It’s been over 100 days living out of our Westy now and some of our favourite products are starting to shine through.

There is no hiding the fact that the Westfalia lacks storage for larger items. Sure the cupboards inside offer a great place to stash our clothes, crib board and coffee maker, but what about all our tools and oil?

With 70lbs of tools on board, I certainly didn’t want to be lifting the toolbox up to the roof to get it into our Thule box. And our front storage stow has been blocked by our Goal Zero solar panels. It was time to find another option.


One more road block appeared as well. With the roof full with stand up and surf boards, where would the bikes go?

We thought about putting a trailer hitch on the front of the van to store the bikes there, but I didn’t like the idea of the bikes being hit by stones and other debris.


I started talking to the fine folks at GoWesty about what to do. They quickly pointed me to their stylish bumpers. How is a bumper going to solve our storage problems?

Well, someone had their thinking cap on at GoWesty when they designed this entire bumper system and you also know that the only way this product came to light was from endless road trips in a Westy.

The GoWesty Designed Bumpers, or at least rear bumper (although I’d recommend replaces both front and back as they look great together and offer increased protection instead of the old brittle fibreglass bumpers) is part of a much larger kit. A kit with almost infinite options that can be customized to fit anyone needs and which  starts with the swing arm kit.

Installing the Swing Arms

Installing the Swing Arms

The Bumper Mounted Swing Away System can be fitted to the left or right side of the bumper (or both like us) and is the base for other accessories. It does require a few holes to be drilled in your new bumpers, but it is pretty straight forward. As I found out, it is best to drill and install the swing arms before installing the bumper to the van as it is pretty tricky to get the nut in there. The swing arms come with struts to hold them open, which is a great feature to prevent any unforeseen swinging. The swing arm gives you the ability to still access your tailgate without any interference. Great for getting to that back storage.


With your arms in place you now have to figure out your set up. For us, we went with the ladder rack on both sides. This is a piece that extents up to the top of the tailgate and allows you to put ladder rungs (which are cut down Yakima roof rack bars) through them. You can use them simply as a ladder, or attach some carrying accessories. The top of the ladder clips into the top of the tailgate for added stability. It also comes with a small slot for a pad lock which helps making things a little harder for others to get into.

This gave us a great solution for our bikes. We would mount them vertically on the ladder rack using the Thule Sidearm 594XT. These racks are meant to hold the bikes horizontal on the roof, but they still work vertically. We did however pick up an extra wheel strap for each mount to help ensure the bikes would stay put.


Now that we had the bikes sorted out, it was time to figure out the tools. GoWesty had just released a locking storage box system for the rack. It would be perfect giving us enough space for tools, oil, coolant, and other fluids. It would keep all this dirty stuff out of the van, and also make for a great working platform or a place to make a PB & J sandwich as Andrew Knapp discovered. Just don’t leave your jar of homemade jam there because it will fall off when you drive away (another discovery).


The storage box doesn’t actually need the ladder, it can sit simply on the swing arm, but during our build process, we came across another storage issue. If we wanted to run a full size spare tire with the GoWesty All-terrain Kit, we would need to find a new spot for the spare tire. Luckily, GoWesty has figured that out. They have a mount for the spare, and it turns out it works perfectly with the storage box. Some drilling is required for installation as well. The tire would sit just above it. It’s a bit of a lift to get it up there, but it’s not something you are moving often (hopefully).

It was recommended to us to install the spare tire on the drivers side if you are putting it on the top of the ladder. This is to give you maximum visibility out the back window while driving. If you have a camper, you know that the cupboard on the drivers side already blocks about quarter of the window. Putting your spare on the passenger side would pretty much block everything.

Bikes on the back of the van.

With our tools, spare tire and bikes all in place, we where pretty happy. But the kit offers even more versatility. A Trasharoo off road garbage bag could now be added to the spare. We love it. It keeps smelly garbage out of the van and can hold a lot! Great for long periods away from the city and proper disposal methods.

We also added a Rotopax jerry can of gas to the side of the storage box. It doesn’t hold much (7 litres) but sometimes it’s all you need in a pinch. Keep your drill handy as you will need it for the Rotopax mount install. We put our can on the outside of the storage box. It did cause the can to touch the body panel of the van when the swing arm was fully open, so I added some rubber stops to the bumper to prevent this from happening.


One final thing we added to the bumper was a trailer hitch. We haven’t used it yet, but the bumper has to come off to install it, so we figure why not just do it from the start. You never know when it might come in handy.

All in all, we love our GoWesty bumpers and swing arm kit. We don’t actually know how we would live without them. They not only solved our storage problems, but also look great and are extremely functional. And when function meets beauty, it creates a truly brilliant solution.

I feel like that won't be the first time I have to ask, "Can I fix it in the parking lot?"

All the tools in our Storage Box, emptied out to get some work done.




  1. Gail Reply October 6, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Thanks for all the great info on your rack system!

  2. Geneva Reply October 6, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    Hey John- what does your van weigh with all the new accoutrements?

    • John Reply October 6, 2016 at 5:46 pm

      6400 LBS.

    • John Reply October 12, 2016 at 9:58 am

      About 6400lbs!

  3. AJ Reply October 12, 2016 at 5:56 am

    I was hoping you were going to talk about how you store all your gear, when I met you I was so impressed with how you had everything packed and used every available space for storage. Hope you have a grand adventure, I’m loving all the stories. FYI we just had a huge storm here and I’m hearing the surfing is amazing.

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