It seems just about any vehicle on the road can handle a canoe or kayak on its roof. A mini-van is perfect, as is any SUV. Even a sedan or hatchback has little problem with a canoe mounted on its roof. The crazy exception is a pickup truck with no cap on it. It’s more than capable powerwise, and it’s certainly spacious enough, but it has no back end to support one of the two canoe ends.
Could the Yakima Long Arm be a viable solution? I’ll tell you what I think!
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Is the Yakima Long Arm Truck Bed Extender a good solution for carrying a canoe on a truck?
In general, the Yakima Long Arm is definitely an option for pickup trucks to carry a canoe, but it may not be the perfect solution it appears to be. Furthermore, for some pickup trucks, there are much better options you have to accomplish the same thing.
I like it, but I thought I would like it better. Let me explain why!
Is the Long Arm for You?
I own a 2007 Chevy Avalanche. On this particular model the side walls on my bed are encased on the inside and the top with lots of trim for storage boxes and a tonneau cover. That meant that I could not use a steel rack that could attach to the top of the metal bed walls of my truck.
If the tops of my truck bed walls were more accessible, I would have purchased a different system that allowed for a “roof rack” on a truck like THIS ONE.
However, my research showed me the Long Arm was my only real option. So, I made sure the hitch (2″) was the correct size and went ahead and ordered.
First Impressions of the Long Arm
When it arrived I was delighted at the overall aesthetics of the arm. Not only did it look good, but tools were included for installation (wrenches), though all you need is 2 adjustable wrenches. I realized that the Long Arm was not just a rear canoe rack to complement my front Yakima rack mounted on my cab roof, but it was a stand-alone product that could be used to transport a short canoe or kayak in the bed of the truck.
I appreciated the option, but my only need for it was to have it stand up straight and act like a roof rack.
It was easy enough to install, and the unit slid in nicely to my 2″ hitch. The attachment pin to my hitch was not just a pin, but a screwing pin to make the whole system as tight as possible. This is where my infatuation started to tarnish a bit!
It took me about 20 seconds to realize something was going to need further attention! When I tightened the locking screw/pin on my hitch, I could still easily wobble the arm back and forth and side to side quite a bit. That did not inspire confidence in me. I was going to be mounting 2 canoes worth over $5000 on this thing, so the words “wobbling” and “loose” were not making me happy with my decision!
It took me another 10 seconds after that to realize that without an extender of some kind, the arm did not sit nearly high enough to act as a roof rack. In fact, it only sat about 2 inches higher than my tonneau cover.
I decided to ignore the “loose-ness” of the attachment point to my hitch and focus on getting the correct height in order. I researched and found something called the Yakima Long Arm Extender. This was the perfect solution, but the price tag up here in the Great White North was over $100.
So, I did what every self-respecting cheapskate does – I built my own extender. It was actually quite good, but with the 24″ of extension I needed for my truck, the softwood arm extender I made was prone to twisting with just a little pressure.
I didn’t like that, so decided to bit the bullet and get the real extender which would hopefully instil a bit more confidence in my decision to trust my Kevlar investments to this bar.
Does the Extender Work Better Than a DIY Wooden Substitute Extender?
I’m happy to report that the steel arm extender did, in fact, offer better support with far less tendency to twist than did my wooden one.
However, that did not solve the problem of a loose fit (and therefore overall wobbliness) of the whole unit. I could still shake it around, even though all the parts on the arm itself were now much more solid.
Installation of the Extender
The extender came with certain instructions I was not expecting. I was expecting a piece of steel with an extra bolt that would simply extend the height or length of the Long Arm. Instead, I received that PLUS a couple of straps that were meant to attach to both ends of the arm and then down to either my bumper or to the hitch itself.
Presumably, this was to add stability, but the instructions did not at all say WHY the straps were included. It just gave instructions on how to install them.
I installed the staps and guess what??! There was NO DIFFERENCE. The arm was still floppy. Now, to be honest, any thin piece of metal tubing that sticks up nearly 64 inches into the sky from your hitch, with no other supports on the way up, is bound to be a little be floppy or at least moveable.
I realized that most of my problems were based on the connection of the Long Arm to my hitch mount – even though it was sized properly. There was not much I could do at this point other than to attach my canoes and see if there was any difference in stiffness (which I desperately longed for!)
The Real Test – Mount the Canoes!
Okay, spoiler alert! Before the metal extender arrived, I mounted the canoes with my wooden extender. I won’t go into all the details of how I mounted them (that’s in another post) but I CAN tell you, that with all the extra “rigging” I did (which was not much though it kind of looked complicated), there was adequate stiffness and I felt my boats were safe.
Why You Will Want the Long Arm with Extender
You will absolutely want this truck accessory if you have a pickup truck with no exposed sidewalls to mount any other rack system.
You’ll also want the Long Arm if you appreciate the ability to add and take away a rack system in about 30 seconds!
Another reason to want this arm is if you plan to take short day trips with your solo canoe or kayak and want to just rest it in your bed and tie it down in the bed and to the arm.
Finally, you’ll love the arm if you plan to transport other stuff like ladders with your pickup truck.
Why You Will NOT Want the Long Arm
If you have a truck with exposed walls on either side of your truck bed, I would strongly suggest getting a system like THIS instead. It’s way stiffer and sturdier. There will be no issues with floppiness, and you can just strap the canoe down like on normal roof racks without the worry of lateral movement in high winds on the highway, etc.
You will also not want the long arm system if you need to access your truck bed (with a cover) through the tailgate while using the Long Arm. Why? Because you CAN’T DO IT! The Long Arm will prevent any opening of the tailgate while your canoe is attached.
Final Note on the Yakima Long Arm
There are perhaps some notable nuances in your installation that should be considered. For example, your vehicle may have a spare tire mounted on the back (not likely if you have a pickup truck) which may require additional attention in order to work.
There is also the chance that your bumper may interfere with the rack attachment. If you’d like to confirm whether or not you’ll have any issues, Yakima offers a good PDF with hitch-fitting tips. Click the button below to check it out!
If you plan on using your truck bed for storage (under a tonneau cover or something similar), then you’ll want to use your Long Arm as a roof rack. If so, you will need the extender (add-on item) and it will provide a bit more stability and stiffness (especially twist-resistance) than a home-made wood extender (even if you make it from hardwood)
From the hitch, the Long Arm with the extender, can reach up to the sky for 63.5 inches. The bar across the top is exactly 60 inches (5 feet) wide. I would STRONGLY suggest additional items for your front roof rack and for sure the Long Arm crossbar to help mount your canoe.
Specifically, I’m talking about accessories from Yakima called “KeelOvers”. They are meant to securely (and I mean REALLY securely) hold your canoe (gunwales down) and prevent any sideways or forward/backward movements of your canoe during transport).
Overall, I think you’ll be happy with the Yakima Long Arm, but only if you take some precautions. You’ll need to have some KeelOvers or something like them to secure the canoe to the rack really stiffly and securely. You’ll also need to be sure the front of the canoe(s) is attached to a strong rack and crossbar also with KeelOvers. Then, you’ll need to tie down the back of the canoe to the Long Arm and ALSO down to the hitch or bumper using another strap or a rope tied to your carry handle.