Thule rack advice

I’m looking to finally upgrade and get a roof rack for my Corolla. My days of running a strap over the boat and through the car are numbered.

My short-term goal is carrying my heavy ol’ 14’ Dirigo. For this, ease of loading is of upmost importance.

** For this, I was thinking of something like their rollercoaster and/or hydro glide saddle.

My longer-term goal is carrying the Dirigo AND another (TBD) kayak or rooftop box.

** For this, I was thinking of something like a pair of the Hull-a-port PROs.

Does anyone have any experience with these products? And/or recommendations of something over the other?

I worked at EMS and had one chance to play around with a hullaport that was mounted on a car. The idea is great, but it just didn’t function very well. It locks in the down position and it takes two people to unlock it and lift the kayak…you have to unlock both arms at the same time and you just can’t do that and lift the boat at the same time. Really stupid design. It also seems kind of flimsy. Of course Thule does tend to upgrade things from year to year and the model I saw was about 3 or 4 years ago. They may have made a few changes. Like I said, the concept is great…just the execution was lacking in the one I saw. It is still worth looking into though.

We’re a Thule dealer and I’ve sold lots of Hullaports and use them myself. IMHO it’s the best way to carry a kayak because the pressure’s on a structurally rigid part of the hull (the sides). Saddles can dent hulls.

The regular non-folding Hullaports are $20 cheaper and are very quick to put on and take off the car (1-2 minutes with practice). I prefer these to the folding ones because even folded, they have a significant impact on mileage. Plus, I’ve heard of Hullaports being stolen when left on the vehicle; better to lock them in the vehicle when not in use.

Being 5’4" and driving a GMC Jimmy, I put carpet on the rear Hullaport and slide my kayak on from the back rather than trying to lift it over the lower part of the cradles from the side. I don’t have a problem side-loading onto a regular car.

If you get cradles, don’t strap the kayak directly to the Hullaport. That puts a lot of strain on those two little knobs that fasten the Hullaport to the rack.

Instead, run the straps under the loadbars and up and over the kayak on both sides.

Funny. 2 responses - exact opposites
Thank you both, though. It’s helpful to hear the good and the bad.

Answer: Thule Slipstream

So then why does Thule instruct…

– Last Updated: Aug-12-08 1:24 PM EST –

you to strap the boat directly to the Hull-a-ports? That's what their installation manual specified. (I did run the straps under the bars also, because it was more secure.)

I had a set and just sold them. I like the Malone Autoloaders much, much better. The Thules did not fit my hulls well.

pikabike, what are you paddling?
Out of curiousity, you say that the Malone AutoLoaders fit better - what boat(s) were you strapping down?

Tempest 165, Explorer LV
The Thule top section is dead flat, whereas the Malones have a slight curve and, more importantly, they will conform to the hull shape when strapped (unlike Thule’s).

The Thule Js may well be better for some other hulls. I see them a lot with WW boats.

Keqwow, what?
Keqwow wrote “The idea is great, but it just didn’t function very well. It locks in the down position and it takes two people to unlock it and lift the kayak…you have to unlock both arms at the same time and you just can’t do that and lift the boat at the same time.”

What arms? I think you are getting a Hull-a-Vator and a Hull-a-Port confused. I also differ regarding your opinion of the Hull-a-vator.

The Hullaport, either the folding Pro Model or the single one piece style will work fine for your situation.

CD1 also had a great suggestion in the Slipstream which will also allow you to trim the fore/aft position of the kayak on top of the car.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Thule’s Wrong On This One

– Last Updated: Aug-12-08 2:10 PM EST –

My experience has been that the knobs securing the Hullaport to the crossbars tend to loosen just from normal vibration, bumps, etc. They loosen more if you strap a kayak to the cradles only; think of the different forces torquing that kayak around. Even if the kayak doesn't move, it constantly exerts and releases pressure from every direction on those two little knobs.

The knobs are plastic (with a metal nut in the center) and will eventually break if you tighten them down enough to keep them from working loose. I've found that a lock-washer against the knob backed by a flat washer against the plate helps a lot, but if you strap a kayak to the cradles, the knobs WILL eventually work loose. That's why I advise my customers to use the loadbars, that's what they're for.

Flying kayaks
I don’t like the notion of strapping the boat ONLY to the cradles (any cradles) for another reason: if the cradles break loose from the bars, the boat will go flying with them. If strapped to both cradles and bars, that provides another point of attachment to the vehicle.

yeup…my bad…
Yeup…my bad, It has been a while since I dealt with this stuff. The hullaports are great…I own them. My initial response was in reference to the Hullavator. Please disregard :slight_smile:

Hullaport pro works very well
I’ve been using a hullaport pro since May on a subaru forester. No significant loss of gas mileage in folded down position. 26 mpg with boat, 30 mpg without. I leave them on all the time, although it is an invitation for theft. I haven’t run the straps under the subie’s load bars, but its probably a good idea. I check the wing nuts (there are four on each) before each time out. The first couple of times I used it, the front inboard nut worked its way a little loose, so I still check regularly. My only complaint is some rust trails emanating from the hardware that holds the strap guides. For the price, they should use better hardware. Another minor complaint is the Thule directions say to use the short bolts for the forester, but they are too short. Needed to use the long ones. So far, very happy with the racks. I don’t use the bow and stern straps, but I carry them in the car b/c some states require them. I travel at 70mph on the highway, and the boat is solid as a rock. Got mine at EMS during 20% off sale, plus another $25 gear bucks card from the purchase of my Tsunami125. Paid $102 instead of $160.


Google Rack Attack, it’s the best
place to buy a rack I think. Good prices, really helpful people, that really know their product, and good price.

Too bad they don’t install
Try a local Thule dealer, bring him/her lunch if they’ll install.

Yup past lunch time.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Hull-a-Port Pro
We recently purchased 2 sets of the hull-a-port pros (folding J-cradles) and are very happy with them. We have them mounted on a Honda Odyssey. It would have been very difficult to secure two kayaks to the top of our minivan without mounting them on their sides using J-cradles. This difficulty is based on both the physical width of two kayaks (relative to the roof rack) and the difficulty of lifting the yaks on top of a minivan. These cradles work as advertised and we can still drive into the garage without taking them off.

That said, we do share the same concerns as some of the other folks who posted comments …

(1) Security - Racks do not lock to the load bars. We live (and paddle) in a low-crime area but I do remove the cradles when I have to drive the minivan to less secure areas. To me, this is a major design oversight.

(2) Knobs loosening - The tightening knobs will loosen up through everyday vibration. We added a lock washer and flat washer to each bolt and that has helped a lot. But just to be safe, we do check the knobs before loading our kayaks.

The Rack Attack in my area does install
Small fee to do it.

You can use the Lasso Lock on J cradles
I transport my sea kayaks on a trailer, so the chances of theft are higher. I always locked my Hull-a-ports (and now my Malone Autoloaders) to the crossbars with my Lasso Lock. Any long cable lock would work. A thief could still unbolt the crossbars and steal the whole rack set-up, but that would take a lot longer, not to mention being unwieldy. Nylock nuts and double-nutting are your friends (8 nuts per crossbar fastened with U-bolts).

I run the cable through the J’s themselves. With the Thules, just use the space between the metal tubes. With the Malones, I push the Lasso Lock’s loop through one of the strap slots, then put the other end through the loop, pull taut, then wind the cabling around both the bottom of the J and the crossbar. Ditto for the other J, then lock both free ends together with little slack.

We remove our bars
which are set on our kit trailer which has been beefed up and modified some. All the carriers - malone autoloader, malone Js, malone stacker and thule hullaports if needed but last choice are attached to the thule bars which we just undo and put inside the van for “safer” keeping and a little piece of mind. It is quick to just remove the whole bars off the trailer for us and the most time spent is strapping the boats and bow and stern lines.