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BACKPACKER Gear 360 Review
The PAKMULE earns its name. This hitch-mounted gear-hauler has 12 square feet of cargo capacity, and you can load it with up to 500 pounds of stuff. This was a gamechanger on comfort-first car-camping trips along Colorado’s Front Range. We were able to store a large hard-sided cooler, a couple of large tote bins, camp chairs, and a waterproof duffle on the back of a Suburu Crosstrek that was otherwise at capacity. We tested the Sway-Back model, which features a lower profile rail height than the Original (also $795), allowing for the opening most hatchbacks (when the unit isn’t loaded with tall items) or for the unit to slot nicely under a Jeep’s spare tire without a hitch extender. What’s more, it’s built tough from TIG welded aluminum, and it’s secured to a 2-inch hitch with a threaded, stainless steel bolt (with keyed lock) which resulted in minimal wobbles when we loaded it with 250 pounds. (For extra security, we recommend checking out PAKMULE’s straps and companion lock.). Downside: Its large dimensions and weight (the Sway-Back weighs 40 pounds) made it tricky for smaller users to install solo. Caution: This rig extends roughly 32 inches from the back of your vehicle, so watch your entry and exit angles on dips and drops on rough roads (and backing into tight spaces).
My first thought was that this product was going to be perfect for extending the carrying capacity of my two-door Jeep Wrangler. The back seats have been pulled out and I have a sleeping platform, so I anticipated the PAKMULE would free up a ton of interior space. I hooked it up and took it for a test drive with an empty cooler and I got really stoked for an upcoming adventure. I should note that it’s a bit heavy and awkward to hitch onto the vehicle. Other than that, it’s super simple to attach and use. Very intuitive.
The carrying capacity is beyond optimal. I was able to load a standard-size Yeti cooler, a 7-gallon jug of water, and another box filled with cooking gear. I could easily have added a spare gas can and even more water. With this light gear loaded in I drove up a dirt mountain road with ease. However, with a heavier load the next time I took it out the PAKMULE wobbled, even after I tightened it on the hitch. My hitch may just not have been the perfect fit, so I would advise users to check the connection before carrying a heavy load.