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Baja Tough: The Origin of BajaRack

“I wanted to build something. Something of quality. Something of value. Something that would last.” With that vision and a solid approach to execution, it is no surprise Sergio Murillo has built BajaRack Adventure Equipment into a company where according to their mantra, “Every day it’s Friday.” What does that mean for employees? What does that mean for the customer? Murillo says, “For our employees, it means that we are building something fun and cool that can be used in any part of the world. For our customers, when you use our products it means that it is chill time, our gear will transport you to a new adventure.” It is a perspective that suggests an enriching and supportive workplace with a lively attitude.

It was actually a Tuesday when Susan and I visited BajaRack’s Ensenada, Mexico, factory. We’d been traveling in Baja California for several weeks in our 2011 Toyota Tacoma equipped with its well used BajaRack. While we were in the neighborhood, we wanted to say hello to Murillo and glimpse the birthplace of our rack, which has carried everything from firewood and fuel cans to my agile wife who likes to use the truck top for a photography platform. On this trip, we’d traveled some of Baja’s most rugged trails with the rack full of gear.

But the enthusiasm with which we were greeted by BajaRack’s staff suggested it might as well have been the end of the work week. The company employs about 40 on the BajaRack side (Murillo also owns CCM, a company which produces durable, high-end electronic cabling) and they produce about 40 racks a week, selling them directly and through distributors in North and South America, Africa, Europe, Australia, Japan, and the Middle East. They also produce rack accessories, including mounts for lights, awnings, shovels, jacks, traction boards, fuel and water cans, and tires.

Murillo, an industrial engineer and Ensenada native, began BajaRack in 2007 out of a desire to build equipment that would stand up under rugged overlanding conditions. Fun-loving yet focused, Sergio spent his first year out of college teaching CAD design but moved quickly into development and production of LED lighting systems for the automobile industry. Sergio recalls the beginnings of Baja Rack: “When I was younger I needed a bicycle rack, so I ordered one and found it useful. Sometime later I ordered a roof rack from the same manufacturer. There was a significant difference in quality, construction, and even packaging. I recalled this as I was looking for something to create that would bring joy to the end user. I knew I could do better.”

As a result, consistency and quality, from design through delivery, are high priorities for Murillo. This was evident at first glance in the BajaRack factory, where signage indicates UL and ISO 9001:2008 certifications, and where ongoing adherence to production standards is evident through visual management walls where performance measurements are posted.

Before entering the production environment, Susan and I were each handed a new pair of safety glasses. Material storage struck me as a candy store for anyone who enjoys fabrication. I wish I could have slipped a few sticks of 16-gauge tubing in my pocket for some of my amateur projects at home. Complex jigs were laid out, providing spot-on accuracy for each rack built. We watched one of the welders as he stitched together an aircraft-style cluster weld where multiple tubes are first coped to shape the ends for a perfect fit. The welding was a joy to observe as the master applied his skill to what could have easily been presented as a piece of art. Moving to the next stage, we viewed rows of racks hanging, waiting for hands-on cleaning of every joint prior to inspection. The quality assurance team would then circle the slightest flaw with a red marker. A rack with any red marks was returned for correction before bead blasting and powder coating. Even the boxing of each rack was done by an individual who took pride in his work.

Following our tour, a group of the leadership staff and some of the production employees joined us around our Tacoma, curious about our overlanding setup and clearly eager to examine the rack that has been on our truck for more than half a decade. It was intriguing to observe their interest in a product they see daily, which has been used in the field. They seemed as pleased as we are at how well it has stood up. We spoke with several of the employees just for a feel of attitudes. They are clearly proud to be part of the BajaRack family.

Much of the enjoyment of building an overlanding rig is in the research and selection of products we use. In the case of our BajaRack, the process began more than 10 years ago when a young engineer had a dream and a desire to build something that would last. It was a rare privilege to witness so much of the process while enjoying the results first hand exploring the company’s namesake, Baja.

Bill Dragoo is the founder of D.A.R.T. (Dragoo Adventure Rider Training), a certified flight instructor, commercial seaplane and sailplane pilot, skydiver, scuba diver, overlander, and adventure journalist. Always game for a challenge, Bill has won numerous competitions in motocross, cross-country mountain biking, and sailboat racing. In 2010 he represented Team USA in BMW’s GS Trophy competition in South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique. Bill and his wife, Susan, love to explore the American West and beyond by motorcycle and in their purpose-built Gen 5 Toyota 4 Runner as they research historic trails and traditions. He is quick to tell anyone that the synergy between overlanding, riding, and writing has opened doors he would never have imagined as a younger man.