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How to Choose a Roof Rack or Bed Rack for Overlanding

Are you dreaming of your next overlanding adventure?  Deciding how to choose a quality roof rack(or truck bed rack) for overlanding is an essential element for a successful outing.  Your car, truck, or SUV may have a factory rack or crossbar system, but it may not be enough for your needs.  Aftermarket roof racks and bed racks from top brands like  Prinsu Design Studio, CBI Off Road, Front Runner, RCI Off Road, Leitner Designs and Cali Raised are much stronger and versatile than a factory rack.  They also provide a better mounting platform for roof top tents, awnings, storage boxes, maxtrax, rotopax, spare tires, lighting, and other gear needed for extended days off the grid.  

Capacity and Load Rating - One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is what gear will you need to carry.  Start a list of everything you have now and what you plan to purchase in the future. This will help determine the style, size, and type of rack that is best suited for your needs.  Add up the estimated weight you plan to carry and be sure that is under the dynamic load rating of the roof racks you are looking at. Dynamic load rating is the maximum weight that should be placed on the rack when your vehicle is in motion. 

Static load rating is also important as this is the total load the rack can handle when the vehicle is at rest. The static load rating will be the larger load rating. Some racks that we carry do not have a specific rating, but most all are suitable to hold a 2 to 3 person roof top tent, and occupants when at rest. We expect all consumers to use good judgement and common sense with the loads they plan to carry using these rack systems.

Roof Racks vs Truck Bed Racks vs Load Bars (roof bars or bed bars) - Next, think about what rack options you have for your vehicle.  Cars and SUVs are limited to  roof racks, but a pickup truck (or Jeep Gladiator) gives you the freedom of mounting a rack over your bed.  This gives you the flexibility to store gear in the bed, under the rack, and use the rack to mount more gear or a RTT. Bed racks from RCI Off Road and Cali Raised come in various heights to allow you to choose the best setup for your truck.  Some bed racks are vehicle specific, while others are adjustable giving you the ability to mount them to any sized truck bed. 

Bed bars are another option for truck owners as they mount easily and can be quickly removed when not in use.  They have less rigidity than a full bed rack, but are strong enough to mount a RTT, bikes, and other gear.  

Many overlanders also use camper tops on their trucks and we offer racks from Prinsu Design Studio specifically made to mount on the roof of camper tops from makers such as Leer, A.R.E., and Snugtop.  You can also custom build a camper, canopy, or trailer top rack from Front RunnerYou choose the length, width, and height to fit your exact needs.  

Use ourShop by Vehicle link to find all of the rack, tent, lighting and accessory options we have for the various vehicle manufactures.  We offer the majority of products for the Toyota Tacoma, 4Runner, Land Cruiser, Tundra, and FJ Cruiser.  

Roof Top Tents - Another consideration is what type ofroof top tentyou plan to use, and then determine the tent’s weight.  Use the static load rating of the roof rack to determine how much weight the rack can handle at rest.  Think about who will be sleeping in the tent and the total weight of each person. Tents mounted on top of your vehicle with increase the center of gravity and caution should be used when driving at highway speeds and making sharp turns. 

Bed racks are great options for mounting tents as they place more weight towards the rear of your truck and create less wind resistance and noise than a roof mounted tent.Hardshell tents will also create less wind noise/resistance as their aerodynamic shape will cut through the air better than a  soft shell tentMost all roof top tents come with universal U-shaped mounting brackets and will mount to crossbars or mounting points on our roof and bed racks.  

Bed / Tonneau Covers - A question we get often is "will my bed cover work with a bed rack?"  For most bed racks the answer is "no".  The tonneau cover will interfere with the mounting ability of the bed rack.  RCI Off Road has solved this problem with their Bed Rack Tonneau Cover Adapters.  (The bed cover adapters only work with with RCI's Adjustable Bed Racks.)  This works with many hard or soft roll-up covers and retractable covers that do not have integrated T-Slot rails.  The Venture TEC Racks from Putcoalso offer the ability to install a tonneau cover as they use the trucks stake pockets for installation. 


Rack Accessories - What accessories are needed to carry your gear?  Refer back to your list of gear that you have now and what gear you plan to purchase for your next trip.  Roof and bed racks can accommodate most anything you want to attach.Front Runner for example, has dozens of accessory attachment hardware parts to easily carry bikes, kayaks, canoes, stand up paddle boards, cargo boxes, recovery tracks, gas and water cans.  Rack manufacturers also have specific brackets to aide with the installation of awnings and roof top tents. Front Runner makestent mount kits, including aquick release kitto help you quickly mount and remove your tent as needed.  

Style and Functionality - At the end of the day you want your roof or truck bed rack, or roof bars to look appealing, even when it is not loaded with gear.  Low profile racks have become popular like the ones made by  Prinsu Design Studio.  They are just a few inches tall and come with a front wind deflector to minimize wind noise.  Prinsu also offers a light bar cutout option if you wish to mount a  40” LED light bar to their rack. Load panelscan be added to the modular crossbar setup to create a flat mounting point for your gear.  

Prinsu Roof Rack Load Panel

Some states have rules against driving on public roads with light bars and accessory lighting on your vehicle.  If you want to want to make sure your vehicle is street legal Cali Raised offers theirPremium Roof Rackwith an Adjustable LED Wind Deflector.  This allows your light bar to stay protected behind their wind faring when not in use.  

Conclusion - Plan ahead!  Failing to plan is planning to fail as they say.  Do your research and decide what you need months before you go on your next trip.   Some racks have to be manufactured before they are ready for shipment, though many of our manufacturers will ship within a week.  You need time to assemble your rack, or maybe you want a local shop to do the install.  

Contact us with any questions (252) 680-3070 (Call or Text) email  We are here to help!