I’m getting a new vehicle with factory side rails. That means a new rack system. Someone had given me a Thule gutter mount system years ago so this rack buying is new to me. I am shocked at Thule and Yakima prices. For instance the canoe cradle brackets ( those little L shaped thingies that slide onto the load rails) are $80 to $85 for 4. Since I always carry 2 canoes, that’s $ 160 to $170 just for those parts. Wow! Add the feet, locks, and load bars and you’re talkin $300 to $400. I see some systems that are not specifically for water sports that seem a less expensive. Anyone out there got any alternative rack systems that are strong and reliable? Are those brackets worth the cost? TIA.


Inno was mentioned in another thread and is something you might want to look into. It’s less expensive than Thule, but the bars have the same cross-section, which would enable you to use the canoe cradles you already own. Maybe DetroitTigerFan might want to weigh in on this.

Otherwise, maybe you could find a used rack on eBay or Craigslist.

Same thoughts about L-brackets

– Last Updated: Aug-09-12 3:58 PM EST –

It's just crazy what they expect you to pay for those L-brackets.

When I carry a single canoe, I loop an extra pair of ropes around the boat at the location of the front cross bar (I'll sometimes do the same at the rear cross bar, but experience shows that it's really not needed). One loop starts from the left, wraps around the boat, and ties-off on the left, and the other rope does the opposite. Pulled in opposite directions by these two loops, the boat cannot shift side to side at all. This is easier to do with my rack than most because it's partly home-built and has lengthwise bars on each side, and those bars make side-pull anchoring of additional ropes a cinch.

When I carry two boats, I install supplemental cross bars made from 2x4s to get the extra carrying width that's not available on my standard bars (these 2x4s have a quick-attach method so it's easy to switch back and forth between the two cross-bar styles). If both boats are canoes, I can't use the side-to-side loops to prevent side-to-side movements, so I built my own L-brackets that clamp to the 2x4s. These don't look as pretty as Thule or Yakima, but are actually a lot stronger, and it cost only about six bucks to make four of them. I bet you could hire a welder to make a set, but that might not be much cheaper than buying them. If you were my neighbor I'd build you a set for just the cost of materials!

Anyway, for a single boat, the extra-rope method described above works great. Also, as pointed out above, you really only need the gunwale blocks at the front cross-bar location, unless you have a small car with not much cross-bar spread, and then I'd employ them front and rear.

Oh, and I just remembered what g2d sometimes does. He said he wraps a bit of rope tightly around the cross bar just outside the gunwale-contact points. That would do the trick too, though for the purpose of getting access to gunwale-contact points for two boats, you'd have to install those ropes for one boat, then remove it and do the same for the other boat, and then put the other boat back again. Naturally you'd leave those "rope blocks" in place for the rest of the trip.

I bought the Inno system
About a month ago. I have a couple of hundred highway miles on them with a single 50lb kayak. The bars are rated to 140lb, so comparable to the Thule/Yakima systems. Got mine on AutoAnything.com; they were $200 for the system (i.e. 4 towers/clips with locks + 2 bars) for a Nissan Altima, no sales tax, free shipping and a “new customer” discount. (If you have factory rails, I think it might be a little cheaper.)

I bought Malone Seawings for my kayak. They bolt onto the square Inno bars very easily and loading/unloading the kayak is very straightforward. It comes with tie-down straps and bow/stern lines. I don’t have any experience with the J-style racks, so can’t help you there.

how to save on cost
Yakima and Thule are more widely known than the others, so much easier to find used (craigslist, eBay, garage sales, paddle gear swaps, etc). If you can find a whole set of Malone that’s a big savings, too.

Just watch for rust on the bars (any of them). Attachments can be cleaned up to look almost knew by soaking in Simple Green (low dilution) and scrubbing w. a 3M green pad. Treat the rubber parts w. a light rub of 303 Aerospace to keep them supple.

Another help is that Yakima components like Mako Saddles, LandSharks, Hulley Rollers have clamps that can be fitted to square bars as well as round. Just punch out an inside piece of plastic to make them ready for square bars. Thule does the same afa fitting to round bars. So yeah, you can mix and match just be sure someone hasn’t already knocked out the inside punch fittings cuz there is no reversing that.

Plenty of good websites like Rack Attack and ORS, and River Road and Trail, have periodic sales 20% off, no sales tax, free shipping. REI for 20% off plus state tax as applicable and free shipping to local store.

Back in 2007 I assembled a full Yakima rack set with Hulley Rollers, LandSharks, and two sets of Mako Saddles two sets of Thule racheting tiedowns, plus a fairing and lock set w. keys and master key for the four Q towers for about 60% of new. Still have them all, still fully operational.

The only things new I bought at full price were the metal slips for the Qtowers - which pissed me off, what a rip for a few metal shims.

If I’d waited around longer I prolly could’ve done better but I wanted to get on the road :wink:

They aren’t worth the prices, but go ahead and get a good rack system anyway – it only hurts for a few weeks… Or try to find the bits and pieces used.

If you kludge together something, make damn sure it’s gonna hold at highway speeds and under heavy braking. You really don’t want to be explaining how you saved $200 on a rack to Mr. Police Officer when things go wrong at highway speeds.

Jim $0.02

Used is fine
I paid $50 for my Thule bars and $75 for a set of Thule Glide and Sets. Found both on Craigslist.

check that rack
Check and see that the connections of the components to each other, and to your vehicle, are tight. Even on new stuff. Road vibrations will take their toll over a season.

Checking before a long trip is like checking the engine oil. A few seconds saves a lot of hassle.

thanks All…
for taking time to respond. I’ve always been lucky with racks. I bought a Grumman in 1970 and already owned a pickup with a headache bar. I just threw the Grumman on it tied it down with rope and took off. Later I bought a van and the best rack out there was a set of four gutter brackets on to which you could bolt your own 2 x 4’s. I think they were called easy riders or something like that. I countersunk a 3/8th inch stainless steel bolt in the 2 x 4’s and it was bomb proof. The whole rig was $55. Later, a friend bought a vehicle with no gutters and gave me his Thule gutter mount system, with 66 inch sq. load bars and locks. I countersunk bolts into some 70 inch pressure treated 2 x 3’s to the steel bars then covered the wood with black outdoor carpet and never looked back. I’ve had this for something around 15 years or so. I use a rope system to keep the canoes from shifting and rubbing together. I have seen the brackets and they look so easy and strong I figured it’d be nice to have some. I was floored by the prices. Reckon I’ll buy a heavy duty side rail rack and just keep playing with ropes instead of being ripped off for those little brackets, albeit convenient. Anybody have experience with “Rage” racks?

Not sure I’d trust used racks off the net.

Guideboatguy, can you describe the quick change 2 x 4 system you mentioned? Thanks


Rack is expensive
for what is basically a metal bar, but I can’t use my boat without it so…

I also skip the canoe brackets - more bother than they are worth. Last time I had two tandem canoes on my rack (Ford Taurus) I had them on edge - each strapped individually, and then a long strap over both. Not sure I would do it on a long trip, but it worked fine for the shuttle.

Another Inno
I also have an Inno. I recently hauled about 80 lbs of renovation supplies (storm windows mostly) 850 miles to an out-of-state house. The rack did fine, no movement, no marks on the roof. To me, Inno is a good option to consider. Here’s the text of a review I posted on orsracksdirect (for a 2009 Honda Fit):

First, ORS is really excellent to deal with. They answer emails quickly and keep you updated. All A+. The rack is nice and solid and doesn’t mark or oilcan my roof. The instructions are professional looking and detailed. The feet fit around the gutter-ledge above the door frame with part of the rubber foot sitting on the black rubber strip in the cars roof, and part sitting on the metal roof outboard of that. I prefer that to the way the Yakima fits this car, where the feet sit further outboard on the steeply sloping part of the roof/door frame (examined one I saw in a parking lot). My only gripe is that the rubber feet don’t look like their 100% customized to fit this specific roof. The instructions tell you (and the design requires you) to mount the feet a little inboard of the spot where they would fit snuggly against the vertical ledge in the roof, so you end up with a gap, especially at the front of the car. If you move the feet further out, the clamps won’t tighten properly. Everything fits solid but it makes it look more like a very good fitting universal rack, rather than a rack customized for the specific car. But back to bottom line - it’s solid, doesn’t mark my roof, the locks work well (won’t stop a determined crook though) and I’m happy with the purchase. And I have to repeat that ORS is great to deal with.

Racks are not cheap

– Last Updated: Aug-10-12 11:35 AM EST –

Currently I have a home made rack system on my F 150. it is basically line posts used in chain link fence. Got at home depot. Held together with SS bolts. One side has PVC slid over the post other side is pool noodle. I simply roll the boat up on pvc and than flip onto noodle and tie down.

I now need rack for my car. I am biting the bullet and going Thule. I think it is a good $440 investment.

My boats cost lots more and aside from damage to boats who needs a lawsuit following launch of the boat into traffic.

Still up in air re: saddles, Hullivator etc.

Actually several people I spoke with feel that the use of inexpensive foam pads is just as effective and saves quite a bit of money.

Saving on saddles, j racks etc does make sense to me.

However the rack must, IMHO be first rate and not subject to failure.