Travelling to my favourite kayaking spot involves a 20 mile drive to the south coast of Cornwall. I only live 10 minutes from the north coast but 95% of the time its too rough to launch and the south offers much safer fishing options. I don’t have the luxury of a trailer for transporting my kayak so my only option is to attach the kayak to the roof of my 4 x 4.
Before I got my hands on my Thule system I tried a number of “make-shift” solutions. Strapping the kayak straight onto roof bars often ended up with quite a lot of movement in transit regardless of how much i tightened the straps, and on one occasion the kayak nearly slipped off of the roof going around a tight corner on a windy day. I also tried using pipe lagging wrapped around the roof bars, this gave a bit of extra grip against the hull, but my instincts told me that it wasn’t going to be optimal, especially in poor weather.
I have now just fitted Thule SquareBars in conjunction with the 874 Kayak Carrier system. Even as I was un-boxing the components I knew that this was exactly what I had been looking for. I fitted the roof bars quite wide apart giving ample support more towards the bow and stern of the kayak (a lesson learned from experiences with my previous set-up). The kayak carrier system would then support the kayak and stop any movement in transit.
For this installation I needed the following Thule kits. No other tools or parts were needed which I was pleased about.
- Thule Brackets for Rain Gutters 952 (contains 4 x 20cm brackets) – click to see on Thule website
- Thule SquareBar 763 (contains 2 x 150cm roof bars) – click to see on Thule website
- Thule Kayak Carrier 874 (contains 4 x kayak carrier supports) – click to see on Thule website
Fitting to the Vehicle.
Assembling the components literally took me 15 minutes, the roof rack brackets slide onto the ends of the square bars (through an obvious square shaped hole). When you fit it to the vehicle it tightens down onto the rain gutter and the roof bar at the same time. I opted for the 20cm high brackets for the reason that the 15cm brackets only just clear the roof but don’t leave enough of a gap to fit the kayak carrier brackets. The Thule square bars are constructed from 2mm galvanised steel, they have a maximum recommended load of 100kg (which is more than enough for a large kayak).
The kayak carrier system is really well designed, with really sturdy fittings. The thick rubber pad that makes contact with the kayak is textured to improve grip and is supple enough to shape to the contour of the kayak. The angle of the pad is also adjustable with 3 settings to suit a wide range of different kayaks. The kayak carrier brackets also tighten down with a threaded bolt which can easily be tightened with your hand (even with the kayak in place). This is really handy for last minute adjustments to the support, to get a tight fit against the hull.
Getting the kayak onto the top of the vehicle is quite a chore on a high sided vehicle, but I have worked out a system that makes my life easier, and with less risk of me dropping the kayak. Instead of fitting all of the kayak carrier brackets, I only fit 2 of them (front and back brackets on the far side of the vehicle). Then I lift the kayak onto the roof bars and attach the remaining two kayak carrier brackets afterwards (while the kayak rests on the roof bars). This allows me to position the brackets with the kayak in position, and it also means that I don’t have to lift the kayak onto the roof and over the nearest kayak carrier brackets in one go. To unload the kayak I just do this in reverse.
Thule also provide a pair of straps with the kayak carrier kit, these are long enough to double around the roof bars and over the top of the kayak at each end. The buckles are strong and grip really well. They also have rubber shields that slip over the buckles, this stops the metal from damaging the windows and paintwork when you are strapping down (nice touch!).
Thule have another system called the “Hydroglide” which has a built in load assist. This allows you to slide the kayak over the two rear pads and onto the roof, this is worth considering if you think you will have trouble lifting your kayak on and off.
Even before I began driving to my launch site I was really confident that the Thule Kayak Carrier was going to keep my kayak firmly attached. I took the usual route, with a bit of wind and rain to add another dimension to the test. Keeping an eye on the kayak for any movement I was able to take corners at my usual speed with no movement or slipping of the kayak whatsoever. The Thule Kayak Carrier proved to be absolutely solid (as expected).
Many thanks to Thule for sending me this system to try, it is much safer and efficient than anything I have tried before. The quality materials, design of the components, and an obviously large amount of R&D time invested by Thule makes their kayak carriers so good. If you want to transport a kayak on the roof of your car, and you want a safe and easy to use solution, investing in a purpose designed system like the Thule Kayak Carrier 874 is a total no-brainer.
Visit the Thule website and see their full range of water sports carriers here.