Cheapest way to drive an 8x4x1' package from LA to Burningman?
July 16, 2014 1:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning on building a Hexayurt and driving it to Burningman and back. I'm told that Hexayurts fold up into a package that's approximately 8x4x1' large. Unfortunately, my car is a 2002 Toyota Camry LE without a roof rack (and without rain gutters, so roof racks are challenging/expensive to install). What's my cheapest option that's still safe for a 1300 mile car trip?

I'm willing to DIY something if it doesn't take forever, but I don't want anything falling off of my roof and killing someone on a freeway. I'm taking 2 other people and all of our luggage/supplies, so I suspect the trunk is going to be fairly full. It appears professional roof racks are ~$350-500, and I'm seeing a few that might fit on craigslist for $270.
posted by sdis to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I *am* seeing some odd options on Are these things death traps? Would they fit my car? $50 sounds a lot better than $500..
posted by sdis at 1:10 PM on July 16, 2014

How concerned are you about damage to the car?

You can use straps and ratchets to strap something to the roof of a car without a roof rack, by running the straps inside the car. You strap the object with the doors open and then you close the doors on the straps. They need to be quite snug and if you drive through a heavy rainstorm they might admit water into the cabin, but should otherwise do the trick.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:12 PM on July 16, 2014

3 people & all your stuff in a camry, plus a yurt... you guys gonna have room for water too?
since you're in LA, I might look into the LA Burners group on Facebook and ask if anybody has space to buy in a shipping container or truck. they might be able to drop off your yurt at your camp.
posted by changeling at 1:16 PM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: @Kadin: The car's in pretty good shape and I'd rather avoid damage. Do straps do damage to the door insulation? I'm noticing some really simple rubber-footed-plus-straps car racks over here (Same company that Walmart is selling, above).
posted by sdis at 1:16 PM on July 16, 2014

Response by poster: @Changeling: I'll ask. I want to get the yurt back to LA in the end, but I suppose if someone's driving from LA, they'll be driving back, too.
posted by sdis at 1:19 PM on July 16, 2014

i'd go to an "A+ Boat and upholstery foam!" type place and ask for whatever ugly/damaged scraps they have of closed cell foam. This will be REALLY cheap(like, $10). Throw that on your roof, then get some of these and strap it down in an X pattern ahead of, and behind the doors so you can still get in and out. Go ahead and buy like 2 packs.

Secure with further rope if needed. Use good rope, not crappy fat twine looking stuff.

My dad is like, a goddamn jedi at tying things to cars like this. His poor old subaru(with it's stock, flimsy roof rack) has had the equivalent of like 5 of these on it before. But we've also strapped stuff to my rackless car, and many other vehicles in ways similar to what i'm describing.

This is the kind of thing you check every time you stop for gas/pee/food/etc, but it's not unsafe. And honestly, you should regularly be checking anything attached to the outside of your vehicle like this regardless of whether there's a rack or how it's secured.

I would not spend $300 on a solution to this. Spend that $300 on something interesting you'll enjoy while you're there.
posted by emptythought at 1:42 PM on July 16, 2014

Do you already have a trailer hitch?
posted by Lyn Never at 1:49 PM on July 16, 2014

I agree with and endorse the use of ratchet straps. I'm not much of a knotsman so these are crucial for me, and I recently used some to make a mattress beg for mercy. It didn't move so much as a millimeter at 80mph.
posted by ftm at 1:50 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I *am* seeing some odd options on Are these things death traps? Would they fit my car? $50 sounds a lot better than $500..
posted by sdis at 4:10 PM on July 16 [+] [!]

NO! those are designed for a car with a roof rack.

Purchase some 2" 20 to 25 ft ratcheting cargo straps and do what kadin2048 suggests. You can buy a few moving pads from the local U-Haul.
posted by Gungho at 1:52 PM on July 16, 2014

I've used roof bags before with the straps that go into the car cabin. They are totally annoying (and I think not safe in the case of a crash) since the strap is right around head level for the driver.

It drives me crazy just going an hour, I couldn't imagine going 1300 miles w/ one.

Caused some slight scratching on my roof but that's okay for me.

posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:19 PM on July 16, 2014

I think you will find that the rear seat folds down. There's a release visible when you open the trunk. One seat will fold, the yurt will fit into and ride over you shoulder and there will be seating for 3. Enjoy the journey, just don't look over your shoulder.
posted by ptm at 2:33 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your 'odd options' link looks like something that would work just fine. It's rubber feet + crossbars that attach via a strap through the inside of your car.
posted by wrok at 4:01 PM on July 16, 2014

I'd also use ratchet straps. But I'd also get some thin sheets of plywood and sandwich the yurt between them, so you can crank the ratchet straps down tighter without damaging the foam. Also wrap the whole thing in a tarp before strapping it down. That'll keep bits from flapping around in the window.

Here is someone doing something similar with a Prius - which also has no roof rack. They've put a blanket between the Hexayurt and the car to prevent scratching. That blanket is also closed in the doors which should help protect any insulation or seals or whatever from the straps.

The roof of the Prius is longer than that of the Camry, so you might also want to tie a rope down under the front and rear bumpers for added stability, like so.
posted by aubilenon at 4:07 PM on July 16, 2014

How heavy is the yurt? Car roofs have weight limits, as do the various racks and straps people are suggesting.

If I'm reading the burning man version assembly instructions correctly, it's about 100 pounds and made partly out of foam insulation panels, yes? That means that cranking down too hard on straps will do bad things to it, and it will self destruct on the highway if the tarp comes loose. Uplift at speed will be a serious concern, as will the question of how to transport it home if it gets damaged at BM. The assembly page discusses transportation, so I assume you've looked at that already?

Honestly the smart approach would be to rent or borrow a cargo van, minivan, or pickup truck and transport it in a safer and easier way. There's no way that package will fit inside a sedan with half of the backseat folded down, by the way -- that would work for a couple of snowboards but not for full 4x8 sheets. A trailer would also work well if your car can tow it.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:57 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Strapping this 'wing' on top of your small car for 1300 miles sounds like a deathwish.
Have you checked into renting a small open utility trailer (uhaul has several sizes)? Just a few hundred bucks. You'd need a hitch but sounds like that may come in handy later to move other items.
posted by artdrectr at 5:15 PM on July 16, 2014

If you have a Harbor Freight near by you could check out their 4x8 folding trailer ( They frequently go on sale for less than $300. You could sell it when you return for probably close to what you buy it for. It does have to be assembled. You would want to get some plywood to act as a deck.

I doubt your Camry has a towing capacity, but I almost guarantee a small light trailer would be safer than strapping your yurt to the top of your car. It would also be easier to load and unload. Just don't plan on cruising at 80 mph the whole way, and make sure the wheel bearings on the trailer are greased well.
posted by ohjonboy at 7:02 AM on July 17, 2014

You can rent space on the Truck L.A. -> Playa. Extremely reliable, trustworthy, and run by longtime Burners and friends.
posted by mykescipark at 12:11 PM on July 21, 2014

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