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A Closer Look at a Solid Bed Rack, the Leitner Designs Active Cargo System

You buy a pickup truck for versatility, right? You buy it for the ability to throw a ton of rocks in the back, the ability to haul motorcycles in the bed—and perhaps most frustratingly—the ability to help your friends move whatever they need at their whim. But as four-wheel-drive camping enthusiasts, we’ve got a few issues. For starters, we’re obsessed with these silly, heavy roof top tents, and we have a lot of gear to bolt onto our trucks, mainly so we can wave a flag to the world that we, in fact, actually go off-road. But the utility of a pickup truck is so practical that it counteracts a lot of that off-road showmanship, leaving us without a place to put our roof tents and other off-road gear. Until now, there is a bed rack for you.

Loading big objects, like this trials motorcycle, is easy as there are no bars or bracing that gets in the way of your bed’s empty space. Some bed racks have non-removable cross bars, the ACS does not.

Leitner Designs didn’t invent the concept of a bed rack—contractors have been using crudely made systems for years—they just perfected it. Their Active Cargo System is available for almost every pickup, with the most popular model being sold for the Toyota Tacoma. I’m using the model Leitner designed for short bed Ford Super Duty trucks.

I really hate to leave overwhelmingly glowing reviews of products. For starters, I’m sure to the people reading this, it sounds like I’m on the take with the manufacturer—that they’ve paid me off in whiskey, women, or dollars. Unfortunately my opinion isn’t worth that much, and Bernard Leitner, inventor of said bed rack, hasn’t even bought me a beer, and yes I did pay for it. But that won’t stop me—I love this rack—it’s like that rug which pulls the room together, without it my truck would be lost.

With the cross bars removed, the profile of the Leitner Designs Active Cargo System still gives you full use of your pickup’s bed.

Constructed from TIG-welded military-grade aluminum and weighing in at a scant 70 pounds, the Active Cargo System is engineered to carry an impressive 250 pounds of weight off-road.  When you’re on pavement, which isn’t subject to the extreme situations you’d encounter on the trails, it’s rated to carry 500 pounds. For those looking to use it as a platform for a roof top tent, it’s static capacity—meaning the weight it can handle when it’s not in motion—is 1000 pounds. We suspect you’ll never come close to reaching that. I’ve (accidentally) had my truck airborne on sections of the Rebelle Rally course, and despite being fully loaded with a heavy roof tent, it has never budged.

The Active Cargo System was one of the first additions I made to my Super Duty project, as I had a pretty specific set of requirements that had to be met. Above everything, I needed to be able to use my truck as a truck—mainly to haul dirt bikes to the trail head. Other bed rack systems, regardless of the truck they’re mounted on, do not offer the same flexibility as Leitner’s system, and often require the entire unit to be removed to gain access to the bed. The modular design of the Active Cargo System allows the crossbars to be quickly removed, in my case, this allows me to get my roof tent off with just eight easily accessible bolts, turning my pickup from work to play in under five minutes.

The sides of the rack are designed to not encroach on the space of the bed, sitting on top of the bed sides, without angling in too much. Any mounted accessories sit outside of the cargo space, and speaking of that, Leitner offers a plethora of accessory mounts. In particular, I wanted to be able to mount my ARB awning, and RotoPax alongside MAXTRAX on both sides of the bed, luckily Leitner offered bolt-on brackets to accommodate this. Perhaps the most innovative and handy solution on this system are the integrated gear boxes, giving you waterproof storage in a space-efficient location.

Since the ACS allows you to make use of the wasted space above your bed’s sides, you can fit more into your pickup’s bed.

Leitner’s instructions are detailed, and installing the Active Cargo System is something that can be accomplished by almost anyone with basic hand tools and a drill. Any specialty tools such as those required to install the nutserts are included. As a typical guy who rarely follows instructions, despite how good they are, it’s important to know that the load beams are slotted on all four-sides, and to take note of where the holes are for installing accessory bolts. Don’t tell Bernhard, but I installed one of mine the wrong way. Other than not following the instructions, I have to commend the company for offering such a well thought-out product that had zero hiccups during the install.

Despite spending it’s first year in Phoenix, where I wouldn’t have been surprised if the powdercoat had discolored, we haven’t noticed any issues. It’s been baked to the point of no-return in the summer heat, banged up by dirt bikes, and shit on by birds, without any fading or unusual damage. It’ll be hard for me to imagine owning a pickup in the future without one of Leitner’s Active Cargo Systems, and once you’ve spent some time around one, I think you’ll agree. For more about Leitner Designs, visit them at: leitnerdesigns.com

(Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the September/October 2017 print issue of Tread Magazine.)

With plenty of accessory brackets which mount straight into the extruded channels that run the length of the ACS on the top and bottom, mounting accessories is easy, and changing how you’re configured isn’t a pain.

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