“What is that thing on top of your car? Oh, like for fly fishing? That’s awesome.” That’s how most conversations around the Thule RodVault 2 go. For our Subaru, which is much more accustomed to hauling around bikes and hiking gear, the addition of a long funky-looking fishing rod rack made for new looks and new functionality.
Thule RodVault 2 Features:
- Holds 2 fully assembled fly fishing rods up to 10’
- Accommodates reel diameters up to 4.25” with fighting butts
- Aircraft-grade, anodized aluminum rod tubes and heavy duty, glass-reinforced, nylon reel case for maximum reel protection
- Fishing rod rack locks to keep rods safe and secure
- Lock fishing rod rack to the vehicle with a small padlock (not included)
- Universal mounting system fits a wide range of load bars
- Polypropylene lined rod tubes for added rod, guide and tip protection
- MSRP: $399.95
Sturdy protection for spendy rods
If you love to fish, you know that nothing is worse than having to waste precious fishing time fiddling with your rod. The RodVault is a way to safely transport your equipment from your house to the stream, or between sites during a day on the river. This is actually a design by Denver Outfitters, which was bought by Thule; the product has a funny mixture of both logos. We’ll go through it step-by-step.
Installation is pretty simple, but you want to spend a little time on it to make sure it is set up right. For starters you’ll want to position the feet to match the length of your crossbars, and it’s best to do that by measuring first and then adjusting the feet position with the rack off the car. Ideally, you’ll want to have a foot on both ends of the clamp that secures the two lengths of the rack’s main tubing together, but Thule says it is OK to have them on both sides (which was necessary on our Crosstrek). Then, it’s as simple as threading four bolts in.
Clamping the two main tube sections together is also simple, and the aircraft-grade aluminum feels very high quality and precisely machined. Thule also included some vibration-resistant compound to put on the bolt threads which you can use throughout.
One perk to Thule’s design is that it incorporates a plastic cover on each foot which you can secure with a small padlock (not included). This lets you cover up the bolt heads and prevent theft of the rack. A downside to their design is that the bolts are long, and when we initially went to mount it on my 2011 Toyota RAV4 there wasn’t enough clearance and the bolts touched the roof’s paint. They make a lift kit for an extra $30, but that adds time and hassle if you’re unable to measure or test-mount a rack prior to buying.
Actually using the rack is very easy. The door opens upward and is hinged across the whole length, which seems sturdy. A downside to this is that it will fall down if you’re parked uphill or if there’s a gust. There aren’t any guides to help you navigate the tip of the rod into the case, so you have to use caution. A funnel-shaped aperture would be nice. A major benefit is that the inside of the aluminum is lined with polypropylene, which protects your rod from scratches and abrasion. There’s a keeper strap that attaches magnetically and is designed to help keep the rods in place, but I found that the magnets were too weak to be helpful.
The rack can accommodate rods up to 10′ in length, and the box portion is spacious enough for reel diameters up to 4.25″ with space for fighting butts. There’s a built-in lock which is appreciated, since Thule sometimes charges extra for locking mechanisms. Several consumer reviewers have talked about durability issues here, and apparently the lock has fallen out on some people. Mine is fine so far, but I’ll keep an eye on it.
One last thought to consider: clearance can be a big issue on vehicles with an upward-opening rear hatch. On this 2019 Crosstrek, having the rack far forward enough that the hatch doesn’t strike the butt of the rack means that the front of the track touches the hood if you have the hood up. It’s workable, but shorter vehicles may encounter problems. Consider your vehicle’s dimensions before buying the rack.
- Simple, robust design that protects the rods
- Fairly easy to install
- Built-in lock is a perk, as is theft-resistant mounting design
- So nice not to have to break the rods down for transport
- Reported issues with the lock durability
- May need to buy extra lift kit for vehicles with shorter roof rack heights
The Bottom Line: Thule RodVault 2
In a lot of ways, this ought to be a lifetime rack. For one thing, there is just really not much to go wrong here. Part of me feels that the price tag is steep, but the materials and construction are also both really sturdy. The design is simple, and for this season we haven’t had any issues with the mounting hardware coming loose. This is an easy product to recommend for dedicated anglers, who want to minimize time spent rigging and maximize time spent fishing.
Buy Now: Available on Amazon