Subaru Forester-Canoe Transport

Has anybody on the forum used their factory Subaru rack to transport canoes? What would be the advantage (if any) of adding aftermarket crossbars??? Where do you usually attach the bow/stern lines??? Do you run the middle straps through the inside of the car or attach them to the rack side rails??? Thanks for the help! I may be picking up a new boat soon and this will be the first time with the Forester.

The factory crossbars are not as strong
as what you can get from Thule or Yakima. As for where to put the straps, you certainly won’t have to run them through the car. They can be attached to the roof rails. The end lines should be connected to the four tow eyes under your car. You may find it worthwhile to include a snub line from the bow of the canoe back to the front end of one of the roof rails. This prevents the canoe from shifting forward, especially under hard braking.

Gunwale brackets are worthwhile when you can afford them. They spread the contact force between the guwale and the cross rail, and they control side-to-side motion.

I’m basing all this on my experience with our Outback, but I believe it will transfer to the Forrester.

I use Yakima on my Forester
You did not say if you are hauling a canoe or kayak. The Forester bars, however are stronger than most factory cross bars. If you intend on transpoting a canoe more than a couple times, invest in the Yakima load bar system with gunwale brackets. The system is much more secure and quicker to load and unload your boat.

As for tiedowns, I use the tow loop ring beneath the right rear for the stern tie-down, and “hood loops” for the bow tie-down,which are nylon webbing loops with a grommet that secure to the interior fender bolts inside the engine compartment. They tuck away when not in use and you can tie down without climbing under the vehicle.

Rear tow loop
In the subject line I stated canoe transport.

There is only one rear tow loop (on the right side of the vehicle). In the past I have always had a spot on both sides of the vehicle too attach the stern line, I was not sure if this would be problematic attaching to just one side of the vehicle. I do have have the under hood nylon loops and plan to use those. From what I understand, the factory cross bars are rated for twice as much as my canoe weighs. I guess I am trying to understand why it would be better to add Yakima or Thule bars. Is the only advantage of having them the ability to add the gunwale clips to prevent side to side movement???

Rifester - thanks for posting this. I have a Forester as well which I use to transport my kayaks and canoe. For the kayaks, we use Thule stackers mounted on the factory bars. The canoe is a Hemlock Nessmuk, only 16 pounds, so there is no weight issue. I also need to figure out a way to keep it from shifting from side to side on the rack, so any ideas are welcome. There has to be a better way than laying out all that money for over-priced Thule or Yakama stuff.


Subaru and those roof rack guys
Double cut [Cross cut]foam blocks work pretty well on Subaru cross bars when only one hull is being toted.

You might consider twin front loops to control back force and side to side movement. We have pics up on the Pb web site,

When toting two hulls, the best systems are Yakima or Thule with gunwale brackets. 'Rail brackets control fore to aft and sideways movement. These carrier systems are part of the cost of being a serious paddler.

Thanks, Charlie. I hadn’t considered the front loops for such a small boat, but it sounds like a good idea.

By the way, I know I’m not a serious paddler compared to you guys. I just want to lug my boat around locally, on my car, without having to shell out for more Thule parts. My husband already has one on his 4-Runner.


Factory rack
works well enough…but in general factory racks are POS and can break at the worst times.

You cannot put gunwale brackets on…but the cross cut foam blocks do pretty well for occasional transport…

Running the belly straps through the car does not control side to side movement sufficiently so we use the racks in the absence of gunwale brackets and loop the belly straps through those.

I am loathe to buy any Yakima or Thule gear for the Forester. I have a Yakima rack for the truck with gunwale brackets and its well worth the money…

But the Forester suffers so much in mileage carrying one Prospector that we hate to carry a boat on it and try to avoid that situation.

The stern line is just a safety line to avoid the boat from whacking someone else in the windshield. Nylon loops under hood restrain the front.

Surprising that there’s only one rear
tow eye, and on the right side. Our Accord has just one rear loop, and it’s centered.

I wonder if Subaru went to one offset loop to try to discourage towing by just one end of the car. They strongly recommend flatbed towing, and that was the only way I ever allowed towing for our Outback.

2005 Forester
We’ve hauled our relatively heavy Adirondack on our 2005 Forester factory racks without incident. We use Yakima straps and strap the canoe to the bars. Initially, we put foam (pipe insulation) on the cross bars of the rack to protect the gunwales. After one season, we realized that it a a hell of a lot easier to put the foam on the gunwales.

On our car there is a thick bracket between the muffler and the fender. That bracket has a large hole in that takes a hook. Using that and the factory tie-down bolt on the other side of the car, we get a good ‘/’ for stern lines.

The Service Manager at our dealer gave us the nuts to fasten web loops onto the strut case (two heavy threaded bolt ends sticking up from the shocks) in the engine compartment. And that gives us excellent ‘/’ for the bow.


– Last Updated: Mar-07-08 12:19 PM EST –

Just made the loops this morning. Piece of cake. Thanks.


Factory Racks
For what it’s worth when I got my 03 Forester the factory racks were rated for 150 lbs., the yakamas were rated for 160 lbs.

I use the under hood loops and continuous loops attached to the cargo tie downs inside rear compartment, long enough to pass out through the closed rear door sides.

Anyway, I’ve carried two kayaks,15 and 18 footers 0n Malone E-Z loaders attached to the factory racks.

Over 10,000 miles, N.J to Fla. twice, Jersey to the outer banks twice, yearly trips to northern Maine every year since 03. Plus many local trips from one end of Jersey to the other. Never had a problem!

Hope this gives some food for thought.

factory racks

– Last Updated: Mar-08-08 12:02 PM EST –

Used the factory cross bars with Thule "J" style kayak carriers on an 05 Outback to transport two kayaks plus gear stuffed in the yaks (total weight around 120 lbs) for multiple 1000+ mile trips over the last few years. Secure all with straps and bow/stern lines and so far have never had any issues. I would think the Forester crossbars are similar in construction.

Well, I wouldn’t have done that, but
nothing succeeds like success. The factory crossbars on our '07 Outback seemed “doubtful” so I got Yakima right away. Another consideration for getting Yakima or Thule is they have carrying accessories that usually won’t work on the factory crossbars.

Still have my factory crossbars if anyone needs to have four.

Rear cargo tie downs

– Last Updated: Mar-09-08 7:26 PM EST –

Thanks so much! My wife drives the Forester more often then I do (I drive the company car). The rear cargo tie downs with continuous loops would work perfect! Thanks for suggesting them for this purpose!