For anyone who has done a bit of travel around this country of ours, the use of a roof rack on top of the Fourby is almost essential for most of us. Safely packing and not overloading them is another thing altogether, and we’ve seen some shocking examples pop up on social media or in the news over the years. Although the vast majority of travellers do a good job, poor examples are still easy to find. Recently, whilst running some errands around my hometown of Cairns I took these two images within about half an hour of each other to highlight how little thought some people put into packing and how unsafe things can end up being as a result.
Roof load limits also vary greatly between different makes of vehicles and are another thing to take into the equation. I’m pretty sure that the 79 Series Dual Cab Landcruiser that I own only has a roof load limit of 100kgs, which includes the weight of the rack itself. Finding this information was however quite challenging as it wasn’t apparent (to me) anywhere in the Owner’s Manual. I ended up finding several vague references to this figure online and eventually had confirmation on the Land Cruiser Owners Online forum (LCOOL).
4wding Australia published an excellent piece on roof racks, as did Outbackjoe.com who really gets into the details and has some great content on his site. There is also some more general info here from Unsealed4X4 that I used as a bit of a guide to getting it all right.
My previous 4wdrive, a Nissan Patrol, had an excellent roof rack made by Black Widow, and I made extensive use of it. This rack regularly was used for carrying everything from a second spare wheel, to camp chairs and firewood, but until now, I had resisted putting one on the Toyota. Why? Not sure really. The pod on the back with a place for everything was probably part of the reason but I was also very aware of the overall weight of the 79 when fully loaded. It is a heavy beast.
When I finally did decide I needed one, I started doing my research and looking at what was on the market. My thoughts were about keeping it fully welded and pretty simple. A flat, low-profile and lightweight deck made using mesh and alloy tube was the basis. I wanted tubular alloy, as; a) it is quieter in the wind at highway speeds, and; b) it works better with ropes. I also think it looks better but that is a personal thing. Tracklander popped up as a serious contender, as did the standard stuff from ARB and TJM etc. and so did Frontrunner and Rhinorack for something a bit different with a lot of attachment options.
The mesh for me however, is the best option for managing those occasions when you need to carry a load of firewood back to camp and don’t want it slipping through the rails and rubbing on the roof. Mesh also provides tie-down points anywhere you need one without having to install Eye-Bolts.
The other additions I decided I wanted were some solid mounts at the front for a big UltraVision lightbar, some tabs at the back of the rack for a roof-mounted sand flag and for the possible future addition of another radio antenna for my iCom iC450, as well as full-length roof gutter support. So after a bit of a look at the usual offerings from the major manufacturers and seeing a mix of compromises, I decided to do things exactly how I wanted, and to return to Decked Out Fabrication for a custom build.
Having now used the rack for our first decent trip, I am super pleased with the end result. Being able to move a box of gear out of the canopy and up onto the rack is super convenient, and allows packing options to be reconfigured easily as you work out what is being used regularly and what those items are that can probably just be up there and out of the way.
And, of course, I wanted the rack to take advantage of the dedicated tie-down points of our lightweight but tough Expedition134 boxes, which make getting in and out of the box quickly, and without having to remove straps or ropes, super simple, and one of my personal favourite features. Not having to worry about dust getting into them is also extremely handy when they are on the top of the vehicle in all the elements for a long outback trip.