Quick take: The Prinsu Roof Rack is an affordable alternative to more expensive, traditional roof racks with a minimalistic aesthetic that compliments modern vehicle roof lines. The aluminum construction provides a lightweight but robust platform for mounting roof top tents, awnings, and other accessories. The modular nature of the rack allows the user to easily add accessories, additional crossmembers, and their ultra useful load plates to adapt the rack for specific needs. While perhaps not as comprehensive as some other manufacturer’s offerings, Prinsu’s growing catalog of accessories is likely to meet most user’s needs.
There comes a time in every overlander’s life when they realize that their OEM roof rack isn’t up to snuff. Maybe it’s time for a rooftop tent, an awning, or maybe just time to get their muddy recovery boards out of the back seat. Sure, there are ways to kludge together a way to mount these things with most stock roof racks, but the results are rarely good.
After years of dealing with the shortcomings of the stock roof rack on my 4th gen 4Runner, I finally hit the point where it needed to go. I had five criteria for selecting the new rack: it had to look good, it had to be well constructed, it had to be reasonably priced, it needed to be something I could ship to my house, and it had to have a sufficiently wide selection of accessories to fit any future needs for expansion. After looking at the options available, I discarded the possibility of going with what I’d call a traditional safari basket-style rack – they tended to look out of place and a bit ridiculous on my particular vehicle, and it didn’t offer the option for mounting an RTT in the future. Most of the fully-welded platform designs were expensive and needed to be shipped somewhere with a delivery dock. Sadly, I don’t have one of those at my house, and my wife assures me we are not getting one anytime soon. That left me looking at the newer generation of modular roof racks that have become so popular in the last five or six years.
Design and Construction
The most popular of this style of rack seems to be the one manufactured by CBI under their Prinsu Design arm. Where I live, they are pretty ubiquitous, and I like the general look of them. For my vehicle in particular, there is a slight taper to the roof line that tends to make traditional platform-style racks look like the 4Runner is trying to balance a plate on its head. The lines of the Prinsu rack address that well, infilling the area below the cross members their side plate design and keeping the overall top of the rack still close to the roof. My one design complaint is that, from a certain angle, the new roof and rack profile reminds me more than a little of Buzz McCallister’s flat top. I’m probably not that big a fan of Home Alone. That aside, I think the modern, minimalist design goes well with contemporary vehicle lines thanks to their vehicle-specific designs. Would I want to see one on a Series Land Rover? Definitely not, but they look at home on nearly every vehicle I’ve seen them mounted on.
The rack is a component-ized design comprised of aluminum extrusions making up the crossbars, steel side plates, and a wind fairing that are mechanically fastened in lieu of being welded together in the factory. Initially, I was a little worried about giving up the strength of welded connections found on more traditional roof racks for a bunch of relatively small bolts used to connect the side plates to the aluminum extrusion cross members. My concern was that they would be subject to some appreciable shear forces once a rooftop tent and a couple of people were loading it up. Armed with my internet engineering degree and an hour of time with Google, I concluded the following: 1. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t become an engineer, 2. Prinsu had engineers that figured this all out already, and 3. I’m pretty sure that an elephant could stand on the rack, and at least the bolts probably wouldn’t fail. So with that unrealistic fear assuaged, I put my order in.
The rack I ordered was priced at $1,080 and came with free shipping to the lower 48. When compared to the one-piece platform racks that come in at about $1,500 plus the cost of freight shipping, the Prinsu rack seemed like a pretty good value in contrast. Nevertheless, I still had that moment of hesitation I get whenever I’m buying something with a comma in the price tag.
Prinsu has a pretty extensive line of accessories designed to fit their rack system, and they’ve been slowly adding more options as time has gone on. They recently added a number of new options, including a new camp light that mounts in their Ridgeline grab handles. When I ordered my rack, I bought two sets of grab handles, a slim awning mount, and four Baja Designs rock lights that also fit in the Ridgeline handles. The fit and finish on each of the accessories I ordered was excellent. (A note about the rock lights: if you buy them for your Ridgeline handles, order them as a set of four with the wiring harness. Neither CBI nor Baja Designs will sell you that wiring harness separately.)
Of all their accessories, three really stood out to me as truly notable designs – those Ridgeline handles with their ability to inset a small light, their beautifully machined Summit grab handles, and their load panels. Had I not planned to mount a rooftop tent in short order, I would have ordered a couple of them. They are a panel that slides into the horizontal track extrusions in the cross members that are pre-routed with a series of mounting holes and channels. With a set of these, you can mount just about anything to rack, with a host of low-profile options available from them for recovery boards, Rotopax, rifle cases, and several other systems.
There are a couple of accessories I would have liked to have seen for the system. For people without a place to mount their oversized wheels that no longer fit in the stock location, the roof rack is a deeply flawed but occasionally welcome alternative to lashing it down inside a vehicle. Yes, you should keep heavy items low on your vehicle to reduce your center of gravity, and getting a wheel onto and off the roof rack is miserable, but sometimes it is the best option. For me, I would like to have seen that as an accessory option that is commonly available on other racks. The other accessory I would have liked to have seen was an under-mount camp table similar to what both Front Runner and Eezi-Awn have available. We’ll see if either of those options appear in the future.
Installation was impressively simple to the point that instructions were almost unnecessary. As you unpack the individual parts, it’s pretty clear how the rack comes together, and for the most part, there isn’t much opportunity for a mistake. The only part of the assembly that took a little finesse was sliding the t-nuts you have to screw into the back of the wind fairing and sliding that assembly into the aluminum extrusion that supports it. It wasn’t difficult, just a bit finicky. The only part of the installation that was a two-person affair was lifting the assembled rack into place and tightening four mounting bolts that wed the rack to the roof.
When installing accessories, there is a keyed slot at the top of the cross members that makes installation a breeze. Those slots are notably missing from the sides of the cross members, meaning the bolts holding the cross members to the side plates have to be removed any time you need to put hardware into the extrusion slots. This is a minor annoyance generally, but a massive pain once you have something like a rooftop tent bearing on those cross members. Hopefully they will add the keyed opening to the sides in future iterations of the rack.
The Prinsu roof rack is a nicely designed, affordable, and vehicle-specific option available to the overlander looking to expand their options for mounting equipment, rooftop tents, awnings, and other accoutrements best left outside the cabin when their OEM rack no longer serves them. The modular nature of the system lends itself to a variety of options for mounting equipment and accessories.
What to know:
The information below is based on the 4th gen 4Runner design. Dimensions, weight, cost, and loads vary slightly based on vehicle model.
- Construction: Modular design comprised of aluminum extrusion and bent aluminum mounting plates.
- Number of Cross Members: 9 (expandable with additional crossmembers available for purchase separately)
- Finish: Black powder coat
- Weight: 63 lbs
- Static Load Capacity: 800 lbs.
- Dynamic Load Capacity: 400 lbs.
- MSRP: $1,080