When it comes to packing your 4x4 for an extended adventure you should have two priorities: weight minimisation, and ease of access to equipment and supplies.
The key to keeping weight down is to only take what you need and, where possible, opt for lightweight equipment; while ease of access will depend on what kind of storage systems you fit to your four-wheel drive.
All vehicles have a maximum payload, which must not be exceeded. In the case of some 4x4 wagons, the payload can be surprisingly low – take the ever-popular Toyota 200 Series LandCruiser, for example, which has a maximum payload capacity ranging from 610kg to 710kg depending on trim level.
Throw in a couple of adults (85kg each), a couple of kids (45kg each) and fit a bullbar, winch and lights (130kg), and that only leaves you with 220-320kg of load capacity for luggage, camping equipment, food, water, extra fuel, tools and spares.
The limited payload capacity of many modern 4x4 wagons is one of the reasons dual-cab 4x4 utes have become so popular, as most have a payload around the 1000kg mark – up to 400kg more than an LC200. Throw a canopy on a ute and you have a pseudo wagon anyway, and one that can carry more gear and keep it safely away from vehicle occupants without the need to fit a cargo barrier.
If your vehicle has limited payload then you’ll need to either carry as little as possible or source lightweight gear. Fortunately, there’s plenty of lightweight camping equipment on the market aimed at hikers and bikers, from tents to sleeping bags to cooking equipment. This saves weight and load space compared to gear aimed specifically at the 4x4 market.
When it comes to a portable fridge, see if you can make do with a 40L unit rather than a heavier 80L one. Likewise, 4x4 equipment manufactured from lightweight materials, such as aluminium roof racks and bullbars, will be much lighter than the equivalent steel products, albeit usually more expensive.
Whether you drive a wagon or a ute there’s plenty of gear on the market for storing stuff so it stays clean, dry and is easy to access. On the inside of the vehicle you could opt for a drawer system and fridge slide, for example, that will allow you to safely stow equipment and access it easily.
Bear in mind some drawer systems are much heavier than others, and these too will eat into your available payload capacity.
If you’re not keen on fitting a permanently mounted drawer system, plastic space-cases (hard-cases) are a great way to store items such as food, clothes and other supplies. They are available in a range of shapes and sizes, so you should be able to find a combination that easily fits into the back of your vehicle.
Combine these with a cargo barrier and you can stack them to roof height, but remember to keep heavy cases down low and light ones up top. Space cases need to be tied down securely using rated straps and tie-down points.
If you need a roof rack for additional gear, ensure you don’t exceed the vehicle’s roof-load capacity or the rack’s capacity, and try to avoid putting heavy stuff up on the roof as it can be difficult to access.
Add a cargo bag or a roof pod up top and you’ll be able to keep lightweight items such as clothes and bedding dust-free and dry.
Trial and error
When it comes to packing your vehicle there’s no perfect solution, but with experience you’ll soon find out what works best for you. Just remember: don’t overload your vehicle and keep weight as low as possible. Also make sure you can easily access the stuff you use the most, as well as the items you might need in an emergency such as your first-aid kit and recovery equipment.
Get the right gear with the 4x4 Touring Essentials Gear Guide