Overlanding Racks: Get Out of Town

Versatile carrying systems can handle everything when leaving it all behind...

This article originally appeared in the March 2024 issue of THE SHOP magazine.

As overlanding continues its upward climb, accessory makers keep introducing innovative gear to make long trips more enjoyable. The question is how to fit all those convenient products on the vehicle itself and still have room for travelers.

Overland racks are the answer, offering sturdy, stable support to take what’s needed when getting away from it all. Nothing says “get out of a town” like a fully loaded, off-road-rigged truck or SUV sporting an ingenious rack covered with tools and supplies.

Shops offering rack sales and installation have a few choices to make, including the brands and styles to carry, and how to best present them to an interested audience.

Suppliers have suggestions, outlining the hottest new products, trouble spots to avoid, and a list of questions for customers to help choose the perfect overlanding rack for their next adventure.

Aim for versatility and offer accessories for different activities. (Photo courtesy Dropracks Inc.)


Some drivers may not recognize or understand the important benefits of racks designed for overlanding and off-road adventures. It’s up to professional outlets to teach them their value, says Sara Ford, marketing manager for TrailFX.

“Shops may sometimes recommend or install a generic rack without considering factors such as the customer’s intended use, load capacity requirements or the type of accessories they plan to mount,” Ford says. “This oversight can result in customers ending up with a rack that doesn’t adequately meet their needs or is incompatible with their vehicle. It’s crucial for shops to engage in a comprehensive discussion with customers, asking relevant questions about their usage, preferences and vehicle specifications to provide tailored recommendations.”

Today’s offerings allow customers to get exactly what they want, says Kristi Barker, senior graphic designer/marketing specialist for Rhino-Rack.

“Not all rack enthusiasts have the same intentions in mind. You’ve got your weekend warriors, your family road-trippers in need of extra storage space, your off-road experts and those multipurpose adventurers who want it all,” she says. “It’s crucial for shops to take the time to understand and narrow down the customer’s exact purpose before making a sale.”

A rack setup will be different for someone who’s interested in mountain biking for the week versus a couple looking to take the dog on a weekend getaway, says Jason Bukolt, director of marketing for Fab Fours.

“When it comes to installation, knowing what the customer wants to do with the rack is key. Why? Because you’re going to set up the rack system tailored to their activity or usage.”

Ands not just today. There’s also the opportunity to take future considerations into account, says Patrick Bennett, senior product designer for Quadratec Inc.

Fab Fours
When it comes to installation, knowing what the customer wants to do with the rack is key. (Photo courtesy Fab Fours)

“Look at the bigger profit picture and don’t limit the customer’s purchasing options,” he says. “Selling by brand only or pushing a higher-priced product is a common mistake. This limits your ability to up-sell and generate additional revenue as the customers’ needs change.”

The systems are wise investments, says Victor Casillas, sales and marketing manager for T-Rex Truck Products/ZROADZ Off Road Products.

“A well-designed rack manufactured from quality materials will provide you with years of confident performance and off-road use,” he notes.


While versatile, the racks are not overly complex, notes Craig Metcalf, automotive manager for Küat Racks.

“Communicate how easy and modular the setup and configurations are,” he recommends. “Don’t overcomplicate.”

Still, it pays for shops to build in adequate time for proper installation, notes Bernhard Leitner, CEO of Leitner Designs.

“Misquoting installation times can lead to lost profits,” he says. “Rooftop tents also require special brackets and a forklift to install, so be sure to have everything ready for the smoothest installation possible.”

Be sure to block out adequate time to perform a thorough installation. (Photo courtesy Leitner Designs)

Depending upon the rack they choose, attachment does not necessarily require drilling, says Cameron Quiroz, Southwestern regional sales manager for Westin Automotive Products/Superwinch.

“The customer does not always want a rack that needs to be drilled into the roof of a brand-new vehicle,” he says. “Our engineering team always takes that into account, which is how we have been able to offer a product that is not only extremely solid but requires no permanent damage to the vehicle for installation.”

Removable options are poplar to certain customers, agrees Helge Dimmen, chief marketing officer for Dropracks Inc.

“Selling/installing racks and gear carriers that make it time-consuming to use or detach when not needed reduces the versatility of the vehicle to be used for other purposes/activities,” he says.


Quizzing customers is continually highlighted as the most important step in finding the proper rack application for each project. Suppliers offer a question checklist for sales personnel:

What’s your budget?

“Not all racks are created equal, and price should not be the only factor in deciding which manufacturer to choose,” says Casillas.

What year, make, model and bed length do you have?

“Chances are, we have the bed rack and accessories to support that,” Metcalf says.

From tonneau covers to rooftop tents and other popular accessories, make sure the rack will work with your customer’s overall vehicle setup. (Photo courtesy Quadratec Inc.)

What’s the intended use?

“It ultimately boils down to weight; both the product and the vehicle have a specified capacity they can handle,” says Bukolt.

How much time are you going to spend overlanding and how much time are you going to use the truck as a daily driver/work vehicle?

“You want to pick a rack that does everything and does not hinder you when you’re not out exploring,” says Leitner.

What will you bring on the rack?

“When and how often do you use those items, and will you use the vehicle and rack for activities other than overlanding?” asks Dimmen.

Does it need to be compatible with a rooftop tent?

“We have a perfect option for anybody,” says Quiroz.

Would you like to use a tonneau cover?

“One key aspect of bed racks can be their incompatibility with tonneau covers. Asking this question early helps set expectations during and after the sale,” says Bennett.

Overlanding Racks: Get Out of Town | THE SHOP
Today’s offerings allow customers to get exactly what they want. (Photo courtesy Rhino-Rack)

Where’s it headed?

“Is their adventure meter set to moderate or extreme? Do they brave torrential downpours or scorching deserts? Evaluating the level of durability they seek allows shops to recommend racks made from top-notch materials that can weather any storm,” says Barker.

Do you have an installation preference?

“Is the customer comfortable with drilling or do they prefer a no-drill option?” asks Ford.


Businesses that offer a variety of overland rack solutions quickly become one-stop destinations for adventure travelers, says Ford from TrailFX.

“By providing customers with a range of options tailored to different vehicles and preferences, shops simplify the buying process and elevate the overall shopping experience,” she says. “This expansion not only caters to varied needs but also presents a prime opportunity for upselling at the point of purchase. Well-informed staff can guide customers toward complementary accessories or premium rack options, fostering customer satisfaction and boosting sales revenue.”

Casillas from T-Rex recommends spending all the time it takes to understand the customer’s expectations.

Zroadz Rack
A well-designed rack manufactured from quality materials will provide years of service. (Photo courtesy T-Rex Truck Products/ZROADZ Off Road Products)

“Doing this will help narrow down their options, thereby reducing confusion, and will always give the customer a better experience,” he predicts.

Seeing is believing, says Leitner from Leitner Designs, so be sure to have a showcase rack readily available for inspection.

“Have a display on a company truck. Customers want to know what it looks like, how it’s manufactured and what use they can get out of it,” he explains. “Small displays do not do a good job of conveying all the benefits of a proper overland rack.”

Quadratec’s Bennett agrees that hands-on experiences help make the sale.

“Having something the customer can look at and touch is what makes a brick-and-mortar shop stand out,” he says. “Having products on the showroom floor or installed on shop and/or employee vehicles helps the customer visualize what they want and sets realistic expectations.”

Meanwhile, as utilitarian as these products are, don’t forget they also support a personality profile, reminds Metcalf from Küat Racks.

While versatile, overland racks are not overly complex. (Photo courtesy Küat Racks)

“Pay attention to trends and how the aesthetics of trucks and autos are changing to complement a customer’s lifestyle aspirations,” he says. “Keep tabs on all of the innovations happening in cargo management and choose brands that support and service their dealers/WDs.”

Showing you understand their passion goes a long way with buyers in the overland market, says Barker from Rhino-Rack.

“It’s all about finding a brand and rack that perfectly matches their personal adventure style. Whether they’re into off-road expeditions, camping in the wilderness or tackling rugged terrain, help them discover a brand that aligns with their adventurous spirit,” she says. “Once you’ve got their attention, it’s time to get them fired up and excited about how this overland rack will be the solution to all their gear carrying dilemmas. Paint a vivid picture of hassle-free adventures and emphasize that it will effortlessly accommodate all their equipment, from kayaks to camping gear. Ignite their wanderlust with the promise of cargo-packing bliss.”

Westin rack
Overland racks also offer extra storage for road trips. (Photo courtesy westinautomtive.com)

If that sounds grandiose, remember the community can also stretch beyond typical overland boundaries, adds Quiroz from Westin Automotive Products.

“Overland racks are not only good for overlanding—our Mesa roof rack also offers additional storage when going on long road trips or any time that extra storage space is needed.”

Dimmen from Dropracks also sees benefits in a wider customer base.

“Aim for versatility and to sell even more accessories for different activities,” he says. “This may help the customer use the vehicle more often, which means more exposure for the rack in different scenarios and an increase in the likelihood they’ll spend more on rack accessories.”

Overlanding is extremely popular right now, and as even more drivers look to join in on the fun, chances are they’ll turn to their local shop for advice and guidance.

“Let’s face it, there are a ton of products in the overland space,” says Bukolt from Fab Fours. “Your customer is relying on you to help them with what to bring and what stays at home.”

Jef White

Jef White is the executive editor of THE SHOP magazine.

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