There are dozens of “standard” kayak carriers out there. And then there are a select few that stand out in the marketplace due to their ingenuity and user-friendliness. Such is the case with the Thule 898 Hullavator Pro. You can look long and hard but we doubt you’ll find a better, handier, or more useful kayak roof rack than the 898 Hullavator Pro from Thule.
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Are you ready to learn all there is about the Thule Hullavator Pro? We have covered every aspect of it. Click on any topic you are interested in the following table of contents. Or just keep reading each section at a time for an in depth review of the Hullavator Pro.
Could This Be The Ultimate Kayak Carrier?
There’s no doubt that the Thule Hullavator Pro 898 is unique. It’s obviously the result of intelligent engineering, based on what a segment of the market really wants. That is, an easier way to lift a kayak to the roof of a vehicle and with this rendition, Thule wins – hands down.
Lift Assist Makes a Huge Difference
The Thule 898 Hullavator Pro has been designed with gas struts that actually take 40 pounds of the kayak’s weight of your shoulders. It does this lifting for you. So getting those heavier kayaks on top of any roof rack is a way easier this way.
It’s genius in its design. Not only do the arms fold down enabling you to get your kayak onto the rack much easier, it also helps you unload your kayak the exact same way.
Thule engineered the 898 Hullavator Pro in such a way that it makes it easy for most individuals to load their kayak on top of virtually any vehicle with far greater ease. And they succeeded on a huge scale.
Anyone Can Do This
Practically anyone can load or unload their own kayak now on top of almost any vehicle thanks to the lift assist gas struts that provide dramatic assistance in lifting the weight of the vessel – so you’re not lifting the entire thing. You’ll still need to be able to get your kayak off the ground -and to a comfortable height, where your arms are basically at waist height. This is the extent to which the arms can be lowered. Then it’s simply a matter of loading your kayak at this more comfortable height. You can also tie it down in this position, so it’s way more comfortable to do.
Automation makes it much easier for most people to manually load their kayaks to this comfortable height than it is to elevate an often unwieldy boat all the way up to the roof of their large SUV or pick up truck.
Convenience Always Costs More
Of course, there’s a price to be paid for this kind of convenience. There always is. But if you love kayaking but struggle with the job of loading and unloading your gear, the Thule Hullavator Pro could be just the ticket for you.
If you’re looking for a cheap or temporary solution just to get your kayak to the river or lake once or twice every kayak season, then this gas assisted power lift kayak carrier is not likely to appeal to you. But if you’re at seasoned veteran of kayaking and you appreciate better quality equipment – something that will make your love of kayaking a whole lot easier to engage in more frequently – then the 898 Hullavator Pro may be just the thing for you.
Who Needs the Thule 898 Hullavator Pro?
Yes, you’re going to have to shell out some money for the convenience the 898 provides. It’s really a question of – will you get enough use value from this purchase to justify the expense? If you’re in your twenties or thirties and you’re strong as an ox, you certainly don’t need the Hullavator Pro. Although, you might be tempted to buy simply for the convenience it offers.
But if you’re a little older, perhaps a kayaking veteran who’s been enjoying getting out on the water for many seasons – this is a kayak rooftop carrier you’ll want to pay more attention to. Heck, you’ve earned it! When most people reach their forties or fifties, they start noticing how certain things take more time, energy and strength than they have at their disposal on a regular basis. That’s when they are more likely to be open to more of the tools of convenience – like the Thule Hullavator Pro 898.
The Single Biggest Objection
But first, let’s address the price a little more, since this is the single biggest objection most people have about the Hullavator Pro by Thule. This is perhaps the most expensive kayak carrier we’ve come across to date. It’s also one of, if not the single best kayak carrier we’ve seen. The reason? It’s the built-in effect makes it easier than ever to elevate your kayak to the roof of your vehicle – whatever you happen to be driving – even those full size SUV’s and trucks.
Nicely Cushioned To Protect Your Kayak
Eight padded touch points means that your kayak is given maximum protection throughout the loading and unloading process. Essentially, the Thule Hullavator Pro 898 is a set of double extending arms that can be lowered down over the side of the vehicle for easier loading and unloading of any kayak you can carry on your vehicle.
Solid Construction and Expandable
The 898 is constructed of solid steel, with an aluminum powder coat that’s corrosion resistant. Thule also includes their QuickDraw Bow and Stern tie downs (complete with ratchets) to fully secure even heavy loads on top of your vehicle.
Cradles expand to fit wider kayaks as well. So you’re not limited to small and narrow vessels. The dimension of each extension arm is as follows: 6 inches by 16 inches by 36 inches long. Weight capacity of the Hullavator 898 comes in at 75 pounds.
One thing you need to be aware of however is the weight of the units themselves. They are noticeably heavier than most standard carrier racks weighing in at just less than 40 pounds (39.7 pounds to be exact).
For most applications, that’s not a problem. But it’s a good idea to check your car’s manual for specifications just to be sure. Also, with this added weight, you would expect your mileage to decline when compared to driving with no racks.
The Thule 898 Hullavator Pro It’s An Outright Blessing
For people of shorter statures, the Hullavator 898 Pro is a blessing.
No longer will you need to get an extra set of hands and stand on a step ladder just to load your kayak. It’s also ideal for those kayakers who are getting on in years and don’t have the strength or flexibility they had in their 20s or 30s.
It’s far easier to lift something off the ground to waist height than it is to elevate it high enough on your own power to reach the roof. And that’s all you have to do with the Thule Hullavator 898.
A New Sense of Freedom
Perhaps most importantly is that the Thule 898 Hullavator Pro gives you back a greater degree of independence. This means that any individual can load a kayak single-handedly. This of course means that you’ll no longer be dependent on other people to get your kayak loaded and unloaded. You can do both on your own, so you’re no longer restricted. And freedom is calling.
The Thule 898 Hullavator Pro is designed to work with virtually all Thule crossbar systems – including the Thule WingBar Evo, Aeroblade and Aeroblade Edge, SquareBar, ProBar, Xsporter Pro, as well as TracRac for both trucks and vans.
Added Safety and Security
The package you receive from Thule includes all the straps you need to make your load secure.
However for added safety and peace of mind… it’s always a good idea to add another ratchet strap to firmly hold your boat by wrapping the boat to the rack, making sure you it’s locked down tight and can’t move anywhere.
Added straps are probably more important when traveling longer distances on various roads including highways that move at substantial speeds. But it doesn’t hurt to add an extra tie down or two whenever you’re hauling your kayak.
Life Made Easier
What you’ll find with the Hullavator Pro is that it simply makes life easier. Both control arms slide down the side of the car and you can position them into place. So you can more easily get your kayak on and off quickly and with much greater ease.
It’s a good idea to do this slowly and purposefully – so that you don’t do any damage to your vehicle as you unfold the extension arms.
Thule 898 Hullavator Pro Installation
It can take a bit of time to set up the Hullavator 898 Pro to be sure. That’s because it’s a much more detailed system than the standard J-style racks that simply bolt to the car’s roof rack. It’s best to take your time here and get the installation just right. You’ll be glad you did. And if you can leave it on all season long, you’ll only have to install this system once a year.
Invariably, what you’ll find is that these extension racks are remarkably user-friendly. The Hullavator Pro 898 system makes it much easier to get any kayak to the top of your car or truck. The gas assist struts work brilliantly to help you achieve this with much less effort on your part.
So it’s worth the effort to install this system, instead of the cheaper and plentiful J-rack kayak carriers.
Save Your Strength and Energy
What it ultimately does is it allows you to go kayaking and save your strength and energy. You’ll be able to go kayaking for many more years, thanks to this automatic lift system.
Sure, the most glaring downside is the price. So if you’re shopping for a budget option, this is not it. You would be better off with some other model, like the Thule 834 Hull-a-Port, or even the JDM Auto Lights 2.
However, if budget isn’t the main criteria and you simply want a quality kayak carrier that makes it much easier to load and unload solo, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better roof rack system than this Thule Hullavator kayak rack. Of course, you still need to be able to lift your kayak off the ground. But that’s a whole lot easier for most people than it is to haul a kayak up on top of a roof, single-handedly.
Many buyers mention the price as being steep. Yet, invariably they’re also quick to point out that this Hullavator is worth every penny. The bottom line is this: when loading a kayak is this easy, it means you’ll likely be able to get out of the water much more free frequently.
One Accessory Some Will Find Worthwhile
There’s one accessory that makes the 898 Hullavator Pro a little bit easier to use for some folks. That is the small stepstool. For shorter people, this is particularly useful – especially when the vehicle they’re using is larger, like an SUV or pick up truck.
What this product does is it allows you to be a more independent kayaker. You can load the kayak and unload the kayak by yourself and this is what gives you unlimited freedom. You don’t need to enlist the help of somebody else.
The Thule 898 Hullavator Pro is not compact
One noticeable problem with the 898 Hullavator pro is that it does not fold down to a more compact size, like most J-style racks do. Instead, this one sits fairly high on the roof rack. Therefore, you won’t be able to enter many parking spots with limited height clearance, while the 898 roof rack is in place.
But when it’s that easy, you’ll find more opportunities to get out on the water. You’ll really have no excuse for not enjoying much more of the kayak season every year.
Hesitant To Buy Cutting Edge Technology?
If you like to own the latest, most high-tech gear, but you’re a little leery because often they fall short of expectations – you can rest assured that the Thule Hullavator 898 Pro is one product that’s going to deliver. In a nutshell, the 898 Pro helps elevate your kayak onto your vehicle without putting any added strain on your back or joints. It uses gas struts to lift up forty pounds of the weight of your kayak. It also helps you get the kayak back down equally well.
Since the extension arms fold out and over the side of the car, you have much better access. But before folding down the arms, you should always make sure you fold in your vehicle’s side mirror for additional clearance. Easy access handles help fold the rack out and back up slowly, so you don’t do any damage to your vehicle. Once it’s in the correct position you’ll hear a click. That’s when it’s time to load up.
Placing the kayak onto the rack at waist height and tying it down at this level (before lifting the vessel to the roof) is far easier. It’s just so much more accessible that way.
Once the kayak is on the supports and strapped down, you simply bend down and grab both racks and then pull them together slightly, as you slowly lift the boat up into place. Don’t rush it or the boat can slam down hard. What you’ll notice is the Hullavator basically spot lifts 40 pounds of the weight for you – making it much less of a task.
Once up on top of the roof you can you then use the bow and stern tie downs to make final connection before getting on your way.
What About the Cradles?
Foam padding on both cradles offers complete protection. And these cradles are fully adjustable with a simple wing-nut – to fit to the shape of any kayak. This racking system can also be used with the Thule cylinder lock, should you choose that option.
The Thule 898 Hullavator Pro Lats a Long Time
The Hullavator 898 Pro should get you through many kayak seasons. Multiple users report having owned this system for seven to ten years as it performing admirably, with minimal damage over that period of time.
That’s not really surprising given the solid steel construction and aluminum powder coat to helps resist corrosion. It’s also a Thule. And these guys have been making many styles of carriers for years.
The Good (What Buyers Like Most)
It does what it’s intended to do and it does so extremely well
Once installed, this thing works like a charm consistently and reliably.
It Features a brilliant design
This was obviously conceived by active kayakers who’ve been at it for a while. The Hullavator 898 simplifies the process of loading and unloading and makes it easy to operate solo – so you don’t need to rely on a partner.
It features high-quality construction
It’s the kind of quality you would expect from such an established brand as Thule. It is rock solid and built tough. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t last a decade or more.
This design saves energy and wear and tear of the body
It makes going kayaking on your own much more feasible, particularly for older kayakers. Now you can save your strength and energy for when you’re out there enjoying every moment in nature.
This makes loading and unloading to a higher vehicle easier than ever
You only have to lift your kayak about waist high, which is many times easier than power lifting it to the roof. Then the gas lift helps take care of a huge part of the weight as you swing the arms to the top.
With its single pin design, it’s easy to install and remove the Hullavator as required. When you don’t have to take this auto-assist carrier off your car, you’ll be more likely to use your kayak more often. And that’s never a bad thing.
Lift assist feature works smoothly and consistently
It’s a reliable mechanism that works like new for years. When you have lots of confidence in your equipment, you’re less hesitant to head out and make the most of your kayaking opportunities.
This is as effort-free as kayak loading gets
If you’re planning on enjoying kayaking for some time to come – this is the rack you want to have. It just makes life that much easier.
The Not So Good
- It’s pricey (though most buyers say it’s worth every penny)
- It requires two people to set up initially (and it takes some time)
- Directions provided are somewhat inadequate (they provide drawings but no photographs – so you can’t really see how the system should look on your car)
- It would help if the manufacturer included different brackets to use with other configurations, such as more factory-installed roof racks
For many kayakers, the Thule Hullavator pro 898 represents the ultimate rooftop kayak carrier. It’s the kind of gear you think about (maybe even dream about) for some time before biting the bullet and ordering one for yourself. What causes hesitation is the higher than average sticker price.
But take this thing out just once and you will quickly appreciate what it does for you and how it simplifies getting an awkward kayak on and off your car as required. And as the saying goes… you only regret buying quality once. Where you’ll really appreciate this thing is after you’ve been out for several hours and you’re tired. That’s when having those gas struts do the heavy lifting is a Godsend.
Due to its price, it’s not going to be for everybody. But for those who can afford a slightly higher price – it’s not outrageous by any means – this is the kayak carrier to get.
To get the full value from such a purchase, you’re probably looking at a couple of years use. So if you’re not a committed kayaker and merely dipping you toe in the water, you’ll want a lesser option, like the Thule Hull-a-Port XT, or the Thule 834 Hull-a-Port. But for ‘lifers’ like me who like nothing more than to enjoy a beautiful day in their kayaks on a previously unexplored waterway – there’s no better accessory that the Thule Hullavator 898 kayak roof rack. Life is short. Live it on your own terms – with the best quality equipment you can afford.