Rack It Up

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Travel Guide, Winter 1995-1996

Rack It Up

Who says you can't take it with you?
By John Lehrer

What to look for in a car rack? Ease of use (for example, can you open the ski/ snowboard holder with frozen fingers?), durability (are metal parts made of aluminum or powder-coated?), and security (are key parts made of metal rather than plastic? Is the unit lockable?). Here are a few of our favorites.

AT $150, Barrecrafters' US-1401 multisport rack is a bargain. It's also versatile, fitting cars with both external and internal rain gutters. To haul up to six pairs of skis or two snowboards, we recommend the company's premier ski kit, the aerodynamic, lockable US-956 ($85): Its multiposition closing clamp grips any thickness of ski or snowboard securely. Barrecrafters, Route 7, Box 158, Shelburne, VT 05482; 800-451-3240.

Most hitch-mounted racks are designed mainly to carry bikes, but the Graber Outback ($140-$160) can carry two pairs of skis or two bikes without any add-ons (if you do buy the $75 add-on unit you'll be able to transport four pairs of skis or four bikes). Skis rest across upper and lower pillars, forming a V, and are attached securely with integral elastic cords. One drawback: There's no way to lock your skis to the rack. Graber, 5253 Verona Road, Madison, WI 53711; 800-783-7257.

The superb design of the Saris rack ($225-$235) makes it extremely easy to install: The towers and load bar are a single unit, so no assembly is required except bolting on the clips that fit your car. Attaching accessories couldn't be simpler either--they just slide into a locking track on top of the load bars. The Saris spring-loaded ski/snowboard carrier ($100), which holds four pairs of skis or a snowboard, locks automatically when you close its hinged top and folds flat for improved aerodynamics when not in use. Saris, from Graber, 5253 Verona Road, Madison, WI 53711; 800-783-7257.

The hallmark of Thule roof racks is its precise fit; the Swedish company makes 162 fit kits for cars sold in the United States, and 255 kits worldwide. The Aero Foot 400 Rack System ($170) fits cars with aerodynamic profiles (i.e., most American cars these days). No tools are needed for installation, which usually takes about 20 minutes. The model 586 add-on ($130) can also be used on factory-installed racks; it carries four pairs of skis (no snowboards) on an angle for maximum binding-to-roof clearance. Locks for racks and accessories are optional. Thule, 42 Silvermine Road, Seymour, CT 06483; 800-238-2388.

Yakima's latest offering is a skis-only rack called the Mag-Neato ($100; locking version, $135), which holds two pairs of skis. Two important features: The magnets are Teflon-coated to protect your vehicle's finish--and they're flexible, thereby conforming to the roof's contours. A snowboard kit ($30), which holds one board (and one pair of skis), is available for the nonlocking version only. Yakima, drawer 4899, Arcata, CA 95518; 707-826-8000.

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