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It’s a Cinch: Top 3 Roof Racks to Secure Your Gear

Choose the Best Roof Rack for Your Adventure Rig

A black Front Runner platform roof rack sits on a teal-colored Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear

You have the perfect vehicle. You’ve grabbed all your family’s camping gear and have grand expectations for a weekend of adventure travel, but where do you stash your stuff? Understanding which vehicle roof rack is the right fit for you and your vehicle can be confusing.

Thankfully, there are a wide variety of aftermarket platform roof racks and roof baskets to choose from. Whether you opt for a lower-profile platform rack or a secure roof basket, you’ve got several options. Below, we’ve compared three popular roof rack companies so you can choose the best roof rack for all your on and off-road adventures.

Sleek and Sturdy: Platform Roof Racks

A Front Runner Outfitters Slimline II platform roof rack has a low profile. (Photo by Mercedes Lilienthal)

If you need a vehicle roof rack but want one that is low-profile and sleek, a platform roof rack may do the trick. Like those sold by Front Runner Outfitters, Rhino-Rack, ARB, or BajaRack, platform roof racks will decrease wind noise and drag at highway speeds. Typically, platform racks have either thick slats or metal mesh for the rack’s floor.

Platform roof racks can be made from steel or aluminum. As with roof baskets, roof platform racks could attach to factory or aftermarket side rails or cross-bars. They could also fasten directly to your vehicle via the rain gutters or roof mounts. Each manufacturer has a different design, so it’s important to make sure the roof rack you want is compatible with your vehicle before purchasing.

Front Runner Outfitters Slimline II Platform Rack

Front Runner Outfitters, whose U.S. headquarters is in Agoura Hills, California, has a manufacturing facility outside Johannesburg, South Africa. The company offers a wide variety of premium, low-profile platform vehicle roof racks and accessories. Front Runner Outfitters created these racks with heavy-duty use in mind.

The Front Runner Slimline II roof racks are customizable and are a bolt-together affair. The side-to-side slats can be moved, removed, or added, depending on what you’re hauling. In short, Front Runner Outfitters platform racks can morph to suit your changing needs.

Some Front Runner Outfitters roof racks use gutter-mounted feet, as shown on this Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear van. (Photo by Mercedes Lilienthal)

Front Runner Outfitters roof racks are aluminum and can be mounted in various ways; on rain gutters, side rails, or via direct-roof fitments. Slimline II racks are rated to carry up to 660 pounds. The slats fit into double-walled aluminum channels and are secured with locking nuts. This sturdy setup allows for years of off-pavement adventures.

Rhino-Rack Pioneer Platform Rack

Rhino-Rack platform racks can mount to a variety of vehicles, including this Mitsubishi Pajero SUV. (Photo by Mercedes Lilienthal)

Australian-based Rhino-Rack is another manufacturer of slim platform vehicle roof racks. Made from non-corrosive materials, like aluminum, their racks won’t rust or fade. Rhino-Rack makes durable roof racks and offers tons of accessories to load up your rack and haul various gear. Whereas Front Runner has slats running from side to side, Rhino-Rack’s design incorporates front-to-back slats.

If you’re in the market for a platform rack but want to add vertical sides at any time to make a roof basket, Rhino-Rack has got you covered. They’ve devised side and end or full rail kits to mount to existing Rhino-Rack platform racks, making them a great hybrid-style roof basket.

Similar to Front Runner, Rhino-Rack platform racks can be mounted differently, depending on your vehicle type. You can secure them to your vehicle’s gutter mounts, OE side rails, directly to the vehicle’s roof, or by way of crossbars. Tested in the Australian Outback, Rhino-Rack platform racks are a solid option for dirt-loving adventurers.

Gear Up and Go: Roof Baskets

A BajaRack roof basket on this Mitsubishi Delica Star Wagon carries an awning, spare tire, and two jerry cans. (Photo by Mercedes Lilienthal)

If you’re in the market to load up your vehicle’s roof with various cargo like storage totes, jerry cans, or even a spare tire, buying a vehicle roof basket may be what you need. Aftermarket companies like BajaRack, Yakima, or Thule offer roof rack baskets to hold your gear securely.

Rooftop baskets offer vertical sides to help keep gear in place. You can use a ratchet strap or bungee cord to secure your cargo. Usually made from powder-coated steel, roof baskets feature various sizes and styles to suit your needs.

BajaRack Roof Basket

BajaRack is a popular roof basket manufacturer. In addition to their heavy-duty platform racks, they also offer a wide array of roof baskets and accessories. BajaRack is based in San Diego, California, with manufacturing in Ensenada, Mexico. They specialize in building premium welded steel and powder-coated tube roof rack systems, incorporating one-inch and half-inch tubing in their designs.

BajaRack roof baskets can hold various products, like MATRAX recovery boards, awning, water can, a spare tire, and diesel fuel can. (Photo by Mercedes Lilienthal)

BajaRack roof racks and baskets are made with cold-rolled steel tubes that optimize strength-to-weight ratios. This also increases rust resistance. Additionally, BajaRack’s wind deflectors are made from aluminum, not plastic, for added durability. If you’re looking for a sturdy roof basket option with lots of space for cargo, check out BajaRack’s options.

Roof Rack Research

As with any vehicle roof rack system, do your research to ensure the specific roof platform rack will be compatible with your vehicle’s make, model, and the year before making your purchase.

Also, be sure to check your owner’s manual to find the weight rating that your vehicle’s roof can handle. This will dictate how much weight your vehicle can handle when adding a roof rack, accessories, and gear to the roof. To avoid damage, do not exceed the static or rolling weight limits of your vehicle’s roof. And no matter which system you choose, make sure you don’t exceed the weight capacity limit of your platform roof rack or roof basket.

A 72X57 Rhino-Rack Pioneer platform rack can hold a lot of gear.

The biggest takeaway before making your purchase is to understand what gear you want to haul, how you want to do it, and what types of roof rack systems are compatible with your vehicle. Both roof baskets and platform racks can offer solid solutions for carrying additional cargo.

About Mercedes Lilienthal

Mercedes is an Oregon-based freelancer who specializes in vehicular adventure travel. She and her husband have three right-hand-drive turbo-diesel Mitsubishi 4x4s and two customized subcompact daily drivers. Mercedes enjoys automotive adventure competitions, having competed in the 2018 Rebelle Rally and the 2020 Alcan 5000 Rally. Her freelance work includes writing, editing, photography, social media management, event coverage, and marketing services.