Roof racks and load bar advice

I’d like to open this blog out to other Jimny owners to contribute in the comments below. Let’s try to compile as detailed and informative a guide as we can about racks and load bars for your gen 4 Jimny.

Please only contribute feedback and advice from direct personal experience. No speculation or marketing promises from brands.

The aim to keep the article updated on a regular basis as new information and products are uncovered. So bookmark this page for reference.

I’ll make a start on what I’ve learned so far. Remember this is my personal feedback and advice, it may not match others opinions. I’ll add others feedback to the article regardless of contradiction to my own. I welcome to be corrected on anything I’m misinformed on, so comment below.

Should I buy a roof rack?

Often one of the first things new Jimny owners buy is a roof rack. They look pretty cool, which from most posts I see shared that’s their main purpose. One day you’ll need it, right?

For others who depend upon their roof rack for work, overlanding, camping, etc they unlock a modular storage system for anything you can imagine… within reason.

The most popular rack I’ve seen on a new Jimny is the Front Runner full rack, weighing in at 27kg. It’s like the BF Goodrich tyres of roof racks, standard issue kit! It works, it’s reliable and it’s very popular.

Keeping the total weight and height profile of the vehicle as low as possible is essential on a Jimny. I wrote an article on roof weight and why to me it’s the most important thing to get right on your setup.

Don’t forget every KG eats into the 300kg total payload limit of the Jimny which includes passengers, kit and mods you’ve added (steel bumpers, underbody armour etc).

I’ve been told ARB have a new lighter weight rack coming out (or already out) but I’ve not seen it yet. I’ve also heard good things about Eezi-Awn K9 roof racks but cannot comment on these personally.

I made a mistake buying a roof rack when I had nothing to store up there that needed a rack. Albeit, I did buy the 3/4 Front Runner rack not the full one.

It’s easy to get wooed by the aesthetic of a nice piece of kit. My goal was to mount a roof tent and awning, nothing else. Sinking eight hundred pounds into a rack system for a roof tent was silly.

Here’s a picture of the tent mounted on the roof rack. As we want the tent to fold out over the rear of the vehicle notice how you have to position it.

The reason the tent needs to be so far back is to avoid hitting the ladder when opening the rear door. Side mounting the tent would avoid this weird looking overhang.

The overhang isn’t unstable and it might not look as weird on a full rack but on the 3/4 rack it looked goofy. You can’t move the rack further back as the antenna is in the way. Add to this that the sides of the rack framing make mounting and removing the tent more awkward with less room to manoeuvre.

So in our case the 3/4 rack was a bad choice but that doesn’t mean the full racks are and it’ll depend on the orientation and style of your tent. I stand by the fact that if you’re only mounting a tent and awning it’s crazy adding an extra 20kg on your roof by using a rack instead of simply using load bars.

For other items excluding a tent the full racks are by far the most feature packed option to unlock storage space on the little Jimny.

Roof Rack Pros

  • They unlock valuable storage space.
  • They’re modular with endless attachments and gubbins.
  • They’re strong AF.
  • They look cool.

Roof Rack Cons

  • They’re heavy, often over 25kg before you even start to load things on it.
  • They’re expensive.
  • You add additional drag and reduce mileage efficiency.
  • Difficult to clean your roof (if that matters to you).

Should I buy load bars?

Load bars, the ugly cousin of roof racks. Okay, that’s unfair, my Front Runner load bars aren’t aesthetically unpleasing.

I started out with the Thule bars as seen below.

Initially when mounting the tent we used 2 thule square bars but the rear bar began to sag under the weight of the tent with 2 people inside. Disconcerting to say the least when you notice that while camping.

We added a 3rd bar as shown below.

I ended up moving the middle bar further to the back than you see here. That is where most of the weight is distributed when the tent is open. This worked fine but I wanted a stronger set of bars with a reliable way to mount a side awning. The Thule bars got retired into the ‘wasted money’ storage box in the loft.

Changing to stronger Front Runner load bars meant we only needed to use 2 bars. Thankfully I salvaged the two sets of feet and slats from the 3/4 rack instead of buying a new set. All I needed was some end caps to finish it off neat that Front Runner sell.

I do highly rate these bars for the purposes of what we need. They’re rock solid!

I’m hopefully an isolated case but I found rust after 1 year and powder coating flaking off on the feet. This is without regular removal of the load bars. To Front Runners credit they did replace those parts and I’m thankful for that.

I also need to acknowledge that this is a product I can’t expect to remain in perfect condition with the passage of time. It’s unrealistic of me to assume so. It’s going to get hit with different weather conditions, most often rain and we live in a coastal location, which doesn’t help.

One improvement I feel they could offer customers, not that I expect them to read this, is some type of paintwork protection for the metal feet that make contact with the rain gutters. Perhaps even sold as an add-on. I’ve had a fair amount of conversations with people who agree. The Thule bars have a hard plastic coating on their feet that prevents metal on metal so I assume it’s not impossible.

I used some rubberised tape at first. Bad idea! Not enough friction and when we hit a wall in a car park accident the tent and load bars shifted forward 100mm. There’s a lesson in that.

I’ve since changed to high density rubber that has jammed the feet on tight. I highly recommend that you inspect these often regardless, but so far no movement has occurred.

I won’t recommend a paint protection product as this is definitely dangerous waters for someone like myself with the sample size of 1 to base his recommendation on. So do you own research and decide what you feel is best. Or fit them as front runner intended and forget about any marks on the paint.

Load Bar Pros

  • They’re lightweight.
  • They still allow you to mount a side awning.
  • They’re strong.
  • They’re the lowest cost option.
  • Simplest solution for mounting a roof tent and awning.

Load Bar Cons

  • They’re nowhere near as modular as a roof rack.
  • They’re not easy to mount items unless you buy a specific storage box.
  • You still get drag and reduce mileage efficiency.
  • It’s harder to take those photos of you standing on the roof with your arms in the air 🙂

Should I buy a roof basket?

I bought the Thule Canyon roof basket in haste after reading an article before I even had the Jimny delivered. I fell for the marketing spiel and at the time was still unsure if the ultimate goal of running a roof tent could be achieved. This was even before Adrian at Roam got his rig up and running.

The Thule square bars will be ample for a lightweight basket storage system, they’re rated to 100kg. A plus point of this basket is that it made no discernible wind noise but I quickly realised it was a bad choice for what we needed.

Removing it and storing it was too much hassle and we found that we put everything in the boot anyway. So that went on eBay pretty fast.

Here’s a basket design shared by #jimnycph in the comments. Looks cool, don’t have the specs or customer feedback for it. I’ll share this for design reference only not as a recommendation.

Roof Basket Pros

  • They’re lightweight.
  • They’re not too crazy priced but some can be.
  • They’re able to hold quite a lot of gear.

Roof Basket Cons

  • They’re nowhere near as modular as a roof rack.
  • You get extra wind drag and reduced mileage efficiency.
  • They can be quite imposing compared to the sleek design of a rack or load bars.
  • You still need to buy load bars.

Mounting an awning

With roof racks you often can buy special awning brackets that match your rack or use the brackets that come standard with your awning.

For the Darche awning I bought I had to use a few washers to bridge the gap in the L bracket when fixing it to the rack, or it would not sit flush with the slat. So L brackets can work front runner on racks but you’re probably better off buying the right ones.

As I removed the rack and instead just load bars to mount the awning this problem is avoided and set up is super easy. You can see where I’ve simply mounted the Darche Eclipse L brackets to the top of the Front Runner load bar using the T-slot channel.

I’ve recently bought the Darche 180º rear awning and its bracket are more substantial.

They look like they weigh 30kg, but they’re not heavy, obviously more weight than the L brackets though.

Things to avoid

On the rain gutters there’s an outer lip running along in inside of the channel. I hope that makes sense. Avoid placing the feet on that part of the rain gutter. Instead make sure it’s seated towards the inside, nearest to the roof. You can see the problem that occurs in the photograph below if you mount the feet further out.

The squashed line is where the foot used to be and where you need to avoid. Notice how the bottom of the foot is further in, that’s where you need to position them.

Over to you

That’s all I can think of sharing for now, but please leave comments below of your own experiences and recommendations. Any kit you’ve tried, different pros and cons to share and advice that might help other Jimny owners make the best decision for their set up.


14 thoughts on “Roof racks and load bar advice

  1. Super article. Very useful tip about where to place the feet’s in the rain gutter.

    I’m running two Thule bars with a Thule Ranger 90 soft box. This one I only use for when I’m diving for dive bags – tanks and so goes in the back of the car.

    However I need a roof basket… I think. From off-roading an old LR IIA I’m like you, focused on light weight. So no roof tent as I use a bivy bag or the us military tent cots. But I need to be able to put a few bags up there with gear. So I’m thinking about this one as I had a bit of classic look:

    What you think?

    1. I’ve seen a few similar on Japanese instagram feeds. They look to have a more manageable shape to work with than the Thule one I had. The wood style on that basket is a nice touch too. Thanks for the share I’ll add the photo and link in the article.

  2. Hi from Australia. Your warning about mounting the Front Runner Load Bar feet is really appreciated! My Front Runner load bars are due to arrive soon so I am very grateful for your advice. Regards Kevin

  3. Hi, Horntools from Austria has a modular roof rack that weighs only 12.5 kg.

    I have on my Jimny also a Horntools roof rack, but the one for older Jimny. After cutting off the “basket” it weighs only 9.7 Kg.

    My Jimny with roof rack and tent in “action” 😉

  4. I have an ARB BASE rack on order for my Jimny and it should be arriving soon. I will post impressions once I’ve put it on and had a chance to use it!

  5. Hi from Cornwall, great read.
    Just got a jimny and we’re looking at all the various options for roof bars etc.
    We like the Thule roof bars that you had fitted , could you tell me what model etc that they are. We only want to carry bikes and paddle boards 👍🏻

  6. I have had a good look at the bars available out there and fitted a few different options. I have some reservations about the fixings of the FR bars and particularly the lack of paint protection (detailed comments under your post on feet protection) but a bar that I like is the Yakima bar. The feet are very well designed and lockable. there are a few bar options including a heavy duty bar available in silver or black. Link here to NZ site but available in UK too.

    Sadly Yakima do not list a roof tray for a Jimny because of their concerns over the manufacturers 30kg roof limit.

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