Yakima ‘EXO System’ Turns Your Car Into a Pickup

From GearJunkie by Berne Broudy

Bike and ski racks, gearboxes, even a BackDeck to grill out — with the Yakima EXO system, it’s all on the hitch of your car.

The secret behind Yakima’s latest innovation — the EXO System — lies with its modular rack system. With it, car campers of all levels can enhance any vehicle’s storage and organization with seasonal parts and pieces, like bike and ski racks, that swap with a click.

“Inspired by the overlanding space, we saw an opportunity to do something on the hitch that hadn’t been done before,” said Yakima product manager Jonny Wood.

The foundation of the system is the EXO Swing Base, which mounts to any 2-inch hitch receiver and cleats to EXO’s various parts and pieces, tool-free. The Swing Base sits on a swing arm that levers toward the side of your vehicle to move the base and attachments away from the trunk, allowing you to access your hatch or tailgate.

But it doesn’t stop there. Another attachment, the EXO TopShelf, turns that EXO Swing Base into a double-decker rack. Add it to the Swing Base for two levels of gear storage; install a box or basket on the bottom and a bike or ski rack on top.

Yakima EXO System: Accessories to Match Your Needs

The EXO system has parts and pieces to personalize a system that meets your needs. Accessories include the Gear Warrior basket, Gear Locker storage box, DoubleUp two-bike tray rack, Snowbank ski/snowboard carrier, organizer totes, a bamboo tabletop that turns the rack into a camp table, and Warrior Wheels, an adapter kit that converts the cargo basket into a wagon.

For example, the EXO GearLocker has the functionality of a rooftop cargo box, but positioned for easy access. It detaches, even loaded, so you can carry it to your campsite for watertight storage. It also means no unloading and reloading until you actually need something inside.

GearTotes fit inside the GearLocker to keep things organized. Durable, collapsible, and dividable, they’re made from ripstop nylon with a weight rating of up to 50 pounds. Load them with groceries, sport-specific gear, or your camp kitchen.

The EXO TopShelf, meanwhile, holds the two-bike DoubleUp tray rack at a height that keeps the bikes out of road grime. When you’re not carrying a box or basket, the rack also mounts on the bottom shelf. The TopShelf also holds a ski/snowboard rack where it’s much easier to load and unload than on your vehicle’s roof.

Yakima EXO: More Extras

One of the most clever and unexpected pieces of the EXO system is the WarriorWheels accessory. Unclip the WarriorBasket from your base and clip it to these wheels, and you have a wagon to transport heavy, bulky stuff — like firewood, an oversized cooler, or your overloaded Gear Warrior basket. The WarriorWheels and handle attach while the basket is still on your base rack, so you can drop it and go.

If you live or travel somewhere where cops get cranky when they can’t see your plates, you’ll appreciate EXO’s LitKit. Mount it on the SwingBase, and it gives any vehicle taillights and a license plate a mount where they’re most visible.

Last, but not least, the EXO BackDeck may actually tie the WarriorWheels for “cool and surprising” innovation. Mounted to the rack, it becomes a work surface for bike wrenching, food prep, or a backcountry bar. And when you’re not using it, it stores in a bag inside your car.

Yakima EXO System: Price

When I mapped out the pieces I’d like, it’s not cheap. The EXO Swingarm Base costs $499. Add the top shelf for $379. The Gear Locker adds an additional $399 with organizer totes at $49 each.

Then, the two bike rack costs $479, while the back deck table runs $129 — that’s nearly $2,000 for a three-season EXO system. And all that before adding a ski rack or the basket and wheels. It’s close to the same cost of buying a premium roof box and rack to hold it, along with a hitch-mounted bike rack.

So, it’s sure to give some potential buyers sticker shock. But the convenience and versatility could well make the price worth it for some.

Stay tuned for more on the Yakima EXO.

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