Without places to store and secure your gear the higher the odds are of losing, breaking or otherwise not finding essential bits of kit when needed. Inadequate storage encourages cargo chaos, that uncomfortable state of sitting among scattered possessions that shift with every hard turn. Avoid that at all cost.
One way to organize your gear is by frequency of use. There are high priority items that should be within the driver’s reach and there are things you’re carrying that you may never use. In between are the things you use daily or weekly. You should get to know all the locations well enough to find whatever you need in the dark.
The only way to combat cargo chaos it is to have a storage system and develop rituals around your objects. Your storage system’s design is driven by the extent to which your selection of gear is minimal or otherwise. The habits and rituals which return objects to the place they came from is a mental discipline I encourage everyone to master. Cargo chaos gets worse with more people in your caravan so make sure everyone gets a little OCD with their essential items.
Within the Driver’s Reach
For Alaska, the high priority items are:
- Wallet & passport
- Device charging cables
- Bear spray
Most of these fit in the center console, door pockets or secured to the dash with velcro tape. Velcro tape is an essential expendible. It keeps devices from sliding around the dashboard or disappearing between the seat and the console. The right pieces of Velcro can help develop the skill of putting your phone back in the same place every time. That puts you ahead of the game.
Behind the Front Seats
I removed the rear seats to open up more storage space. It limited my passenger capacity to one but it was an important tradeoff to make. Large items like solar panels, 20 liter water cans, tripods and a chair all fit easily in the space.
Another reason to take out the rear seats was to make room for the drawer system. Taking the seats out allowed the drawers to sit flat and extend to the full length of the bed. The drawers are 12” high and contain two compartments. A 60” drawer that serves as my pantry and cook kit. The other locked compartment is for more secure storage. The top of the drawers leaves just enough room for Cody, my golden retriever, to stand up on his bed.
Cargo netting across the inside of the rear passenger doors was added after we got tired of picking things up when we opened the doors. That made a very convenient place to stuff sleeping bags, small duffels and dog bowls.
Ez Awn is a South African company that makes a variety of overlanding products. Their roof rack extends the entire length of Bunky’s roof and holds my roof top tent, a couple of Front Runner storage boxes, an insulated water cooler, a large dry bag and a pair of MaxTrax.
Since the rack has a system of channels that accept eye rings, adjusting the hold down points is easy. You can even put attach points under the rack for flat items. Ratchet straps complete the rooftop system. Five or six are used to hold down everything on the rack.
The side of the rack has clamps for a shovel and axe. Things like fishing poles are easily secured to the other side.
The CBI bumper has a swing-out rack for a spare tire, Hilift jack and two 20 litre fuel cans. There’s no better way to carry spare fuel than on a rack like that. Rotax containers are an option, but I went with the classic Jerry can. I already had one in the garage and the used ones are pretty cheap.
My least favorite piece of equipment is the hitch rack. It came in handy but got in the way while offroading. It’s hard to judge how far it sticks out while backing up. It was even run over by a hit and run early one morning outside my hotel in Homer, Alaska. In the end, it did its job and was a convenient place to store firewood, tools, tarps, etc…
A great way to store device cables are in old eyeglass cases. I carry two to hold all of my USB cables.
Ratchets on ratchet straps are fickle. They will refuse release the strap from time to time. Carry a screwdriver so you can release the stop from the teeth of the ratchet’s gear.
Carry more water than you think you need. Our total capacity was close to 40 litres. Next time, I want more.
Dry bags are awesome. The rubberized duffles that canoe and kayakers use are an essential part of keeping your stuff dry. Once you put your bags in dry bags you can toss them on the roof rack in a hurricane without a worry.
Don’t buy used fuel cans, stick with new ones. The used one I purchased had been repainted inside and out. When we used it for the first time the last bit of gas contained all sorts of paint chips from the repainting. Fortunately my funnel had a screen.
Some of our outside gear was secured with padlocks, some not. For those of you with further secure storage needs, Bryan Black covers the topic in Modifying an FJ Cruiser for Overlanding: Security Upgrades and Common Sense Vehicle Security Tips