Car Rack Suggestions?

In the vein of solving my storage and transport issues before I settle on a ‘yak to buy…

I need to be able to fit two kayaks on top of a Subaru Outback Sport (i.e. a fancy Impreza, NOT the ginormous Outback station-wagon-y thing you might be thinking of). I’ve been looking at Thule and Yakima (the usual suspects).

The Thule Hullavator looks uber-cool, but my car isn’t that tall and I’m fairly strong, so it seems like overkill (and pricey).

I don’t think I like the ‘saddles’ style either… seems like more work (setting down 4 ‘feet’ for each kayak), and like it’d be easy to set them too wide or too narrow just by eyeballin’ it. Would like something less time-consuming/fussy.

I get the feeling that a good J-cradle system wins by default… not as expensive as lift-assist/Hullavator-type racks, and quicker and easier to mount than saddles (I’m guessing).

Though, I do kinda like the style of rack that has the rod that telescopes sideways out of the crossbar. You just prop the boat up against that, and then you only have to lift the stern up. Neat, but I’m not sure I want to get rid of my Subie factory roof bars.

Besides, wouldn’t the top of my open car door do the very same thing? Lay a towel over the top of it, and nothin’ would get scratched up likely.

Anyways, am leaning towards the Thule Hull-a-Port Pro. What say the experienced rack meisters among us?

General comments

– Last Updated: Aug-10-11 10:47 AM EST –

It's the factory cross bars that are the weak point on most cars by the time you get to two kayaks, including the Subies. So at a minimum you are talking about towers that will hook to the front to back original rail, and two cross bars. Thule and Yakima are both good.

I load a boat by myself when needed using the Angansett Roller-Loader. It'll behave better with saddles or stackers likely, but I suppose it'd work with J cradles too. The extension bar bit also works quite well - a number of people have it locally. You need something at the height of the rack, not the door.

For two boats watch the cross bar width - buy longer.

This is the first time you have mentioned two boats. Are you trying to find a boat for someone else as well? Or are you talking about carrying someone else's boat?

My girlfriend kayaks too, hence 2 boats


– Last Updated: Aug-10-11 11:17 AM EST –

I have a 2005 Outback and use Yakima cross bars with older Malone injection molded J-style carriers. Two sets. Never had a problem and I'm happy with the ease of loading/unloading boats.


you came to the right place
and, you will receive even more help when you disclose the following:

Which Imreza Outback Sport model do you have?

  • the older model, with roof RAILS
  • the newer model, with cross bars

    What kayaks, and how many, do you intend to carry on that car?

Forgot one thing

– Last Updated: Aug-10-11 11:55 AM EST –

Somewhat longer boats are actually easier to cartop than really short ones, because they are long enough to slide.

The car is an '011 Impreza Outback Sport, i.e. a newer model with the cross bars.

I’d want to be able to fit two kayaks.

The kinds of kayaks will be changing over the short-term, as both I and my gf will be renting.

Later this year, I will buy, and thus have a consistent kayak, either a day -tourer (as short as 14 ft), or a full-on expedition boat (maybe 17ft).

GF will continue to rent, probably sticking with boats around 14ft.

saddles and such
most people will tell you that keeping it simple is better. Along that vein, I feel like the saddles are the simplest. If you are hauling the same boats all the time, then you only have to set the saddles one time. I have the mako saddles and they are very easy to use. They make overtightening a composite boat nearly impossible. I dont use the rollers for the back because i dont like how they age and mark my boat. J cradles are nice because they can accomodate different boats. Some people dont like the stress cross winds put on the boat because you are exposing more of the boat to the wind. I dont like them because they are big and noisy. Even the ones that lay down seem ugly when you are not using them. Either way you go just make sure you are using some kind of tie down independent of the thing attached to the bars. For the spread that you will have on a car, I would suggest bow and stern tie downs.

Good luck, Buy a boat, I want to know what you get. Get a qcc, join the satified masses.

Ryan L.

I wouldn’t bother with 3rd party crossbars, unless you find OEMs lacking ( I believe Subaru gets theirs from Thule, but I might be wrong)

Hull-A-Port is a nice setups, it is sort of designed to carry one boat. Not that I haven’t used it to carry more than one boat :slight_smile:

This type of attachment is not limited to Thule - Malone, Yakima, and a whole variety of others make their own.

Stacker type is, on other hand, intended to carry more than one. Thule makes one, as well as other companies.

Your only limitation is that Subaru cross bars are flat/oval shaped - this might limit your choice of accessories. I found that Malone Autoloaders fit my OEM subaru oval crossbars very well.

Another style

– Last Updated: Aug-10-11 12:24 PM EST –

A Kayakpro EZ-Vee setup is worth considering - it's worked well for me. The boats never move (ever), and loading is remarkably quick. It comes with Thule/Yakima adaptors, but I made my own adaptors for Aero bars. I get many more questions about my rack system than any boat I've ever carried:

Just curious…
How long are the boats you show in the pictures? I was concerned about how long a boat I could carry on my GTI. The GTI is small, but it’s big compared to that Mini :slight_smile:

Mini is a state of mind

Not too long
The yellow boat is a CD Pachena, 14’1" by 25.5". The blue boat is a Q400S, 15’3 by 24". I got the rack initially to carry this Struer, 17’1" by 22", it works well.

a vote for J-racks
I like original Thule J-racks. Very easy to take on and off the bars (takes a few seconds)and I have even been able to carry 3 kayaks on my Volvo wagons using two sets of J racks on the outsides with the third boat on its hull between them. On a low height car like you have it is easy to load even a longer boat on them – just angle the bow up into the front J then work your way back to the boat stern, lift and swing it up into the rear J. I’m only 5’ 5" and that even works with the taller Hyundai Santa Fe I have now. I’ve used the J’s on a small older Subie (a DL), a Rav4 and a VW Passat, with room to spare. An advantage of being carried on the sides helps prevent oil-canning of the bottom of plastic boats, too.

Can’t I just get two sets of J-cradles (a la Hullaports), and thus fit two kayaks?

Since the J-cradles hold the kayaks nearly vertical, thus taking up less room on the crossbars, seems like you could fit two kayaks that way, even on a smallish car like the Impreza OBS.

Does no one do this?

That is hilarious.

Is the Mini carrying the kayak, or is the kayak carrying the Mini? =D

EZee Vee racks
i see a good use for them in your roof span is very short (bar to bar) This is the first time i have seen these and could be a great system, if needed. I guess it depends on how long your kayaks are (will be). If you don’t need the added length using that bar - than standard rack accessories should work i would think.

We generally use our older Malone J racks, occasionally our older Thule J racks for wider boats and sometimes a stacker in between J’s. We go back and forth due to an Accord and a trailer with removeable racks.

Recently we purchased some really nice saddles (rubber and aluminum) from Spring Creek and are starting to use them but as they are still quite new to us i cannot comment too much yet. So far they are superb quality.

Hands down, cradles are the most secure way to carry kayaks and are kindest to them. Thule Hullaports fit on oval crossbars just fine; I’m now driving a 99 Taurus wagon and my Hullaports fit just fine. I did pad between the cradle and the top of the crossbar with squares of neoprene cut from an old sprayskirt.

One tip about cradles is if you can load the boat deck in, it is more aerodynamic. Keeps the rain out of the cockpit, too.

Subaru Weight Limit, Canoe Aspect

– Last Updated: Aug-11-11 10:23 AM EST –

Pushing your luck for for two plastic kayaks unless they come in light on the crossbar limits. Last time we checked, the limit was slightly over 100 pounds, for the original cross bars on a 2007 Outback. I doubt the other models have higher limits unless you are talking about the 2010 redesign of the Outback - but that has other issues.

The front to back rails are another matter entirely. But it sounds like you may be talking about just popping two J-cradles into the factory original cross bars.

Re J-cradles - can do but it comes down to your own usage. If two of us want to offer a ride to a paddle to a friend, not a rare event, we need space for a third boat.

It doesn't sound like you need to actually carry 2 boats yet, or if so it is for very short distances from rental place to the beach. One idea may be to figure on dropping one boat at the launch point, leaving someone with it, then running back to get the rental boat.

You also mentioned you had a canoe. Be aware that if you want to carry your canoe and one kayak at any point, you won't have the width without a third party cross bar.

oh yes
No problems with that, I have two Malone Autoloaders on my Impreza Wagon.

Stacker is a bit cheaper :slight_smile: