Ever come across a deal too good to turn down? Even though you really should have thought it completely through?

When I bought these Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Sea Kayaks off Craigslist my father had two questions for me; how will you transport them and where will you store them. “Well…  the Mini can surely carry two sea kayaks, but storing them could be an issue” I responded. The price was too good to refuse over such details.

The diminutive MINI Cooper has actually proven to be a perfect mule for hauling these boats. At this point I am going to assume that you either drive a MINI or a similarly small car.

The shoulder height roof is going to make you very happy. You have my permission to laugh as your SUV driving friends struggle. Just joking; that wouldn’t be nice, but your shoulders really are going to thank you. If you live in a community like we do with a multilevel garage you may find that your small car has the power to clear the maximum height bar even with boats on the roof.

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Materials

 OEM Roof Rack

If you drive a post-’07 MINI do yourself a favor and buy the OEM roof rack. The bars lock in to your cars frame via slots in the roof line along the gutters. The installation is easily a DIY project and the whole set up is rock solid. It is rumored that traditional after market racks can dent the MINI’s aluminum roof. If you have a different type of small car I am sure the normal Yakima/Thule offerings will work just fine.

 Yakima BowDown Racks

You will find numerous options on the market. You will find mention of pads/cushions, saddles, rollers, stackers, and J cradles. The Yakima BowDown falls in to the J Cradle category and I chose this simply because the two WS Tempest 170’s with 22″ beams wouldn’t fit side by side without being tilted.

  • Compatibility with Yakima SKS Locks
  • Folding Design for those times when the boats are left at home
  • Tilted design to maximize roof space (this was a must)
  • Includes all straps including bow and stern tie-downs

If you follow my advice and go with the BowDown’s you will quickly discover an annoying jet engine noise that progresses to a loud whistle at anything over neighborhood speeds. Who knows what their purpose is, but slapping some clear tape on top silences the issue.

BMW/MINI Tow Hooks

Your MINI comes with threaded holes for tow hooks on the front and rear bumper towards the passenger side (US).  Installing a set of aluminum tow-hooks create perfect bow and stern tie downs. You have other options, but this one keeps the straps off your cars paint.

Conclusion

The MINI has turned out to be a perfect carrier for our Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 and I think you will find the same. If you drive a different small car I am sure it will prove to be just as capable of the task. You will find many benefits of hauling your boats on the roof of a small car; in addition to the shocked looks of others on the road.

Do you have a better set up? We’d love to hear about it.