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Stef mentioned that we’d be occasionally be sharing some of our answers to common reader questions. This week, I thought I’d take a shot at it with a question that I get pretty frequently. (Note: emails have been slightly edited for privacy…) This answer is mostly just my opinion, so hopefully, others will chime in with their opinions and experiences down below in the comments.
My wife and I have learned so much from Stef and you. I think I recall you mentioning that Stef was starting to get into SUP’ing. We are finalizing an RV decision, and the Travato 59K might fit the bill. However, we would love to have Noah’s ark go with us so to speak :-). Actually, I dream about carrying 2 bikes, 2 kayak’s and 2 SUP boards (for us the bikes would be inexpensive so not concerned with putting them inside the RV).
So maybe we could put the 2 kayaks on the rack on the roof, the 2 bikes in the rack on back and I guess we would have no choice but to put the 2 SUPs inside the RV, which on the 59K would eat up the floor space and walkway to the bathroom in the back. Then we would worry about what to do with this stuff if we were boondocking and wanted to take the RV to go grocery shopping or something.
I found some innovative looking trailer racks online: https://www.google.com/search?q=RV+Kayak+Rack
One of the options has the 2 bikes in the middle section, then the 2 kayaks next to them and then the 2 SUPs on the outer portion. However, I think you have said that putting bikes, and stuff like this on the trailer hitch might be bad for the RV hitch? Also, this does not help with the security aspect of leaving these items at the campsite. So I guess we would have to carry the equipment with us wherever we go or take a chance and try to somehow lock them to a tree at the campsite or something? Last option is to purchase the lightest and smallest of trailer campers that can somehow fit 11-12 foot long kayaks and SUPs inside so we can leave the trailer locked up at the site…..but that kind of defeats the whole purpose of traveling easy with a class B (which I guess means the true last option is decide to not have all that stuff with us…..but what a dream that would be to be able to camp next to those clear mountain lakes in places near Bend Oregon or Idaho and choose a morning bike ride followed by either a SUP ride or a kayak ride).
Determined to die with the most toys
Dear Determined –
Stef likes SUPs, but we don’t have any ourselves yet. Even if we did, it would be the kind of thing where we’d just decide to take either the SUPs or the kayaks, or one of each, and just go with it. Barring that, honestly, I’d get a trailer.
Here are my thoughts on this:
- With a class B, there’s really not very much to “setting up camp”, at least, not for us. Everyone is different, but typically, the main selling point of a class B is to be nimble, and that doesn’t lend itself to staying in one place for very long. If you wanted to go someplace, set up camp, and take a vehicle occasionally to run to town while leaving camp intact, a travel trailer is honestly better suited to that. When you take a Travato into town, you are, by definition, breaking camp. In practical terms, it would actually seem easier to me to just secure one cargo trailer with things inside instead of locking up SUPs, locking up kayaks, locking up bikes, locking down patio furniture, etc. This is just my opinion though, you have to figure out what makes sense to you.
- Sometimes (usually on travel trailers and Class Cs) you will see someone mount a receiver directly onto the rear bumper – and then load up the receiver with a heavy rack. That can torque the bumper right off the vehicle because it’s not designed for that. I’ve shared pictures of that before. But mounting a rack on a properly designed receiver that’s securely attached to the frame would be different, and better. You have to be sure not to exceed the tongue rating of the hitch, but beyond that, there shouldn’t be the risk of damage to the vehicle.
- Even if it works, I’m not really a fan of carrying bikes on hitch mount racks because they can bounce around a lot and kick road grime onto your bike. (But I’m probably biased due to my expensive taste in bikes…) If you mounted a hitch mounted rack onto the Travato, it would probably be safe. I can’t say how the boats and SUPs would fare as I’ve never done it.
- The maximum number of Recreational Vehicles we’ve brought in our Recreational Vehicle is four. (Is that RV squared?) Two expensive bikes inside, and two mountain bikes outside. There have been times though, where I wanted to take just one more bike (my time trial bike). At that point, we’re sort of our own bike team anyway, and I really should be putting them in a trailer.
- A number of people with Class B RVs attach a StowAway cargo carrier to their rear receiver. You obviously wouldn’t carry bikes in there (although there are other products like it that will carry bikes). This is something I’ve honestly never even considered, and the reason why gets back to the “nimble” thing. Adding those few feet to the back of a Class B will likely push you out of a standard parking space. But more than that, when backing up, I’d be terrified that I would crunch the trunk into something and damage whatever I had back there. Others seem to use these without incident, so perhaps it’s all in my head.
- As you can probably tell from the design of our own RV, I’m not a fan of storing things inside unless you can use all the RV facilities with them in there. So for us, storing or transporting Kayaks or SUPs inside the RV wouldn’t be an option. I just know that if I did it, and thought “the only way this will be a problem is if we urgently need to use the bathroom while we don’t have battery power in a bad neighborhood where we can’t take something out of the rear doors because it’s raining”… that’s exactly what would happen.
I have seriously thought about getting an enclosed trailer for our Travato. (It would have to be a yellow one.) There are occasions where it might be really handy. But then I always come back to wanting to be able to park anywhere and I talk myself out of it. But honestly, an enclosed trailer would be my preference of all the options I’ve kicked about. Best protection for everything. And you’ll never forget it’s there and accidentally back it into something.
This probably didn’t help you make any decisions, but those are my thoughts.
Hi James and Stef,
My wife and I are looking at a Travato NP edition. We were told the Travato comes with a tire repair kit, no spare. This concerns me as most of our destinations are on gravel roads with no cell service. We also carry bicycles. Looking at photos of Lance it appears your Fiamma rack mounts several inches higher than the Winnebago option. I was thinking about the Fiamma bike carrier and an Aluminess swing away spare tire carrier. The dealer told me the Fiamma rack couldn’t be used due to lack of reinforcing in the door. Did you make any modifications to the door? Other thoughts?
Lance came from Winnebago with the Fiamma rack… as did all Travato a few years ago.
So clearly it’s possible.
There is reinforcement in the door of Lance. All you need to do is back up the sheet metal of the door with something. It’s not that hard.
To put it bluntly, your dealer either has no clue what they’re talking about, or they’re just lazy.
You should find a new dealer who doesn’t lie.
James, There has been much discussion on the Travato Owners and Wannabees group regarding the WGO/CURT hitch mounting points flexing and fatiguing the frame. There have been many modifications to reinforce the hitch. I have a 2019KL and measured the deflection with a dial gauge indicator at +/- 0.01 mm to establish a baseline to see if it gets worse over time. Now that you have Lance and Parky it would be an ideal test to compare the hitch deflection to see if Lance is starting to show signs of metal fatigue. Reference my comments in a Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travatoowners/permalink/1136226603225305/
Well, before we started towing a trailer, I had the hitch reinforced at a local hitch shop. I’d be extremely surprised if there’s any movement there at all, considering the chunks of steel he welded on.
It’s been my understanding that the problems with the Curt hitch have been more related to creating a moment around the hitch (from a bike rack, or one of those stow-away boxes) than from the linear pulling forces the hitch was designed for. Even so, I wasn’t taking any chances and had the thing reinforced.
So, I wouldn’t be any good for an A/B comparison there, as Lance is not stock.
Thanks, I agree it is prudent to reinforce and am glad Lance has been done even though it rules out an A/B comparison. Keep up the great work you and Steph do to educate the rest of us on RV’s and fitness.
Thanks for pointing out that the rack must be mounted directly to the receiver properly to ensure that they are attached well. I will share this tip with a friend of mine who will be having an RV cargo carrier soon. It appears that their new hobby for this year is camping with their kids, and they’ll be bringing their bikes with them that is why they need them.
James, we are considering getting a trailer to haul our two Honda scooters that we haven’t been taking on our National Park trips in our 59K. I was wondering what your fuel efficiency reduced to when Lance started pulling your trailer? We love the fact that we get nearly 17 MPG. Thanks if you get a minute please let me know.
Our fuel efficiency hasn’t been reduced by that much. Maybe half-a-mile-per-gallon. We still get fifteenish mpg, more or less no matter what we do, just like we always did.
George, our trailer, is very small – we can’t see him in our mirrors. So there’s not much extra in the way of an aero penalty since he rides entirely in our slipstream.
He also doesn’t weigh much. I routinely move him around by hand, even when he’s fully loaded.
I know this is a few years late, so sorry! If this in your site already, sorry again! I have been racking my brain and internet for roof top storage. We have a Crossfit, and need additional gear storage. We’d like to take our thule box off of one of our vehicles, and mount it on the crossfit. Problem: I cannot find a rack system that will work, without going custom. Do you think your rack would work on the Crossfit? Your site has been SO much help!
I don’t think *our* rack would fit the crossfit, as we have a Fiamma rack specifically made for the Ducato/ProMaster.
If you hurry and call Winnebago, they may have a rack that was made for their Paseo product still available. It would fit the Ford Transit perfectly, and would solve your Crossfit problem.
Call Winnebago and ask to order a roof rack for the Paseo.
My husband has been looking for a trailer for the past two weeks. He’s been hoping to buy one like that yellow pictured one. My husband wants it so when we go on camping trips, we can carry all our stuff in the trailer. I’m sure we’ll be able to find one soon. http://www.trscinc.com/pace-american-cargo-trailers/
We like your trailer too. Please give details about it. The hinged roof is awesome. We are hesitant to get a trailer. We are also looking at The Black Box. Trying to decide which way to go.
It’s a MiniGO Trailer by Sundowner. We got the 4×6 model.
You can see a walkthrough from the Sundowner folks, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVMB1Y_OiZ4
I use the Yakima Rack & Roll trailer on my Travato. I have loaded two kayaks and a stack of windsurf boards on it. With one kayak, when Wifey stays home, there is room for a bike rack and/or a rooftop box full of sails and booms.
The Rack & Roll costs a bit over $2000 depending on the deal, but with motorcycle wheels, you can unhook it and move it around by hand, even when it’s loaded. I have to do that sometimes the I screw up by driving into a dead end without turn around room.
Of course, the downside is that you are pulling a trailer.
Oh, another thing. I bought the “Super Tube” sewer hose storage thingy hoping to install it under the Travato. No place for that, so I strap it under the tongue of my Rack & Roll.
You’ve hit on one of my fears with a trailer – the dead end street!
I honestly don’t have much experience with trailers. I’m sure I’d learn quickly, but the maneuvering of it in tight spaces seems daunting.
We couldn’t use the Yakima because we need an enclosed trailer for expensive road bikes though.
May I Just suggest that while you are stashing or removing anything from the roof, that you keep an eye on any blistering paint. My fiat Ducato is now 8 years old. They were introduced here in Europe in 06. I first noticed some blistering around 2 years ago and when washing down this week some of those blisters separated and as I started to flake them off, I had some strips up to 2 ft long pulling off. The roof is corrugated and water tends to sit in the valleys, this must eventually work under the paint and when the sun comes out it eventually cracks the blister. I don’t know if your Pro masters use water based paints like ours but it doesn’t like the UV at all.
I ended up spending a day rubbing down. (The undercoat was in fine shape) then used my paint kit to cover all the severe acne up on the roof.
As I said it appears to be a common problem on Ducatos over 4 years old, the bonnet (hood) suffers this too. So keep your eyes open up there.
Good to know. Thanks for the tip! (And here’s hoping that the paint on the US versions is better??)
Hi James. We have been looking at getting a 59G, and your website has been a great source of information. We have both inflatable and hard kayaks, and whitewater rafts, and sailboards, so a rack is mandatory for us. When I got my Jeep Wagoneer in 1972, I built a strong rack for it: 4 steel crossbars topped by a 4×8 sheet of 1/2″ plywood bolted to a 4″x8″ rectangular frame of 2×4 lumber. The use of eye bolts for tie downs was substantial. So the rack is really more of a deck, one that allows us to carry about 400 pounds “on the roof”. You can walk anywhere on it without being concerned about damaging the steel roof below. That is a real safety factor when you need to be all over the deck to tie down the loads. But, the top of the 2 x 4 lumber rails is 6′ off the ground for the Jeep.. A similar but more complicated deck on a Travato would be at least 9 and half feet off the ground. So, cross-wind forces, and the center of gravity issues may be a consideration for the stability of the vehicle. In the Jeep, I installed a tilt-meter so I knew what the lean angle was . In one of your earlier posts you mentioned having a 2″ lift kit put on the rear axle to increase ground clearance, which also raises the center of gravity a bit. What are your thoughts on this for the stability of the Travato? From one rocket scientist to another, I am not asking for a quantitative assessment, just a voice of experience with an actual Travato. Thanks.
Not only would any “top deck” have to clear the roof – you’d also have to clear the Air Conditioning unit! That’s pretty high up.
As far as raising the center of gravity: I’ve notice absolutely no difference or issues since installing the Sumo Springs. I think those are fine.
But I also haven’t attached a giant sail ten feet in the air either. My gut tells me that if you could keep the air from getting *under* the deck to provide any lift that you’d probably be OK. So maybe you’d want to attach a fairing like I have, and then fill in the gaps on the sides. That’s how I’d approach it if I were to do it (which I’m not). Good Luck!
Hi James – Have you even used your roof-top rack yet ? Kathy and I are swaping our ’15G for a ’17G and decided against roof-top rack but will get bike rack ….just curious…..sully
I do use the roof top rack, just not to carry kayaks (yet).
I have two solar panels mounted to it (very easy to mount them that way).
Also, my roof fairing is mounted to the front of it.
If none of those things are important to you, then yeah, the roof rack would be easy enough to live without.
Bikes on front? Kayaks on back? Just a thought.
Perish the thought!!
I’m cringing thinking of picking the bug guts out of my derailleur!
(But, for less loved bikes, this might work.) 😉
Stand Up Paddleboard!
I have a 2015 Winnebago ERA. Both Winnebago and Mercedes told me the reason they did not put kayak racks on the roof is that they did not want their customers climbing on it. Not designed with flat roof and walking room and guard rails.
A cheap inflatable Kayak is an unseaworthy pool toy. I had a $4,000 Feathercraft Kayak, but it’s aluminium frame seized and corroded under tension with salt exposure. Have kevlar Current Design Kayak now, but never take it with motorhome. Wherever you want to kayak you can rent one.
Protect my Specialized electric bike on Thule rack hitch with a black MTB seat and handbar cover from Amazon. About $35.00 and keeps road grime to minimum.
It is possible to get kayaks on the roof without walking up there (and on a ProMaster, you’d dent the roof with the first step). There’s a video on Facebook of someone using a Thule device to load the kayaks with a ladder.
I know a guy who put this motorized side loader on his Roadtrek. But it does seem kind of extreme and costly. Not a route I’m planning but some might be interested.
Whoa. I don’t think I want it THAT badly! 🙂
Another option is inflatables. Kayaks and SUPs come in inflatable versions.
Have the 59K. Work around, if taking all three was required, would be a tandem kayak on one side of the roof, SUP’s on the opposite side kayak rack, and the two bikes on the rear bike rack. Have to agree with James here, B = nimble.
Tandem kayak… now why didn’t I think of that!
No way James. …. If Stef is sitting in the front, she’ll claim she won every kayak race since she crossed the finish line before you…LOL
HA! Funny thing is… YOU’RE RIGHT!!
How about an inflatable? We have a tandem SeaEagle “FastTrack” kayak and it’s amazing. Paddles and tracks very well and is hard (think fully inflated football hard, not Patriots style!). Takes up very little space when packed away. SeaEagle and others make inflatable SUPs now. Check out https://www.seaeagle.com/inflatable-stand-up-paddleboards for some examples.
It would be kind of neat if you could build a light weight teardrop trailer that could double as either a toy-hauler garage or sleeping camper for the grandkids. The classic Benroy looks pretty nice with good room:
But it would be a lot of work:
I’d make the grandkids sleep in the yellow trailer with the bikes… as long as they promised not to touch the bikes!
I love your application of science to the RV world!
We’re getting the Winnebago ERA 170A next week and would love to haul our seakajak(s) especially our Pygmy osprey triple which is 20′ long and 72 pounds. Would you recommend a trailer or a roof top rack and ladder?
OK, that seems kind of large to hoist 9-plus feet in the air. I’m sure it can be done, but do you really want to?
James, as usual, you have addressed the core concerns precisely!
There are some new products on the market that help to mitigate some of these issues. I have a Hobie Mirage 9-foot inflatable kayak, that is extremely durable, and packs down into a “Pullman-size” soft-sided, wheeled, storage bag. The whole deal weighs as much as a steelie MTB. I can fit it under the bed of my 59G Travato. There are even “collapsible kayaks out there now, that do almost the same thing.
I have also begun to see a number of “Inflatable SUPs,” designed to store easily, and are “packable,” so that you can trek down to that remote stream or lake, inflate, and SUP to your heart’s content. I actually saw a group of 4 pull these out of their van, sling them on their backs, and then walk almost a half-mile to a remote put-in spot. They are EPS foam blocks, with an outer, inflatable shell.
These alternatives take a lot of stress off the “storage problem,” of having large, bulky items hanging all over the exterior, or taking up all of the interior walk-space. If you are already committed to hard-shell kayaks, then maybe inflatable SUPs would be the next purchase (or rental).
Still haven’t seen any inflatable bicycles yet. Perhaps at the next “Hand-Built Bike Show?”
This year at the outdoor retailer show, I’m sure we’ll be checking out all sorts of inflatable, expandable, suitcase, piece-together, spring-loaded, and who knows what else models of kayaks and SUPs.
Talk about serendipity. I’m just about to purchase a SUP and transportation is a big issue for me as well. I am looking into the various inflatable models and after reading up, they seems to be of good quality and performance. They fit in a travel bag and are relatively lightweight.
We also have an inflatable double kayak. That part is a bit of a bummer since we have a 21 foot double cedar strip kayak I built but have not figured out to travel with it. A roof top rack is quite high and would defeat the purpose of the solar panels After seeing James cut the top off a refrigerator door, I figure anything is possible so I might just cut the kayak in two with some kind of bolt together arrangement.
I like the Fiamma bike rack design, but doesn’t it block the view from the rear window?
Yes, the Fiamma bike rack puts the bikes at the level of the rear window. Although, with our Travato, you can only see down the aisleway anyway, so it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.
Trailer?? Slippery slope there, James. Next you will want an “A” with a toy “garage” or a fifth wheel, maybe. ;~)
And that’s exactly why I haven’t gotten one, Bob!
Just can’t make myself do it.
I agree with Sam P on the inflatable and/or collapsible path for SUPs and Kayaks – a lot of new technology coming to market in that area.
As to bikes? For light weight (under 20 #), you could check out Razik (in your neighborhood) if you have several grand floating around. Now if they could make a collapsible bike…….