How do we fit all this stuff in a Hyundai?
October 28, 2009 11:17 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to carry cargo on extended road trip with a mid-size SUV?

We are going for an extended road trip (>6 months) and are taking all essential possessions needed to work, live, and play on the road. We will need to take clothes, camping gear, personal stuff, computers, portable bikes -- about 70 cubic feet of stuff, we estimate. We also need the cargo secured when we can't take it all indoors (hotels, for instance).

Our ride is a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe with two passengers. The initial idea was to just pull a small cargo trailer, but is there any other combination of roof racks / trunk racks that would maximize our rolling storage capacity?
posted by RobotVoodooPower to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
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Excellent, dude.
posted by at the crossroads at 11:44 PM on October 28, 2009

A few ways to go:

1) This page says your vehicle has 77+ cu ft of cargo volume with the seats down. Is there some reason you don't want this inside your vehicle? Or does two passengers mean three people total?

As far as security goes get your windows deep tinted so people can't look in (helps provide a tiny bit of resistance to someone breaking a window too.) A bulkhead behind the front seats would help prevent you getting creamed by your stuff in an accident. It doesn't have to be fancy, a sheet of 3/4" plywood cut to a semi form fitting shape would work. One of those pet barricades would be better than nothing. Storing your more valuable valuables in something like Action Packers that can be locked to the child seat restraint loops with bike cable would prevent smash and grabs of those items.

The biggest risk is someone stealing your whole vehicle so never leave anything like money or your id/passports in the car.

2) You could pull a small travel trailer. Could be considered kind of pricey but you can recover much of the initial outlay by selling it at the end of your trip. Tent trailers can be had pretty cheap this time of the year. Watch out for bad brakes, tires, and wiring on used trailer and make sure you account for those costs if they need work.

3) A receiver mounted cargo box gives you about 15-20 cu ft add to your 30 cu ft internal cargo storage with the seats up. That'd mean 20 cubic feet on the roof. This one is 34 cu ft. Might save putting anything on the roof if you hauled your bike on a piggy back rack which holds your cargo box in the top hole and a bike rack on a long drawbar in the bottom hole. Or get something like this and have a custom box made out of 1/2" ply to your specifications. Watch your reciever weight. Class III receivers are only rated to 500lbs.

Personally I'd avoid putting things on the roof that you'll need on a regular basis. Access is a real pain.

One thing to watch is your GVW. Those little sport utilities don't really have much room for excess. In your case your GVW is around 5000 lbs over a curb weight of 3700 (check your owner's manual/door sticker it vary depending on trim and 2wd vs 4wd). You can easily go over your legal weight before hitting your volume limits. Your trailer limit is a healthier 2800 pounds but I wouldn't be wanting to pull that much without trailer brakes.
posted by Mitheral at 1:13 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

My sister and partner love their rooftop carrier. Here is a link to some suitable for your car.
posted by Kerasia at 1:36 AM on October 29, 2009

We have a Yakima car top carrier for our Acura MDX that we got for a great price because it was being discontinued. It is huge and has been on several trips, mainly to the beach but also GA to ME and GA to Chigcago without any problems. We did not put our most valuable items (such as my camera gear) in it but it seemed secure and we had no problems. Although access was more difficult than getting stuff out of the car it was only a minor issue. One thing to look for if you go this route is to get a quick-release mounting system of some sort and get a carrier that opens from both sides. Both those features seem pretty standard on higher-end models from Thule and Yakima, but cheaper rooftop carriers may not have them. Ideally try to get a good look at them before you buy so you can get an idea of how easy mounting and access are and what can fit in them based on their shape. Finally, the more expensive models are more aerodynamic and you will take less of a hit on your mileage; our box is a gigantic one and takes about 1-2 mpg off our mileage. Not an big issue over a week or two but could add up over 6 months. A trailer, of course, will also decrease your mileage but I don't know by how much.
posted by TedW at 5:35 AM on October 29, 2009

A small trailer is probably the most secure and easiest way to carry stuff. Your gas mileage takes a hit with roof racks/cartop carriers, not quite so much with a trailer. I like the idea of pulling a small teardrop trailer. Provides a lot of secure storage space and if the weather is particularly nasty it's better than a tent. My dad built one recently and it worked out really well for them.
posted by electroboy at 6:59 AM on October 29, 2009

My experience with rooftop carriers is that they utterly KILL your gas milage. If you can fit everything into the vehicle, then you should. The exception to this would be the bicycles, which you should be able to get a roof or rear exterior mount to carry without having to look very hard. They can easily be taken into hotel rooms if you cannot easily lock them to the rack / vehicle itself.

Personally, I wouldn't go on a 6 month trip hauling even a small trailer. They reduce your driving speed, require you to pay much attention whilst on the road, create hassles regarding parking and maneuvering, and are generally not that useful, especially when it sounds like you can get everything into your vehicle itself with some creativity and perseverance.

(This is where all those games of Tetris you played when you were younger come in handy!)

One thing you really may want to do is take a good, hard look at everything you're wanting to take with you, and trying to eliminate, say, 20% of it. It sounds ridiculous, but I find I much more often return from trips having never used stuff than I go on trips and discover that I don't have something that I really need.
posted by hippybear at 9:38 AM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Personally, I think 20% is a really conservative reduction number from 70 cu. ft. - I'd aim for 50%, bare minimum.Rent things like bicycles where you want them. You'll save more in gas and hassle than you'd spend renting them.
Take less clothes. You won't have to haul the washing machine around with you - Or if you're really having fun, you can drop the family laundry off at any of millions of laundromats, spend the day siteseeing, and pick it up on your way home, freshly washed at $.10/lb Rick Steves can get you started on that.
You're going on an adventure - Pack more like Indiana Jones, not the Griswalds. If you really can't live without something, you can buy one with some of the money you're saving on gas.
posted by Orb2069 at 10:08 AM on October 29, 2009

One little reminder about packing: If something might look interesting to a thief, such as a laptop bag, a shiny metal case that looks like it's carrying something expensive, etc., make sure you pack it well out of sight, even if it's something you'll need. Thefts tend to be crimes of opportunity, especially out on the road, and if a baddie breaks into your car, he usually isn't doing it so that he can root through just in case there's something he wants - it's because he sees something worth the risk. Make your cargo look boring so that they'll look for easier targets. Also, as for a trailer, they get broken into a lot as well, since it's easy and quiet to cut a lock. Keep safety and security in mind when you pack, no matter how you end up setting up for the trip.
posted by azpenguin at 10:32 AM on October 29, 2009

Bicycles can be mounted on a bike rack, which would greatly reduce cu. ft. used. I'd get a bunch of duffel-type bags, and stack them like logs; different colors would make it easier to find stuff. You can often find cheap ziptop flight bags at goodwill, and they don't look appetizing to passers-by. Pare belongings ruthlessly. if you're undecided about something, leave it with a trusted friend, who can ship it to your next destination, if you find you need it. Sounds like fun.
posted by theora55 at 12:43 PM on October 29, 2009

Thanks for the links and suggestions, fellas. We are trying to keep the interior of the vehicle relatively clear for safety and visibility reasons -- we also might want to sleep there occasionally.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:12 PM on October 29, 2009

We'll come back when we get our gear and let you know what happened! :)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:50 PM on October 29, 2009

In case ya wanted to know .. We went with a Thule 16 ft^3 carrier. Our roof and factory rails are only rated at 75 lbs so it was the lightest for its size.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:20 PM on November 6, 2009

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