Adding a Roof Rack to Your Sprinter Van

By: Scott Adamson
/ July 10, 2020
Adding a roof rack to your van is sort of like putting a crown on the entire achievement of the van conversion.

Roof Racks are one of the easiest ways to add extra space to your tiny home. These days, it’s rare to find a converted van without some form of rack mounted to the top.

What to mount to your roof rack

While roof racks aren’t always necessary, for example, if all you’re looking to mount are some solar panels, they do provide a simple way to add other adventure gear and storage capabilities that you may not have considered, such as:

  • Rooftop cargo boxes
  • Exterior Lighting
  • Antennas for better internet connection
  • Surfboards/snowboards/kayaks
  • Etc

Planning your roof rack needs

Whether you plan on purchasing a custom-built rack, an out-of-the-box solution, or building one yourself, your roof rack should be planned in the early phase of your build design.

You need to take into consideration the placement of your:

  • Vent fan
  • Solar panels
  • Gear storage
  • AC Unit

You may even want to build an area of the roof where you can sit and watch the sunset.

Lack of pre-planning is often what leads people down the path of having to make their own roof rack or spending more money on a custom-built solution.

Where to purchase a Roof Rack for your van

The leading companies in the space are:

Aluminess

 

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ROAMBUILT

 

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Backwoods Adventure Mods

 

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Flatline Van Co

 

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Some companies have more of a slimline, sleek, and minimalist look. While others have a more rugged feel.

Make your own Roof Rack

Depending on where you live, ordering a roof rack and having it shipped to you can be quite expensive.

I had originally wanted to purchase my rack from Aluminess, however, at the time, shipping to Canada was extremely high. Aluminess has since come out with a modular design that packs down much smaller. They also offer free US shipping on this product.

I ended up building my own roof rack, with the help of a friend.

If you prefer the DIY approach, a roof rack is certainly a project that can be tackled with the right material and tools.

The benefit of making your own rack is that you can design it to accommodate your very specific needs. Typically, roof rack builders are building for the masses so depending on your needs, you may struggle to find something suitable out of the box.

Materials to use for a DIY Roof Rack

The 3 most popular materials used for DIY roof racks are:

  • Steel
  • Aluminum Tubing
  • Extruded Aluminum

Steel

A lot of DIYers choose to use steel as it is easy to acquire and relatively inexpensive. However, I would advise against using it because it’s an extremely heavy material.

Aluminum Tubing

Most professional outfitters will typically use aluminum tubing because it’s lighter and makes for a perfectly strong roof rack.

Extruded Aluminum

I have also seen people use 8020 extruded aluminum roof racks. Extruded Aluminum makes for a great DIY material because it simply bolts together.

 

Overall, aluminum racks are almost as strong as steel but much lighter. I am always looking for ways to keep the weight of my van down so this is an important factor for me, personally.

One last thing relating to materials is that I would suggest powder coating your roof rack as a way of adding a bit of grip to it.

Key Takeaways

1. Plan your roof rack, solar panel, and vent fan simultaneously to ensure everything is accommodated.

2. Leading brands are: Aluminess, ROAMBUILT, and Backwoods Adventure Mods.

3. If you plan on building your rack yourself, I would suggest using aluminum tubing or extruded aluminum instead of steel, to keep the weight down.

4. Powdercoat your roof rack to add a bit of grip to it.

Scott Adamson
Wanderful Idea Guy
Coffee drinker, adventure seeker, below average photographer.
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