The tyranny of storage
by Evan Rodgers
Here's a question: where am I going to store all my shit?
Want to have a bad time while backpacking? Bring too much stuff. Last year I hiked a very challenging trail with what I'll call a robust camera kit. I'm talking steadycam, battery packs, gimbal, the whole works. About 1/5th of the way up the trail I realized I had made a terrible mistake.
My Honda Element is not that big. In pictures it seems pretty big, but it isn't, so I won't be able to take all that much with me.
I'm going to be making a rear cabinet like all the other Element campers (see the Fifth Element design above), but there's a lot to account for:
- Food / cooking gear
- Hygiene supplies (including towels, which are huge)
- Work / connectivity gear
- Video gear
- Recovery stuff (winch, straps, mudboards, etc)
When you really break it down, it'll be a real moonshot to fit all this into a mid-sized SUV, even with a genius cabinet design. And I need to keep things packed pretty well, since I plan on shooting a lot of videos in and around the car. Car owners: you know the struggle.
So if you can't fit all your junk in the car, you need to put it outside the car. And down the rabbit hole we tumble.
There's really only one platform-style roof rack out there for the Element: the Gobi Ranger Rack. It looks super cool and comes with a neat ladder, but it costs $1,595 before tax. I love it and I want it, but I can't afford it. What to do? Make your own.
This guy has a great custom setup, but I need something a little different. First, those Kee Klamps (the bar connectors) are surprisingly expensive. Also, the steel bars that he's using look like they're ¾ of an inch, and my roof tent weighs about 160lbs, so I'd be worried about the rigidity of those bars.
Instead, I'm looking at something called aluminum extrusions from a company called 8020.net. You might be thinking: but steel is way stronger than aluminum!? And that's true, but strength is different from rigidity, and I need both. The extrusions and their corresponding connectors are cheap, too, which is great.
Yes, it'll be much uglier than the delightful Gobi rack. Alas.
Back to the storage angle: not only do I need to stash that giant roof tent up there, I need a storage box. I'm planning on putting the battery and the cellular equipment in the roof box and slapping the first 100W solar panel on top of that.
For the city people reading: the square metal thing you see coming out of a car's ass is called a trailer hitch. You hitch a trailer to it. However, you can also use it for storage.
What I'm grappling with is how to spend less than $600 to put some storage space on the caboose of my ride. Let's lay out the parts:
- Trailer hitch itself – $189
- Swing away hitch – $299
- Hitch basket – $199
Can you believe how expensive this is?
I'm planning on keeping my fridge in there. Sidenote: the fridge I bought is way too large. Food is good though.
The cost to store
All told, getting the car outfitted with just exterior storage (so not counting the interior cabinets) is probably going to cost me around $1,000.