Buy all your VW California Accessories at the Club Shop Visit Shop


Maximising external storage for roadtrips

CamperFam

CamperFam

VIP Member
Messages
130
Location
Colchester
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 199
All,

I need some advice from the knowledgable masses please. I've searched every forum and absorbed all the information and variations out there (bikes on towbar, cargo on top, tilting racks, swinging racks, etc etc - but I'm still needing some additional information). I've thrown this into general chat, as it's the whole principle I could do with guidance/feedback on, not just the towing element.

We're a family of four (two adults, a 2yo and a 2mo) with a Cali Ocean 199 with towbar and OEM T6 bike rack on the boot.

To give us ultimately flexibility on long slogs we have a 5th seat so we can have the mrs in the back with the newborn facing backwards (but infront of her) and the eldest to the side - for snack passing and all the rest of it, as well as for winter months for when its a more dedicated people lugger. We've got the rear stopper in the rail removed, so that the bench can be pushed back, and on longer journeys, the rear bed rack will be attached to the bike rack. For those with kids and IsoFix bases know, you dont have any chance of turning it into a bed without immense faff, and sod all space to store the chairs anyway! So the flexibility can be ditched somewhat.

Currently we use our VW OEM Bikerack for a pushchair and/or Thule Easybag (300litres). When the kids get bikes, we'll obviously shift it to a 4 bike setup, rather than a pushchair and luggage.

Our next planned step is to get a Thule EaseBase 949 and Backup Box (example below)

1609679178251.png

The purpose would only be for light stuff - flagpole, groundsheets, boardgames, some clothing etc - the light faff that gets in the way of everything else!

Now, I've never used a towbar in my life, and knowing how heavy the Ocean is, along with a 5th seat, loaded to the brim along with luggage on the VW bikerack and the towbar.... i've no experience on pushing axle loads, nose weights etc, so my questions are:

  1. Is the Cali able to cope with both the towbar and the bikerack (noting theyre on the same axle) being loaded up with (say) 40kg of load each, and does the 5th seat (in terms of vehicle weight) need to be considered?
  2. Has anyone used this kind of setup before (tagging @Simo as my insirpiration from another thread here) and what were the experiences of it?
  3. Has anyone got any alternative suggestions/setups?
  • Mindful the tailgate cant open - but that isn't an issue for us, especially with the chairs pushed back further than standard. Going for a tilting one adds a few hundred £, and whilst bikes can fit on the top with a box underneath, the same setup doesnt work the other way around sadly.
Thanks all!

Tom
 
kurienp

kurienp

VIP Member
Messages
1,238
Location
Newbury, Berkshire, UK
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204 4Motion
All,

I need some advice from the knowledgable masses please. I've searched every forum and absorbed all the information and variations out there (bikes on towbar, cargo on top, tilting racks, swinging racks, etc etc - but I'm still needing some additional information). I've thrown this into general chat, as it's the whole principle I could do with guidance/feedback on, not just the towing element.

We're a family of four (two adults, a 2yo and a 2mo) with a Cali Ocean 199 with towbar and OEM T6 bike rack on the boot.

To give us ultimately flexibility on long slogs we have a 5th seat so we can have the mrs in the back with the newborn facing backwards (but infront of her) and the eldest to the side - for snack passing and all the rest of it, as well as for winter months for when its a more dedicated people lugger. We've got the rear stopper in the rail removed, so that the bench can be pushed back, and on longer journeys, the rear bed rack will be attached to the bike rack. For those with kids and IsoFix bases know, you dont have any chance of turning it into a bed without immense faff, and sod all space to store the chairs anyway! So the flexibility can be ditched somewhat.

Currently we use our VW OEM Bikerack for a pushchair and/or Thule Easybag (300litres). When the kids get bikes, we'll obviously shift it to a 4 bike setup, rather than a pushchair and luggage.

Our next planned step is to get a Thule EaseBase 949 and Backup Box (example below)

View attachment 71398

The purpose would only be for light stuff - flagpole, groundsheets, boardgames, some clothing etc - the light faff that gets in the way of everything else!

Now, I've never used a towbar in my life, and knowing how heavy the Ocean is, along with a 5th seat, loaded to the brim along with luggage on the VW bikerack and the towbar.... i've no experience on pushing axle loads, nose weights etc, so my questions are:

  1. Is the Cali able to cope with both the towbar and the bikerack (noting theyre on the same axle) being loaded up with (say) 40kg of load each, and does the 5th seat (in terms of vehicle weight) need to be considered?
  2. Has anyone used this kind of setup before (tagging @Simo as my insirpiration from another thread here) and what were the experiences of it?
  3. Has anyone got any alternative suggestions/setups?
  • Mindful the tailgate cant open - but that isn't an issue for us, especially with the chairs pushed back further than standard. Going for a tilting one adds a few hundred £, and whilst bikes can fit on the top with a box underneath, the same setup doesnt work the other way around sadly.
Thanks all!

Tom

Tom, on your questions

After taking into consideration the built in Ocean items, the Cali has a spare payload of about 450 kg.

Specifically on the load, the base vehicle is a luggage hauler so you will be fine as long as you do not go over the limit. Also as you have the 199, which has the larger brakes and hence stopping distances will be good as well.

Doing the Math (assuming all values on the higher side):
- two adults - 160 kg
- two children - 70 kg
- towbar luggage - 50 kg
- bike rack luggage - 4 cycles - 60 kg
- 5th seat - 30 kg
... you still have another ~80 kg for other accessories including clothes food etc. ... though remember, you can easily hit that limit if you carry the kitchen sink. Always remember, in a Cali less is more. So select items wisely.

On carrying things, I would do things a bit differently though:
- Buy a Thule towbar mounted cycle rack with tilt functionality (not the Thule easybase) (in addition to the tailgate mounted cycle rack)
- use a Thule Thule 938300 BackSpace XT which is similar to the thule box that you have mentioned above but is specifically built for the cycle rack see here -


The reason for this configuration:
- when I need, I can use the towbar rack to carry cycles as it is easier to take off and on.
- when I have load, I can move the cycles up to the tailgate rack and use the Thule Backspace for prams and other loads.
- The backspace packs away small so storage will not be an issue.
- I will still continue to have unhindered access to the rear of the van as the towbar rack can tilt out of the way.

I have a towbar mounted cycle rack and planning for a Backspace XT for longer trips, though there is just the two of us and have not yet felt the need for it.
 
AlanC

AlanC

Traveling
Top Poster
Lifetime VIP Member
Messages
1,656
Location
Bristol
Vehicle
T5 SE 180
The Cali is a commercial vehicle designed to take loads.

The Westfalia tow bar is labeled as having a 100Kg load limit. So provided you don't exceed that, then the tow bar will cope.

Regarding the rear axle weight limit, I believe this is 1575Kg. Spread over both rear wheels that is 787.5Kgs per wheel.

As the 5th seat is inside and between both front and back axles I don't think you have anything to worry about here.

I think you should be fine provided you don't put too much weight in the Thule box, i.e. no driveaway awnings. If you are still worried, then do a test load and book an appointment at your local weighbridge to be certain before you go.

Alan
 
soulstyledevon

soulstyledevon

Top Poster
VIP Member
Messages
3,655
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204
I think you’re making life hard for yourself.

I would ditch the 5th seat.
I would remove unnecessary items, did I read you pack a flag pole...???
I would ensure bikes are on a sliding towbar mounted rack or look at a small trailer for bikes and the other kit.
Look at child seats carefully. We struggled until we invested in a Maxi Cosy, can’t remember the model name. But it fits in the front passenger footwell when camping

Packing:
Clothes on a sliding rack under the parcel shelf.
Bedding on top of the parcel shelf.
PJs and sheets in the airport locker.
Jackets and outdoor gear plus additional sleeping bags in the wardrobe
Note, locking wheel bolts and paperwork spare keys in the safe
Food stored under the seat
Pots and pans under sink plus thetford
Emergency first aid and tools under drivers seat, plus snow socks
20m - 10+10m 230v hookup cable adjacent battery
Shoes and outdoor toys, rear wardrobe

Some suggestions...
 
soulstyledevon

soulstyledevon

Top Poster
VIP Member
Messages
3,655
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204
Btw...
Awnings, roof covers and external screen covers. Ditch all of them.

The less unnecessary items you take, the more room you have and the easier life is in camping mode.

If you can’t park and set-up camp with 10 minutes.
Then you simply have to much equipment...
 
CamperFam

CamperFam

VIP Member
Messages
130
Location
Colchester
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 199
Thanks all.

@kurienp Yeah I was looking at the Backspace XT. I discounted it for a number of reasons, sadly (as I do prefer it in terms of storage and the idea of a towbar bikerack).

1. You cant have bikes on it and the VW Bikerack down at the same time - the bikes sit too high, and so removes any value of our OEM bikerack. I hate waste and it was a freebie :D
2. Given the above, the alternative would be for bikes to be on the top and luggage on the bottom. At which point the tailgate couldnt be opened with bikes on the tailgate bikerack and the sliding cargorack to allow tailgate entry is pointless. Especially so if we slide our seats back, removing some of the usual cargo space back there.

@soulstyledevon I challenge anyone to park up and set up camp with a toddler in ten minutes. It takes that long to put on shoes.....

The 5th seat is for the girls to all be sat together (the mrs included) in the back - rather than a toddler left on their own for a roadtrip, and an infant completely out of reach (along with it being a usable vehicle with grandparents etc).

The flagpole is a bit of fun for the kids as well as safety so they can always find the van - (we already had a couple of scenarios where our eldest ran towards the wrong van) - it's the size of a collapsed umbrella and at the end of the day, our whole priority is giving the kids a cracking bit of fun and a memorable childhood - no kid is going to come back from holiday telling their mates how their holiday was so much fun because of their parents' minimalistic packing ;)

As for car seats - one seat is fine - but with two kids seats, theres no chance you're storing those anywhere except outside hence:

External awning - absolutely essential in our view with toddlers for any break longer than one night, otherwise you cant leave the van door open and let your kids roam freely. A cali gets incredibly cosy with a toddler clamboring about, and I'm twitching at the day we both of them on the go! :D It also gives us the space to declutter the van when we're camped up. Our first few trips were sans-external awning, and I was constantly having to leap out of the van to grab her exploring the campsite road.

Fully appreciate the 'less is more' ethos - and it's one generally stick to - but versatility is equally as important in our book.
 
Last edited:
J

Jandy61

Messages
137
Location
Cumbria
Vehicle
Looking to buy
There’s a uk based company called Bak Rak, that make various tow bar mounted carrying systems, they can be adapted to all sorts of uses, the website is a little messy, but the products seem very strong and good prices, obviously your need to fit a tow bar which is costly.
 
Calimili

Calimili

Messages
648
Location
Lake Starnberg / Frankfurt
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 150 4Motion
I also say ditch the 5th seat. Put the older child in the front seat and the Mrs on the bench with the toddler.
No probs on weight on rear axle, just be careful not to overload above 3tons.
Did you look at the Mft box?

B 001.jpg


B 001.jpg
 

Attachments

  • 1609705290224.jpeg
    1609705290224.jpeg
    202.9 KB · Views: 36
Amarillo

Amarillo

Tom
Top Poster
VIP Member
Messages
7,343
Location
Royal Borough of Greenwich
Vehicle
T6 Beach 150
Thanks all.

@kurienp Yeah I was looking at the Backspace XT. I discounted it for a number of reasons, sadly (as I do prefer it in terms of storage and the idea of a towbar bikerack).

1. You cant have bikes on it and the VW Bikerack down at the same time - the bikes sit too high, and so removes any value of our OEM bikerack. I hate waste and it was a freebie :D
2. Given the above, the alternative would be for bikes to be on the top and luggage on the bottom. At which point the tailgate couldnt be opened with bikes on the tailgate bikerack and the sliding cargorack to allow tailgate entry is pointless. Especially so if we slide our seats back, removing some of the usual cargo space back there.

@soulstyledevon I challenge anyone to park up and set up camp with a toddler in ten minutes. It takes that long to put on shoes.....

The 5th seat is for the girls to all be sat together (the mrs included) in the back - rather than a toddler left on their own for a roadtrip, and an infant completely out of reach (along with it being a usable vehicle with grandparents etc).

The flagpole is a bit of fun for the kids as well as safety so they can always find the van - (we already had a couple of scenarios where our eldest ran towards the wrong van) - it's the size of a collapsed umbrella and at the end of the day, our whole priority is giving the kids a cracking bit of fun and a memorable childhood - no kid is going to come back from holiday telling their mates how their holiday was so much fun because of their parents' minimalistic packing ;)

As for car seats - one seat is fine - but with two kids seats, theres no chance you're storing those anywhere except outside hence:

External awning - absolutely essential in our view with toddlers for any break longer than one night, otherwise you cant leave the van door open and let your kids roam freely. A cali gets incredibly cosy with a toddler clamboring about, and I'm twitching at the day we both of them on the go! :D It also gives us the space to declutter the van when we're camped up. Our first few trips were sans-external awning, and I was constantly having to leap out of the van to grab her exploring the campsite road.

Fully appreciate the 'less is more' ethos - and it's one generally stick to - but versatility is equally as important in our book.

We toured for a complete year (375 days) 40,000 miles, 33 countries, with two toddlers and two border collies. Everything went inside the van, except bikes and a bike trailer which could also be used as a double buggy.

Both child seats can fit in the front passenger footwell. One upside down, the other on top of the first.

Overnight we could sleep three up top (2 adults and a little one) and the other little one on the bench seat.

OK we have a Beach, so we are not hauling about the kitchen sink. But that’s about all an Ocean has that we didn’t carry- unless a washing up bowl counts. Pack sensibly, kites are good toys that pack down small, and dual purpose things: an upside down washing up bowl and wooden spoon makes an excellent drum.

I get your point about the 5th seat, on longer journeys Clare often wriggled into the middle of the bench seat to sit between our warring boys.
 
Louis II

Louis II

VIP Member
Messages
321
Location
Bristol
Vehicle
T5 SE 140
If you remove the stop in the floor rail you can slide the bench seat all the way forwards. Maybe then with your wife in the back & newborn in the front seat she would be close enough to the newborn to manage without the 5th seat. It also gives you loads of extra space in the boot but with the downside that if you use the space you can't push the bench seat back to use the cooker etc whilst on the move & fully loaded but if travelling straight to a site it's a good way to make space for an awning & stuff that goes in it.
 
Amarillo

Amarillo

Tom
Top Poster
VIP Member
Messages
7,343
Location
Royal Borough of Greenwich
Vehicle
T6 Beach 150
How about a small trailer?

Before buying Amarillo for our mega-trip we considered a trailer and decided that a car and caravan offer greater flexibility than a campervan and trailer.

One great advantage of the California is its nimbleness, lost when you add a trailer.
 
CamperFam

CamperFam

VIP Member
Messages
130
Location
Colchester
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 199
@Jandy61 - thanks, spotted those. Was tempted by them initially, but I fall prey to marketting and brand, namely for safety/standards. But given they appear more wellknown than the site lets on, i'll do another pass.

@Calimili - spotted those, and yes, absolutely caught my eye. They also look a lot flatter than I thought. What's the literage on them? Does the mechanism allow the boot to open properly still? I saw one or two having issues on the forums previously. Any idea on how best to order one for the UK if I went for one?

@Amarillo - You sir, are without a doubt, some form of God. I'd love an epic adventure like that - but somehow I doubt my hair would survive! The fifth seat is very much a love/hate situation. The amount of times we've a Mokka (of all things) for it's five seats over the Cali gets frustrating, especially now when it's too cold (and locked down...) to do any sleeping setups.

@Louis II - wouldnt be enough to see/deal with the seat as it's rear facing currently. I'd also have concerns (albeit no doubt being overcautious) of moving the bench inbetween the structural pillars.

@Wildcamper - as Amarillo says - I dont want to lose the 'anywhere' prospect of the Cali, and then it'll more often than not turn into a 'never-use' piece of equipment and be sold a year later for half the price and none of the use.

Thanks for the inputs so far guys. Bit of googling to do!
 
A

ash

Messages
4
Vehicle
T5 SE 174
Hi we're a family of 5 and often head off fully laden in our T5 174 with full drive away awning camping kit, 4 bikes on the Kylie VW bike rack, 5th one under slung on the rack, a tow bar base and thule soft bag thing stuffed with SUP and bike and water stuff. Handles fine and as long as what you're going to need is in the main body of the van or reachable on the top of the rear shelf then the fact that you can't access from the back door isn't too much of a bind.

It takes a while to pack so we tend to stay for a few nights whenever we land. The biggest joy is lifting the 4th bike into position and only then discovering the 4th bike arm is under the already fully packed rear shelf of the van and the base bag is on and packed too. Hamlet cigar moments. Would like to say you only do it once...

We've contrived ways of 5 up overnighting in the van en route and fully laden (without anything ditched outside the van) but it does all have to be a bit inch perfect to get 2 sleeping flat downstairs. We're free of the bulk of child seats now; boosters were a blessing as they could be threaded into the front foot wells.

If you're happy with the constraints of the bike rack and base plate setup then I'm sure it'll work fine for you - it does for us The soft bag may be easier to strap yet more stuff to the top of but there's the whole pack size/storage vs security debate to consider.
 
CamperFam

CamperFam

VIP Member
Messages
130
Location
Colchester
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 199
Hi we're a family of 5 and often head off fully laden in our T5 174 with full drive away awning camping kit, 4 bikes on the Kylie VW bike rack, 5th one under slung on the rack, a tow bar base and thule soft bag thing stuffed with SUP and bike and water stuff. Handles fine and as long as what you're going to need is in the main body of the van or reachable on the top of the rear shelf then the fact that you can't access from the back door isn't too much of a bind.

It takes a while to pack so we tend to stay for a few nights whenever we land. The biggest joy is lifting the 4th bike into position and only then discovering the 4th bike arm is under the already fully packed rear shelf of the van and the base bag is on and packed too. Hamlet cigar moments. Would like to say you only do it once...

We've contrived ways of 5 up overnighting in the van en route and fully laden (without anything ditched outside the van) but it does all have to be a bit inch perfect to get 2 sleeping flat downstairs. We're free of the bulk of child seats now; boosters were a blessing as they could be threaded into the front foot wells.

If you're happy with the constraints of the bike rack and base plate setup then I'm sure it'll work fine for you - it does for us The soft bag may be easier to strap yet more stuff to the top of but there's the whole pack size/storage vs security debate to consider.
Ash , thanks for the response. Extremely useful. Absolutely can appreciate the frustration of loading the fourth bike and needing to get to the boot - one of the 'love to hate' parts of Cali ownership i've found - theres a process flow to everything! :D

Very much looking forward to ditching the child seats - and all the future adventures when theyre that bit older too.

In regards to the softbags, do you pack them away when you arrive, or use them in the awning? Do you ever feel that a hardshell (ie the Thule Backbox, MFT, etc) would have been more valuable/beneficial? As a 'storage box' when camped down in the awning for toys/games/detritus? It's on the pro side of our pro/con list, but it's theory rather than practice!

What's the security like on the softbags?
 
soulstyledevon

soulstyledevon

Top Poster
VIP Member
Messages
3,655
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204
I can only offer you advice, based on first hand experiences.

Our little one (now 4) has been camping since 3 months old.
From campsites to country lanes.
From The Lake District to Cornwall, France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and North Spain.

The only ones for a night at the Bay. North Devon
Minimalist perfection 2019
E7776736-2FDB-4EEE-A00C-605AB2F8DF3B.jpeg
Waking up on the coast, Norfolk 2020
CC605054-474C-4756-BFFD-4636350422B4.jpeg
Happy Campers Switzerland 2019 :thumb
69CDA9D5-80E7-4377-BAA3-C3D75723FBEB.jpeg
 
BeagleMum

BeagleMum

VIP Member
Messages
1,024
Location
Wirral
Vehicle
T6 Beach 150
Btw...
Awnings, roof covers and external screen covers. Ditch all of them.

The less unnecessary items you take, the more room you have and the easier life is in camping mode.

If you can’t park and set-up camp with 10 minutes.
Then you simply have to much equipment...
‘Unnecessary’ is subjective. What’s unnecessary to one may be essential to another, for example we prefer to use a front and rear screen cover. We agree with the theory of reducing the amount taken, which we try to do ourselves, but it’s not always practical. It depends on a number of factors including numbers travelling, destination, length of stay, planned activities, weather. We would imagine trying to be minimalistic travelling with children is challenging. You’d be surprised how much we need to take for our 2 dogs :)
 
Amarillo

Amarillo

Tom
Top Poster
VIP Member
Messages
7,343
Location
Royal Borough of Greenwich
Vehicle
T6 Beach 150
I have posted these photos before, but just love the illustration of how much we can pack in the Beach's cavernous boot.

IMG_2085.JPG
With the bench seat in the right place on the rails to make the bed, all nine crates and the gas stove fit below the level of the multiflex.

IMG_2087.JPG
The four plywood crates slide to the front of the boot, with a gap between for two 907 gas bottles in a fibreglass box.

IMG_2082.JPG
The gas box can slide out without disturbing the plywood crates.

IMG_2084.JPG
The four Muji drawers and the gas stove fit neatly under the multiflex. A plywood table top sits on top of the four playwood crates and gas box.

IMG_2093.JPG
A mattress, folded in half can go above the multiflex and plywood table top giving a 1.50 x 1.0 m double toddler bed.

IMG_2590.JPG
When camping, two of the plywood crates, all four Muji drawers and the table top make a handy and highly functional kitchen unit.

IMG_2940.JPG
And just to illustrate the amazing capacity of just one of the plywood crates...
 
Last edited:
AlanC

AlanC

Traveling
Top Poster
Lifetime VIP Member
Messages
1,656
Location
Bristol
Vehicle
T5 SE 180
We had a mft BackBox and found it very useful. It will carry up to 56Kgs, well under the tow bar limit. As the video shows it will tilt to the ground to clear the tailgate.

Alan
 

VW California Club

Top