School of Rack - Ski Mag

School of Rack

Outfitter
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The Ultimate Setup

Get your boards out of the backseat, already. Ski racks are easier than ever to install, they work better-and, hell, even Thule and Yakima have decided to get along, making components that fit one another's crossbars. We tested most of the options on the market, ranked them by ease of use, installation, and overall score (1=poor, 5=excellent), then arranged the best into three categories: the Ultimate Setup, which can haul almost all the gear in your garage; Roof Boxes, the ideal way to get all your ski stuff to the hill muck-free; and Ski Carriers, the cheapest - but dirtiest - way to make more room for your ski buddies.

THE ULTIMATE SETUP

Want to get all your goodies on one roof? Here's the ultimate setup, attached to a pair of long crossbars (we used Yakima 66-inchers; $50).

Yakima Hullraiser $100; yakima.com

Yakima's new boat caddy moves beyond the old post-and-strap system. Slanted, J-shaped aluminum arms cradle your boat securely and make loading easy for solo paddlers.

gripes:

Unlike a post, it's not designed to secure more than one boat - so leave the quiver at home.

props:

Holds anything from a chubby playboat to a svelte tandem touring kayak.

Installation: 4
Ease of Use: 5
Overall: 4.5

Yakima Multi-Mount $40; yakima.com

This simple crossbar attachment holds kayak paddles, several pairs of ski poles, multiple fly rods, or a couple of lances— anything long and skinny with a combined diameter of less than 5 inches.

Installation: 4
Ease of Use: 5
Overall: 4.5

Rocky Mounts Lariat SL $60 ($68 with locks); rockymounts.com Zinc-and-steel hardware, an idiot-proof mounting system, and a price that's $20 less than comparable fork-mounts make the Lariat the best bike rack we found. It works with round or square crossbars, and the aluminum trays come in eight colors.
gripes: The potential exists for you to go "reggae (buy one red, one green, and one yellow). Don't be that guy.
props: Trays accommodate any tire type under 2.3 inches, and the fork-mount fits everything but monster downhill rigs and unicycles.
Installation: 4
Ease of Use: 5
Overall: 4.5

Yakima Pro Series Platinum 16s $440; yakima.com Of all the components we tested, only Yakima's newest box was truly plug-and-play: It slides easily on and off your rack, requiring no loose parts or tools. Innovative mounting clamps securely grip any bar. With 16 cubic feet of storage, it has room for poles, a snowboard, several day packs, and three pairs of 185's. Longer sticks? Smaller car? Not to worry. Yakima makes three other sizes.
gripes: The three-year warranty just isn't as good as Thule's five.
props: Built-in locks, dual-side access, and oversize, glove-friendly latches are nice touches.
Installation: 5
Ease of Use: 5
Overall Rating: 5

ROOF BOXES

Thule Evolution 1200 $369; thule.com Like the Yakima, Thule's latest and greatest box comes with standard locks and features user-friendly, dual-side access. Unlike the Yakima, this ski-specific, 12-cubic-foot box can hold as many as six pairs of 215's (for all of you recreational downhillers out there).
gripes: The crossbar mounting brackets require some minimal assembly, so setup isn't as snappy as Yakima's.
props: A long, slim shape conserves precious crossbar space. We don't mind the five-year warranty, either. (And, no, it won't cover you if you tear into a low-clearance parking garage at 20 miles per hour.)
Installation: 4
Ease of Use: 4
Overall: 4

SportRack Ski Locker $250; sportrack.comThe Ski Locker gives you 13 cubic feet of aerodynamic hauling space and a versatile bracket system that fits on Thule, Yakima, and most factory crossbars. Unfortunately, the box only opens from the passenger side (a hassle for solo trips to the mountain) and closes witth all the authority of an old piece of Tupperware.
gripes: Way too many loose parts make for messy and complicated assembly.
props: It gets skis, packs, and soggy fleeces out of the backseat for little more than the top-priced ski carrier.
Installation: 2.5
Ease of Use: 4
Overall: 3.5

SKI CARRIERS

Flat Top 6 pair $110 ($132 with locks); thule.com Design-wise, the Old Faithful of Thule's ski carrier lineup hasn't changed much—which is a good thing. Precise opening-and-closing action and simple installation and removal make it the most user-friendly ski carrier on the market. It securely holds six pairs of skis—or four snowboards loaded base-to-base. Have a tall car, but no tall friends? The Pull Top model ($170) slides out over the side of your vehicle for easier loading.
gripes: $22 for locks??
props: The Flat Top's oversize buttons made it the easiest—among these three carriers—to open with gloved hands.
Installation: 4.5
Ease of Use: 4.5
Overall: 4.5

Sportrack Aerro B4 $100; sportrack.comThe Aerro B4 is a simple, no-frills carrier—no sliding action, no multi-angle carrying positions (like RV-Inno's Dual Angle, below). Its mounting system attaches to a wide range of crossbars, making it a good choice for vehicles with factory-installed bars, and it can fit four pairs of skis or two base-to-base snowboards.
gripes: Sloppy opening and closing compared with the RV-Inno and Thule; too many loose mounting parts.
props: Locks are included, and it still costs less than two lift tickets.
Installation: 2.5
Ease of Use: 4.5
Overall: 3.5

RV-Inno Dual Angle $220; rv-inno.comWhile the Thule and Sportrack models are components that require crossbars, the Dual Angle attaches directly to your car—with no pricey base system required, even on factory-installed rails and smooth roofs. This sleek-looking ski carrier can lock in an angled position, giving you extra clearance for six skis with lifted bindings or four snowboards stacked base-to-base. Like the Thule, it also comes in a slide-out version ($349) for taller vehicles or shorter skiers.
gripes: Tightening the hex-bolts after adjusting the rack to your car's width requires an awkward reach.
props: Locks and a five-year warranty come standard.
Installation: 3
Ease of Use: 5
Overall: 4

Sept. 2004

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