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You’re Mileage May Vary…

May 2nd, 2010 · 2 Comments

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With two kayaks, it seems one’s most natural inclination is to figure out how to haul two kayaks on top of the car. Lately, I’ve been able to take my nephew and my wife out fishing from the kayaks as well. This, of course, means a good reason for putting two kayaks on the car.

This had me thinking about fuel mileage. I keep tabs of fuel economy every time gas goes into the tank. It’s something I learned while going up (thanks Dad!), and has turning into a valuable tool when diagnosing issues with my other car. Lately I’ve found myself hauling my Trident 15 on a near-daily basis; springers are running, and I drive across some prime territory. If the weather’s good, and I have the time, I can put my kayak in the water at a moments notice. My Trident 15 is lain, upside down, right across my crossbars. I have found, on my lil Kia Rio5, that this configuration has little effect on gas consumption. Normally, in mixed driving, my mileage is in the high-27-mpg range. With the Trident 15 on the crossbars, I still pull over 27 mpg, but usually in the 27.2-27.4mpg range. To me, this slight difference is of little consequence and I have no problem keeping my kayak on the car.

The first time to haul both kayaks came last month when I took my nephew fishing. That involved cartopping both kayaks for the first time, AND a 150+ mile (one way) drive (see photo above). Suffice it to say, the process was a bit nerve-racking since I hadn’t done such a thing before. Fortunately, things worked out perfectly fine. Because of the distance, I was able to play with a few things, most importantly was fuel economy. I clocked pretty much nothing but highway speeds the whole trip (what, maybe 15 miles “city” driving), and saw some increased fuel consumption. With two big hunks of plastic ontop of the car, this wasn’t surprising. I was, however, surprised by just how much difference in fuel use there was! Only 1.2 miles per gallon! So, from fill-up to fill-up, I lost only 12 miles. Again, I felt like this was a minimal loss, and I was quite happy with how things worked out.

Here’s a quick iPhone video of how the car was loaded up

After that trip, I bought a pair of Yakima Hullraiser racks for the car. While I knew I could haul two kayaks at the same time, life would most certainly be easier with a specialized rack for one of the kayaks. This way I wouldn’t have to thread straps through scuppers and generally would feel better about the security of both kayaks. I had originally intended for the Hullraisers to be used only for my wife’s kayak, the Trident 11. The T11 is MUCH ligher than my T15, and it would, therefore, be easier to put the kayak up on the racks.

I installed the Hullraisers while the T15 was on the racks to make it easy to space things out. The last thing I wanted was to mount them improperly and make it difficult, if not impossible, to load and unloaded the T15 onto the crossbars. All I needed to do was a lil trimming to the tape-wrapped pool-noodles I used as padding, and the Hullraisers mounted easily. Also, since the T15 was there, I just had to see how it fit in the j-hooks.

Awesome…

Yes, this side profile makes the already small car look smaller, or makes the already huge boat look bigger. Despite the looks, I liked the way things felt. The kayak felt secure, and it was actually easier to load onto the j-hooks than it was to load onto the crossbars. I was impressed to say the least, and immediately prescribed myself to getting a second set for hauling both kayaks. This would also open up the rack for a PVC rod holder, not to mention how easy it was to load the kayak with gear into the Rod Pod while it was on the car.

However, there was something I failed to think about. This big kayak, now sideways, on top of the car, had a HUGE impact on car. No, side-winds seemed to be of little consequence. Passing semis, and traveling a couple hundred feet over the Willamette River on the windy Fremont Bridge, had barely caused the car to budge, despite the wind-sail on the roof.

I hadn’t given much though to fuel usage.

I haven’t run the car through a full tank to do accurate details, but I have covered close to 200 miles, which is a large majority of the range this car is capable of driving (thanks to the tiny gas tank). Even still the effect on fuel consumption was astounding! There was an 10+% reduction of fuel economy. The car went from the economy of a 4-cylinder motor, to a 6-cylinder, without the power to make up for the difference!

So, naturally, I’m second guessing the second pair of Hullraisers. I’d rather have the kayak on the car when I need it, rather than the ease of loading and unloading. The single pair are still very useful while hauling two kayaks, but not ideal for hauling a single kayak.

Now, there ARE a couple other car-topping methods. One is the right-side-up style cradles. This will setup the kayak similarly to the method I normally haul my T15, but the cradles keep the kayak upright. I would assume there is little difference in fuel economy between the two methods. If your rear-most crossbar is near the back of the car, it’d probably be even easier to load your kayak without scratching things up.

There are also “stackers” which are just vertical posts designed to haul two or more kayaks. I would assume these would have very similar effects as the j-hook style rack like the Hullraisers. Both greatly increase the height of the vehicle, and therefore create a greater consumption of fuel.

There is, of course, another method of hauling your kayak. A trailer. Kayak-specific trailers are often VERY light weight, and because they also have a very low profile, offer up little resistance. I would expect a minimal decrease in economy, depending on the setup. This is a topic I hope to address someday, but not likely to happen for a couple years.

Hope this has been useful! I know I certainly found things interesting…

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rob // May 6, 2010 at 12:52 am

    I had to smile at that last photo, looks like you’re ready to fly!. It can be a challenge to get two yaks on the roof.

  • 2 The Nothing // May 6, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    that it is! I haven’t taken pics with both kayaks on the car with the Hullraisers, but it is a much nicer setup than working without racks at all. Unfortunately the 15 does not get to ride in the racks all that often, thanks to the petrol use.

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