Sometimes we need to transport bulky equipment or gear with our camper. Before I show you what we did with our 2014 Milan 26RLS, it might be helpful to review how we solved this problem with our tent trailers, which presented their own unique challenges.
Tent trailers are measured by the length of the box that comprises the trailer. It does not include the length of the bunks when the trailer is opened. Our Meteorite was one of the smallest tent trailers you can buy – the box was only 8 feet long. After we remodeled it, there was very little space inside for hauling cargo.
One advantage of a tent trailer like this is the easy access to the roof when the trailer is folded up; you can put cargo on the roof, and being a rather short camper, it is easy to load and unload gear from the roof.
Rooftop Cargo Restrictions
Most tent trailers are rated to carry 300 lbs on the roof, with one caveat: the roof can only support 150 lbs of weight (or less depending on the model) when it is lifted to the open position. Install a roof-top air conditioner, an awning, and a cargo rack and you are at or above 100 lbs. So anything else you add to the roof that exceeds your capacity must be removed before lifting it.
On most camping trips we hauled our bikes on the roof. And sometimes a waste water tote.
This was a big tent trailer with a 14 foot box. It was also what is called a “High Wall” tent trailer, meaning it is much taller that the normal tent trailer. Getting to the roof was difficult.
I found it was easier to mount our bikes on the roof of our full size SUV than the trailer roof, because I could open the doors and step up. But this was still a pain in the ass.
One option was to buy a bike race that mounted to the front of the camper on the tongue. Most of these are “Rube Goldberg” affairs. More important than that was the heavy tongue weight due to 2 golf cart batteries and 2 40-lb propane tanks already on the tongue. The typical tent trailer comes with one or two 20-lb propane tanks, the typical large travel trailer comes with 2 30-lb propane tanks, so we really had a heavy tongue (not to worry – everything was within specifications).
The best option was to mount a bike rack on the rear bumper. Unfortunately, rear bumpers on most campers have a max capacity of 100 lbs, and most are not rated to carry anything. So after some reinforcement steel and welding, the bumper was strong enough to carry a couple bikes.
Note that the spare tire is mounted on the camper itself, recessed back from the bumper, which allowed enough room for the bikes to fit on the rack without interference from the spare tire.
If you read part 3 of my How Much Trailer Can You Tow series, you would know that our trailer tongue weight is close to the maximum capacity. Because of this, we cannot put too much cargo into the SUV, which is okay. There is plenty of storage in the trailer and it is always packed and ready to go. We just put some food in the refrigerator, hook up and take off.
At times there are a couple items we take camping – our bikes and sometimes our inflatable boat. We could get them into the trailer and the trailer can handle the extra weight at the back. But it isn’t an easy chore and it presents the likelihood the equipment would damage the interior while in transit. So the only other option is to install a cargo carrier at the rear of the camper.
Initially when I set up the trailer hitch, completely loaded the trailer with food, gear, clothes, water, propane, etc. I found the tongue weight of the trailer exceeded SUV’s maximum capacity. By rearranging things and moving the spare tire from the front of the camper to the rear bumper, I got everything into specifications.
The rear bumper was not designed to handle the weight of a tire or anything else on it, so that required some steel and welding. But it worked, albeit with a twist. Take a look at our Niagara tent trailer below. The spare tire mounts on the body of the camper and is behind the bumper. This barely allowed enough room for a bike rack.
It was not possible to mount the spare tire to the body of the Milan’s rear without blocking the picture window or the tail light. It was possible to mount it on the bumper without block the tail light and not obstructing our picture window view.
But this made it impossible to mount a bike rack to the bumper.
Of course I figured this out when I was in a hurry to take the bikes on a camping trip and my only short-term solution was to temporarily put the spare inside the camper and then mount the bike rack to the bumper (below).
If we wanted to carry our inflatable boat in a cargo rack, I would constantly be changing racks on the bumper with no place to mount the spare tire.
Google is your friend
When these things happen in life, I often turn to Google. So my first challenge was to find a way to mount the spare tire somewhere, and somewhere meant the back end of the trailer.
This is a nifty set-up that allows you to mount the spare under the camper, and it has a sliding bracket that makes it easy to pull it away from the trailer for easy access. There several sizes and mounting options, so if you want one be prepared to do measuring. This solved my spare problem, and during my research I also found my cargo carrier solution, which I will discuss later. It is important to note that I had to make sure both solutions we compatible with each other.
Curtis Class III Adjustable Frame Mounted Trailer Hitch Receiver
I came to the conclusion it was best not to mount cargo carriers to the bumper, but to install a trailer hitch receiver that would accept different types of carriers. This would make it quick and easy to change configurations. You know me; time is valuable and a minute saved is a minute to be use camping or backpacking.
So after measuring, inspecting, and re-measuring I concluded that I could fit the BAL Hide-a-spare and the adjustable Curtis trailer hitch receiver at the back of the trailer.
Hitch receiver under the rear bumper.
Thule T2 2-bike rack quickly mounts directly into the receiver.
I was unable to find a basket style cargo carrier that had a long enough hitch mount to clear the bumper. So I had to purchase a 7” inch hitch extender.
Notice that the extension reduces the hitch capacity by 1/3. The hitch is rated at 500 lbs, so the maximum I can put in the basket cargo carrier will be 335 pounds. The most we will ever need is about 225 lbs for our inflatable boat and outboard motor.