The Best Van Cargo Carriers & Their Benefits for Van Life

GearDeck Cargo Carrier on Sprinter RV Van

Embracing the van life means blending mobility with comfort, and one of the biggest challenges is managing storage space without compromising the livability of your mobile home. Van cargo carriers are ingenious solutions that expand your storage capabilities, allowing you to carry more, live clutter-free, and secure your belongings while on the move. Whether you're a weekend warrior or a full-time nomad, understanding the different types of cargo carriers and choosing the best one can significantly enhance your van life experience. In this guide, we'll explore what van cargo carriers are, their advantages, the various types available, and how to select the best one for your adventures on the road.

What is a Van Cargo Carrier?

A van cargo carrier is an essential accessory for anyone embracing the van life. These devices are designed to increase the storage capacity of your van, allowing you to carry more items without cluttering your living space. They come in various forms and functionality, big or small, open or closed, each suited to different needs and types of cargo, transforming a simple van into a versatile mobile home. 

 

GearSpace Cargo Carrier on Eurovan

 

The Benefits of Van Cargo Carriers for Van Lifers

Enhanced Storage Capacity

The primary function of cargo carriers is to add storage space. Whether you're living on the road or planning a weekend getaway, these carriers ensure that you can bring along everything you need without compromising the comfort of your van's interior.

Improved Organization

By providing more space for cargo bins and other organizational tools, cargo carriers help keep your belongings neatly arranged and easily accessible. This organization is crucial in maintaining a stress-free living environment where packing and unpacking is easy. 

Increased Mobility

Using a cargo carrier means you can avoid moving to a larger RV or hauling a trailer. Most rear carriers still allow your van to fit in standard parking spaces, making it easier to travel and camp in urban areas or popular tourist destinations.

Security

For those who spend a lot of time in nature or park overnight in remote areas, security becomes paramount. Enclosed carriers are lockable, safeguarding your more expensive belongings from theft. 

 

GearCage Hitch Rack Studio
GearSpace Cargo Carrier Studio

Hitch Racks

Enclosed Cargo Carriers

Material Metal  Plastic 
Design Open rail Enclosed box
Capacity Open for odd or large-sized items Fixed Interiors Size
Security Less secure, easy to access for both the vehicle owner and others. Lockable, high security
Weather Protection Minimal High, fully protected
Accessibility Immediate access Needs opening, may require unloading

 

Different Types of Van Cargo Carriers

Before delving into the specifics of each type of van cargo carrier, it's crucial to understand the primary categories available to van lifers. Depending on your travel needs, the nature of your cargo, and the configuration of your van, you might find one type more suitable than another. From hitch racks that are perfect for bulky items and frequent access, to rooftop carriers that maximize space without altering the vehicle's footprint, each type has its unique set of advantages. Let's explore these options to help you make an informed decision about which carrier fits your lifestyle best.

 

Hitch Rack on RV Van with Trike

Hitch Racks

  • Overview: Open rail hitch racks attach to the rear hitch of your van, offering a versatile solution for carrying bikes, extra luggage, and even bulky items.
  • Benefits for Van Lifers: Hitch rack carriers feature a straight-forward design that makes them lightweight and easy to install, offering quick access to your gear.

 

Cargo Box on Sprinter Van

Enclosed Cargo Carriers

  • Overview: These are box-like structures typically made from tough polyethylene and polypropylene plastics that mount on the van’s hitch, providing protected storage space, shielded from the elements, out of sight from prying eyes and locked away from thieving hands.
  • Benefits for Van Lifers: These storage pods protect sensitive equipment or belongings from weather, road grime, and theft essential for those carrying expensive bikes, electronics or other sensitive items.

 

Rooftop Carriers

  • Overview: Available as bags, baskets, or enclosed boxes, rooftop cargo carriers attach to the roof of the van, offering additional storage space up on the roof of the vehicle.
  • Benefits for Van Lifers: They increase the vehicle’s storage capacity when rear vehicle carriers are not possible.
  • Cons for Van Lifers: While they provide versatile storage options, rooftop carriers significantly reduce fuel efficiency due to increased air resistance and are difficult for travelers with mobility issues to access. Putting the carrier on the roof not only makes it harder to access your gear but can also limit your access into garages and areas with low ceilings. For these reasons and others, Let's Go Aero doesn't manufacture rooftop carriers.

 

GearDeck Enclosed Cargo Carrier on Sprinter Van
Enclosed Cargo Carrier on Coachman Van
BlackBox Cargo Carrier on Sprinter Van

How to Choose the Best Van Cargo Carrier for Your Needs

  • Type of Gear: Consider what you’ll be carrying most often—bikes, outdoor gear, electronic equipment, etc. Sensitive and expensive equipment like electronics and bikes are typically best locked within the security of an enclosed carrier, while messy and less often stolen gear like firewood and coolers are great for open hitch racks.
  • Type of Vehicle: Not all cargo carriers are made for every vehicle and not all hitch receivers can handle any carrier. Always check your vehicle hitch receivers rating to confirm your weight capacity and abilities and find a carrier that fits within those boundaries. While this article is for Van Lifers, much of this information remains the same for RV owners so its important to note for readers that not all carriers are rated for use on Travel Trailers
  • Accessibility: Determine how frequently you’ll need to access the items. If regular access is needed, choose carriers that are easy to reach and operate. 
  • Security: Evaluate the need for access against theft or environmental conditions, especially if you travel through diverse climates or leave your van unattended. Don't take the chance, always lock up anything you would miss in an enclosed carrier. 
  • Budget: Balance your budget with the quality and features you need. It's often worth investing more for durability, safety and ease of use. Choosing a low quality carrier not suited for the weight and shape of your gear can lead to costly damages to both your gear and other vehicles when the carrier fails.

To assist you in selecting the perfect van cargo carrier, we've created a comparison table that details key specifications and features of Let's Go Aero Carriers.

 Let's Go Aero Van Rated Cargo Carriers

Specification

GearSpace

GearDeck

BlackBox PRO

GearCage T6

Capacity 34 cu. ft. 17 cu. ft. 64 cu. ft. 72”L x 32”W x 7”H Open Interior
Gross Weight Capacity 500 lbs 500 lbs 500 lbs 300 lbs
Carrier Weight 150 lbs 80 lbs 180 lbs 90 lbs
Hitch Rating Class II+, 2in Hitch Receiver Class I+, 2in Hitch Receiver Class III+, 2in Hitch Receiver Class II minimum, 2in Hitch Receiver
Vehicle Compatibility Motorized Vehicle & RV Trailer Approved Motorized Vehicle & RV Trailer Approved Motorized Vehicle & RV Trailer Approved Motorized vehicles only
Hitch Rise 5 in 5 in 5 in 5 in
Slide-out Clearance 32 in 34 in 28 in N/A
Locks Includes Capsule Locks Lockable (locks not included) Includes Capsule Locks N/A
Shop Now Shop Now Shop Now Shop Now

 

Visit our RV/Van Life section on our website to find the best cargo carriers and other van life gear. Still not sure which type of carrier is best? Contact Let's Go Aero, and we're happy to help guide you through the selection process, ensuring you find the perfect match for your van life adventures.

 


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About the Author

Amanda Kennedy

Camping Enthusiast & Product Tester

Amanda Kennedy is an avid camper and captivating storyteller. Whether exploring new trails or writing about them, Amanda brings adventure and inspiration to every aspect of life.