Roof racks and rooftop cargo boxes are great for transporting your gear to and fro. They're not always so great when it comes time to hoist that gear atop or take it down from a high vehicle's roof. Monkeying all over your car, muddying and scuffing the seats as you get in the right position, and straining your muscles before you even get started biking, kayaking or whatever ... there must be a better way. Engineer Paul Buller believes that better way is his RazerLift, a push-button electric lift that makes getting your gear up and down easier than reaching for the top shelf of your kitchen cabinet.
Buller admits that he's not the first to work out a solution to the problem of overly cumbersome roof loading (one of our favorites is the automated boat loader available on the Patriot TH610 camping trailer). Buller stresses that his design is different thanks to its smoother, easier operation, and looking at some of the alternatives out there – swiveling bike arms, boat levers like the StrongArm loader, kayak rollers, etc. – we think he might have found a level of user-friendliness that others have not.
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A little reminiscent of the power truck steps that are certain to grace some of the vehicles that sit below it, the RazerLift automatically drops down to easy load/unload height at the push of a remote control button. The articulated arms lift up and then slowly lower the rack down to about side-mirror level. Here you can more easily mount, load and access your cargo before hitting the button and watching the RazerLift retract back securely onto the roof.
An advantage of the RazerLift design is that it keeps your cargo level the entire time, which is why it's ideal for use with a roof box. Compare its operation with something like the Thule Hullavator Pro 898 kayak lift, which requires that you load the kayak on its side before it flips the kayak right side up as it lifts up to the roof. That's just fine for a kayak or ladder, but you wouldn't want to have to load a roof box on its side - even if it were locked, all your stuff would tumble around during loading. With the RazerLift, your load stays level during loading, riding and unloading.
Instead of being centered on the roof, the RazerLift sits all the way to the passenger side, making it possible to mount two individual units on a car to double carry capacity. Having just one unit mounted looks kind of strange and unbalanced, but we guess it isn't any stranger than having a single bike or kayak mounted on one side of a standard roof rack.
The RazerLift is designed to transport all kinds of cargo – rooftop boxes, ladders, bikes, kayaks and more – but it's really a go-between that slides between the vehicle roof and the cargo-carrying system, so it won't come with racks or cargo solutions of its own. Buller and his team are working to ensure that it'll work with popular bike racks, roof boxes and other solutions.
The RazerLift looks like a very convenient way of loading and unloading cargo and maintaining quick access during the ride. We don't agree with every listed advantage, though.
"Many other technologies involved a two-part transition – lift the cargo up first and then shift the cargo on top of the roof," explains RazerLift's website. "By using a single sweeping motion, the RazerLift requires fewer moving parts and is much simpler overall, which results in higher reliability."
The RazerLift's operation certainly looks smooth, but it doesn't necessarily look that simple or free from moving parts compared to something like the aforementioned Hullavator or StrongArm. Between its multi-jointed arms, electric motor, gears, cable, electronics and other hardware, it seems like there are some things that could go wrong, especially considering the whole unit will spend its life bouncing around on the top of a moving vehicle, exposed to the elements.
Buller and his team are winding down the alpha prototype stage and working hard to make the RazerLift mounting hardware work with existing auto manufacturer roof rails and kits from aftermarket companies like Thule and Yakima. They intend to make their crossbars compatible with factory rails with channels and offer adapters for other systems. Other elements that are under consideration or in the works include a Bluetooth remote control app, auto-stop sensor to prevent the RazerLift from crashing into things during operation and an overload sensor to alert folks when they've reached the 100-lb (45-kg) capacity.
Buller is hosting an Indiegogo campaign now to help raise development funding. The campaign is structured with a variety of pledge rewards, including in-store credits worth well above face value, three-month beta unit rentals, and beta unit purchases. Beta units start at pledges of CAD$899 (approx. US$699), and production models start at $999 (US$775) for the one-sided model and $1,799 (US$1,395) for the two-sided version. Calgary-based installation is included on the beta unit, but the others don't include shipping or installation. Shipping is limited to North America at this point.
After finishing alpha prototype testing, and assuming everything moves along smoothly, Buller will get beta prototypes out to supporters by August before readying the production model for November.
It's worth noting that the RazerLift isn't just a clamp and go installation. It involves wiring into the vehicle's electrical system and Buller believes most people will want to have it professionally installed by a local mechanic. He estimates that it will take a competent mechanic two to three hours.
Buller explains and demonstrates the RazerLift in the short clip below.