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RV Bumper Rack: Hitch Storage/Cargo Carrier for Your RV

RV Bumper Rack: Hitch Storage/Cargo Carrier for Your RV

An RV bumper rack is a great way to increase the storage capacity of your rig. An RV hitch cargo carrier gets “stuff” out of the way while allowing you to carry all the things you want to take camping with you. And some RV hitch storage racks offer a great way to carry bikes or even a motorcycle.

But what are the pros and cons of using an RV bumper rack system? What types of bumper-mounted or hitch-mounted cargo boxes are available and how much extra storage do they really provide? Can you carry any trailer hitch cargo carrier as long as you’ve got a hitch receiver?

Let’s answer these questions and then take a look at a few of the most popular cargo racks available.

What’s an RV Bumper Rack?

An RV bumper rack is actually different from an RV hitch cargo carrier. 

Technically, an RV bumper rack uses the entire bumper to distribute the weight of the rack and whatever it’s carrying. 

Bumper racks usually come with 2-4 brackets that wrap around the bumper and are held there by strong bolts.

Not only does this help to distribute the weight of whatever you’re carrying across the entire bumper, but it also better secures the rack itself. 

Once the rack is on the back of your rig, you can carry a number of different types of items. Your two biggest limitations are the size of the rack or storage box and the amount of weight your rig can safely carry back there.

Steel bumpers are best suited for use with bumper racks due to the heavy-duty steel construction that offers optimal weight-carrying capacity.

Hitch storage racks are different in that they attach to the back of your rig via your hitch receiver. 

If a rig doesn’t already have a hitch receiver, you (or a dealer) may be able to install one. Here again, however, knowing how much additional weight your rig can safely hold and how much weight your hitch can bear is key.

How Much Weight Can an RV Bumper Rack Hold?

A bumper rack can generally hold around 200 pounds, but bumpers themselves actually have weight limitations, so learning the carrying capacity of your particular bumper is important.

If the welds of your bumper were to fail due to an excessive load, you could not only lose whatever you’re carrying, but you could also cause a very bad accident.

Most RV hitch storage racks can carry anywhere from 150-300 pounds, but there are actually hitch-mounted storage racks that are capable of carrying up to 500 pounds under the appropriate circumstances. 

What Are the Advantages of Using an RV Bumper Rack or RV Hitch Storage Rack?

Let’s take a look at what’s on the “pro” side of the equation where RV bumper and hitch racks are concerned.

Increase Storage Capacity

Obviously, the main advantage and the main purpose of using an RV bumper rack or hitch storage rack is to increase the storage capacity of your RV.

Racks are used to carry anything from cargo boxes to generator boxes to bikes and motorcycles. 

RV carrying two bikes on a rear shelf/rack

Here you see an RV rack/shelf being used to carry a couple of bikes. This is an alternative to a traditional hitch-mounted bike rack. The shelf can also be used to carry other items.

Provide Exterior Storage

Another advantage to bumper or hitch storage racks is that they increase your storage capacity outside of the RV. This means that you can store dirty or wet items back there, for example, and not worry about moisture or odor penetrating the interior of the RV.

For instance, many people store things like wet suits, fishing gear, or even dirty laundry in their RV hitch cargo carrier.

May Decrease Trailer Tongue Weight 

In the case of a bumper rack or hitch rack used at the back of a trailer, the rack (and whatever it’s holding) could add weight to the rear of the trailer behind the axle(s) to help reduce the tongue weight on the hitch or tow vehicle.

This can be helpful if you can’t adjust your trailer’s load in a way that keeps it from applying too much downward force (weight) to the hitch. Just be aware that reducing tongue weight by too much can result in a dangerous situation (trailer sway).

What Are the Disadvantages of Using an RV Bumper Rack or RV Hitch Cargo Carrier?

Depending on the rig and the setup, there can be a few disadvantages of using a rear bumper rack or cargo carrier. 

Uses the Hitch Receiver

A rear cargo rack uses up the hitch receiver, so you can’t tow anything. That said, some rack/storage units may have a pass-through/redundant receiver so you can still tow something.

Alternatively, a rack or shelf for storage could be mounted above the hitch (using a hitch extender) for use in combination with a towed vehicle, boat, etc.

An RV carrying bikes on a rear shelf while also towing a boat

This RV is using a storage rack/shelf to carry bikes while also using its hitch system to tow a boat.

May Cause Dragging

Depending on the rig and the cargo carrier, it’s possible that the carrier could “bottom out” and scrape against the road when traveling up steep slopes. This could cause damage to the carrier or, in some severe circumstances, could cause your rig to get stuck.

May Add Too Much Weight to the Rig

Adding a full cargo box, bike rack, motorcycle, etc. could cause the weight limits of your RV or tow vehicle to be exceeded, which is never advisable.

It’s imperative to follow the guidelines your RV’s manufacturer provides regarding weight limits. Just because you have the space to store a lot, doesn’t mean that your RV and/or tow vehicle has the capacity to handle it all!

For more (very important) information on weight, please see our post asking and answering the question, “What is dry weight on a camper?

Items Can Get Dirty or Be Damaged

If whatever you’re storing on your RV’s bumper rack or hitch rack isn’t well covered, it could be damaged by weather or road debris. For this reason, a motorcycle would need to be adequately covered, and/or an enclosed & waterproof storage box may be required.

Theft 

The potential for theft of a generator, bikes, or other items exists unless you have an appropriate lock making it difficult or impossible to steal the items stored on the back of your rig.

What to Look for When Buying an RV Bumper Rack or RV Hitch Cargo Carrier

You’ll want to consider a few factors when shopping for an RV bumper rack or hitch storage rack.

Size

The rack size you need is the first, and most important consideration. And since size and weight will go hand-in-hand here, the weight of anything you add to your RV is a primary concern.

So, while the question of how much storage space you want/need is important to determine what size rack you’ll need, weight is equally paramount.

Before you can determine the size of the cargo carrier you’ll be able to use, you’ll need to understand how much weight you can safely add to the back of your rig. This can only be determined based on your particular RV, how much gear you already carry, and the weight of the gear you intend to carry in a cargo carrier or on a rack.

We mentioned our post, “What is Dry Weight on a Camper?” above, but because weight considerations are so incredibly important, we’ll reiterate it here.

If you’re a trailer owner, you should look at an additional post, “What Is Tongue Weight and Why is it Important?” In addition to all of the important information in that post, it included the following video that demonstrates the importance of proper weight distribution and what can happen if it’s not handled properly. Trust us… it’s worth watching!

Construction

Bumper racks and hitch-mounted cargo racks are typically made of either steel or aluminum. Aluminum is more lightweight & resistant to rust than steel is, but powder-coating can help prevent rust from developing.

Aluminum racks are very popular due to their lightweight construction, but steel racks are generally very durable. They may be better able to resist the damage that can occur due to traveling down highways and across rough terrain, as well as the scraping of the unit that can potentially occur with some low-clearance rigs when ascending steep grades.

Some RVs may be capable of having a storage rack/shelf mounted higher up on the rig to eliminate low-clearance issues.

A Class C RV with a shelf/rack mounted high on the back of the rig carrying bikes

Here’s a rig with a storage shelf mounted high on the back of the RV, effectively avoiding any contact with the road surface, even on a steep climb.

With all of that said, though, weight is the governing issue, and steel bumper racks and cargo carriers are undeniably heavier than those that are constructed from aluminum.

Theft Prevention

Finally, you’ll want to be able to lock both your rack and any storage containers you may carry on it to prevent theft.

Bumper racks are more difficult to steal, particularly if they’re mounted with four brackets and heavy-duty bolts.

Hitch racks can be removed with the pull of a pin in many cases, and this can be avoided with the use of a hitch lock. You may have seen our post on trailer hitch locks in which we discussed the various types of hitch locks available and some of the better ones on the market.

But a simple hitch lock like this one is likely sufficient to deter would-be thieves who are casing out your hitch-mounted storage rack:

Roadmaster 315 Hitch Receiver Lock
  • 5/8 Inch receiver hitch lock
  • Padlocks Discourage Theft And Tampering, And Protect Against Accidental Release Key Product Features

Different Types of RV Cargo Storage Options 

Here are a few different types of racks and cargo carriers that can be added to your RV for additional storage.

Bumper Rack Carrier for Bikes

If what you’re looking for is a bumper rack that attaches to your RV’s bumper for the purpose of carrying multiple bicycles, something like this may work well:

Swagman RV Approved 4-Bike Bumper Rack

This RV bumper rack can carry up to 4 bicycles, with a maximum weight of 30 pounds per bike. 

It’s designed to fit 4″ to 4 1/2″ square RV bumpers. Long bolts hold this heavy-duty powder-coated steel rack in place. Steel U-bolts are included with the rack, and a center upright bar offers extra bike support.

This type of RV bumper rack supports a variety of types of bikes of various frame sizes.

Sale
Swagman RV Approved 4-Bike Bumper Rack
  • Transports 1, 2, 3, or 4 bicycles on an RV or camper trailer bumper (max 30 lb. per bike)
  • Designed for 4" to 4.5" square RV bumpers, installs with a 6.5" and 8" long bolts around the RV bumper

The Swagman RV bumper rack is also available in a 2-bike version:

Swagman 2-Bike RV Bumper Rack
  • Transports 1 to 2 bicycles on an RV or camper trailer bumper (max 30 lb. per bike)
  • Designed for 4" to 4.5" square RV bumpers, installs with a 6.5" and 8" long bolts around the RV bumper

Hitch-Mounted Basket Cargo Carriers

Hitch-mounted baskets are a very popular option, and there are many on the market. They can be constructed of either steel or aluminum and can hold up to 500 pounds, HOWEVER…

Once again…the maximum amount of weight you should carry on the back of your RV will vary, so be sure to make weight your first consideration. Safety first!

OKLEAD Heavy Duty Folding Hitch Mount Cargo Carrier

This 60″ x 24″ x 14.4″ folding cargo basket is made of heavy-duty steel and fits a 2″ hitch receiver. It has a load capacity of 400 pounds and 14.4″ side rails that create a considerable basket depth.

The carrier’s floor is steel mesh, and two red reflectors are included with the rack making it more visible at night.

The receiver tube is foldable so you can fold the basket out of the way when it’s not actively carrying cargo.

Sale
OKLEAD 400 Lbs Heavy Duty Hitch Mount Cargo Carrier 60" x 24" x 14.4" Folding Cargo Rack Rear Luggage Basket Fits 2" Receiver for Car SUV Camping Traveling
  • HEAVY DUTY STEEL CONSTRUCTION: 1 Piece construction with matt black powder coating finish that resists the elements, rust and scratches.
  • MESH SURFACE: Prevents smaller objects from falling through, 14.4" raised tubular side rails(3.2" only when folded) to make sure cargo do not jolt or...

ARKSEN 60 x 24 Inch Angled Cargo Rack

The basket on this cargo rack isn’t as deep as the OKLEAD above (easier to lift items into and out of it?), but it’s made of heavy-duty steel and can carry up to 500 pounds of cargo. A black epoxy powder-coated finish resists rust and damage from road debris.

The steel rod is angled, and the basket floor is steel mesh. Reflective strips make the basket more visible at night and in inclement weather.

Sale
ARKSEN 60 x 24 Inch Angled Cargo Rack Carrier 500 Lbs Heavy Duty Capacity Tow Hitch, Luggage Storage Basket for Camping or Traveling, SUV, Pickup Truck or Car
  • [ULTRA-STRONG CONSTRUCTION] This luggage rack features heavy-duty square tube steel construction and can haul up to 500 lbs of cargo, gear or...
  • [CONVENIENT CARGO CARRIER] Tall, independently framed steel tube rails keep cargo contained and provide vertical load support during transport.

MaxxHaul 60″ x 22″ Aluminum Cargo Carrier Rack

This product is a cargo rack or shelf rather than a basket design. Made of powder-coated extruded aluminum, this unit is lightweight and won’t rust, and has a maximum distributed load capacity of 500 pounds.

This rack has a 2″ shaft and will fit standard Class III and Class IV hitch receivers.

Reflector strips and colored corners offer increased visibility.

MaxxHaul 60" x 22" Aluminum Cargo Carrier Rack Basket for Luggage for SUV Truck Car Van - 500 lbs. Capacity
  • Constructed from extruded aluminum material that is durable, light weight making it easy to install. Will not rust and is easy to clean and maintain
  • Features a heavy duty steel under frame support that has a rugged powder coat finish and a 2" x 2" hitch shaft to fit standard Class III and IV hitch...

Hitch-Mounted Cargo Boxes

Cargo boxes that are able to be connected to a hitch receiver independent of an additional basket or rack offer another option.

This type of cargo box can be quite expensive, so bear in mind that combining a hitch-mounted basket or rack with less expensive storage boxes is also an option. We’ll link to both types below.

StowAway Max Hitch Cargo Box with Swingaway Frame

The StowAway, StowAway 2, and StowAway Max cargo boxes have proven to be fairly popular with owners of smaller RVs like Class B RVs and van conversions. These types of cargo boxes offer a significant amount of additional storage.

The StowAway cargo boxes are constructed of high-grade, heavy-duty plastic and are set on a strong and durable SwingAway frame that allows easy access to the back of the RV (or any other vehicle) when needed.

The StowAway cargo boxes offer up to 16 cubic feet of storage space and will hold up to 200 pounds of gear. They’re available in black and white, though both pose challenges according to reviewers with the white getting dirty and the black “baking” whatever is inside the box due to heat accumulation.

They include tail lights, a license plate bracket, a drain plug for easy cleaning, a locking latch, and a hitch tightener.

The box weighs 99 pounds empty, so bear this in mind as you calculate how much your rig can safely handle.

StowAway Max Hitch Cargo Box with Swingaway Frame | Black
  • Heavy duty, trailer tow hitch-mounted storage box on a rugged SwingAway frame; sized right for a van, minivan, truck, SUV, jeep, or larger car
  • Frame swings out for clear access to the back of your vehicle and all of your luggage - significantly easier to get to and more fuel efficient than a...

The SwingAway frame can be modified to hold bikes or other cargo rather than the box.

Stowaway Hitch Bike Rack + Cargo Rack with SwingAway Frame | Fits 2" Hitch
  • Bike rack carries 4 bicycles; heavy-duty cargo rack for your extra gear
  • Mounted to our rugged SwingAway frame for access to the rear of your vehicle

Independent Cargo Boxes

Independent cargo boxes that can be used with any cargo basket or rack of appropriate size and weight are also an option. While this post is about RV bumper racks and hitch carriers, we’ll link to a few independent cargo boxes below to illustrate options to combine with any cargo rack or basket.

Rola 10188 Adventure System Pod and Tray Assembly with Taillights, 1 Pack
  • Replacement pod and tray, with lights, for ROLA 59108, 59109, 59110 Adventure series hitch mount cargo carriers
  • Perfect for replacing damaged or missing pods and trays
Sale
Rubbermaid ActionPacker️ 48 Gal Lockable Storage Bin, Industrial, Rugged Large Storage Container with Lid
  • Emergency Supply Storage – ActionPackers are made with impact resistant material to withstand harsh temperature of 0-100℉. Perfect for storing a...
  • Extra Strong Lid - ActionPacker plastic storage bins have a double-walled lid that fits tightly to protect items. Grooved surface repels water,...
Sale
Reese 1044000 Olympia Hitch Mounted Waterproof Cargo Carrier Bag, 48 x 19 x 22-Inch (11 cu ft) Black
  • EXTRA PACKING SPACE: Instantly provides extra space for your gear. It measures 48 in. x 19 in. x 22 in. and has 11.5 cubic feet of capacity.
  • SOLID CONSTRUCTION: Made of water-resistant sonically welded material with six (6)
Sale
ROLA 59102 Wallaroo Cargo Bag, Rainproof, Expandable Hitch Tray Carrier,Black
  • Multiple zippers allow bag to expand from 9.5 to 11.5 cu ft
  • EXPANDABLE STORAGE: Free up space in your vehicle with a hitch tray cargo bag that expands from 9.5 cu. ft of storage to 11.5 cu. feet when extra...

Do You Use an RV Bumper Rack or RV Hitch Cargo Carrier?

If you use an RV bumper rack or any type of RV hitch storage solution that has worked well for you, we’d love to hear about it. Drop us a comment with the details so our readers can benefit from your experience. 

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