The Load Bars
Thule has recommendations for the proper bar lengths to fit each vehicle. Keep in mind that the length of bar will determine how many kayaks you can carry. To find the desired bar length, you will need to know the kind of cradles you plan to use and the width of your kayaks when positioned in those cradles. Bars can always be cut shorter, so it is better to err on the long side.
In most states the bars cannot legally extend beyond the vehicle's mirrors. Bars that are too long can be dangerous, so make them as short as you need to carry what you want. Not only can you hit your head getting in and out of the car, but with long bars it is possible to hit another vehicle (as we have proven). The system pictured here demonstrates two problems. The bars are too wide for the car, and the outside set of cradles are outside of the roof rack feet. This puts a lot of weight on the bars and it is highly discouraged. Placing one cradle on each side of the feet would be fine.
We are happy to custom fit the bar length for your needs. The price difference between different length bars is minimal.
Thule vs. Yakima
There are other roof rack manufacturers, but we have not found any of them to approach the quality of Thule and Yakima.
The Thule vs. Yakima debate comes down to whether you like the round Yakima bar or the square Thule bar. The advantage the Yakima load bar has is that you can rotate cradles flat when not in use. With J bars and stackers, this looks better and on tall vehicles it might allow you to drive into your garage or to the fast food drive-through. The disadvantage of the Yakima round bars is that cradles rotate on their own as in this photo. We know paddlers who have had their boats come loose because the stacker rotated down.
In the past, the type of bars you had determined which accessories were available to you. Now, both Thule and Yakima are designing their accessories to fit both square and round bars as well as factory racks.
The foot pack attaches the load bars to the vehicles. You will not have many choices here. If your vehicle has a factory-installed rack, your first decision will be whether to attach the kayak rack to it. Factory racks have advantages and disadvantages. Many manufacturers rate their racks for loads of only 60 to 80 pounds. This is fine for one kayak, but totally unacceptable if you need to carry two or more sea kayaks. We have heard a few stories of racks flying off vehicles while driving on the highway. Not only might you lose your kayaks, but you might kill someone in another vehicle. Follow your vehicle's weight limit. If you want to carry more than one kayak, most vehicles with factory installed racks can also use a non-factory rack system.
The Thule Crossroad 450 is used to attach the load bars to the factory rack. The Crossroad has a stylish look is easy to install with the turn of a handle. No tools are required. It is sold as a complete foot pack (450) and as a half pack (4502). Wth the One Key System™, it can be locked with four lock cylinders.
The Thule 400XT Areo Foot fits most vehicles without factory racks and can be used to carry more weight than the Crossroad 450 can carry. The 400XT Areo Foot is used in combination with a fit kit. Thule has over 250 fit kits to conform to your vehicle's roof profile. The Aero Foot tightens to bar and roof simultaneously. No tools are required for installation. Four lock cylinders are recommended for security.
Thule has a much wider selection then does Yakima. Nether company has a fit kit for every vehicle, so check before you buy a new vehicle (or a new rack).
Atlantic Kayak Tours, Expert Center
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