Regardless of what type of roof rack setup you decide, it is important to ensure they align with the weight load of your roof top tent and your vehicle.
The roof racks best for your vehicle will depend on the type of roof it has and what you intend to load/carry. For most users and applications, standard crossbars and foot packs will get the job done, but if you're looking for something more heavy duty then a roof rack platform will be the way to go (we'll cover them briefly below as well).
Let's start with the roof types:
Naked / Bare / Normal Roofs
- The plastic strips that run front-to-back on most vehicles are not actually rain gutters for rack purposes. For these types of cars, the most common setup is a "Clip Fit"
- Clip Fit roof racks create tension around the door frame of cars that have no pre-installed attachment points.
- Consider the Thule Rapid Traverse Foot Pack
Side Rails - Raised or Flush
- Many SUVs and crossovers are equipped with factory-installed side rails that run front-to-back on the roof. In most cases, they are strong attachment points engineered to support a roof rack system
- Raised side rails are elevated above the roof of a car - where a roof rack tower would typically wrap around. However, it's worth double checking that they will fit your specific vehicle as there's a wide range of raised rail sizes
- Flushed side rails sit directly on the roof of a car and are becoming more comment. They will typically have channels or pin holes for the mount to fit into
- Consider the Thule Rapid Podium Foot Pack
Factory T-Track & Fixed Point
- Some vehicles come with roof rack mounting points pre-built into the roof or tracks pre-installed. These allow for a quick, simple installation of base towers
- Again, consider the versatile Thule Rapid Podium Foot Pack
- Rain gutter roof racks attach to the exposed rain gutters (“drip rails” or “gutters” ) - this is the gap that runs around the edge of your car just below the roof
- This solution was fairly standard on most vehicles for decades, with many affordable options
- Consider the Thule Rapid Gutter Foot Pack or if you need more than 5" of clearance, the Thule Gutter High Foot Pack
Styles of Roof Rack Cross Bars
The standard Thule SquareBar crossbars are made of steel. They are strong and reliable. However, because of their shape can make a fair amount of wind-noise.
As an alternative, Thule offers a lighter, aerodynamic version called the WingBar. They'll make less noise.
Beware the Whistling
A common annoyance that most fail to mention is that wind flowing between some vehicle roofs and the crossbars will create a whistling noise. It'll only occur at certain speeds - unfortunately, until you're actually on the highway.
While this occurs less frequently with the wing-shaped bars, you can also consider attaching a front bar to deflect the airflow upwards if the noise bothers you. At the end of the day also think about what will be on your crossbars. If it's a Roof Top Tent, a wind deflector mounted to your crossbar won't do much, however one mounted to the tent itself can help.
Consider the iKamper Wind Deflector.
While there is typically a recommended bar length specific to your vehicle, you do have the option of getting longer bars.
Depending on the length, the longer bars may stick out the side of your vehicle. While it may look less visually appealing, this is one way to increase the amount of stuff you can carry on your roof. Just something to consider that works in some situations.
If you're unsure about which bars and foot pack to get, send us a note to email@example.com with photos of your vehicle, what you're planning on mounting, and the make / model / year of the vehicle.
Once the equipment you intend to carry on the roof has breached the 165 lbs mark, you should start looking at a roof platform. They also give you the versatility to mount several individual item such as Wolf Packs, Maxtrax, solar panels, etc.
We will have dedicated articles on the benefits and good uses of roof platforms. Due to the large variety of options and very vehicle-specific designs, we highly recommend you contact us to help consult on a setup that works for you and with your vehicle.
For the purpose of this article, think about these 3 things:
- Roof platforms are labour intensive to install - some fit into existing openings on your vehicle (such as pre-drilled holes or gutters) while many require drilling and a professional to install.
- If you're carrying more than 165 lbs you really should be switching to a roof platform - larger tents like the Treeline Outdoors Redwood should ideally be mounted to platforms.
- Versatility - these platforms give you the opportunity to mount many different items, various setups, and carry more weight. Think if this is important to you.
Consider the Front Runner Slimline rack platforms.