June 18, 2008
Filed under Camping Gear, Sporting Goods

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Not everyone is tall or sturdy enough to easily hoist a kayak onto the top of their vehicle, but the Thule 897XT Hullavator kayak rack system reduces the lifting power needed to load a boat to the roof of the vehicle by 50 percent.

Steve Doviak, Thule Marketing Manager told us, “With the Hullavator, the boat only needs to be lifted to about waist height and the loader (897XT Hullavator) provides the extra muscle to make loading and unloading a breeze no matter your height or strength.”

The THULE 897XT Hullavator features a strut system that assists the loading and unloading. It can be attached to any Thule rack system (for our install, we used the Thule TK1 rack-base-mount kit, 430 Tracker II Foot Pack rack foot kit, and the LB58 Load Bars) and takes up only 28 inches of load bar width (side-to-side across the top of the vehicle). This leaves plenty of room for other gear carrying systems on the load bars. The lift system operates throughout its range of movement without ever contacting the vehicle, and it reduces the typical loading height by more than 3 feet.

The 897XT model is the second generation Hullavator and offers a greater boat capacity and more padding for hull protection than the previous model, as well as a sturdier latching mechanism to make sure the carrier stays down when loading or unloading, and on top the roof for transport.

After assembling and installing the support structure (cross-bar racks), the bar mounts for the cradle assemblies can be installed on the load bars. The cradle assemblies mount directly to these bar mounts. The cradle assemblies are attached to pivot pins on the outside ends of the bar mounts, allowing them to pivot flat against the bar mount and lock in place for secure travel.

When unlocked from the bar mounts by squeezing the release handles on the cradle assemblies, the cradles can be flipped upward and then easily lowered to waist height. The cradles lock in place when lowered to their loading position. Then you simply load your boat into the cradles, strap it in to place, and gently begin lifting the boat tied into the cradles. The Thule 897XT Hullavator’s spring-tension system then kicks in and takes over much of the lifting as you slowly allow the system to pull the boat back up onto the load bar. With cradles in place on top the load bars and the squeeze-handle locking latch engaged again, the locking pins are installed through the holes in the cradle arms. Now it’s all locked down and ready for the front and rear tie-downs. Once the nose and tail are tied down, you’re ready to head for the water!

Our installation went like a charm and took less than an hour to complete. It works great and makes it incredibly easy for smaller folks (I am 6′ 2”) like my wife and daughter to load their boats all by themselves. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the 897XT Hallavator is $489 (not including base mounts, footers and load bars sold separately). For more information on the Thule 897XT Hullavator system, contact: Thule; 800/238-2388; /thule.com/.

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