Two Canoe Rack on a Rav 4

I’m closing in on a 2006 Rav 4 to replace the F150 (holy gas mileage Batman!).

I’ve got 7’ 2x4’s on top of the truck so that I can load two tandem canoes with no fuss. At 5’ 9" I walk right under those no problem.

I’d like the same capacity with the Toyota but it’s a little lower and I suspect that 7’ cross bars will be head knockers.

At this time I’m thinking Yakima or Thule on top of the factory racks.

Any thoughts on having two tandem capacity without the head banging? I’m imagining some folding or telescoping bars but ???

I seem to remember reading about a
guy who modified a Yakima rack with inner telescoping bars that could be pulled out and secured with clevis pins inserted through holes drilled through both the factory Yakima bars and the inserts.

I’m not sure how secure it would be. I suspect the round Yakima bars would make it somewhat easier to do this.

You could use my method. I mounted 72" long Thule bars on a 1986 Honda Accord hatchback years ago. Just mount the rack and bash your head against the end of the bars around 2 dozen times or until you feel good, whichever comes first. After that you tend to avoid them.

I got yakima racks with Rail grabbers. My bars are the standard ones and I can fit two kayaks easily. Two canoes wouldn’t fit on my setup. If you get the extra long bars, two canoes should be no problem.


canoe rack on Rav4

As you know there are many ways to rack a vehicle. For my Rav4 I removed the factory rack and made adaptor plates to use Thule Fit Kit 8 and Tracker II Feet. With this set up the racks can be installed and removed in about 20 seconds. It’s strong-I drove home from Raystown with 5 boats on top. Being a “cross-paddler” who uses both canoes and kayaks I have bars set up for each. If you’re just a canoeist, you could have bars for a single canoe and wider bars for transporting 2 canoes. Removal when not in use for better gas milage takes 20 seconds.

Should you be sick enough to consider this set up, we can get together and you can see the set up and measure the parts. Since you live in “Southern New England” and I live in Southern CT the drive should be only an hour or two.


“should be” two hours
since you two live in the same new snow belt…maybe not.

I believe I have seen Dave’s setup… Its worth the trip Tommy.

As far as crossbar width, I don’t think we in the East have anything to worry about as far as width of boats vs mirror dimensions. I am southbound next week with 78 inch bars on the Forester and two boats.

Let me know if Smokey will be looking for me between Maine and South Carolina. The operative words were :I think.

Preventing a banged head

– Last Updated: Jan-15-11 11:41 PM EST –

I don't like hitting my head either, though I ran the risk and occasionally did for a long time. But years ago I had an idea for preventing head bumps, and it has worked every time, so far.

In a few other photos in that album you can see the warning ropes hanging from the ends of the bars when they are installed on the vehicle.

You won't hit your head with this arrangement. You can't walk into the cross bar because if your hat brim obstructs your vision or if you are looking down (it's usually one of these two things) that short length of rope hanging down will be in your face before you make contact. Also, you can't get out of the car and bump your head when you stand up because even if the rope isn't in your face, you will feel it against the top of your head before you make contact.

I know, it looks too simple, but trust me, this method really works. Get rid of those stupid tennis balls that cushion the blow but still break your glasses, and prevent impact in the first place.

Here’s my telescoping setup

– Last Updated: Jan-16-11 6:57 AM EST –

then the next two photos as well.

It works well. Use the longest Yakima bar you can use without having a head clocker. Then get galvanized pipe as long as the bars (a little longer actually, it has to stick out of the ends). Then saw the pipe in half and insert a half in each end. I wrap duct tape around to secure the yakima bar and the pipe together while drilling. You can get the pipe and the clips at Lowes.

In the one picture I've got the bar extended out pretty far. I only need that much bar when hauling 3 boats side by side. For two solos, I don't have to extend the bars at all. They work on my van as shown on the first pic. With the Rav 4 I think you'd have to extend them a bit.

I've been using this setup since 2005 with no issues.

I used a Yakima removable rack

… on a previous car. It was a minivan with no factory rack. I drilled the roof per Yakima instructions and used their “plus nuts”. It was a sweet setup. And it came off and on in 20 seconds just like you said Dave. No fuss.

I also rigged that one to be able to telescope out as needed. I like that having that option.

Cool! the 2006 is the bigger one
I was thinking it was the smaller one but then I checked. You could use the Yakima low riders just like the ones in my pics above. Those are nice factory racks. I’d definately want to work with those.

Low riders
Got the same setup as Brian, but no need to extend the bars.


Yakima tracks

I installed the Yakima tracks on a new 2002 Honda Van. The process required my drilling 18 holes in the roof of the expensive vehicle. The holes must miss the roof cross beams for the attachment screws with plus-nuts to work. Yakima provided diagrams at that time so all that was required was careful measuring. They don’t provide the diagrams now so you have to drop the headliner to find drilling points that miss the cross beams.

In my product testing of the Yakima tracks I “arranged” the front strap for a plywood canoe to come off at 80 mph in South Dakota. Wind shattered the canoe and slightly pried up two screws. When I reached my destination I was able to repair the tracks. So, conclusion of this one involuntary test is that they are fairly strong.

Email me off the board if you want to meet and examine the conversion I did on my Rav4.


yakima telescoping set-up
Check the inside of the Yakima bars before planning to use galvanized pipe extensions. Pipe extensions fit nicely inside the bars on my Yakima rack, but a friend has Yakima bars with a lengthwise ridge inside the bar and pipe extensions don’t fit. Found this out at a take-out when I’d brought along extension pipes so that my canoe and I could hitch a ride in his vehicle that had a yakima rack with short bars. Had to make two trips to shuttle our two boats since the extension pipes didn’t fit.

Good Stuff - Thanks All!
Some Times P-Net is aggravating but I don’t know where else I could get this many good ideas for hauling boats.

At this time I’m hoping to do the telescoping bars on Low Riders on the factory racks. Thanks Brian for your info. Thanks Pika for the Gotcha to beware of.

Andy, is the rear bar lower in your pictures or is that an optical delusion? Maybe Low Riders fore and something taller aft?

Guide Boat Guy, I may hang those warning ropes when I extend my bars just to see if they work for boneheads like me. Great idea.

Dave, I appreciate the offer but I really don’t want to drill the roof. I use bow and stern tiedowns if there’s any chance of disaster.

Good stuff!

Not an optical illusion

– Last Updated: Jan-16-11 4:47 PM EST –



My fix..

I wanted to spread the bars as far as possible. The Rav4 doesn't have a straight roof line, hence that upturned bow. With the minicell in place it's now level.

My cheap and simple solution
I use long cross bars on my Forester. My solution was to put a bright yellow tennis ball on each end of each rack. You can’t miss seeing them and even if I hit my bald head on the bars those tennis balls are very soft - no harm no foul.

Racking a Rav4

I like the Thule fit kit/tracker II feet installed on a adaptor plate solution much better than drilling in the roof. I only elaborated on the Yakima tracks since they were mentioned and do work.

With my present system, I can reinstall the factory rack at any time should I want to do so-I don’t, as I’m quite pleased with how the Tracker II feet work. Only tracks rival them in speed and ease of taking bars on and off and this system doesn’t require drilling the roof.

As I started my first post, there are many ways to rack a vehicle. You have been given quite a few good suggestions, pick one and have fun.


Tracker II Also
I had the older model '97 RAV4. I had modified the factory rack with two 1-by-2’s for a couple years. Broke one and bought a Thule Tracker II in '99. Have the same rack as you just change a few components when you change vehicles.

Have had people “Time me” in the past, and can put the Tracker II on and off in about 20 seconds. So you don’t have to be a “Head banger” except when canoes are loaded. And those tennis balls on the end will help that.

BTW, I owned the smaller version of RAV4 and had no problems hauling two canoes. WW