Between the winter weather and a global pandemic, your family has probably spent a lot of time indoors in recent months. So as summer approaches, many are anxious to go outdoors and exercise social distance in the fresh air and sunshine.
Whether your favorite activity outdoors is biking, camping or boating, you need to get the gear from home to track, campground or lake – which means you tow it in your vehicle. (Having the right car insurance can also prepare you for the epic car ride.)
Outdoor equipment is often bulky and cumbersome to move, which can make transportation a real pain. And if you do not pull it safely, you and others may be at risk, causing damage to your vehicle or putting harmful drivers nearby.
To help you safely transport all your favorite equipment, we have compiled a list of tips to safely retrieve your outdoor equipment.
Bike rack and more: How to transport a bike in a car
Ready to hit the trail for a bike day? Whether you are training for a road race or taking a leisurely ride with the family, it is important that you safely mount your bike on your vehicle. For that you need a bike rack. Here is some information to help you choose the right bike rack for your car, truck or SUV:
- Roof rack: Roof rack is mounted at the top of your vehicle. It is a versatile system for towing equipment as it can be adapted to a variety of equipment ̵
- Rear racks: An elevator mounted bicycle rack is secured to your vehicle with a trailer. These types of racks are easy to install and even easier to load and unload your bikes – which makes them a great alternative if you are an avid cyclist. You need a hitch receiver on your vehicle. A receiver can be installed on most vehicles, even if it is not original equipment. But there is an extra cost you have to account for.
- Trunk rack: Trunk mounted racks are the cheapest and most portable option for transporting your bikes. They are mounted on your vehicle's luggage compartment using a series of straps and hooks. Like brackets, they are easy to load your bikes on. But when you use them, you will not have access to your luggage compartment or tailgate.
- Truck stands: Just because you are driving a pickup does not mean that you just throw your bikes in the back. Truck stands are designed to be mounted inside the truck's bed, so you can avoid damaging your bikes by securely mounting them in place.
- Spare Parts: Like luggage leaks, these racks are designed to be mounted on vehicles like jeeps with a rear mounted spare tire.
Car Camping: Gear Packing Tips
Spending a few nights in the great outdoors can be a perfect way to take a break from the stress of everyday life. But setting up your home-from-home also requires a lot of equipment. Avoid the temptation to fill your vehicle up to the roof. This prevents the view from the rear view mirror and greatly limits your visibility. Instead, consider one of these safer transport options:
- Roof Cargo Cabinet : With the help of your vehicle's roof rack, a hard-to-carry cargo box can provide plenty of extra storage for camping gear. These boxes come in a variety of sizes and offer safe, weatherproof storage for your equipment. You can find load carriers that open from the side or back, and most are set to keep your items locked. Just remember that your vehicle will need cross rails mounted on the roof rails, which can be an extra cost.
- Roof bags: Soft cargo bags offer a similar storage solution as hard cargo boxes. They are cheaper and easier to store when not in use. But it is also less likely to keep the implement dry in the rain.
- Suspension mounted load carriers: These load carriers function in the same way as elevator mounted bicycle racks. With a platform that you insert into a hitch receiver, they are a good option for storing bulky items as a cooler. Just make sure your gear does not exceed the heavy weight provided by the vehicle's manufacturer.
- Trailers: If you need more space than the above solutions provide, consider using a small tool cart. Trailers can easily be rented if you do not have space to store one. Just make sure the trailer you are towing falls within the tow rating of the vehicle.
Kayak and canoe transport
Small boats such as kayaks and canoes can provide a relaxing day of canoeing or the adrenaline rush to navigate the water rapids. But you will not enjoy any of the activities if your boat does not get to the water safely.
Because of their size, a roof rack is the best option to transport your boat. Here are some alternatives:
- J-rock: This type of roof rack allows you to carry a kayak on its side – which means you can pull two at a time if needed. But unless you have a short vehicle, loading and unloading the boat is also a two-person job.
- Saddle rack: By supporting the boat on each side, saddle rack can be used for either canoes or kayaks. And since you load the boat from the back of the vehicle, these racks are easier to recharge if you are a solo paddler.
- Foam Block: The cheapest option to transport your canoe or kayak is to buy foam blocks to put over the car roof railings. Just make sure the boat is tied securely.
How to Boats, ATVs and Campers
If you own one of these outdoor toys, you will not tow it without a trailer. So be sure to follow these trailer safety tips:
- Verify towing capacity. Just because your vehicle has a lift receiver does not mean that you can tow any type of trailer. Make sure the towing capacity of the car is sufficient to tow the trailer you are using. Otherwise, you can cause damage to your vehicle.
- Check the lights. Towing of trailers is dangerous without brake lights and flashers. If the trailer wiring is properly connected, it should trigger the trailer lights when you hit the brakes or blink. If your lights do not work, repair them before starting.
- Customize your driving. Towing a trailer requires some changes to your driving style. When you turn a corner, you have to swing wide. Turning that you would normally do in your vehicle can cause one to jump on a curb or hit another vehicle. Remember that your stopping distance is essentially doubled when you are also towing a trailer. So start braking sooner than normal to stop safely.
- Check your car insurance. Make sure your car policy has sufficient coverage to protect your trailer and whatever it is carrying. In general, the liability for your trailer is covered by your car insurance as long as you use an insured vehicle to tow it. In addition, most of your toys can be added to your car policy, and physical damage coverage for your trailer is also available for purchase.
Ready for your next outdoor adventure?
At Erie Insurance, our promise is simple: be there when you need us. Whether you drive less on the trip or on your daily commute, you can trust us.
Talk to the Erie Insurance Agent to get a personal auto insurance quote today.