To those of you who snicker at truck beds under six feet; I just carried gear to support nine off-road motorcycles, about 50 gallons of fuel, three weeks worth of luggage for eleven people, and a Kawasaki KLR from one side of South America to the other in a truck bed about the size of a really nice cooler. Here's how.
(Full Disclosure: I accept no responsibility for any misfortunes that befall you as a result of following my advice. Frankly, I'm just so godam impressed that the SsangYong Actyon Sports could lug SO much crap over so much distance without collapsing on its haunches that I figured it earned a celebratory post for short-bedded trucks.)
We are morally obligated to insist you adhere to your truck's payload rating regarding how high you pile the shit in your bed. Plus whatever load-lashing regulations your local fun police have imposted (Did you know Australian truckers get fined for every twist in their ratchet strap lines?)
But sometimes you're cruising through Atacama desert with a Korean pickup truck that might as well be a Fischer Price toy and you happen upon some sorry stranded souls with a dead motorcycle and way too much luggage they just can't leave behind. At that point, it's time to get creative.
The Tailgate Is Now Extra Floor
Your tailgate is rated to a weight max, just like any other part of your truck. Do yourself a favor and don't look up what it is, you'll just stress yourself out.
With the gate down you get an extra four of five square feet of load space, but more importantly you can have crap poking out to infinity if necessary.
Of course now you've got the issue of things flying out, which we'll address in the rest of the steps...
Wrap It Up
Tarps can turn a horrifically third-world loadout look half decent, so carry a lot of them.
What's that, you don't have any tarps with you? Damn it, man. Well if you did; I'd say drop a big one down into your bed before any gear goes in. Or at least any gear that's easy to remove. Lay it long-ways in parallel with the truck itself, tossing the excess over the cab. That way you'll be able to fold it back over your stuff when the back's all packed.
Make Your Own Cargo Anchors
A well-laid "base rope" can really take your creative-cargo experience to the next level. Get a big rope for the sole purpose of making tie-down points. You can put as many loops in it as you want, and run it around where the tailgate would have been to keep your crap from spilling all over the road. Beware of rope chaffing when you run it over sharp edges and through tight spaces.
Triple-check that this baby is secure and tied to hard points; roll bar, frame, trailer hitch, tailgate latches. If you're base-rope comes apart all your following efforts will be time wasted.
If You Can't Tie A Knot, Tie A Lot
Or just roll with ratchet straps. Those "truck cargo net" bungie-cord deals you can get at Wal-Mart are, sadly, pretty useless.
Pre-Crush Anything You Can
If you had extra ratchet straps or ropes lying around (and let's be real, you won't) you could crank the crap out of any soft luggage you're prepping to carry. A belt or some duct tape will make fine alternatives. You wouldn't dare leave your garage without duct tape, would you?
Stack 'Em High
While you're fairly limited as to how wide and deep you can tuck cargo in a short bed, the only limit to how high you can go is how much rope you brought.
You wrote off your rear visibility as soon as you accepted this assignment, solider. Don't worry, your little truck is going to be dragging its ass across the road like a cat after a wet crap and nobody's going to be driving behind you for very long.
Heavy, solid stuff on the bottom... lighter stuff on top. That probably seems pretty obvious, but this list needs some more bullet points in it.
For Heaven's Sake, Use That Roof Rack!
If your tiny truck came with one of those pointless looking set of rails along the roof, guess what, you're going to put them to use for the very first time.
You are gonna have to be a lot more conservative with how high you pile your load when you're working with roof weight. Unlike your truck's bed, which is supported by the frame and in my opinion a lot stronger than your conservative owner's manual gives it credit for, factory roof rails tend to be dinky sinews of plastic that should not be trusted with anything valuable.
Images by the author