We all remember family holidays when packing the back of an old station wagon led to frayed tempers, and one parent was convinced they knew the secret packing tips for stuffing the most in - usually it's always the mother, but dads think they know best.
With the rise of modern bakkies all that has changed - with more and more families making the switch to a versatile vehicle that has the comfort and technology of a passenger car, plus all the benefits of a capable workhorse.
As versatile as they are, bakkies really come into their own when you need to move large or heavy items - from furniture to bricks - and would rather not deal with the hassle of towing a trailer.
Whether you use your own bakkie, or borrow one from a friend, loading the load box (also known as a tray or bed) properly is a matter of safety.
Here are seven expert tips from Keong Yip, a senior technical engineer for the Ford Ranger and all-round packing guru, which could save your precious cargo.
1. It’s All About the Payload
The combined weight of the driver, passengers and cargo should never exceed your bakkie’s payload capacity; however tempting it may be to add more when you see empty space. An overloaded load box may make it harder to stay in control, and you’re at a higher risk of rollover. Your owner’s manual will have everything you need to know about your bakkie’s payload.
2. Use a Cover Fitted for Your Load Box
Bakkie beds come in lots of different specs and dimensions. Instead of folding a tarp to fit your load box, invest in a properly fitted cover. Some come with elastic snaps that secure them, while others can be anchored with ratchet straps. To better secure the cover and protect your load box from damage, use only the recommended attachment points – don’t cut into the load box to make your own. If your load box comes with three sets of attachment points, always use the points at the front (closest to the cabin), plus at least the centre or rear points.
3. Learn to Use That Tech
Modern bakkie’s are equipped with lots of high-end tech that can help you see better and drive more confidently – a reverse camera, for instance, can be super helpful when your cargo is stacked high. Also, get to know all the other semi-autonomous technologies under the hood. For example, high-spec Ford Ranger models come with Adaptive Cruise Control, which is handy for long trips, Adaptive Load Control – which maximizes control when carrying heavy loads - and Hill Descent Control, which is designed to automatically apply braking to slow the vehicle to a set speed in off-road downhill conditions.
4. Protect Fragile Loads with Cling Film
Think ahead: what does your trip to the hardware store involve? Wallpaper, carpets and wooden panels can easily flop around and get damaged on the way home. Luckily, you can find just the thing to protect them a few aisles down - pick up a roll of stretch cling film and use it to wrap both ends of your haul.
5. Use Netting for Lighter Items
Don’t let the appearance of small loads deceive you. Just because they fit comfortably in your load box doesn’t mean they will stay put. Secure lighter items, such as luggage, with custom-made and fitted nylon or polyester fibre cargo nets. The rot- and decay-resistant nets are light and can be easily stored.
6. Use Ratchet Straps for Furniture and Household Items
When hauling large furniture or household items, try using ratchet straps made of strong synthetic fibre. Secure your straps to the piece of furniture itself, or crisscross on top to prevent movement in all directions.
7. Distribute Weight Evenly
Unlike furniture, construction material such as gravel or sand often allow for better weight distribution – and you should take advantage of that. An uneven weight distribution may make steering more difficult. Keep the heaviest loads as far forward and as low as possible. Keeping your payload forward (near the driver and passenger) will help prevent the front of your bakkie from becoming light and help you stay in control, especially when wet.
Yip says: "When it comes to packing a load box, a load is only secure when items can’t slide, fall onto the road, or become airborne. While you may not be an engineer, these tips can help you think like one – so you can get where you’re going with your load - and nerves - intact."