If you have first hand experience with kayak carriers on this vehicle from 2004 models forward, please advise what choices you made regarding factory vs after market options to carry one or two sea kayaks.
Just a suggestion …
Pull the factory rack off and notice those nice strong mounting bolts hidden under all that plastic. Save the factory rack for resale and build a nice solid ’ real ’ rack using the factory bolts using some angle aluminum for the feet - bar interface…
I got rid of the stock crossbars
and purchased Yakima connectors and J cradles. I forget what the connectors are called but they clamp around the factory rails. Using this setup I’ve carried 3 seakayaks totaling 200 pounds on a 16 hour drive at 75 mph.
Suggest Thule or other
I have a 2002 legacy wagon so I’m not sure if the railing system has been modified or not on the 2004. I would strongly discourage using the factory cross members as they are not designed for the amount of weight and abuse from carrying a kayak. A local kayak dealer told me of one story where the wind ripped the cross members right off the rails. The rails on my car are mounted into the frame and I have had two kayaks (with gear) mounted on a Thule rack system (hooked on the rails) and I’ve had great luck since purchasing the car.
I have a 2001 and I used the Yakima XX on the rack rails. There are newer racks available. To get more spread I used 7/8" unistrut(2x5’) pipe clamped to the Yakima bars. You can then attach plastic coated 3/4" pipe to the strut or 1 1/2" angle iron. I used the angle and make my own saddles. the pipe will allow you to use commercial saddles. The parts are available at Home Depot for about $25. I normally carry 2 kayaks 16’-18’.
I have a Subaru Sport…
…with a shorter roof line than the Legacy, and I have had no trouble this past fall with Thule racks mounted to the factory crossbars with my Eddyline Merlin.
Legacy or Outback?
Only real difference is in the number of mounting points per rail (Legacy has two, Outback has three). The Legacy’s rails in theory can support less weight, but Suby owners routinely load incredible weights on their roofs safely.
Pykers comments ring true. You can speed along the interstates, slowing only when crosswinds make the handling squirrelley.
I use Yakima Lowriders and Malone Autoloader cradles on a custom pallet. Thule bars & attachments are bombproof as well. Any way you do it, you will ring up a sizeable sale for all the pieces - don’t faint. But you will have a secure system and peace of mind when traveling.
PS: Patrick: Couldn’t find any plastic portions on my Outback. I believe the rail pads are attached with through-bolts from under the roof.