Thule Hull-A-Port XT Kayak Roof Rack Review: Awesome Quality

Thule Hull-a-Port XT

As an avid kayaker, you constantly look forward to those weekends out on the water. But getting your kayak to various locations safely and securely can be a concern. When that’s the case, do you want to go with a trusted name like Thule.

In this Thule Hull-A-Port XT review we will go into a lot of detail and explore all of its features, to help you decide if this is the right kayak roof rack for you.

If you are in a hurry, you can check right now this great deal for the Thule Hull-A-Port XT on Amazon.com. Otherwise, continue reading below or pick a section from the table of contents to go directly to any topic.

The Thule Hull-A-Port XT Features

Get History and Experience on Your Side

These guys have been around since 1942 and have more experience in the area of Kayak car carrier manufacturing than anyone else. So when you’re looking for a piece of equipment you can come to rely on, it’s often a wise idea to first consider the most established brand and see what they have to offer. So here it is a thorough, Thule Hull-a-Port XT review. Our intention is to give you the information – the good, the bad, and the ugly – so you can make your own decision about what kind of roof rack is best for your kayak and you.

Versatile Enough For Any Kayak and Vehicle

The Thule Hull-A-Port XT is a versatile kayak rack that’s capable of securely carrying one or two kayaks on your automobile’s roof rack. It doesn’t matter whether you drive a small compact, large sedan, SUV, or a minivan. This device is compatible and will work for you as it’s designed.

What’s really cool is that the Thule Hull-A-Port XT also folds down when not in use. So you don’t have to worry about added height, when you’re going into one of those shopping mall parking lots, or downtown parking garage. Even if you like to park inside the garage at home – you should be good to go, with the Hull-A-Port racks folded down – instead of removed entirely.

I don’t know about you, but for me – this is a huge advantage. I enjoy nothing more than being able to enjoy a day of kayaking with a good friend. So I like to do it every weekend, or every other weekend – all summer long. It’s no fun messing with a kayak rack that has to be completely removed during the week, just to be able to drive to the office and park within a reasonable distance.

Built For One or Two Kayaks

As a single kayak carrier, the Hull-A-Port XT holds the whole kayak on a slight angle in the J-cradle. When carrying two boats, it holds them in the two boat stacker position where they sit in a more upright position.

Thule Hull-a-Port XT
Thule Hull-a-Port XT

Smart Design Features

One area where the Thule Hull-A-Port XT excels is in the design. They’ve added a strap catch to make loading the kayak much easier. Once it’s in position, you already have the strap there and it’s just a matter of tightening it down. Much easier than getting the kayak on the roof of your car and then realizing the strap has slid off the top and out of the way.

Like most of the better kayak racks out there, the Thule Hull-A-Port XT ships fully assembled. So it’s ready to use right out-of-the-box. That means you won’t need any extra tools for setting it up on your car’s roof rack. It can also accommodate the one key lock cylinder that is sold separately, for added security as a superior theft deterrent. Theft happens. And when it’s especially easy to lift, you’re more susceptible to being a victim. Sad but true.

Thule’s universal design strategy means that the Hull-A-Port XT fits virtually all types of crossbars, up to about 80 mm wide. And can mount quickly and securely. While it probably doesn’t fit every single car on the market, odds are, it will fit yours.

Another smart design element is the bumpers located on the buckles of the straps. These help to protect both the kayak and the car. Bow and stern tie-downs are provided – but for a single boat only. If you think you’ll be hauling 2 kayaks anytime soon, it’s a wise move to pick up an extra set of tie-downs.

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How Much Weight Can It Handle?

In terms of weight capacity, the Thule Hull-A-Port XT can support a single craft up to 75 pounds, or two boats with a combined weight of about 130 pounds or less. For most kayaks, there’s no problem. But if yours is a larger, heavier kayak, you’re best advised to choose another carrier. This one might be perfect for you.

The size of the J-cradles measure approximately 9 inches wide by 20 inches long by 20 inches high. It only weighs about 12 1/2 pounds though. So for most people, it’s an easy lift to the roof of most automobiles – with the definite exception of the Mercedes Sprinter van.

Thule provides secure straps with their Hull-A-Port XT that are longer than a lot of competing brands. I prefer to have plenty of rope than to reach its end too soon. These straps are an impressive 2 inches wide by 15 feet long. At this length and strength, you’ll have more than enough for virtually any kayak that this particular rack can accommodate.

Extras Provide a Significant Enhancement To The Experience

What you’re getting is the basic unit when you purchase the Thule Hull-A-Port XT. It’s a quality product at a reasonable price. If you do opt for this model, you’ll get the most ‘bang for your buck’ when you purchase a couple of added accessories at the same time. Normally, we’re not fans of up-sells and add-ons. But in this case, we made an exception – with good reason. The following accessories make the Hull-A-Port that much easier to use.

We recommend picking up the 15 foot heavy-duty straps with the cam action buckles. After a couple of years of loading kayaks of various types onto numerous roof racks, you’ll appreciate the cam action buckles that work quickly and easily to secure heavy loads – without any scratches or dents.

We also recommend the optional Thule QuickDraw to secure the bow and stern with a ratchet system as well. This helps you illuminate those time-consuming (and sometimes worrisome) knots. It’s the exact same thing with those inadequate bungee cords. These QuickDraw tie-downs simply make life easier and provide greater peace of mind.

Shorter adults might also opt for the step up support. This gives you a little added height to load and unload your gear from the top of your vehicle. If it’s a struggle at all to get your kayak on or off the roof – this is the answer. Please do not use a chair or ladder – they are just too dangerous. If you need to be up a little higher- get this stand instead.

Thule Hull-a-Port XT
Thule Hull-a-Port XT

Offering The Base Model Makes It More Affordable

That’s it for the added accessories we recommend, though the manufacturer provides numerous other components you may find useful too. Sure, it would be marvelous if Thule provided these as standard equipment with the Hull-A-Port XT. But that would limit the available market by substantially increasing the price. We’re fairly certain that’s why Thule has decided to offer a base model with optional accessories.

What Makes The Thule Hull-A-Port XT A Good Choice?

For one thing, this carrier can accommodate one or two kayaks. So if you’re planning to go kayaking with a friend, the Hull-A-Port XT is definitely a stellar option. This rack can support a kayak up to 34 inches wide. That’s much wider then many carriers on the market seem to offer. It’s a budget-friendly way to transport 2 kayaks. But some buyers find it best to acquire two XT racks for this task. They say it’s simply easier to secure the load that way – without any problems.

The XT’s J-style carrier saves plenty of crossbar space. Since the kayaks are set on their side, they use very little of the available area. Even when carrying two kayaks, there’s still more room up top that you could potentially utilize, if you need to.

In the single kayak configuration you have the most amount of roof rack space available for added cargo. This is perfect when going on longer trips, or when venturing out on a camping trip, where you need to carry all that extra gear like a camp box, food, tents, chairs, bikes – and on and on.

Front loading ramps make loading and unloading much easier. And the padded straps provided help to protect your hull from scratches and scuffs as you place your kayak into the right position.

Set It Up 3 Different Ways To Suit

The Thule Hull-A-Port XT actually has three different positions. You can set it in the standard angled position to carry one kayak. Or you can move it to the vertical position at 90 degrees – to carry two kayaks at the same time. When it’s not in use, you can simply fold it down flat and leave it secured to your roof rack for your next adventurous excursion. And in most cases, you won’t have to worry the limited height (about 5 inches) the folded down rack adds to your vertical clearance.

An integrated tightening tool enables you to lock the rack down to the cross rails. It can also accommodate the extra single lock locking system – to make it even more secure.

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The Odds Are Stacked In Your Favor

This kayak carrier can fit many different crossbars. So there’s a very strong likelihood that it’s going to fit on whatever crossbars you have.

The Thule Hull-A-Port XT is fully compatible with Thule’s one key system. You’ll need to purchase the lock cylinder with key, since that is an extra purchase. But it’s the best theft deterrent available. But the Hull-A-Port XT is easy to both install and remove. So you can take it off the car and lock it inside the truck or elsewhere – at the end of the season. So the locking system isn’t a necessity. But it’s not expensive either, should you decide to pick it up.

Thule Hull-a-Port XT
Thule Hull-a-Port XT

Can One Person Use This Solo?

Snag free loading and unloading makes the Thule Hull-A-Port XT an easy system for one person. That’s something to keep in mind when you might be alone and need to get the kayak in place, or to take it off the roof when you reach your destination. When loading, it’s a good idea to place your straps on the rack itself and position them and just off to the side. Doing so means they won’t get in the way and once the kayak is loaded, it will be a much simpler process to hold it in place when the straps are right there where you need them.

It’s an easy system to use the first time. And it only gets easier after that.

With their PFD – pull, fold, done – lever, combined with the ratchet system and strong straps, the Hull-A-Port XT offers all you need to secure your kayak. And it doesn’t matter how far your kayaking adventures take you.

Thule Builds Quality

Thule is one of the best-known brands of kayak roof racks out there. They’ve been involved in manufacturing since the early 1940’s. So clearly these guys have extensive knowledge in the field and have adapted their designs to make them more accommodating and useful.

When you purchase a Thule, you’re getting a roof rack from the most established company in the industry. They offer a limited lifetime warranty and use high-quality materials to construct their roof racks. So you can feel confident in picking one up for yourself.

It’s built tough. This Thule roof rack is made of steel tubing with a rust resistant coating. Properly positioned pads ensure your kayak doesn’t get scratched, but is held tightly in position. You don’t have to worry about the extra length of straps dangling in the wind either. Thule has provided pockets to place the excess strap inside – so they’re not dangling in the wind.

Thule Hull-A-Port XT installation is a breeze for most people. And you won’t need any special tools. Get it right and what you’ll have installed is probably one of the most secure types of kayak carriers on the market. With the padded bars and ratchet strap system, you’ll be capable of hauling any kayak safely.

How Does It Measure Up?

Clearly, it’s not just me who appreciates this kayak carrier. Plenty of buyers seem to like what they get from this brand of carrier. Thule’s Hull-A-Port XT kayak rack scores an impressive 4.2 out of five possible stars online. Although this is from a relatively small sample of just over 50 customers reporting, it’s still a strong indicator of a quality product that performs to expectations. For such an established company, the price is certainly affordable for most people.

Thule Hull-a-Port XT
Thule Hull-a-Port XT

The Good (What Buyers Like Most)

It offers easy loading of one or two kayaks.

This is critical when purchasing any kind of kayak carrier. If it’s a hassle to load and unload, chances are you won’t go kayaking as much as you’d like to. Thule gets it.

The PFD lever (Pull, Fold, Done) allows for easy overhead clearance.

Unless you’re retired and you like to kayak everyday, you’ll appreciate this future. It’s push-button easy.

Instructions are clear and understandable.

Shocking, I know. So many manufacturers in so many industries screw things up on the little details – like the manual. Fortunately, Thule gets it right. So you’ll have no trouble figuring out what goes where.

It’s nice to be able to lock down the carrier to the rack.

Some systems are far too elaborate. Not this one – it’s easy and rock solid. So you don’t have to worry.

It’s easier to use than other competing roof racks.

Thule gets it. They know that if it’s too difficult to use – people won’t use their kayaks as much as they otherwise would. Or they’ll simply seek out another brand.

It now features new and improved straps and tie-downs

These are designed to make the whole process of loading and unloading your kayak that much easier. They are also very effective at securing any load.

It folds down to a convenient and compact 5 inch height.

This makes the racking system significantly more compact when you’re not carrying a vessel. You might not think this is a big deal until your J-cradle gets clipped as you attempt to clear your garage entrance. Probably better that it happens at home and not at some busy underground parking lot downtown. It’s even better when you know you’ve got loads of space, with a rack that folds down.

It looks pretty slick.

For some, this matters very little. But all things being equal, who wouldn’t choose style over a run of the mill look? Hull-A-Port XT is definitely NOT an eyesore, like some roof rack carriers. In fact this one is as stylish as it is practical. So go ahead – and show it off!

Plastic covers on the metal and help protect the finish on both the kayak and the car.

This means the tie-down material should not harm your property. Again, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. With some of the straps floating around out there, you have to be especially careful. But Thule makes things a little easier with its added protection.

Thule Hull-a-Port XT
Thule Hull-a-Port XT
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It feels sturdy.

Thule provides solid construction in a kayak carrier that seems to be built to last. Even if you’re an occasional kayaker, rather than a hard-core enthusiast, you’ll appreciate the fact that your carrier will be just as effective down the road as it is today. That’s something you just can’t get with some cheap brands.

Your cargo is safe and secure.

Just follow the simple instructions and rest assured that your cargo will not move anywhere. When you tie it down properly using quality equipment, you can enjoy peace of mind motoring. So your focus can remain on kayaking, instead of worrying about the load you’re carrying.

Smooth loading and unloading.

Without this, getting to and from your destination can be a real pain in the neck. If you’ve used other kayak carriers that didn’t quite measure up – you’ll love this one.

Everything fits firmly and snugly without being too tight.

Precision engineering and machining beats the “standard” offered by competitors every time. Everything connects on the Hull-A-Port like a jigsaw puzzle. You also don’t want to have any slack in your straps and thankfully, these ones are easy to tie down to create a firm hold.

The Not So Good

  • Provided straps slip into top spacer easily enough – but could slip out if not held with tension
  • You really need two people to properly secure a kayak
  • Package should ship with ratchet straps for both the bow and stern – instead of tie-downs
  • Doesn’t work particularly well as a carrier for an inflatable kayak
  • In the two kayak stacked position, there’s no added support for the second kayak (the first one fits in the J-cradle – but the second one sits more on the roof rack itself). That’s likely why some buyers purchase 2 units instead of just one.

The Verdict

Thule’s Hull-A-Port is a capable kayak carrier and a solid choice for many. For a hassle-free experience loading and unloading your kayak, as well as the durability and reliability it provides, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat the Thule Hull-A-Port XT as your kayak carrier of choice.

There’s no doubt that the brand is well established. Thule continues to satisfy buyers to a high degree such that they have garnered a solid rating online, wherever you go. As consumers, we have come to expect a quality product such as this from a manufacturer with many decades of experience. And though not perfect (no product is) we can tell you that Thule delivers on all counts.

But this kayak rack is not the perfect purchase for everyone looking for this type of product. For one thing, it’s not the most economical car rack carrier on the market. This alone tells you it’s not going to be for everyone. Some buyers shop on price alone and just want a kayak rack at the lowest possible price. Those folks should probably look at another brand – like the JDM Auto Lights Universal Kayak Roof Rack.

But if you want a quality kayak carrier that’s easy to set up and use and should last you for years to come – you can’t go wrong with the Thule Hull-A-Port XT.

About the author

    Martin Tripodi

    Software Engineer, husband, father, and avid enthusiast of outdoor activities! Total fan of great quality and functional gear, spends part of his free time researching and compiling loads of information in the form of guides, product recommendations and reviews.

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