- Buyer's Guide
10 Great Overlanding Storage Solutions, Tested
This year has caused more people to look at other solutions to satiate and soothe their wanderlust. The desire to travel after being in lockdown has intensified over the past few months. Many have hit the open road in their own vehicles instead of hopping on a plane, train, or other forms of public transportation to avoid crowds and close proximity to people. “Overlanding” is quickly becoming the popular term for people who travel with their vehicles to find remote locations to camp and spend time in the outdoors. Going off the grid is one way to travel to remote places away from people, while being able to freely enjoy the wild.
Overlanding’s roots lie deep in travel over extended periods of time, often spanning months to years and across international boundaries. Both long-term and short-term travel require plenty of planning and preparedness. Storage is one of the most important factors when planning a trip. Regardless of the length of time for your escape, whether it’s for months at a time or even over the short course of a weekend, there are several options available to help organize and store your gear, food, and other essentials for the outdoors.
Deciding which storage solution to use can be time-consuming as there are a few things to consider. This includes the amount of cargo space, the items you plan on bringing depending on the type of trip, the location, and of course budget. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve had the chance to travel on several trips through California, Arizona, and Utah exploring locations such as Yosemite, the Sierra Nevada, and the Grand Canyon. On these trips, I learned a little more each time and had the opportunity to test out various cargo solutions for automotive travel.
Type of Vehicle – Car, SUV or Truck?
The type of vehicle will determine how much storage space you have and what type of cargo case you need. Cars and SUVs have the luxury of an internal cargo area or trunk, which provides additional protection from the elements. Trucks with an open bed may be easier to load and unload as well as have more cargo space available. However, they have the drawback of being exposed to the elements including heat, dust, and water. An open bed is also less protected from thieves, so you’ll need to look at additional security. Thankfully, there are solutions for truck owners including camper shells, bed covers, and lockable cargo drawer systems.
What are your storage options?
Well, there’s plenty. So first we’ll cover the basic categories, then dive into 10 great storage pieces we’ve tested and can happily recommend.
Every square inch of space is necessary for providing ample storage. This includes areas outside the vehicle such as the roof, truck bed, or on the hitch. Sure, there are trailer systems available as well, but we’ll save that for another time.
There are two main styles of roof racks. The first uses factory or aftermarket rails to connect to crossbars. Companies such as Thule, Yakima, and Inno make options for practically every vehicle. They also offer all-in-one rail and crossbar systems.
These brands also have hardshell cargo boxes, cargo carriers, or roof boxes in various shapes and sizes that connect to the crossbars. These are popular due to their storage capacity, ability to lock, and weather protection. They often have an aerodynamic design, which cuts down on wind noise and helps save on fuel – although we found overall that anything on a roof will affect fuel economy. Some cargo boxes are rather simple to install without the need for tools and easy to remove when not needed.
One other perk with a few designs is that they have dual side openings. These allow access to the case from either side of the vehicle, which comes in handy in tight parking locations. The downside of a cargo box is the large size when not in use and the storage space it requires. You may also need a helping hand to lift it overhead on taller vehicles depending on the size/weight of the cargo box. Additionally, taller items may have a hard time fitting in them. These are also more expensive than other storage solutions.
We suggest this type of case for those who require additional storage space outside of the trunk or cargo area of their vehicle, need protection from the elements, and require a versatile solution for various items.
The second style of roof rack is the safari rack or cargo basket. There are a couple of variations, but they all function similarly with the ability to hold other items such as soft bags, luggage, bins, and more. Items can be tied down via ratchet straps, bungee cords, netting, and rope. Brands such as Front Runner Outfitters, Thule, Yakima, ARB, and more have solid options available.
We’ll quickly touch on roof bags as there are a few on the market that could be worth considering. They’re made from heavy-duty weather-resistant/proof materials and are made to mount on a roof rack. Typically, they have a lightweight design, are easy to mount and secure, and offer protection from the weather. They also come in various shapes and sizes to fit on practically any vehicle. Another benefit is that they require less space when stored. The disadvantages include a smaller carrying capacity when compared to cargo boxes. This means larger items may have trouble fitting such as a snowboard. Plus less protection due to the soft material, and reduced long-term life as these may be subject to degrading over time due to use and the elements.
One thing to note with any roof-style mounted case, box, or bag is to be aware of the height, especially with lifted vehicles. You may find yourself unable to park in your own garage. You’ll also need to avoid places with low clearances such as public parking garages.
For those with trucks and SUVs, a built-in drawer system is a semi-permanent/permanent solution that can provide protection, organization, and security for your gear. These systems are designed to be mounted directly to the vehicle. They can be made from various plastics, metal, and even wood – each with its own set of pros and cons. Companies such as Decked, ARB, Goose Gear, Truck Vault, and Front Runner Outfitters have options available for the more popular vehicle makes and models.
These are practical organizational and storage solutions for those who have the need to store gear in their vehicles at all times and avoid constant packing and unpacking. Think of these as a closet for your car, but they can hold everything from tools to outdoor gear, and even firearms. Since most of these secure directly to the vehicle and have locking drawers they provide not only protection from the elements, but also help prevent theft.
Most of these are strong enough to store items on top of. Many also have additional storage inserts such as bags and cases that fit conveniently in the drawers. For those looking for quick accessibility, organization, and semi-permanent storage this is a great option.
The downside to drawer systems is the large amount of space they require. Also due to the size, weight, and with proper installation they are not portable. Depending on the material they may or may not be easy to clean/wash as well. So in the event that something spills, leaks, or breaks it may be a headache to clean. For those who do not have a popular vehicle, then you may need to find a custom solution, build your own, or retrofit a universal option. These systems are also on the pricier side.
There’s a number of soft cases that have recently entered the market. Softshell cargo cases are typically constructed from weather-resistant material and have structure and plenty of organization, separating them from typical duffel bags. There are options from brands such as Thule, Step 22, Think Tank, and newcomer RUX. These are great for tools, camp gear, and more.
Soft cases provide the benefit of being lightweight, fairly affordable, and are extremely portable. These versatile options have diverse organizational solutions from zippered pockets to separate compartments and even interior padded divider systems. Their soft-sided construction makes them easy to store as well, with a couple of them also being able to pack practically flat. They can travel easily from the garage to the trunk to inside your tent – making for a go-anywhere solution.
The problem is that they don’t offer ultimate protection from the elements or drops, they may not nest or stack well, and they are limited to being used as storage. When traveling there’s a benefit to having items that can serve multiple purposes. For example, a hard case can become a seat or table in a pinch.
Cargo Cases / Boxes
A quality cargo case should be the foundation for any overlanding adventure. These cases come in various sizes and even materials ranging from hard plastics to aluminum. While not all cargo cases are made alike they all aim to provide ultimate protection from the elements, drops, and may even be fire-resistant. Although not recommended, many are airtight and can be submerged in water while keeping contents dry. The hard exterior design can mount on a roof rack, truck bed, and can often stack in the cargo area of a vehicle for organization and access. Brands such as Pelican, Roam, Yeti, Alubox, and the brand-new GOAT Box Co. offer good options.
The many benefits of this style of cargo solution have made these popular for overlanders for decades. Peace of mind protection is the main reason that this has become the choice for many travelers. The versatility to store on a roof whether through the desert, mountain trail, or even through a water crossing makes these a solid option. Some options can mount in other areas of vehicles such as truck beds or to other rack systems. Additionally, some hard cases have extra compartments for organization.
The cheaper, less durable hard cases – what you may find in Home Depot or use for storage at home – may save some money. But they don’t perform nearly as well as specialized cases. Long-term travel cases built to last are worth the investment. The problem with these cases is cost. They do not come cheap and some are a little heavier and take up more precious cargo space.
10 Great Storage Solutions for Overlanding
A staple in the overlanding community, the Front Runner Outfitters Wolf Pack can be found in many rigs and around campsites. I own multiple Wolf Packs as they are great not only to use while on the road but make a great storage bin for gear and supplies at home as they stack neatly on my garage shelves. Each one is labeled with its contents for quick and easy access, from camp cookware to recovery and medical gear.
Each is sized appropriately and the back of my SUV can stack a few next to my Dometic fridge. They are lightweight, portable, and have integrated grips. This makes them easy to move around and set on the ground while at camp. They lock tightly with latches to ensure the contents remain secure.
The Wolf Packs are durable and offer protection from the elements. However, there are air holes that would allow water, dirt, dust, and the occasional insect to enter if strapped on the roof, in an open bed of a vehicle, or while outdoors. Additionally, I wouldn’t use this as a step stool like a few of the other cases. The hard plastic isn’t strong enough to hold that much weight.
They work well with Front Runner’s system including the roof rack and tie-down rings, Stratchits, and interior Flat Pack padded storage inserts. One other benefit of their design is the ease of cleaning. You can simply hose it down and let it dry.
At around $40 these are a solid investment for a product that should last quite a while. And in the event of damage, it won’t break the bank to replace it.
The Pelican Cargo system is the latest product collection from the brand synonymous with protection. Cargo was designed with overlanders in mind. The collection includes eight various sized cases that are intended to offer protection and organization for all makes and models of vehicles.
The roto-molded construction provides protection from serious impact and from extreme weather conditions, while keeping the overall weight of each case low. The lids feature a rubber gasket to keep the elements out including dust. Each is unique and most of the cases have the ability to be attached to a roof rack, truck bed, or stored inside the cargo/trunk of a vehicle. Additionally, a few of the cases have integrated carry handles for easy movement.
What makes this system unique is the various mounting solutions available. These range from roof rack mounts that work well with many popular rack systems including the Front Runner roof rack, to various truck bed mounts for popular model trucks including the Tacoma and F-150. There are also tie-down points that can be used with straps. Each case is designed to be accessible even while mounted or tied down. This is one detail often overlooked and is extremely valuable to save time and effort when traveling.
I’ve had the chance to test out the BX140R and BX90R case. Both fit nicely on my Front Runner roof rack with the integrated roof mounts. These initially took about 30 minutes or so to install once I figured out how to properly align everything. But once installed the mounting brackets can safely stay attached to the rack even without the cargo case. Afterward, it takes about 5 minutes to install and uninstall the case. The case is lightweight enough for me to carry and install on the roof without any help, which is handy. This is key as I’m able to remove the cargo case at the campsite and hit the trails without it.
The BX140R comfortably fitted all of my camping gear. This included sleeping bags, chairs, a tent, and a duffel bag that held my boots and cold-weather apparel. I like the ability to lock each case with a separate padlock especially when leaving the vehicle parked somewhere overnight, which hopefully is enough of a deterrent for thieves. I did find the wind noise loud while driving at speed, but that can be expected with practically anything mounted outside of the vehicle. The ease and security to install make this my favorite rooftop rack storage solution.
Yeti, known for their coolers and drinkware, released their gear case last year to rave reviews. The GoBox is waterproof, dustproof, stackable, and stores gear conveniently in a durable all-in-one solution. What stands out is the interior organization accessories – divider, caddy, and pack attic, which comes included. The three large, removable zippered mesh pockets found on the lid can store items such as documents, utensils, smaller gear, etc., while the divider can keep things organized and separated. The caddy is a nice removable tray with three deep compartments that can further help with organization and ease to pack and unpack.
This versatile solution can be placed in the bed of a truck as easily as in a car trunk. There are no convenient carry handles, only small indentations where your fingers can fit while carrying. Slots molded into the sides fit a one-inch strap to lock the case down. I found the case latches secure and they snap easily into place to lock the box. The case is rigid and strong enough to stand on. It’s also airtight and will float if submerged into water.
While this case looks similar to their popular coolers, this is not a cooler. It’s lighter in weight than most similar-sized coolers. It’s available in three of their customer favorite colors including white, tan, and charcoal gray. This does not offer much in terms of internal protection. So avoid items such as camera gear unless you have another padded system. The price can be considered steep at $250. But much like Yeti’s other products, this is built tough and should last many years.
Roam Adventure Co. was created with the outdoors and overlanding in mind. They create adventure equipment to improve the outdoor lifestyle and inspire exploration. So it’s natural that their line of rugged cases checks all of the boxes for a solid overland storage solution. The case is constructed with a durable LLDPE shell, Nylon rope handles, steel lockable latches, and a dust/waterproof gasket to protect the contents from the elements. They are also designed to stack.
I have the 52L Rugged Case, which is the smallest available. The largest is the massive 160L Rugged Case with four other sizes available in between. A few of the cases have gas struts that help with keeping the lid open and in place. Optional MOLLE panel lid inserts are available as well for extra organization.
I found the 52L size ample for the majority of my camping gear and placed a few electronics in there as well including a portable battery pack, communication devices, and lantern. One thing to note is that the case is a bit bulkier than others in the same size range due to the thick plastic construction. The 52L does not have gas struts, but I haven’t had the need to keep the lid open and typically want to close and shut my cases, as a force of habit from years of shooting photos to avoid contents spilling out. As a nice touch, a convenient bottle opener is integrated into the lid design. These latches are very easy to use and simply flip up and snap down to secure. They are also lockable for extra security.
The carry handles are effective and make the cases highly portable. You can use them to lash the case down also to keep the lid accessible, say on a roof rack. But a more secure way in my opinion would require straps over the top within the tie-down channels, which essentially hinders access to the contents of the case. Or as many people have done, you can drill holes to mount directly to the roof rack. One last feature which I appreciate is the drain plug. This makes it very easy to clean and empty the water afterward.
These cases are solid and provide many different options. The price point is towards the higher end, but again this is an investment for something that should last for years and many trips to come.
GOAT is the latest company to launch with a focus on outdoor adventures. While not a typical cargo case, the Hub 70 is a hybrid worth mentioning for its extremely unique design and function. The Hub 70 features heavy-duty roto-molded construction and many upgraded features found on high-end coolers, from the NeverLost drain plug to the bear-proof locking. The feature that stands out the most is the design that integrates four GOAT storage turrets that hold four removable CANs, which are included. There is also a front-facing cargo net to hold and stash gear on the go such as a lighter, bottle opener, flashlight, etc.
When I first saw the GOAT Hub 70 I was immediately intrigued. It’s a solution for those looking for an all-in-one system. The CAN’s dimensions (L x W x H) are 5.5 x 4.6 x 14.75 inches and it stores various items from eating utensils to dry food. It’s made with a BPA-free Tritan Copolyester body that is durable and water-resistant to keep out water, dust, etc. The glass-filled lid has a nice grab handle for ergonomic carry and is easy to place into the Hub 70 and remove when needed. This makes for a great picnic or tailgate companion without the need for several things to carry. I’ve only had the chance to use this system once but appreciated the convenience of having things all in one place.
What I’m excited about with the CAN system is the separate “RACK” that GOAT offers. The RACK can hold eight CANs and can be stacked and connected with more RACKs to create a central hub. I see this living in the tailgate or interior of a vehicle as easily as in the garage for easy access to tools and other items.
This is definitely not a cheap solution at $500, which includes 4 CANs. It’s also pretty massive and heavy. Although the carry handles make it a bit easier than typical handles, when loaded it’s tough to move. The cooler works very well and the CAN system is intriguing if you can find a use for it.
The Front Runner Drawer Kit is available for a handful of popular overlanding vehicles including the Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Land Cruiser, and the Ford Ranger truck. Universal systems are also available in various sizes. While the size and number of drawers may vary depending on the system, each Drawer Kit includes a locking drawer(s), tie-down rails, tie-down rings, a deck and face completion kit, brackets, and all the necessary hardware to properly install the system. The steel kit is built tough in a black powder-coated finish on the drawer bins and frame. The Top Deck and Deck Set use laminated plywood with carpet.
These drawers are extremely handy for keeping items organized, accessible, and secure. I’ve had the chance to now try them out from both the bed of a Tacoma and the back of a Jeep Wrangler. They are surprisingly deep and can hold a ton of gear. Items such as a camp stove, propane, and camp chairs fit nicely into the drawers as do heavier items such as tools. They also are strong enough to hold items on the top deck such as a fridge. These also provide the option to place packed smaller boxes or packs inside the drawer. I would store my backpack with camera and laptop and lock it before leaving the vehicle.
These systems are on the pricier side of things and are semi-permanent. But they offer a lot of storage, organization, and security while traveling. For those with trucks and SUVs, this is definitely something to consider. It’s a great solution for those who want to keep items in their vehicles at all times for easy access without the need to constantly pack and unpack the vehicle.
The Thule Force XT is a versatile, roof-mounted cargo box. It suits everyday use as well as extended travel. It features a quick-mount system without the need for any tools. A DualSide opening allows for easy access on either side of the vehicle. The design also allows for full trunk/cargo area access due to the forward positioning on the vehicle’s roof. Their LockKnob system prevents damage to the Thule Comfort Key. There are four sizes available for practically any vehicle.
With 18 cu ft of cargo volume, this cargo box can fit an array of gear from luggage to outdoor gear including up to five snowboards. I found the design to be aerodynamic and with less wind noise than other cargo boxes tested in the past. The lid opens smoothly and provides an ample amount of space to fit items into the cargo box. The box itself isn’t incredibly heavy at 47 pounds. But it’s quite large with external dimensions of 82.75 x 33.75 x 17.25 in, so it may take two people to place on and off a roof. The exterior plastic is quite strong and durable. Despite driving through dusty trails and a rainstorm the contents remained clean and dry.
Priced from $549.95 to $699.95, it’s not the cheapest option. But it’s definitely one to consider if you’re looking for the most storage possible that is easy to use, durable, and with options available for most vehicles.
Think Tank, one of the world’s best camera bag companies, recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for this new Freeway Longhaul travel gear hauler. As one of the only soft-sided gear bags tested, this was surprisingly convenient and functional. Designed much like a standard duffel bag, the bag features a few different ways to carry including a padded shoulder strap, grab handles, and duffel handles, making it very versatile and portable. Constructed from a durable exterior 420D high-density nylon and ripstop material with a DWR coating and a water-resistant bottom, the bag offers some protection. The exterior pockets allow you to store gear for easy access, while the large cargo case with customizable divider system provides the ability to organize the interior compartment. The bag is available in two sizes, 50L and 75L.
I’ve used the 50L for a few trips and found it had ample storage capacity. It is quite large when fully stocked with supplies, camp gear, and dry food. As it has very minimal padding for protection, it is more of a convenient organizer. I used the exterior pockets to hold items that I wanted quick access to while camping including a flashlight, trash bags, gloves, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. The zippered main compartment opens wide and provides great visibility into the interior to easily locate contents, which I used for camping and cooking gear. The other various YKK-zippered pockets helped to further organize items. For shorter trips and most trips, I would suggest the 50L version. The 75L would be very large and would require a lot of cargo space. I found the grab handles strong, made from nylon webbing, and easy to carry.
If you’re looking for more protection, durability, and stackability or plan to haul somewhere other than within a trunk space, SUV’s cargo area, or outside of the interior of a vehicle, then this may not be the best solution. However, if you’re looking for an affordable and versatile bag that will help organize your belongings and can double as a travel duffel that is easy to store, then this is worth considering.
Step 22 is a company that lives and breathes the outdoors and has immersed themselves into overlanding and exploring. The Stingray Flat Box is one of their more popular products and for good reason. The box is built from durable nylon with a water-repellent coating. YKK zippers with tactical paracord zipper pulls make the compartment easy to access. Each panel provides a bit of protection with foam and PE board construction. The interior includes a removable center divider that organizes items and keeps things in their place. Each Stingray includes two Easy Write customizable content patches to label the contents. The capacity is 21.1L.
This lightweight, durable, and extremely portable soft case is one of my favorite options for several reasons. The size is just right at 17 x 12 x 7.5 inches when built. But the beauty is that it can also be folded flat when not in use for optimal storage. Step 22 didn’t skimp on ways to carry the box either. Four grab handles located on four of the six sides offer grab-and-go portability. I appreciate the Velcro leather patch labels as a nice touch. These can be removed and replaced depending on the loadout. They nest well together in a vehicle or stored on a garage shelf. My goal is to add a couple more of these to the collection.
While these don’t provide ultimate protection, they do offer padding to help protect the contents, while the case has structure to it to retain its shape. It’s a very versatile and portable option that can be used for various gear, tools, and food. The size makes it great to keep inside a vehicle or paired with a hard case or drawer system. At $85, the price itself isn’t expensive, but it’s also not the cheapest. Is it worth the investment? Absolutely.
The latest newcomer to the overlanding carry world is RUX. Their unique solution was funded via crowdfunding in minutes. The clever all-in-one design works similar to a tote bag but works like a carrying case. Constructed from a TPU coated nylon, the exterior is weather-resistant, washes easily, and packs flat when not in use. A clear window allows for quick visibility of the interior contents. A compressed EVA foam lid provides easy access, is removable, and has a secure closure. Dual nylon webbing straps are removable and can be adjusted to provide various ways of carrying including as a tote, shoulder bag, or even as a backpack. Another unique feature is the utility rims and rails that help to maintain the cube shape, along with the ability to slide into garage shelving slats and it’s lashable for racks and rail mounting.
This is a very interesting addition to the overland and outdoor carry collection. While I haven’t had the chance to see or test this in person it was worth including as a new solution for traveling. With the ability to pack flat this has a ton of potential for beach trips, road trips, and even short trips to the grocery store. The RUX 70L isn’t cheap. It retails at $265, but is listed for $212 on their site at the time of writing. It will be available in June of this year.