Roof Racks: What To Know Before You Buy & Why Prinsu is a Great Option To Consider

5th Gen Super White 4Runner with Prinsu Full Roof Rack

An Overview on Roof Racks for 4Runners & Trucks in General: Exploring Prinsu Features & Benefits For Your Adventure Vehicle

Whether you’re an off-roading enthusiast, an avid camper, or simply someone looking to expand your vehicle’s storage capacity, a roof rack can be a game-changer.

In this post, we will delve into the world of roof storage systems for 4Runners & other platforms, addressing common questions, exploring different types of racks, discussing their pros/cons, and highlighting essential accessories to enhance their functionality.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have a clear understanding of the various options available, enabling you to make an informed decision and find the perfect solution to meet your specific needs and preferences.

We’re running the Prinsu Roof Rack so most of this post will call attention to their rack system and what it offers.

Find it online: 

What is a Roof Rack?

5th Gen 4Runner with Prinsu Full Rack and Raptor Lights
Picture: @koryt4r

I’m sure many of you know what a roof rack is and what it does. But those who may have just purchased a new 4Runner, or any vehicle, may not know this particular modification.

A traditional roof rack is usually a set of bars or crossbars installed on the roof of a vehicle to provide additional space for carrying various gear. It offers a convenient and secure way to transport bulky or oversized items that may not fit inside the vehicle. There are a few different “types” of roof storage systems, but we will do a deep dive into that later. For now, know that a roof rack is a great solution to add additional storage to the top of your truck.

It’s also worth noting that to mount or attach any items to your system, you will usually need additional mounts or accessories. A rack will provide a secure space for anything to be attached while not damaging the roof of your vehicle.

Why Do You Need A Rack?

5th Gen 4Runner with iKamper 3.0 Roof Top Tent mounted to Prinsu Full Roof Rack
Picture: @yoda.best.4runner

For starters, roof racks significantly increase the vehicle’s storage capacity.

With modular CNC-style roof racks like the Prinsu, for example, you can mount just about anything you want. We’re using Prinsu as an example because they were the originator of the incredibly popular CNC-style roof rack that the industry has since followed. Prinsu was founded around 2016 and was soon bought by off-road giant, CBI Off-Road. Prinsu now makes roof storage systems for just about every make and model out there; Chevy, Dodge, Ford, Lexus, Mercedes, Subaru, Toyota, Nissan, and even ATVs.

Are you looking to record all your adventures on a GoPro? Prinsu has a mount for that. Want to keep all your recovery items in a box on your roof? They have a mount for that. Looking to have an on-demand shower on all of your camping trips? You guessed it; there’s a mount.

The modularity of Prinsu lies in its customizable and adaptable nature. With adjustable crossbars, you can effortlessly accommodate gear of different sizes and shapes, ensuring a secure fit for all your equipment. What’s more, these racks are designed to be compatible with a wide range of accessories, giving you the freedom to easily attach or detach whatever you may need based on your specific adventure. 

With a good roof storage system, you won’t have to sacrifice interior space or passenger comfort to accommodate all your gear. A rack enables efficient gear organization, ensuring that everything is properly secured and easily accessible when needed.

These systems aren’t just for overlanding and off-roading, though. If you are into outdoor sports such as skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, or any other that require large pieces of equipment, having a rack may be necessary to transport everything safely and securely.

Apart from the practical benefits, a rack can enhance the visual appeal of your vehicle. Depending on the design, it adds a sporty or rugged look and can provide a more dynamic appearance. Aesthetics may not be the primary reason for getting a rack, but it’s definitely an additional perk!

Let’s Talk About the Design

5th Gen 4Runner Prinsu Full Roof Rack

As the name suggests, a roof rack is designed to be installed on the roof of a vehicle. It consists of several key components that work together to create a reliable and versatile storage solution. While specific designs may vary depending on the manufacturer and type of system, the following are common elements in the design

Crossbars

5th Gen 4Runner Prinsu Crossbars

These are the primary load-bearing components of most systems but the Prinsu features a wide variety of options within their system. Typically made of durable materials such as aluminum or steel, crossbars run horizontally across the roof of the vehicle and provide a stable base for attaching various accessories or mounts.

Side Rails

5th Gen 4Runner Prinsu Side Rails

These are the long bars that run parallel to the roofline of the vehicle. They serve as attachment points for the crossbars and help to provide additional stability and support for the system.

Mounting Foot 

5th Gen 4Runner Prinsu Mounting Feet

These components are used to connect the rack to the vehicle’s roof. They come in various designs and are typically installed at specific points on the roof. Mounting feet ensure a secure and stable attachment, distributing the load evenly across the roof.

Wind Deflector (aka Fairing)

5th Gen 4Runner Prinsu Wind Deflector

This optional accessory is installed at the front of the system, right above the vehicle’s windshield. Its purpose is to reduce wind noise and minimize drag by redirecting airflow. A wind deflector can improve aerodynamics, improve fuel efficiency, and provide a quieter driving experience.

FAQ

How Does a Rack Affect the Driving Experience?

5th Gen 4Runner with Prinsu Full Roof Rack and Prinsu Ridgeline Handles
Picture: @abominable.t4r

While a rack is undoubtedly beneficial, it can have some minor impacts on the overall driving experience. One consideration is wind noise. As the vehicle moves, air passes around and through the wind fairing and extrusions, creating noise that may be noticeable at higher speeds. However, some systems come with wind deflectors or fairings that help minimize this issue.

Another aspect affected by racks is aerodynamics. The vehicle’s added height and altered shape can lead to increased drag which directly impacts fuel efficiency. However, many designs on the market focus on aerodynamics to mitigate this problem, and some even have adjustable crossbars that can be repositioned to reduce wind resistance when not in use.

It’s important to note that while these factors might have a minor impact on driving dynamics, they are generally manageable and outweighed by the benefits of having a rack.

The Prinsu line has great options for those looking to minimize wind noise while improving the truck’s aerodynamics. Their design, paired with the noise-reducing trim included, will keep your ride as quiet as possible.

The Prinsu is designed with aerodynamics in mind. This rack reduces drag and wind noise while driving, which ultimately improves your fuel efficiency. The slim design of this system also ensures that your vehicle’s handling and stability are not compromised.

Can a Roof Rack Damage My Vehicle?

5th Gen 4Runner Prinsu Full Roof Rack with WaterPort Day Tank

When properly installed and used according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, a rack should not cause any damage to your 4Runner. However, it is essential to exercise caution during installation and ensure that the system is securely attached to the vehicle.

When installing your rack, it’s crucial to pay attention to proper sealing to prevent any water damage to the interior of your 4Runner. Failing to seal the components correctly can lead to water leaks, potentially causing significant damage that could cost you hundreds of dollars to repair.

Regular inspections of the rack’s components, including crossbars, mounting feet, and attachments, are necessary to detect any signs of wear or damage.

Additionally, following the manufacturer’s weight limits and distribution guidelines is crucial. Overloading the system can strain the vehicle’s roof, potentially causing structural damage or compromising safety. Adhering to weight limits and evenly distributing the load across the rack will help prevent any potential damage.

Prinsu is a great option for those who maximize their roof space to store all their heavy gear. Not only is it lightweight, saving you weight for the things that really matter, but since it’s made of high-quality aluminum, it has a weight capacity of up to 700 pounds. If you’re looking to load up a tent and gear on your roof, you won’t have to worry about whether the rack can handle the weight. For once, you can have your cake and eat it too!

Are Roof Racks Secure Against Theft?

Accessory Locks for Roof Rack Shovels

While racks themselves are not immune to theft, many manufacturers incorporate security features to help protect your investment.

One commonly used approach involves using security bolts to replace some or all of the regular bolts.

These specialized security bolts are designed to be more challenging to remove. You can also invest in lockable storage boxes on your roof rack to keep your gear safe, however, these can be incredibly costly depending on the brand you pick. Or you can look into a gear storage locking mechanism to keep your gear and roof rack safe from theft.

However, it’s important to remember that no system is entirely foolproof. Determined thieves may still attempt to remove the system or its contents. To enhance security, it is advisable to park in well-lit areas, use additional locking mechanisms such as cable locks or security straps, and remove valuable items when the vehicle is unattended for an extended period.

Let’s Dive Deep and Explore Prinsu Accessory Options

5th Gen 4Runner with ARB Awning mounted to a Prinsu Roof Rack with rotopaX Packs
Picture By: @t4runn670

There are many different accessories that you can attach to your rack system, depending on your needs and preferences. Prinsu does a great job at covering all of your bases and offering a variety of mounts to securely attach all of your adventure gear.

Prinsu racks are designed to enhance your outdoor excursions by providing a secure and sturdy platform to carry your gear or whatever else you need to bring along for your lifestyle. Not only are they solid and dependable, but they are also the quietest and lowest-profile systems on the market.

When I was configuring my rack, I carefully considered the items that I knew would be frequently used and might be too dirty or bulky to store inside the vehicle. It became evident that these were the things I wanted to have. I highly recommend considering mounting gear like shovels, storage boxes, recovery boards, and anything else you may need when you’re off the grid.

For avid campers, investing in roof-mounted gear can significantly improve your camping experience by saving valuable space and enhancing comfort. I suggest considering the installation of an awning, which provides shelter and shade during your outdoor adventures. Additionally, incorporating a water system for showering or drinking purposes adds convenience and self-sufficiency. Finally, don’t forget about lighting options to illuminate your camping area when night falls.

Before you start mounting anything, it’s crucial to consider the weight capacity of your specific rack. Different systems have varying load limits, so it’s essential to research different roof racks on the market and their weight capacities before making a purchase. This approach ensures that you will select a rack that can safely accommodate the intended load and activities, providing peace of mind and preventing any potential issues down the road.

Prinsu’s standout feature lies in its extensive collection of mounts and accessories, all designed specifically for their system. This wide range of options allows you to customize your Prinsu to match your preferences and specific needs. Prinsu offers a comprehensive selection that allows you to truly maximize the potential of your system.

Let’s Take a Look at Prinsu Accessory Options:

  • Prinsu Rack Shield Plate: provides extra protection and coverage
  • Light Bar Mounts: allows for easy and secure installation of light bars
  • Prinsu Ridgeline Handles: offer convenient grab points along the sides for easier access
  • Prinsu Summit Handle: provides a sturdy grip for safely maneuvering
  • Prinsu Awning Mounting Brackets: ensure a secure and reliable attachment for your awning
  • Prinsu Low Profile Awning Mount Brackets: offer a sleek and streamlined solution for mounting your awning
  • Quick Release Awning Mount Brackets: allow for effortless installation and removal of your awning
  • Tie Down Kit: provides additional security and stability for your gear
  • Noise Reducing Trim: helps minimize wind noise and vibrations for a quieter driving experience
  • Bottle Opener: a convenient accessory for cracking open cold beverages during adventures
  • Tent Mounts: provide a secure attachment point for mounting rooftop tents
  • Camp Lights: designed to be easily mounted, providing illumination at your campsite
  • MaxTrax Mounts: securely hold MaxTrax recovery boards
  • MaxTrax Mounting Pins: ensure a reliable quick attachment to hold one or two sets of MaxTrax boards
  • Rotopax Standard Pack Mount: securely holds RotoPax fuel or water containers
  • Prinsu Rotopax Mount Dual: offers a dual mounting option for Rotopax containers, providing additional storage versatility
  • Prinsu Universal WaterPort Mount: provides a secure attachment for WaterPort Day Tank
  • Prinsu Universal High Lift Jack Mount: offers a secure mounting solution for your high lift jack
  • Go Pro Bracket: enables you to attach a GoPro camera
  • Universal Utility Hook: provides a convenient attachment point for hanging various gear or equipment
  • Side Rail: offers additional support and attachment options along the sides of your Prinsu
  • Load Panel: provides a solid surface for securing gear or mounting accessories

While it’s not necessary to mount all of these additional mounts and products to be an off-roader or overlander, Prinsu excels in simplifying the process for those seeking modular solutions. With Prinsu, you can conveniently find everything you need in one place, eliminating the hassle of searching through various third-party sites for specific mounts and accessories.

Pros vs. Cons

5th Gen 4Runner Prinsu Roof Rack

Before we dive into what options you have as a 4Runner owner, take some time to familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of purchasing a rack.

Pros

  • Increased cargo capacity for transporting larger or bulkier items
  • Convenient storage solution, keeping dirty or wet items outside the vehicle
  • Personalization and customization of your 4Runner to suit your lifestyle and activities
  • Compatibility with various accessories, rooftop tents, awnings, storage, etc.
  • Aesthetically pleasing

Cons

  • Potential wind noise, although some racks come with wind deflectors to mitigate this
  • Slight impact on aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, although many designs aim to minimize this issue as well
  • The initial cost of the rack and installation time
  • Additional height, which may require caution when entering low clearance areas
  • Possibility of theft, although many racks offer locking mechanisms for enhanced security
  • Depending on the rack you purchase you may not have space to put all of your gear

Picking the Best Option

Now that we’ve gotten the more technical questions out of the way, let’s look at the different “types” of racks available and what option could be best for you.

Types of Roof Racks

Roof Rails

5th Gen Super White 4Runner with RockTrix RT112 Wheels in Matte Black

Roof rails, or side rails, are the foundational component of many rack systems.

On the 4Runner, roof rails come stock on all models but the TRD Pro. They run parallel to the roofline of the vehicle and provide a base for attaching various accessories, such as crossbars. They are generally cost-effective; however, it’s important to note that there is a higher risk of vehicle damage when using roof rails to mount items, depending on how they are secured. 

Basket

2020 TRD Pro White Mountains (Buyers Guide)

Baskets, also referred to as cargo baskets or roof trays, are open-style platforms that provide a spacious area for carrying bulky or irregularly shaped items.

These baskets feature high sides or raised edges to prevent gear from sliding off during transportation. Aftermarket baskets will require some sort of mounting base such as crossbars or roof rails. If you are planning on purchasing the 4Runner TRD Pro, those come from the factory with the basket. 

3/4 Rack

5th Gen 4Runner with 3/4 Roof Rack

3/4 racks provide a larger surface area for carrying gear compared to roof rails and even some baskets. A 3/4 rack typically covers three-quarters of the roof, leaving a portion of the roof exposed. These are a great option if you have a sunroof and don’t want it covered by rails, but remember the rack is a lot smaller so you may not be able to fit bigger items such as storage boxes and rooftop tents.

Full Rack

5th Gen 4Runner with Prinsu Full Roof Rack

Full racks offer the maximum storage capacity as they span the entire length and width of the roof.

This allows for the transportation of large, bulky, or longer items that may not fit within the confines of smaller options.

A full rack, paired with the right mounts, can offer stability, securely distributed gear, and minimizes the risk of any gear shifting around. However, it’s worth considering that full racks do come with a higher price tag compared to other options.

And as I’ve mentioned above, the extended profile of a full-length system may impact wind resistance, potentially affecting your vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

Which One Should I Pick?

5th Gen 4Runner with TRD Pro Basket Roof Rack
Picture: @thefurrunner

Now that you have a good grasp of the different types of racks and systems available, let’s dive into figuring out which one would be the perfect fit for you. Of course, the decision should be based on your unique needs and personal preferences. However, by understanding the specific strengths and applications of each option, you can get a general idea of which one aligns best with your intended use.

Roof Rails

These racks are an excellent choice for individuals who need a basic and cost-effective solution for carrying lighter loads and prefer the flexibility to customize their rack system according to their specific needs. With roof rails, you can install crossbars onto the rails, allowing you to create your own customized DIY system.

Roof Baskets

These racks are an ideal choice for those who need to transport larger items that may not easily fit inside or you may not want inside the vehicle. These are great options for those who don’t intend on adding tons of accessories such as tents and awnings or running a ton of weight. And they are much lighter than 3/4 or full racks. If you are interested in doing weekend camping trips or maybe leading a lifestyle where you need to carry larger, bulkier items, a roof basket may be the best option for you.

3/4 Rack

These racks are a practical choice for those who require extra space for carrying gear and want a balance between storage and retaining some roof space for other accessories or attachments. Compared to the roof basked you may have to sacrifice a bit more weight on your roof however, they have lower profiles than baskets which could help get you into areas with lower clearance.

Full Rack

These racks are ideal for carrying large, bulky, or longer items that may not fit within the confines of smaller options. If you plan on living out of your 4Runner whether it be for a weekend or a month a full-length system is going to be your best option. These do tend to be a lot heavier than other options but you will have the flexibility to mount virtually anything.

    What’s My Setup?

    5th Gen 4Runner with Prinsu Full Roof Rack and WaterPort Day Tank

    Currently, my setup is pretty bare because I am trying to figure out how I want to mount everything.

    I decided to go with the full-length roof rack because it looked more aesthetically pleasing in my opinion. And as an avid off-roader, I knew there would be several recovery gear items that I’d want to mount on my rack. The full-length option provided the perfect solution, offering ample space to securely attach all the essential equipment I needed. Plus, it added a touch of style that truly elevated the overall look of my vehicle.

    I currently mount my WaterPort Day Tank to the top of the Prinsu. This thing was a game-changer when I went camping. After a long day of off-roading, the last thing I wanted to do was crawl into a bed covered in dirt and dust. Thankfully my WaterPort paired with my Kelty privacy tent, I was able to take a shower right at camp and not have to worry about my sleep setup getting dirty.

    I also record everything with my GoPro Hero 11 so I knew I had to get my GoPro mount to easily get all the best footage on the trails.

    I am planning on attaching my Smittybilt awning with the quick-release mounts. I like these the best because I can easily remove and install my awning without any issues. Personally, I find these mounts to be the most convenient option, allowing me to effortlessly remove and install the awning whenever needed. This flexibility is particularly valuable during off-roading trips in colder months when I don’t require shelter as frequently as I do in warmer months. I also have a water RotoPax that I plan on mounting as well as getting some recovery boards getting mounted again using the Prinsu mounts.

    Final Thoughts

    4Runner with Cali Raised Bumper and Ironman 4x4 Monster Winch

    A good rack system can open up a world of possibilities for your adventures. Whether you’re looking to carry sporting equipment, camping gear, or other bulky items, there is a system that suits your needs.

    By considering factors such as load capacity, compatibility with accessories, aesthetics, and your intended usage, you can confidently select the ideal roof rack for your 4Runner. Remember to assess the pros and cons, explore the different types available, and consider essential accessories to make the most of your travel needs.

    We hope this guide has provided valuable insights and helped you on your journey to finding the perfect rack for your 4Runner.

    Subscribe
    Notify of
    guest

    11 Comments
    Inline Feedbacks
    View all comments
    Stephen S.
    Stephen S.
    5 months ago

    After a lengthy amount of research I purchased the uptopoverland rack. With it’s wider stance, and multiple options on lead fairings (depending upon your lighting setup), it was my choice. With the unique arrowhead design on the leading edge of the side rails it reduces wind noise significantly. Plus it looks like no other.

    Bob C
    Bob C
    5 months ago

    No issue with prinsu. I opted for an uptopoverland rack. Similar style but wider. Also, they tend to have better sales. I absolutely love it.

    bstyle killa
    bstyle killa
    5 months ago

    Prinsu is very popular for sure. There are a lot of racks out there that are nice though, checkout bjlanders.com for something a bit different.

    Screenshot 2023-09-28 at 6.30.06 PM.png
    Samuel
    Samuel
    5 months ago

    I went with UpTop Overland. They have 1/4″ side pieces and high grade hardware. They also have a windshield that doesn’t contact the top of the roof, something I never could get over with Prinsu, Westcott, or other extrusion racks. However, their accessories are over priced so I bought some from Prinsu. The hardware rusted after one rain.

    tobey yardub
    tobey yardub
    6 months ago

    useful info on the prinsu rack, now i am interested in fitting a rack on my 4runner!

    jon
    jon
    6 months ago

    i’ve got the rhino rack 3/4. I love it, it clamps directly to my roof rails, and it’s fully flat so i can throw on a full plywood sheet if needed. Some people worry about carrying capacity, but you gotta remember no matter what the rack can handle, the 4runner’s roof itself is only rated for like 200lbs. Even when i go out with everything i got i try to keep everything as light as possible. I’ve got a big awning, a 15L solar water shower, then just my tent and sleeping stuff, if you throw on a shovel and maybe traction boards you’re probably right at that 200lb limit.

    Vojin
    Vojin
    6 months ago

    Most of my 4Runner friends are using Prinsu, and they are all happy with it, so I decided to go that route.

    Installed loved it for for first four months. Then rails “rusted”, then I got them replaced under warranty, which was hassle to go thru.

    Then 3 month later they “rusted” again, same thing with warranty, this time even more hassle.
    4 months later same thing. So I have up. I have “very colourful roof rack. And btw mounting hardware is not stainless steel (specifically washers).

    My advise – stay away from Prinsu made during and after pandemic. Quality changed and never recovered.

    Logan
    Logan
    6 months ago

    Under FAQ section what rtt is on the 4Runner in photo?

    Mike
    Mike
    6 months ago

    Can’t forget rusty hardware!

    11
    0
    Questions or Comments?x
    ()
    x