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($390 from Spitzlift Inc. at

O.K., so you’ll also need to spend $185 on the hitch receiver adapter, but the payoff is that this 30-pound portable lift let’s you pick up 700 pounds and stuff and deposit it into the bed of your pickup.

The Spitzlift is made from structural aluminum, and when not in use folds to fit under the rear seat or in a bed-spanning toolbox. The winch mechanism has a load-control disc brake that prevents backlash and freewheeling, and a 360-degree swivel makes loading and unloading easy, whether you’re picking up an ATV, an outboard boat motor, a tree at the garden center, a 20-point buck or a palette of building materials.

Creator Michael Spitzbergen is a 30-something construction contractor from Texas who not only saw the need for a portable crane, but also created one. Actually, he created two, because there’s one version with a three-foot span and another (for $460) with a four-foot reach

By the way, while those are the suggested retail prices; the Spitzlift website sometimes offers the units at sale prices.

Extend-A-Truck II
($99 from Darby Industries Inc. at

Extend-A-Truck II lives up to its name: It’s an L-shaped metal device that plugs into the standard two-inch hitch receiver. Plug in the long end into the receiver and you lengthen the cargo carrying capacity of you pickup truck’s bed. Plug in the short end and the vertical arm is high enough to support the back of a boat (or other long item) attached to the top of your truck’s cab.

A 49-inch long “T” bar attaches to the extender’s vertical arm to secure your load.

Extend-A-Truck II is a simple but ingenious device developed by Larry Darby.

“My father was taking his boat to the river,” Darby says, explaining that his father had put down the tailgate of his pickup truck and slid his rowboat into the bed. But the boat was too long for the tailgate to close and it slide out as Ken Darby was driving to the boat launch.

“As the cabins of trucks have gotten larger, the beds have gotten shorter,” Larry Darby realized. So he went to work, designed and built a prototype and launched Darby Industries Inc.

In addition to the extender, Darby manufacturers Ramp-Rite, a hitch-mounted ramp support so an ATV or motorcycle can be driven into a pickup bed, and Truckhoe, a truck-mounted backhoe.

Thule Terrapin
($499 from Thule Inc., at

There are times when even your extended cab pickup truck doesn’t have enough room for all your stuff, especially stuff that you’ve gotten wet and dirty while playing in sand or snow. The Thule Terrapin is a storage box that mounts into the trailer hitch.

The Terrapin, which goes on sale in May 2004, is made by Thule, Inc., the world leader in roof racks and storage boxes. Thule is a more than 50-year-old Swedish company, but some 90 percent of what it sells in the United States is made in Chicago or Connecticut.

Terrapin can carry 150 pounds of gear in 15 cubic feet of covered and locked storage made from heavy-duty plastic. The hitch mount features a swing-away function so you can access the pickup’s bed without removing the clamshell cargo carrier.

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