Kayak on an Outback

File this under “stupid.” I bought a used Subaru Outback, which I had always thought of as the idea kayak carrying vehicle, because of its relatively long and low roof. Today I put the kayak on top, and only then realize that with the kayak on top, you can’t open the back gate. That’s kind of inconvenient, especially if you are planning on taking your kayak on a long trip. Is there an obvious solution to this problem?

I drive an Outback often and have similar problems with canoes and kayaks. I use Yakima Low Riders and have considered getting J-cradles to give more clearance for the liftgate. Shame the glass doesn’t open separately like some other vehicles. Still love driving them, despite the inconvenience.


It opens enough

– Last Updated: Mar-29-05 11:05 PM EST –

I also have an outback, I can open the rear hatch, just not all the way, but it's enough to get my stuff in and out without too much hassle. I have the thule racks with the hydro glides and saddles.

On Mine…
I think it’s a '99. I have the J cradles on the stock cross bars and it opens almost all the way with the boat on it’s side… GH

Whatever boat I have on our Outback
I can raise the gate enough to get luggage out, and can even slip under the gate to sit down and change shoes. Do you have a rudder hanging down or something?

You can get Stackers so you can load kayaks on edge. This will raise the back ends of kayaks away from the gate to a useful degree.

Load the inside first? Can say it but

– Last Updated: Mar-30-05 4:00 AM EST –

almost never do it. For some reason I find myself loading the boat first THEN opening up the back to load paddles jackets etc.... now I just load the boats but do not strap them down. I must like the extra stooping over and having the glass on my head.

Took off the factory racks, used the stock aft bolts to mount rear X bar, then through bolted another bar on custom mounts up front.... easy to pull back the head liner without messing it up... great spacing for plywood/lumber now too. Subarus are great.

Plastic boat on factory rack
strapped right to the factory cross bars. Not ideal, but I need to purchase Yakima Low Riders so I can use my Yakima bars and J-cradles, and haven’t had time or extra cash to do other yet. I’m a bit annoyed to have to pay an extra $129 to Yakima to use all the other expensive crud I’ve bought from them, particularly after I ended up stripping the hex bolt slot of one of the Q-towers and shredded a couple of the plastic endcaps trying to get them off the bars. I’m ready to take back all previous posts about how “well-engineered” Yakima products are. If I had not already invested a fortune in Yakima gear (for kayaks, bikes and storage box) I’d be thinking about switching brands.

I’m assuming once the boat is on lowriders and J-cradles I’ll get a bit more clearance, but looking at how far the hatch raises above the roof, I can tell this will still be a problem when I take the car, loaded with stuff, on a two day drive to the East coast.

Our Station Wagons
We’re on our third (and last snce they are taking them out of production) Ford/Mercury Taurus/Sable wagon. Have Yakima system w/mounts, plastic boats on stackers before and now glass boats on rollers/saddles.

In all cases the rear gate won’t open up to full height with the boats up, so we try to load the biggest of the stuff from the rear before the boats. But it will open somewhat and we can crouch under a bit to make adjustments once we’ve strapped the boats down.

The other thing we do is use the rear side doors for a lot of stuff when the boats are loaded.

rear gate hits
This will go under the most expensive solution heading but the upcoming Thule Hullavators look like they will solve this problem and the most important one-lifting and strapping over the roof. If the Hullavator really works it’ll be a blessing for a lot of us who have sprain ankles jumping down from door jams or tires. Yeah, I have dents in my Grand Cherokee on the rear gate from one too many openings while the boat was secured on the roof. And a few divots in one of my glass boats from the gate. Where are those Thule Hullavators???

Have an '03 now
Following an '01 and a ‘98.

I have settled on Lowriders and Malone J cradles. Hauling a touring boat on edge allows me to open the gate sufficiently to access gear, and to sit on the bumper.

I’m working on a “pallet” fabricated out of aluminum strut material (Unistrut, Powerstrut etc) that will raise the cradles 1-5/8". The pallet is 5’ long, and when fastened to the Lowrider bars positions the boat several inches farther foreward than the stock setup. Also gets the cradles closer to the bulkheads.

Guess I need to join Community Webshots and post some pics!


PS: One of my reasons for undertaking this project is the probability that I will trade for a '05 this fall - And the new Outbacks all have a spoiler, further restricting the amount the hatch will open.

the Hullavator is out already
They were selling them at Canoecopia this year and my friend ended up picking one up. I was very impressed with how nicely the system worked and it looked well built. It’s fairly expensive but if you’re short, weak, have a tall car, or all of the above, it’s a worthy investment.

Hullavator questions
Looks from the pics that the only option is carrying your boat horizontally. Does it accomodate vertical stowage? And I wonder how noisy they are…


'05 outback
I have an '05 OBXT and the spoiler does inhibit the max outreach of the liftgate, but as already mentioned here, I can still load things in and out with the liftgate up. Just have to be careful of how strong the gate is if the kayak is not latched. :slight_smile:

The only thing else I did with my Thule rack and Hullaports is to move the rack as far forward as possible, putting the front crossbar in the small cutout where the rack rails are mounted to the roof, therefore, minimizing the amount of rear overhang the kayaks are.

Love the car, the turbo has some nice kick but it’s certainly not gas friendly, especially since it needs premium fuel.


I’m not sure
It comes with the J cradles which lay the kayak flat when it rises but you may be able to put a stacker there to have it rise up to a vertical position. In terms of noise, I’m assuming you mean in transit. While I’ve never driven with one on my car, I’m sure it is slightly more noisy than a standard rack due to its bulk.

Get used to it
I know this qualify as “even more stupid” answer. But surprisingly, I got used to the need to load MOST of the stuff into the rear first before putting anything outside the gate.

It started with a hitch rack (for bikes) that blocks the gate. At first it’s REALLY annoying, especially when we realized we had left the straps INSIDE the rear AFTER we loaded the bikes on the hitch rack! Fortunately, bikes are easier to un-load and re-load if truely neccessary. Still, after the 15th time we had to unload the bikes to access the trail area, we learn. Now, we load the bike/boats LAST, and always remember to get the straps out first!

Small items that were forgotten to put in can still be loaded from the rear door.