Roof racks, kayaks, crosswinds and MPG

My vehicle, an E350 Econoline shuttle bus, is about 1 inch lower than a high-roof Sprinter. I plan to put a rack on it and carry one or sometimes two sea kayaks (about 16’ long, minimum). Does anyone else travel with “stuff” on their high roofs, and do you experience excessive wind impact or reduced MPG?

I estimate that my total height “bridge clearance” will be around 12 feet MAX.

Pics would be awesome, too. I very rarely see pics of this configuration so I am a little worried that everyone who has tried it has abandoned it.

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Just solar panels on my roof cut my gas mileage by 5 mpg. Kayaks might be more aerodynamic, and maybe even lighter. Solar panels made my van drive noticeably top heavy.

Adding any new holes in your rood would be a big concern to me as well. Do you have rain gutters that you attach racks to?

Last but not least concern would be getting them up and down, and without damage to either them or the van.

Do the boats outweigh any of the negatives? Have you considered inflatables or other alternatives? I have an inflatable, and if I want bigger or better, I just rent whatever I want. Many of the places even deliver them and pick them up.


"I can live like a king because I work like a dog." ~ An anonymous vandweller

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I suspected that roof drag would have an impact on MPG. I can’t imagine how something so big would not impact efficiency. On every other car I’ve driven with the boats I experience drag - I just have never compared MPG.

Your suggested alternatives are great… inflatable or renting, both excellent ideas. Renting would be required for me as my boats are rather big excursion kayaks, and the trips I take are usually multi-day (even week) excursions that require bigger boats. Still… renting might work in some cases.

I guess I will find out!

On the roof rack and new holes in the roof… seems like everyone worries about putting holes in their roofs. Maybe I need a dose of that worry because I am not concerned about this. Perhaps I should be?

I assumed that with proper mounting of a rack system I could avoid any future leakage. Am I naive?

I do not have rain gutters - I would be going through fiberglass and bolting into rigid steel frame, all of which is nicely exposed for me.

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Holes in roofs are one of the worst headaches out there. Sooner or later they always leak, and always at the worst possible times. They have caused more damage, and more moisture & mold problems than anything else.

If you don’t have gutters or a factory roof rack mounting system, and you must have a rack, I would suggest mounting them to the ribs at the top of the side walls rather than the roof. With rain shields around the mounting points, the should never leak, and attaching to the upright ribs should make them much stronger than attaching to the roof ribs.

Something like this that will extend past your fiberglass roof to the metal van sides.


"I can live like a king because I work like a dog." ~ An anonymous vandweller


Hi there!

We have two kayaks on our truck and solar panels on our airstream.
Since adding the kayaks we haven’t noticed a change in gas mileage, we have been consistently at 11.3 mpg for a year and we reset the gauge regularly.
We almost feel like the kayaks help us tow (this won’t apply to you), since they help break the wind in an aerodynamic way.

You can see a photo of our set up on Instagram if you got back 5-7 posts.
We have towed our kayaks for about 8 months and love having them on the road with us.

Best of luck!

I’m not sure this is an option for me. Then again, leaking roof and mold is certainly not an option. More planning required for sure. Thanks

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Thanks for the input. I checked out Instagram… nice setup.

The rack on your Airstream… is that original or after-market? Wondering about leaks from any self-built racks.

If you put silicone all over where you’ve drilled in you’ll be fine! Don’t stress, too much about it.

You’ll hear people complain about problems more than you’ll hear the good. Benefits outweigh the potential for a small leak. And the beautiful thing about leaks is they can be fixed.

Let us know if you end up doing it!

That’s what I was hoping (and thinking). Thanks!