Sometimes we need help getting our toys to the trailhead. Thankfully, there’s a growing arsenal of racks and accessories making this chore easier than ever before.
Whether you drive a pickup truck, a compact car, an SUV or even a bicycle—you'll find a rack to suit your needs in this extensive list of the best vehicle racks for 2018:
Thule Raceway Platform PRO 2
The Raceway Platform brings the tray-rack to vehicles without a trailer hitch. The crowded triangle of modern mountain-bike geometry makes the traditional two-armed hanging bike rack almost useless. Anyone with a trailer hitch has likely switched to hanging- and tray-racks, but those without hitches were left wanting. The Raceway Platform evens the playing field. It uses a system of straps, ratchets, arms, clamps and adjustable gutters to create a tray system that carries two bikes snugly and safely for hours of rough logging-road driving. The system mounts quickly, rides low for easy loading and folds out of the way when not in use.
Throwing a boat in a pickup bed is about as easy a loading system as it gets, but when the boat is way longer than the bed, your truck’s not so convenient any more. The LongArm extends a bed by up to 1.2 metres and it has a 137-kilogram capacity, more than enough to carry small boats, SUPs, lumber, ladders and more. Shaped like a T, the LongArm mounts in the trailer hitch. A pin and hole system adjusts the angle of the arm to match the height of the bed and/or what you’re carrying. The load secures with lash points on either end of the upright portion. An optional pad protects fragile boats and boards. (Also pictured at top.)
This roof-mounted bike rack’s name is a bit of a misnomer—it’s refined and elegant, unlike the brutal and ragged weapon. Like the best roof mounts, this one works with wheels on, nesting in a tray with a ratcheting arm locking onto the front tire rather than the bike frame. Front and rear tire-straps add extra measures of security. Unloading is just as easy, and the rack carries everything from road bikes to plus-sized mountain bikes. When it’s not in use, the arm folds forward and then ratchets snug against the tray to hide out of sight.
Kuat Racks Pivot
Pricy hitch-mounted bike racks include a pivoting arm to make accessing the tailgate possible. Now it’s possible to upgrade any Kuat hitch-rack into one that swings out of the way. The system securely locks snugly against the vehicle when not in use. Pulling the pin opens it smoothly, providing enough clearance to open a wagon door or tailgate properly.
Salamander Bike Trailer
Forget looking for a parking spot—or even driving at all. This aluminum trailer attaches to any bike, turning pedal-power into boat or board transport. The top bar adjusts to accommodate everything from full-length kayaks to surfboards, carrying six- to 17-foot loads. Padded cradles hold the craft secure while two big wheels roll smoothly, even on rough trails.
Tepui Tents Baja Ayer
(from $1,444; tepuitents.ca)
One of the newest trends in car-camping is rooftop tents. They mount on a car rack and pop up into a humble abode off the ground. Tepui is a leader in rooftop tents, but they’ve only recently become available in Canada. The four-season, two person Baja is one of their most versatile tents. It packs down to a low profile (less than 30 centimetres) and fits well on crossovers and SUVs. Popped up, its vertical walls and one-metre sit-up height create plenty of internal space and the removable fly protects the interior from the rain. It comes with a ladder and a cozy foam mattress.
($99 USD; click-strap.com)
One of the chores of loading a boat onto your roof-rack is tying it on. Sometimes just getting the straps or ropes in place can be a challenge. That’s why these self-latching tie-down straps make life easier. One end mounts to a cross-bar in the middle of the rack. Toss the other end over your boat and magnets find each other, locking together automatically without any awkward reaching or threading. Tighten the strap through the included cam, as normal, and you’re done. Once at the put-in, a button releases the magnets. It’s a simple—but genius—solution to an old problem.
Thule Motion XT Alpine
About 10 centimetres thinner than most roof boxes and with recessed mounts, the Motion XT is aerodynamic and still swallows a ton of stuff. Designed specifically for carrying skis and boards (five to seven skis or three to five snowboards), we found it was just as useful for hauling gear. Carry-on sized bags and backpacks, camping chairs, tents and more fit inside. Made with stiff plastic, it slips through the air with less drag and makes opening and closing the lid easy. It mounts fast too, with a few twists of four knobs.