Subaru Forester rack question

-- Last Updated: Nov-02-06 3:08 PM EST --

I am not clear which of two Yakima offered products would be better for a Subaru Forester, and transporting a 50 pound fiberglass 17 foot boat. You can select EZ Riders, that attach on the side rails, and then use the regular Yakima crossbars with pads, rollers, etc.

Yakima also offers Mighty Mounts that attach to the Subaru factory racks, which then can have pads or rollers mounted to them.

I guess it’s the same old question - how sturdy would the Subaru racks be for carrying a 50 pound long boat at interstate speeds with truck winds, etc.

I have a 1999 Forester
and have used it to transport a 16 ft 58 lb Rayalex canoe over hundreds of miles many times over the last 7 years.

Nearly all of the time this was without an aftermarket roof rack, just good tight straps and some cushioning for the gunwales.

This year I did buy a Yakima system, but only to enable me to cary two boats at the same time.

The rack on the Forester is very solid. Just check the tightness of the screws that secure the crossbars from time to time.

Also, mine is a bit older (up to 100 lb load). they may have changed to a lighter rack since then.

I have a 2004
and use the Yakima bases and system but I don’t see why you couldn’t get the foam V blocks that fit over the factory rack. For only one kayak, they should work fine.

Outback w/ 3 boats pic
Here’s a picture of my Outback (which I think has similar roof rack system to the Forester) with 3 plastic boats (about 60 lbs each) on it.

I use Yakima cross bars. Had one Hullraiser which the orange boat (a friend’s boat - 16’ Necky Elaho) was in. My gray boat (17’ Necky Looksha IV) was just upside down directly on the cross bars (no pads - my boat is old and well scratched, so I don’t worry too much about adding other minor dings or scratches). The yellow boat (14’ Necky Looksha Sport) was a rental and leaning against mine, and was only on the car for a few mile drive (the others were on for an hour plus drive, including highways).

Haven’t had any problems with this type of setup. I always run bow tie down lines and a strap around the boat at each cross bar. For longer drives, I also add stern tie down lines.

Forester Rack is different
The Yakima part for the Forester is I think called the EZ rider. It fits on very securely. It cannot be locked on like the low riders I use on my Outback.

I think they are a better option than the mighty mounts, because factory cross bars have a tendency to flex and wobble. I’d get the Yakima Crossbars and the EZ riders. It also gives you lots of flexibility to carry other stuff. I carry my wodd and glass boat on Yakima Hull Raisers. You might check out Malone Autoloaders on top of the Yakima system. They get rave reviews from people who own them. Yes, it all adds up to a lot of money. But anything that makes it easy to load your boat quickly, safely, and with a high degree of confidence in its security is worth it. Why risk a fiberglass boat and cause yourself a lot of worry by just “making do” with a jerry-rigged system that you can never be 100% in?

Factory racks
I’ve been using two sets of Thule Hull A Ports (J-racks) mounted directly to the factory cross bars of my '98 Forester for several years without problem or incident. Boats carried have been SOT’s and SInK’s of various lengths and weights on trips typically about 300 miles on highway and mountain roads. At a recent area paddlefest I asked both the Thule and Yakima factory reps about the use of factory vs. their respective crossbar sets and both said that unless I needed the extra rack width, the factory rack is just fine, and that Subaru is one of the car manufacturers who does a good job with their rack set-ups. Also, the weight rating is about the same for both the aftermarket and Subaru factory racks.

I use Thule glide and set saddles directly on my factory bars. I added a set of Malone Autoloaders to be able to fit a second sea kayak on my Forester factory racks. Both can be used directly on the factory bars without adaptors. I tried the Yakima Mighty Mounts on a different factory rack with Yakima saddles, and did not like this setup as they raised my loading height by several inches. I personally prefer using bow and stern ties for extra security. The weight rating was the same for the factory rack versus a new system. I have been happy with this setup.

canoe or kayak?
If you are carrying a kayak with hull down the factory bars would be okay. If you are carrying a 17 ft canoe with gunwales down, use the EZ riders with gunwale brackets. I use the EZ Riders on my 2004 Forester, and also can carry two canoes. The lateral stabilty achieved with the full aftermarket system is worth the extra expense.

I’ve had my forester for a few years now and have tried the full spectrum of roof options for all our gear. I originally felt the factory crossbars were fine, but after placing two sea kayaks on top and combining that with a very stiff crosswind on the freeway, I quickly went to the yakima bars. Nothing moves now.

Even though the factory bars seemed to work, I just didn’t care for all the flex and movement while transporting.

The first thing I did…
when I got my new Forrester was to remove the factory crossbars…they are VERY light, not too strong in my estimation. I installed Thule crossbars with Thule J-racks…very secure, especially with the ample separation you get with the Forrester side rails. The factory crossbars may be adequate if you just carry that one 50# kayak. I often have over 150# of kayaks up there, so I need the extra strength. By the way, knowing I was buying a Forrester, I actually had the racks purchased BEFORE the car!!!


Since I can salvage my Yakima crossbars from mylast car, I’ll go ahead and get the Yakima rack equipment. Since the Forester is lower than my last vehicle, I am going to try two sets of Mako saddles vs. those rollers.