Rooftop rig for gear and boats

I’m trying to figure out a rooftop rig that can handle two canoes PLUS camping gear. I’m picturing a heavy duty gear basket with cross bars on top of it, so the gear gets strapped in the basket and the boats ride on top. My vehicle is a 2017 Subaru Outback with Yakima crossbars (fairly narrow span between crossbars). I see pictures online of rigs with 2x4’s laid across a rooftop gear basket, but I wonder about the safety of that at highway speeds. The Yakima system is rated at only 100 lbs or so.

In case it matters, the canoes are a Wenonah MNII (18.5’) and an MR Indie (15.5), around 100 lbs together. The gear will easily add another 100 lbs.

Looking for thoughts, advice, pics, ideas.

Add a hitch mounted cargo box and leave the roof to the canoe carrier contraption.


Thanks for the tip. Should have mentioned that I already have a rear cargo tray. I need more capacity beyond that.

You need to check to roof top (dynamic) load limit for your Subaru Outback. Check your manual or look up the manual online. For my 2016 Subaru Crossteck the limit is 150 lbs. The added roof rails, load basket etc. have to be counted, in addition to the actual load.

I suspect that at 200 lbs. of load plus the weight of the cargo basket and other parts, you will be exceeding the limit. If you exceed the limit it raises the center of gravity and can/will make the vehicle unstable.

Tarailex SUT Trailer or the like. It’s going to be safer and simpler than the engineering feat and a whole lot cheaper than upsizing your vehicle.


I built my own rack out of PT 2x4s and attached it directly to the car with the threaded (4) 6mm holes provided to attach racks to the car. I painted them black to match the car. They are 48” wide and work well for one canoe. I then made removable cross bars that attach to the rack with (4) 5/16 bolts they are 2x4x86” and will comfortably hold 2 canoes or 3 rec-kayaks. I painted the ends orange and rounded the corners as they are head knockers. I put them on and off thru the summer months when using the boats.

If I wanted to store extra gear on the roof with the canoes I would pick bulky gear that was lighter and put it into Army surplus rubberized laundry bags, about 3-5 bucks each and put them under the canoes and strap them in. With my racks it wouldn’t be hard to lift the canoes side up and place the bags in and then strap the canoe down. The canoe would offer cover for the bags.

My racks are wide enough to attach some stuff outside them as well, like paddles. I have a 2 piece loader I made that is like a ramp/ladder made from (2) 2x2s and they ride outside the canoes.

I will post a couple pics.

Unless you have a 2022 Outback, 200 lbs is over the limit. Not sure what hotvehs is but the numbers on this link look correct.

Thanks all. I was hoping to avoid the expense of a trailer, but it’s beginning to look like the writing is on the wall.

Depends on whether you want an engineered canoe trailer or you’re willing to do the engineering. If the later there’s trailers on FB Marketplace starting at $500 and up.

See you on the water,
Marshall Seddon
The River Connection, Inc.
9 W. Market St.
Hyde Park, NY. 12538
845-229-0595 main
845-242-4731 mobile
Facebook: The River Connection, Inc.

Where are you located? I’m in southwest PA and have a long tongue boat trailer with adjustable cradles that was custom built for a pair of 17’ sea kayaks. I’ve decided to sell it since I never use it any more – have several other ways to haul my boats. Well made and registered in PA (PennDOT inspected and approved it for highway use.) Photos here.