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Storage for Your Off-Road Adventures

Posted in Features on March 14, 2017
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When we head out to the mountains, desert, dunes, or mud we typically pack up some gear for the day or maybe for a week of adventure. Finding room to stash all your tools and gear without leaving your codriver or one of the kids behind can be a challenge. When you’ve exhausted the glovebox, console and any cargo space, what goes where next?

You probably don’t want to bungee or wire a bunch of tools and parts onto the back of your rig like the owner did in our lead image. But, there are ways to haul more stuff in your rig in a safe and efficient way. Beware of how you carry heavy items in the interior, knowing that they could become dangerous missiles in the event of a high-speed rollover. Latch this kind of gear down so it’s secure and can’t bounce around.

By adding roof racks, bed racks, or other types of racks you can accommodate a wide range of tools and external storage. Depending on how and where you play off-road, you’ll want to consider the effects on your departure angle and any change in your center of gravity. Piling on a few pounds here and there can soon add up to a lot of added weight on your rig.

Tools and small spare parts can be stored in fabric tool bags, as can recovery gear. These can be placed easily in locations, but lack the weatherproofing of some hard cases. When planning how to store all your tools and spares, it’s a good idea to lay them all out and determine the likelihood of using each item. Store items you plan to rarely use the deepest, leaving items you expect to access most frequently on top. After spending some time off-road and dealing with stuck or broken rigs you’ll develop a better idea of how to best organize your gear.

We also look to race and other vehicles for ideas on clever storage. This large bottle jack stays in place under its own pressure without the need for any other securing hardware. On this truck, a bed box stores plenty of other small items out of the weather. We’ve seen driveshafts and axleshafts stored in large PVC tubes then strapped to a roof rack or similar location. Spares can sometimes be secured under the vehicle body or on the frame as well, but are subject to greater dirt exposure there.
When you run out of weather-protected interior storage for items that need to stay out of the elements, Pelican-style hard cases can be used outside. They’re bulky but can’t be beat for protecting items inside from impact and moisture. Surplus stores sometimes offer used ones at good prices. We’re also fans of using surplus metal ammo boxes of various sizes. They’re economical and waterproof. We’ve used them for center consoles as well as various storage setups in the beds of trucks.
Start stripping interior panels out of a truck or SUV and you’ll find a lot more usable interior space for storage. Granted you’re now storing items directly against the outside sheetmetal so any dents will show in the paint—you’ll need to consider that limitation. This Hummer H3 owner sliced open and hinged the panel on his rear door. It now provides convenient storage for a number of small camping items, along with serving as a lightweight table surface.
This crafty owner was making a long-distance trip across the country in a vintage rig and needed to maximize storage space. He fabricated some simple brackets to store extra air and oil filters along with spare ignition parts so that they were readily available. We’ve even securely stored handtools in a metal ammo can in the engine compartment. Just know they may need to cool a bit before being used after a long drive.

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