The Thule model 883 Glide and Set Kayak Carrier works as advertised. The kayak slides very easily on the carpeted rear carriers, and then is kept from sliding by the rubber pads on the front carriers. The kayak carrier fits on my Subaru Forester's factory-installed crossbars, saving the expense of buying Thule crossbars.
However, depending on the size and shape of your vehicle, and the location of the rear crossbar relative to the end of your vehicle, your kayak may rub against the rear upper edge of your roof/liftgate during solo loading/unloading of your kayak.
To protect your vehicle and your kayak during loading/unloading, you may need to buy an additional product such as the Thule Water Slide Protective Pad or an Oak Orchard "SUV Kayak Roller Loader" or other type of roller-loader. Other Thule kayak carriers (Thule Roll Model and Thule SlipStream XT) may do a better job of keeping the kayak clear of your vehicle during loading/unloading, but they are much more expensive, and do not fit on car manufacturer's factory-installed crossbars.
The Thule 883 kayak carrier does not lock to the cross bars, and can be easily removed (or stolen) in minutes.
There are many fine saddles out on the market and depending on your preference for style, price, loading method etc you’re bound to find something to meet your needs. For myself I decided on the Thule 883, which I installed on a Thule XSporter 421 rack for my pickup truck. This review is based on my experience with these saddles over the last few weeks.
The 883 comes as a kit with a set of Slide and Glide saddles at the rear of the vehicle and a pair of Set to go saddles toward the front of the vehicle. Also included with this set are two quick draw ratchets for securing the bow and stern and two load straps. All the confusion of how many of this and that is taken out for you because one box contains one full set of everything you need for one kayak.
Since the 883 was being sold as a set I figured that the people at Thule must have spent some time figuring out what makes up a good combinations and I have to admit that this pair matches up really well.
When sliding your kayak onto the Hydro Glide saddles you will notice that it takes very little effort to push your kayak along them, this is good especially for me because I have to lift it high enough to go on the back of a rack on a pickup truck.
Once you get the spacing correct you will notice that the felt pads cradle the kayaks hull nicely and should not scratch even the most expensive hull. But to be on the safe side you may want to occasionally check the pads incase dirt has worked its way into them.
The front pair of saddles (Set to go saddles) are what holds the kayak in place, there is no sliding over these, there job is to create enough friction to keep the kayak from coming off the vehicle. This set of saddles must also be adjusted to fit your particular kayak which is easy enough to do with the thumb screw knobs located on each saddle.
To tie the kayak to the saddles you will need to use the supplied load straps. Each is 15ft long and heavy duty, after determining the length needed to secure my kayak down I cut off the remainder and sealed the ends by burning them so they don’t unravel.
Also included with the 883 are two bow and stern rope ratchets, the ideal behind these is that besides having the kayak secured to your rack and saddles it should also be secured to the vehicle itself should the saddle/rack combo fail.
Depending on your vehicle this may or may not be possible. I’ve elected to use an extra load strap in place of the bow/stern lines because I’m not to worried that I’m going to lose my bolted on truck bed rack while going down the road.
The only change I’ve made to the saddles was to remove the thumb screw knobs that are used to hold the saddle on the bar and instead replaced them with a metric self locking nut so someone would have to use tools to remove them verses just backing off the thumb screw knobs (theft insurance).
There is an endless choice of saddles on the market but I like the Thule 883, it does everything I ask of it. My kayak is safe to transport and faster to load and tie down and I no longer have to worry about it hanging off the rear of my tailgate. All they need to do now is to stand the test of time, let’s leave them in the sun all summer long and the cold this winter and maybe in a year from now I will write another review.