Subaru Forester Cover Image for roof racks and crossbars

Subaru Forester Roof Racks

In Gear by Tanner V.

Top Crossbar

Whispbar Railbar S54

Whispbar Railbar

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#1 Rack Choice

Rhino Rack

Rhino Rack Cargo Rack

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Budget Pick

Brightlines

Brightlines Crossbar

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Value Choice

CURT 18115

CURT 18115 Rack

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About the Author
Hi Everyone! My name is Tanner, and I am the founder of kayamping.net. I started this website as an outlet to pursue my hobby of kayaking, camping, and exploring the world at large. Every post here is written and curated by me so stop-in, have a read, leave a comment, and most importantly, get going on your next adventure!

Subaru’s are great outdoor vehicles but their roof racks could use with some improvements. If you’re like me and want something better suited for the rough and tumble lifestyle, we have rounded up the best aftermarket roof racks for the Subaru Forester. 

Subaru Forester Roof Racks

What You Need to Know

The Subaru Forester does not come ready for a roof rack because it lacks crossbars on all of its grades. Unlike, the Subaru Outback, the roof rails on the Forester do NOT convert into crossbars so you will need to purchase them first.

In this article we cover the best crossbars first, then the best cargo baskets. You must have both crossbars before you can carry anything on the roof of your vehicle!

About Subaru Forester Crossbars

The Subaru Forester comes in 5 different grades : Forester (base), Premium, Sport, Limited, & Touring. The only Forester grade without raised roof rails is the base model. This means the base model will require different connection points to crossbars than the rest of the grades.

The Forester’s raised roof rails make attaching after-market roof racks a breeze. The space underneath the rails makes crossbar installation simple and they provide convenient tie-down points when necessary. The Base model is still compatible with after-market crossbars, but more installation is needed.

A Brief Terminology Crash Course

  1. Crossbar - The load barring horizontal bar on which the carriers attach.
  2. Feet or Towers = Part of crossbar that connects to the vehicles roof - two feet per bar.
  3. Carriers - The structure that physically holds whatever you are transporting. They can take many forms:
    1. Cargo Baskets - Lidless box that holds gear
    2. Kayak Racks - Unique holder for kayaks specifically (Not in article)
    3. Bike Racks - Unique carrier for bike exclusively (Not in article)

Crossbars for Subaru Forester


Whether you own the Base grade or one of the others, you must determine which features in a roof rack are best for you. Compatibility with other products is essential if your goal is to haul kayaks or add a cargo basket. Weight rating may be important if you plan to carry lots of gear for mountaineering or extended camping trips.

Best Overall Crossbar for Forester

Whispbar Railbar

The Whispbar railbar mounts easily to the existing roof rails on the subaru forester.

    Specification:

    • Dimensions: Dimensions: 49.6" - 60"L x 6.7"W x 5.9"H
    • Material: Aluminum Construction

    • Weight Capacity: 165 lb./75 kg.
    • Colors: Silver

    Pros & Cons

    • Quietest crossbar on the market
    • Sleek design
    • T-Slots with QuickDock technology
    • Rebranded as Yakima Flushbar in 2015

    Our Thoughts

    The Whispbar is quite simply, the greatest crossbar ever designed. It is an improvement upon all rival crossbars by offering owners the quietest ride possible. The secret lies in the wing-shape of the crossbar that slices through the air with extremely low drag.

    If you don't trust me, think about this. Whispbar started as a New Zealand based start-up that sold only the Whispbar. After multiple years of success, they were purchased by the industry giant, Yakima. With all of Yakima's resources they could not replicate Whispbar's success so they just bought the company!

    The perfect crossbar to support a Subaru Forester Roof Rack

    Whispbar represents someone looking at the complaints of users and answering the call. The blades are so quiet you won't even know they are there.

    The value on these bars is astonishing. The price point puts them in the premium category of crossbars but not by much. Crossbars are an investment and should be treated as such because they will often outlive the life of the vehicle.

    The sturdy 165 lb. weight capability gives it the strength to handle any load you throw at it. Your getting a sleek, light weight crossbar capable of carrying any load you hand it.


    Our Runner-Up

    Yakima JetStream


    • Wind Tunnel Tested

    Specification:

    • Dimensions: (50, 60, 70)"L x 2.75"W x 1.1"H
    • Material: Aluminum
    • Compatible with all StreamLine System towers
    • Colors: Black or Silver

    Pros & Cons

    • Carrying Capacity: 165 lb./74.8 kg.
    • Precision Aerodynamic Shape
    • T-Slot with SmartFill technology
    • Limited Lifetime Warranty

    Our Thoughts

    The Jetstream headlines the new "StreamLine System" of roof racks launched in 2016 by Yakima. Featuring JetFlow technology (teardrop shaped), this aerobar quietly cuts through the air with minimal drag. While not as quite as the Whispbar, this crossbar outperforms the rest of the market.

    The lightweight all aluminum construction features multiple inner chambers coined JetStruss technology to withstand loads up to 165 pounds. Offered in two colors (silver or black), this stylish crossbar set boosts the appeal of most modern vehicles while adding functionality to boot.

    The internal JetStruss construction makes the JetStream stronger than the aluminum structure looks.

    Along the top and bottom of the JetStream runs T-Slot channels manufactured to accommodate lightning fast attachment and removal of accessories like kayak racks, bike racks, and cargo boxes. To maintain the aerodynamics of the bar, the T-Slots are covered by a rubber stripping that slips down into the channel when in use and pops back into place when not. Known as SmartFill,  this seamless transition is adored by consumers for removing the need to custom trim the rubber stripping for each new accessory.

    Timberline towers connect to the raised roof rails of the Subaru Forester.

    To fit your Subaru Forester the 50" length bar will work for both the front and rear crossbar spans. You will need the Timberline Towers for raised roof rails and the Skyline for the naked roof (base model).

    Best Budget Crossbar for Subaru Forester

    Brightlines

    Brightlines created an affordable aero crossbar for the Subaru Forester.

      Specification:

      • Dimensions: Custom fit to Forester
      • Material: Galvanized Steel with vinyl wrap coating

      • Railbar so no feet required
      • Colors: Black

      Pros & Cons

      • Low price makes for great entry-level rack
      • Looks identical to OEM Subaru bars
      • Limited Lifetime Warranty
      • No T-Slots
      • Impacts fuel economy more than premium bars

      Our Thoughts

      Brightlines really filled a niche with the creation of these Subaru Forester specific crossbars. They are an easy and cheap entry-point perfect for first time crossbar users or people who will use the bar infrequently. The simple wing-shape produces little noise and frankly gets the job done.

      Unlike other aftermarket bars, Brightlines already did the measuring for you. These bars adjust only a few inches either way because they were designed specifically for the Forester. This makes installation quick and painless, usually under 20 minutes from box to roof top.

      Brightline's crossbars are compatible with a variety of carriers for all sorts of transportation.

      Like all things in the automotive world, there are companies that create identical products to the OEM at fractions of the cost. The Brightlines Aerobar for the Subaru Forester did exactly this. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who could tell the difference between these and the OEM bars.

      The Brightlines crossbars feature 150lbs of carrying capacity and a sleek aerodynamic design that stays quiet even at highway speeds. Although they do make more noise than the crossbar mentioned above, they are still a vast improvement upon round or square bars.

      This product does not have T-slots so none of those products will work. However, all other major brands and accessories should fit just fine.

      Roof Racks for Subaru Forester


      In the segment above, you learned about the best crossbars on the market. Now we step into, what the best roof racks are so you can get to carrying more gear! All of these roof racks are compatible with any of the crossbars mentioned earlier.

      Best Roof Rack for Subaru Forester

      Rhino Rack Cargo Basket

      The Rhino Rack basket can handle even the heaviest load.

        Specification:

        • Dimensions: 43"L x 32"W x 9"H
        • Material: Steel

        • Universal crossbar compatibility
        • Colors: Black

        Pros & Cons

        • Carrying Capacity: 165 lb./75 kg.
        • Stylish lines match Forester
        • Under bolts do not intrude into basket
        • High basket walls secure gear, but may be difficult to load
        • Needs sealant on bolts for year-round use

        Our Thoughts

        The Rhino Rack Cargo basket sits at the sweet spot of price point and functionality. It offers more utility than most of the premium carriers with a cost more similar to the budget brands. Compared to other top picks like the Yakima LoadWarrior or Thule Canyon, the Rhino has the highest carrying capacity at 165 lbs. Couple that with 9in. high walls and this thing can haul any type of gear.

        The underside bolts do not penetrate to the bottom of the basket.

        The Rhino Rack has universal crossbar adapters, which means it will fit almost any crossbar set on the market. The adapters consist of brackets that were cleverly engineered by the manufacturer to not impact the baskets floor. Other cargo basket have the crossbar brackets annoyingly rise up through the basket and force gear to rest on the bolts. This leaves cargo susceptible to tears and snags.

        Geniusly, crafted brackets tightly grip the rhino rack to any set of crossbars.

        As is the case with all cargo carriers, owners will experience a loss of 1-2 MPGs and can expect wind noise at interstate speeds. This basket performs about average in that category even with the flashy wind fairing. Creative owners can add a homemade fairing slanted in the opposite direction to direct air underneath the rack. This improvement will drastically decrease wind noise for this basket or any others.

        Overall the Rhino Rack roof mount cargo basket is an appealing addition to any car. It can handle behemoth loads at lower than industry prices. The lines on the basket compliments the design line on modern vehicles so this roof rack has both town and country appeal.


        Runner-Up Roof Rack

        Yakima LoadWarrior


        • Wind Tunnel Tested

        Specification:

        • Dimensions: 44"L x 39"W x 6.5"H
        • Material: Steel
        • Universal crossbar compatibility
        • Colors: Black
        • Carrying Capacity: 140 lb.

        Pros & Cons

        • Easy Installation
        • Perfect for all seasons
        • Quality parts and quality product
        • High price for high quality

        Our Thoughts

        This high end cargo basket produced by the roof rack juggernaut Yakima, represents the premium category of car-top baskets. The LoadWarrior is the perfect year-round roof rack for the everyday adventurer. Complete with a windscreen to lower wind noise, this cargo basket fits nicely on any vehicle.

        Yakima LoadWarrior picture reveals its gear hauling capability.

        Engineered by Yakima means designed with the consumer in mind. Out of the box this rack requires very little assembly, which means installation is a breeze.

        The LoadWarrior is a one stop shop for those interested in gaining additional storage space. It has finished second in our rankings but only marginally. The Rhino Rack offers more carry capacity at a cheaper price, but the two carriers function the same otherwise.

        Best Budget Roof Rack for Subaru Forester

        CURT 18115

        Picture of CURT 18115 showing off its ability to handle any equipment there is.

          Specification:

          • Dimensions: 41.5"L x 37"W x 4"H
          • Material: Steel

          • Universal crossbar compatibility
          • Colors: Black
          • Carrying Capacity: 150 lb.

          Pros & Cons

          • Low, low, low price
          • Extremely tough and sturdy
          • Supplied nuts and bolts are cheap – easily stripped
          • Adding new paint and sealant on bolts is necessary for all seasons use

          Our Thoughts

          The CURT 18115 roof rack embodies functionality without sacrificing form. The tough looking box hauls an impressive 150lbs. of gear while only weighing a minimal 31lbs. High carrying capacity plus low carrier weight enables you the maximize your vehicles roof hauling capability.

          Giving even the best roof racks a run for their money, the CURT just gets it done.

          Stacked up against the premium brand cargo carries, the CURT's similar size but considerably lower price point makes it an excellent option for those on a budget. You might be asking "so why would I pay for a carrier 3x its price?"

          The CURT is the ultimate cost saving roof rack basket.

          The answer is the quality of the support parts. The basket itself is high strength steel coated in black paint to prevent rust. The provided mounting hardware does not have the same rust resistance, however there is a solution. You can either purchase different nuts and bolts of the same size or coat the manufacturer's parts in a new layer of paint.

          If you're willing to roll up your sleeves a little bit you can get a cargo basket competitive with brands like Thule, Yakima, or Rhino for fractions of the price.

          Frequently Asked Questions

          Subaru Forester Roof Rack Dimensions

          Between the roof rails, 960mm (37.8in.) at the back, 1010mm (39.8in.) at the front.

          Subaru Forester Roof Rack Weight Limit

          Total roof dynamic roof weight limit is 176lbs. (80kgs.). This is the combined weight of all items on the roof: crossbars, roof rack, cargo.