Aftermarket Roof Rack for 2017 Subaru Outback Touring Wagon for Transporting 16-ft Kayak

Question:

Hello! I recently purchased a new Subaru Outback, the new Touring model 2017 that has the roof rails but no factory crossbars. I am a kayaker, and have always detested the factory cross bars on recent Outbacks like many others due to the relatively flimsy nature as well as the minimal spacing. The mantra in the boating community is that increasing crossbar spacing leads to a much more stable boat tie-down, especially at highway speeds with a 16 foot kayak. My hope with the Touring model was to be able to purchase after market cross bars. However, currently the only option seems to be a Subaru sold Thule set not available anywhere else. The spacing on this still seems limited to me. Any thoughts? If I can only get 27 inches of spacing, is that enough for a 16 foot kayak? Options for me? Time frame ideas when other parts may be available? Thanks!

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Expert Reply:

We do offer some aftermarket roof rack fits for your 2017 Subaru Outback Touring Wagon that has raised roof side rails. The current options are from Rhino-Rack and can be seen on the linked page. You can choose either silver or black bars; many customers prefer the black bar set-up, part # JA7975, for its OEM-like appearance. For silver bars order kit # JA7956. Both racks provide a maximum load capacity of 165-lbs and I suggest a review of your owner's manual to confirm that the car's roof can handle the weight of your particular kayak.

You are absolutely correct that a wider crossbar stance tends to provide better stability for long loads such as your 16-foot kayak. You will want to position the Rhino crossbars as far apart as your side rails allow. If that is limited to a 27-inch spacing then I would suggest adding supplementary support for the kayak.

In your case I think you will be best served with a side-loading carrier like the Rhino-Rack Nautic # RR570 because this type of carrier will allow you to add, if you find the need after some road time, foam blocks to provide additional support for the kayak's bow and stern ends. The linked page display all such foam block carriers, which include tie downs. These come in various heights.

You can try the Nautic on its own to see how things handle, and if you find that you'd like some additional support you can review the page to find a foam block system whose height matches up best with the crossbar height and the contours of the kayak's hull. Using both a rack-mounted carrier and foam block supports should give you a really solid method for safe and stress-free kayak transport.

It may take some months for other roof rack makers to test and launch their own aftermarket roof racks; this timeline is hard to predict. But with the popularity of the Outback I expect that other rack options will appear in the coming months.

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Adam R

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