Automotive enthusiasts are a deeply flawed breed. Our passion for cars facilitates judgmental, irrational and fiscally irresponsible behavior. We name inanimate objects and care for them like children. Marketers feed on our weaknesses and loved ones bemoan them. There is one great benefit to our obsession, however: our keen appreciation for and understanding of motor vehicles inspires us to test their limits in the spirit of adventure.
Front Runner Outfitters gets it. Some years ago, the South African manufacturer began making smarter, more durable overland equipment because it simply couldn’t find the right gear anywhere else. Today, Front Runner has become a favorite among off-road enthusiasts, led by the success of its Slimline II roof rack. The modular “base layer” for much of the company’s equipment is available in 55 sizes to accommodate a broad range of utility vehicles. I chose to check out a full-length, tall-mount version for my 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser and put the rack to the test on some of our favorite trails. Here’s what I learned.
The Good: Slimline II’s distinct advantage is its modular design. Individual slats can be moved along the rack, added to create a solid floor or removed to make space for a sunroof or accessories. T-slots along the rack’s perimeter and within each slat (top and bottom) mean you can mount an M8-size bolt virtually anywhere. Customers can choose from a low-profile position for optimal aerodynamics or tall gutter mounts for under-rack accessibility. T6 aluminum construction with weather-resistant coating means the Slimline II weighs just 71 pounds and will never rust. Front Runner offers over 50 rack accessories and most non-native add-ons will fit just fine.
Who It’s For: Anyone looking to add versatility to his or her rig should consider the Slimline II. Often, cargo capacity is the first bottleneck for overlanders and therefore one of the first modifications to be completed. Whether you plan to install a rooftop tent, accessory cargo bins, tires, recovery gear or any other adventure equipment, the Slimline II can meet your needs.
Watch Out For: Because of the Slimline II’s raised edges (great for keeping gear secure), some ultra-wide accessories like tents may need a little modification to fit properly. Wood slats or raised mounts can help, but it’s worth considering flat rack alternatives if you plan to occupy the entire rack area with an accessory.
Alternatives: Prinsu Design’s 80 Series RoofRac and Rhino Rack’s Pioneer Platform are commonly cross-shopped with the Slimline II. Neither is as easy to adjust, offers as many accessories or is available with tall mounting brackets.
Review:My drive to the campsite provided valuable insight into what owners should expect of daily driving performance. No perceptible wind noise enters the Land Cruiser’s cabin, nor did I note a major hit to fuel economy (I might have lost one mpg compared to our rack-less form). On the trail, the rack’s construction and fit are equally impressive. No rattles or squeaks were heard while clambering over rocks or bouncing through grooves.
At the site, gear is in the same position as when I set off, secured by a set of Front Runner’s Stratchits andtie down rings. The tie-down rings (available in stainless steel or black) fit anywhere along the rack and easily hand tighten. Stratchits (available in two sizes) combine the ease of use of a bungee cord with the versatility of a ratchet strap. After using these tools on this rack, it will be hard to go back to anything less intuitive.
With gear offloaded, I climbed onto the roof and stood at the rack’s midpoint — the least supported zone. Despite some engineered flex under 170 pounds of concentrated load, the rack feels incredibly solid, supporting Front Runner’s claim of 660 pounds of max cargo capacity. Short of taking a sledgehammer to the brackets, I can’t imagine anyone needing to take up Front Runner on its lifetime warranty.
Verdict: The Front Runner Outfitters Slimline II roof rack is a durable, user-friendly and adaptable platform suited to any overland adventure. If you can stomach the $1,226 price tag (cost varies by model), this may be the last rack you ever buy.
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