Choosing the best roof rack will typically depend on the type of vehicle you have and what kinds of items you need to transport. If your vehicle has a bare roof, you will typically need to obtain and install rails and crossbars before you worry about a roof rack. Some vehicles come equipped with these, in which case you can go directly to considering the best type of rack. The two main categories of racks are open and enclosed, and there are also specialty racks for hauling bicycles or other equipment. You may want to look for an enclosed rack if you will be hauling gear in the rain or snow, while bicyclists, skiers, and people with other specific needs could be better served by specialty racks.
Some vehicles ship from the factory with bare roofs, while others come fully equipped with everything needed to install the roof rack of your choice. If your car has a bare roof, you may want to look into complete package systems to save time and money. You can also consider the size of your roof and the type of rack you will be installing, as rails typically come in a variety of different lengths. Once your vehicle has both rails and bars, all you will need is a rack and clamps, or other mounting hardware.
Open racks are typically less expensive and more permissive with the amount of gear you can strap down. Racks usually have a weight limit, so if you see yourself hauling heavy luggage and other gear, an open rack with a high weight tolerance can be a good choice. A downside to these racks is that they aren't weather proof, though strapping a tarp on top of your gear is always an option.
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Enclosed racks are available as either hard cases or soft bags. These racks will typically keep your belongings safe from rain, snow, and other weather. Since they seal up, closed racks can also put a limit on the amount of gear you can pack. Although this can be a trade off, a closed roof rack might be your best choice if you travel in harsh climates. This is especially true if you camp during the winter or go skiing, since you will probably want your spare clothes and other gear to be dry when you arrive.
Another thing to consider when choosing the best roof rack is whether you will be hauling any bulky equipment. Special racks are available that can hold items such as bicycles, skis, and other equipment that can be difficult or impossible to pack inside your vehicle. If you have a large roof and long rails, it may be possible to incorporate a smaller rack for the rest of your gear alongside a bike or ski rack. You might also consider racks that are easily unclamped and removed so that you can switch between specialty and general purpose models, depending on your current activity.