Yakima has introduced an innovative and comprehensive towbar-based loading system that essentially combines the versatility and variety of roof-mounted loading options with the greater capacity and easier access to mount things on a towbar. It’s pretty useful. Also called Exo, it is described as a “roof rack for your tow bar” because it allows for a variety of boxes, racks and other solutions that can be mounted on the back of your car in 20 different configurations.
It all starts with the Exo SwingBase. It’s similar to the crossbars on a roof rack in that you need these to make everything else work. It connects to a standard 2-inch towbar and performs three important tasks. First, the two swing-out arms allow you to mount one of several Exo racks and boxes on it. Second, you can mount an Exo TopShelf on it, which allows for the innovative two-tier setup of the system (for example, you can stack two cargo boxes or a bicycle rack on a cargo box). And third, you can swing away anything that is mounted, so you still have access to the cargo area of your car.
This concept has several advantages. First, a tow bar-based system can carry more weight at 300 pounds than a roof-mounted rack, and can be switched between vehicles more easily. If it has a 2 inch hitch, Exo will work with it. Things mounted on the tow bar are also much easier to access than those on the roof, especially when mounted on a large SUV and double, especially for smaller people. There is also an issue of aerodynamics and wind noise as moving carriers and carriers from the roof to the back of the car is beneficial for both. The downside, of course, is that relatively few vehicles have a 2-inch tow bar, while almost anything except convertibles can include some sort of rack. Roof racks and baskets are usually also larger.
As for comparisons to existing towbar-based cargo solutions, including Yakima’s, none have Exo’s double-decker capability, nor is swaying common (though adapters are available, including from Yakima).
Exo will go on sale in February next year, including the full system of carriers, racks and other accessories. Most can be mounted on both the SwingBase and TopShelf, without the need for special tools. They simply click on the Exo’s special cleats, which is another advantage of the system. During the live presentation to the media, the Yakima employees casually took pieces off and on, and quickly secured them by turning dials that can be locked with a regular key if desired.
The price for the SwingBase is $ 499, which is slightly more than a Yakima rack kit with bars and towers. The TopShelf adds $ 379, which is roughly what a set of crossbars would be. The prices for the various accessories are shown below, as well as comparisons with comparable roof-mounted equipment.
This is the first Yakima cargo box designed specifically for the back of a car. It’s 10 cubic feet, which is smaller than any of the company’s roof-mounted buckets, and notably not that wide. However, it’s also a box rather than a diamond-shaped thing that’s been pinched and shaped for aerodynamics. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, therefore, but given the TopShelf, you can at least add a second GearLocker for a total of 20 cubic feet. Good luck with mounting two roof racks on your roof. It costs $ 399, which is much less than all of Yakima’s roof boxes. In fact, you could buy two for less money than a new CBX, although to be fair, the GearLocker is much simpler.
Yakima has also created bins for the GearLocker to help you organize and quickly load / unload gear. They are square, foldable and sold in pairs for $ 49. Four fit.
Similar to Yakima’s roof baskets, but designed specifically for the size and mounting plates of the Exo system, this is pretty much exactly what it looks like: an open basket that you can secure whatever you want. It costs $ 349, which is exactly the same as the Yakima SkinnyWarrior rack.
These take the GearWarrior to another level by jumping on the GearWarrior (again, without tools) and turning it into a cart. This addresses Exo’s goal to make loading and unloading stuff easier. No prices were included for this.
This is the Exo bicycle rack, which can be mounted on both the SwingBase and the TopShelf. As the name implies, it can hold two bikes with a 100lb capacity on the SwingBase or 80lb on the TopShelf. This weight limit is also the same for the GearWarrior and GearLocker.
Note that the TopShelf can pivot 180 degrees, making it possible to turn top-mounted bikes out of the way to access the box or basket underneath. The price is $ 479, which is more than most of Yakima’s various other two-bike mounted racks (the premium HoldUp EVO and OnRamp models that include heavier bikes are priced higher at $ 549).
These are pretty much Yakima’s current ski and snowboard mounts, but equipped with feet that mount to the cleats of the Exo system. They can hold five pairs of skis or four snowboards. These cost $ 279, which is only $ 30 more than the largely identical rack-mounted FatCat EVO 4.
This is a bamboo table that can be clicked onto the TopShelf to create a workplace, camping kitchen or, hell, mobile bar. The pivotability of the TopShelf is crucial here. It’s $ 129.
This solves the problem of mounting a bunch of things on the back of your car and thereby blocking your vehicle’s license plate and possibly its lighting. Including extra lighting and a plate holder. It goes for $ 149.