HOW CAN YOU FIT EVERYTHING YOU OWN IN A VAN? Well, often you can’t. Then the next question is, why don’t you get your stuff down far enough so everything goes inside? It’s reasonable to think that most people can do that. Some of us can’t. Because I’m a YouTuber, I carry products I’m testing, but they’re not things I would use or own long-term. Many of us have outdoor gear and seasonal items that take up a lot of space and don’t need to be accessed daily. Others carry a generator, where’s the generator going to go?
I used to have a standard hitch-mount cargo carrier on the back of my van that held everything I needed. However, I couldn’t open the back doors, which was a big problem. I finally found this solution, which I used on the van for over four years until I bought the ambulance.
StowAway Hitch Mount SwingAway Frame
This is a sturdy frame with a hinging arm that mounts to your hitch receiver. There’s a really stout hinge pin here with a big bolt, and it swings around on that. The frame swings out up to 180 degrees for access to the rear of your vehicle.
If you’ve ever seen one of these carriers on the back of a van, it wobbles. This has a square U-bolt for the receiver, and it’s supposed to eliminate that problem.
They make these completely kitted out with a big, nice box, but you’ll pay for it. StowAway’s box is super expensive, and you don’t need to buy it. You can save money by building a platform yourself and mounting your own boxes. It’s super easy, nothing to it.
DIY Alternative Build
Why boxes? Why not just pile it all on here? Because it’ll get stolen. It’ll get wet, and it’ll get covered with dust. The boxes are locked with padlocks. Because the boxes are plastic, anyone with a cordless saw can cut this off, but it will keep your stuff safe from a casual thief. A simple solution to prevent theft of the frame is a locking pin. You’ll use a key to remove the frame from the hitch. So again, a pro can knock that off there real quick, but you’ll have to be a pro to walk by and try to steal it.
You think of these as so expensive because they usually come with the boxes attached. In the past I have used a Husky box. Contractors use these in their trucks. You can see it has wheels, and a handle, so you can move it around a job site. It’s called a job box. This time I used just the Action Packers made by Rubbermaid.
To build the platform I used treated lumber. This will be exposed to the sun, rain, and wind for a long time. So treated lumber will help protect it. I’m also painting it.
The 2x4s are held-on with 3″ stainless steel bolts. I put the plywood down on top and screwed it in. I now have a 2×5 foot platform. A couple of things you’ll notice right away that I had to do is make cuts to access the latch and hinge. Now, it’s just a matter of playing with it to get the boxes in place.
Box size and dimensions are different. I can’t give you big tips here. I’m going to keep the boxes off-center. The boxes are bolted to the plywood bolted to the frame. Because one box is so big, my van door will not open all the way until I swing away the hinge. I can get the door open enough to get airflow. When it’s hot out, I will open this back door and leave fans running, and it’ll draw air in through my roof fan. I can live with that.
3-Step SwingAway Release System
This thing is triple secure; there are three latches that you have to undo before it will turn away and move. Step #1: With the pin in there, cannot open. All you have to do is pull it out and drop it down, and now you can open it. I had to cut this hole to get access to it.
Step #2: There is a little bolt with a T-handle on the end. Undo the bolt, so it’s completely free.
Step #3: Lift this orange lever up and now it will swing out up to 180 degrees.
So it has three safety points to prevent accidental release. Once you secure this thing, there’s no chance it’s coming off. To close it up, just do the opposite.
Does it drag?
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve dragged the back end. With this 5″ rise the frame gives a good amount of ground clearance. I go on some really bad roads. I go on roads that most people would be afraid to go on with a van. Now, the one exception would be in the desert. In the desert, you have a lot of washes, and the roads go up, drop down, and come up. I’ve got a long wheelbase extended van, I’m so long, and there are almost always either big rocks or sand at the bottom of these washes. A wash would be a problem because the box in the back will drag when you dip and come up. I rarely go through those because I don’t want to get stuck.
If you can afford it, I highly recommend considering the SwingAway hitch. The accessibility and extra storage space it provides makes it a valuable addition to my setup.
This is a lot of steel and weight hanging off the hitch. I’d give that serious thought if I had a minivan because if you’re so loaded up in the minivan, and you put this on the back, you could not pull the hatchback up. You might need a full-size van to make this work, but it works super well.