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Yakima Exo Rack System: Turn Any Car into an Adventure Rig

An Overland Inspired Extremely Customizable Hitch Rack System For Every Adventurer

Yakima Exo Rack System

A lot of us dream of owning a truck or a van for the storage it promises and the flexibility it offers in carrying gear. Sure, roof boxes are cool, and carrying skis or bikes on a roof rack works. But it’s often an awkward and dirty project to get gear off a vehicle once you get to the hill or trailhead, or to find your hat buried somewhere in the box.

Yakima is about to make gear storage easy, accessible, and modular. Its new Exo hitch rack system can be configured with double-decker bases to hold bike and ski racks, gearboxes and baskets, and even a bamboo tabletop. The base rack attaches to any class 3 two-inch hitch receiver and puts your gear where you can get to it on the back of your car, exponentially expanding your storage space.

Yakima Exo hitch rack system

Overland Inspired Hitch Rack System

The Yakima Exo rack system was inspired by overlanding racks and boxes. Category Expansion and Auto Product Manager Jonny Wood said, “We saw an opportunity to do something on the hitch that hadn’t been done before.” The foundation of the system is the Exo SwingBase. Yakima Exo accessories attach to the Base tool-free.

Yakima Exo hitch rack system swing away

The Base is on a swing arm, which rotates away from the hitch for full hatch or tailgate access. Add the Exo TopShelf to the Base and you get a second tier of storage. Then, it’s time to personalize.

Yakima Exo: Personalized Gear Hauling

Yakima Exo table

The Exo system has compatible bike and ski racks, as well as a basket that converts to a wagon with an additional attachment, a waterproof storage box, organizer totes, a bamboo tabletop, and more. Once you have the various mounts, you can swap them between levels as suits, putting the GearWarrior box below the DoubleUp bike rack, for example.

Yakima Exo’s LitKit mounts on the SwingBase, putting tail lights and a license plate attachment on the rack where they’re visible and cops won’t hassle you. Blocking the lights and license plate can be a big issue with traditional hitch racks.

Yakima Exo hitch rack system

Wood is most excited about a bike over bin setup. “I ride with my wife and two dogs” said Wood. With all of us in the car, there’s not a lot of room in back for gear. Not only will this system carry our bikes, but we can store helmets and hydration packs, and other gear in the box, freeing up space inside the car.”

Yakima Exo Wagon

For Wood, the wagon has a cool factor, because there’s nothing else like it on the market. “It reminds me of wagons in the parking lot at ski resorts, left so guests can haul their gear,” he said. He’s also looking forward to a response on the table. “You just take off whatever top-tier accessory you drive there with and put on the tabletop,” said Wood. “Then, you can tune up your bike, cook on it, and more.”

Yakima Exo hitch rack system

Weight and Fuel Efficiency

The weight rating is by accessory depending on which base it’s paired with, top or base. The total weight on the tongue maxes out at 360 lbs. Yakima worked backward from there to determine accessory weight ratings.

Yakima doesn’t have concrete numbers on how much the Exo hitch-mounted rack system will improve fuel efficiency over a traditional roof rack system, but Wood estimates it will improve gas mileage by one to two MPG over driving with a roof cargo box.

Quality Gear Hauling Costs Big Dollars

Yakima Exo table

When I designed myself a hypothetical Yakima Exo starter system, with the two-tiered base, bike rack, and gearbox, at first I balked. The two-tiered rack is $878, with the DoubleUp and GearLocker my setup came out to over $1,700. But that’s not dissimilar to the cost of purchasing a premium roof cargo box, the rack system to mount it on, and a hitch-mounted bike rack. I anticipate the convenience, the ability to customize, and the “cool factor” will make it worth the steep price tag.

But I’ll probably start with just the bike rack and SwingBase and add more pieces over time. The Yakima Exo system will be available for purchase in Spring 2021. How would you set up your Yakima Exo Rack System?

Learn more at Yakima.com.

Berne Broudy
About Berne Broudy

Berne Broudy, a Vermont-based writer, photographer, and adventurer, has been reporting on hiking, biking, skiing, overlanding, travel, climbing, kayaking, dirt biking, UTV driving, and anything else you can do outdoors plus the gear you need to do it for category-leading publications in the U.S., UK, Spain, Germany and beyond. Broudy rigorously tests the gear she reviews. In the field, she’s been asked to deliver a herd of llamas to a Bolivian mountaintop corral, she’s had first fat biking descents in Alaska, she helped establish the first sport climbing in East Greenland, she biked the length of Jordan, she worked to help brands clean up their materials and manufacturing, and she had guns pulled on her in at least three continents.