101A1 3/4 ton trailer size.

    I also agree with Shahram's philosophy, but when that isn't an option...

    I just thought of another option, reciever hitch racks. I used one of these when I didn't feel like having gas cans inside the vehicle and didn't want to put the roof rack on. I was just doing a quick reconnaissance trip solo, but needed extra fuel.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2005
  20. dmc

    dmc

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    Mark,

    Not all of us are lucky enough to have 350 miles of trails at our disposal...

    Part of my trip next month will be run on Kane Creek in Moab. It has a lot of off camber sections before you reach the creek bottom. At this point I'm a bit worried about high weight. More than likely I'll be off loading most of my roof rack stuff to the 100 series that will be bypassing the trail. Ideally a long range tank will relieve a lot of the fuel weight concerns.

    For those of you who have been lucky enough to take extended (1month or longer) treks what do you find to be the largest/heaviest necessities? My longest trip was 3.5 weeks to Alaska back in 98. I was lucky in that I spent 5 days at a house in Juneau to reset for the rest of the trip. Rarely have I been out longer than 2 weeks. My travel has been US and Canada only so I've never worried too much about water. I would imagine that would be a serious consideration in other parts of the world. Have I hijacked yet? If not I can keep going...
    dmc
     
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