When we hit the trails to wheel to an off-road dispersed camping location, my Jeep is packed to the gills with various items that might be needed in the woods. It’s far better to bring along more water, food, and clothing than you’ll need (especially in the mountains). In addition, summertime camping trips mean an open Jeep and even though I use a cargo net to keep all our gear secure in the back of my rig, doing this (versus using the hard top) decreases my storage capacity by several cubic feet. An easy way to increase storage space, and still maintain off-road readiness, is to utilize a trailer hitch cargo carrier. While there are many options available, here are a couple I’ve used, and some ways to further secure your gear.
Valley Hitch Mount Cargo Basket
This is a trailer hitch carrier we’ve had for a few years, and initially had purchased for my husband’s truck. It’s handy but not great for off-roading.
Pros – At 60 inches by 19.5 inches, it holds a great deal of stuff. And, it’s light enough for me to easily lift in/out of the hitch mount.
Cons – Since this carrier is fairly lightweight, it’s not very stable – it wiggles/sways a bit even when secured in the hitch mount. Of bigger concern, however, is that it extends straight out from the hitch, which isn’t great for off-roading to camping locations. Even a bit of rock crawling has resulted in the carrier scraping bottom, especially when the trail is steep.
DIY Cargo Carrier
This rack was made by friend M and is similar to this one, but with a higher rise. If you can weld, this is a DIY option to consider. I’ve included dimensions in the next photo, but for more design specifics or other questions, please contact me or leave a comment below.
Pros – This cargo carrier is full of fantastic features! Although smaller in size than our other carrier, it still holds our largest camp item (bear-proof cooler) and our smelliest camp item (Luggable Loo), as well as miscellaneous other gear. This carrier slides into the hitch mount until it sits flush with the spare tire, which helps keep the carrier and its gear steady and secure. It’s made of heavy duty steel, and the rise from the hitch mount to the carrier itself is higher than other similar carriers on the market today. A higher rise ensures this carrier won’t scrape rocks on steep trails, and so far it’s worked very well.
Cons – None. Even though this carrier is heavier than our other one, I can still lift it in/out of the hitch mount by myself (albeit with some effort).
Update June 30, 2017 - reader Paul D. built a cargo rack based on the above specifications, and it turned out great! Here's a photo of his completed build - and check out his other Jeep and outdoor adventures on Instagram: @paulyduch
Hitch Pin Lock
Here’s an extra tidbit of info… have you tried a locking hitch pin? While only slightly more work to use (it has to be locked/unlocked with a key, instead of just pulled out of the hitch mount), it easily secures your cargo carrier to your rig. What I use is similar to this one and it works great!
Secure Your Cargo
Lastly, make sure you secure your cargo to the carrier. I use a Sport Rack Roof Basket Net plus bike locks for all the gear we pack on our cargo rack. Not only do I want to avoid losing stuff on the roadway, I don’t want anything stolen at stops along the way (gas stations, etc.).
Do you utilize a trailer hitch cargo carrier when off-roading or camping? If so, what works best for you and how do you secure your gear? Leave suggestions in the comments below!
Thanks for reading, and Happy Trails!