The 10 Best Kayak Roof Racks in 2019

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Kayaks are used for a variety of reasons. Some use it for recreation, some use it for fishing, some use it for extreme sports like whitewater rafting, and some use it to just relax and enjoy the outdoors.

The great thing about kayaks is that it is for the whole family. Even kids can use and it with just the right gear like a safety belt and life jacket, it is completely safe. No training is needed at all when using it for recreation.

Thinking of going on a family vacation by the river or beach with a kayak? That sounds like a good idea. But have you ever wonder how you are going to transport it?

For a lot of people, transporting a kayak on a vehicle can be a struggle. That is why there are inflatable kayaks available. But for others who love and enjoy the feature of a regular kayak, a piece of good transportation equipment is needed. This is where kayak roof racks come into place.

Features to consider in Good Kayak Roof Rack

How important are kayak roof racks?

It is easy to be worried about kayaks not being strapped securely on the roof of your car. Not only it will damage your car but it can cause huge accidents to those in the road. You may resort to buying ropes and locks but they don’t always do the trick. Remember that kayak has the shape of a mini boat and it is heavy too. Strapping it with ropes can only damage both your car and your kayak.

If you are a kayak owner, the most important equipment you need to transport your kayak is a kayak roof rack or a kayak carrier. These are specially made to secure your kayak on the roof of your car and are made with sturdy and durable materials so you won’t have to worry about accidents along the way.

There are many brands and styles available for a kayak roof rack. It might be helpful to do your research before purchasing one to see which style will suit your needs.

Choosing your kayak roof racks

Do you think that choosing your kayak is difficult? Choosing and purchasing your kayak roof rack is equally the same. There are a lot of factors to consider — the type of car, number of kayaks, the distance you are going to travel, and a lot more.

There are various types of kayak roof racks these are the following:

  • Temporary Pads. This type of roof rack is best for short trips and those who don’t need to move or transport their kayak frequently. They can be relatively cheap and great for moving single kayak as long as you live near your kayak place.
  • Saddles (w/ Rollers). The saddle roof racks extend from the base rack to the bottom of the kayak as a single cradle or two separate pieces that can be adjusted to fit the width of the boat. It securely straps the kayak in place so long-distance travel and other factors like winds or road roughness won’t really affect the kayak’s position.
  • J-Cradles. The j-cradles are the preferred roof racks by many because they are very stable and can securely strap a kayak in place regardless of the situation. They are in J-share form at sit on a 45-degree angle on the crossbars. They are very convenient to use and you can load the kayak to the side, making the process fast and easy.
  • Stackers. The stackers allow you to load your kayak in an upright position which is space-savvy for some. These are generally secured, easy to install, and a totally inexpensive option. It will even allow you to stack more than 2 kayaks at once.

Kayak truck racks

Most roof racks are often used in cars or SUVs. They have specific functions and features all to keep kayak securely fasten in the roof of the car and to keep the car damage free. But if you have a truck, know that there are different types of racks use for trucks as well.

Below are the various types of racks for trucks:

Horizontal and vertical bed extended. These extended are made to fit the bed of the truck to allow the user to carry huge equipment on the back of the truck. These are durable, whether horizontal or vertical. But remember that you have to consider the length of the kayak when using these extenders since it may be difficult to drive around vehicles and to park with longer kayaks. These extenders can hold up to two kayaks.

Utility rack. If you own a kayak and often travel with it, the best option for your track is the utility rack. This rack is securely bolted on the truck bed and can carry heavy loads. They are very durable and stable and can carry more than two kayak. This is a permanent rack and good for campers or those who love the great outdoors.

Transporting multiple kayaks

Many of the roof racks available in the market are designed to transport 1 to 2 kayaks. When you want to transport more than 2, check out with brand and product information on how many kayaks a certain roof rack can transport and up to what weight limit it can accommodate. Apart from that, you have to check on other equipment such as additional straps, ropes, fasteners, and lock to securely hold multiple kayaks in place.

When driving, however, you should take extra precautions to ensure that all kayaks stay in place and to avoid accidents. It might help to drive slower as usual because of the weight you are carrying.

Tying down a kayak on the roof rack

Most kayak roof racks available in the market come with equipment to tie down your kayak securely. Some would need additional ropes and straps depending on the dimension of the kayak or kayaks that you are going to transport.

You will need to strap your kayak on the front and back. Some have a locking system as well. You need to clear with the manufacturer the right procedure and anchor points where you can strap correctly.

This is a very important step in keeping the kayak in place.

The Best Kayak Roof Rack 2019

1. Thule 835 Hull-a-Port Pro Kayak Carrier

Why we like it: Great price point and easy to install, the best option for j-style kayak

Editor’s Rating:

This is one of the best and popular options for the J-style kayak roof racks. It can hold a single kayak vertically and features 2 vertical J mounts that need to be attached in the front and rear cross rails of the car.

A safe and secure way to load in your kayak, this roof rack includes padded bars and ratchet strap system. They are also collapsible and can be easily folded down when not in use.

The Thule 835 Hull-a-Port pro has an AllSurface rust-resistant coating and hardware and can accommodate kayaks up to 34 inches wide. This is the best choice for paddlers who often go and travel with their kayak and who are looking for extreme durability and protection. The brand is also one of the best brands for roof racks.

Inclusion:

  • 2 Hull-aport assemblies
  • 2 Bottom tube pads
  • 2 Top tube pads
  • 2 Base pads
  • 4 Metal brackets
  • Eight M6 x 50mm bolts
  • Eight M6 x 65mm bolts
  • Eight M6 knobs
  • 2 Buckle bumpers
  • 2 Rachets with hook
  • 2 Hooks
  • 2 Attachment straps
  • Two 1/4″ rope
  • 4 Tube plugs
  • Instructions
Pros
  • Collapsible
  • Allows easy loading
  • rust-resistant
Cons
  • No lock system

2. Malone SeaWing Saddle Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier

Why we like it: Great saddle option for those who are carrying longer kayak

Editor’s Rating:

Malone is another popular name for kayak roof racks and their SeaWing Saddle is definitely a good choice.

Here, the brackets are shaped like the wings of a bird. The brackets are attached to the base rack while the kayak sits in the cradle. This saddle carries 1 kayak on a horizontal position but some can carry up to 2, depending on the width of the car. They are very easy to set up and take up minimal roof space. This is perfect for those who want a large surface area on the roof to hold the kayak. This saddle will ensure that the kayak will stay in place amidst rough surfaces during transportation.

Inclusion:

  • (2) SeaWing Cradles
  • (2) Jawz Kits with Mounting Hardware
  • (2) Cam Buckle Straps
  • (2) Bow and Stern Lines
  • (1) Instruction Manual
Pros
  • Easy to setup
  • Corrossion resistant
  • Durable
  • Trusted brand
Cons
  • Limited number of kayak can be transported

3. Yakima JayLow Folding J-Cradle Rooftop Kayak Rack

Why we like it: It folds down when not in use and very easy to setup

Editor’s Rating:

Yakima JayLow Folding J-Cradle Rooftop Kayak Rack is also another popular choice among kayak enthusiasts. It is guaranteed sturdy and can transport your kayak without you having to worry about its safety. One of the best features of the Yakima Jay-Low is that it is already fully assembled. It is also very easy to install without having to use any tools. You just need to attach the rack’s clamp to your car bars and tighten the thumbscrew.

This roof rack is compatible with Yakima SteamLine and round, square, factory and aerodynamic crossbars. The minimum crossbar spread of 24”. It also has a very versatile design with an integrated cam lever that allows you to adjust the upright position easy. And as with j-cradle, it is easy to fold when not in use.

This J-cradle rack can hold up to 2 kayaks in a vertical position and can support one boat weighing up to 80 lbs. or two boats up to 110 lbs.

Inclusion:

  • 2 heavy-duty straps
  • 4 bar adaptors
  • 2 JayLow
  • 2 bow-stern tie-down
Pros
  • Fully assembled
  • No tools needed for installation
Cons
  • Lacks security locks

4. Thule Hullavator 898 Pro

Why we like it: Best for all types of kayaks, great mechanism

Editor’s Rating:

The best thing about Thule Hullavator is that it can carry almost all types of kayak up to 36” and can take up to 40 lbs weight. The brand is one most the most trusted and thus, delivers.
The best thing about this roof rack is that it is specifically designed for easy loading and unloading, and strapping at waist level without damaging the car. The gas struts make all the process easier and the carrier basically takes much of the kayak’s weight so you won’t have problems loading the kayak by yourself. This works a lot for recreational paddlers who often go kayaking alone to enjoy the outdoors or to go fishing. And even if it has outstanding features, It has a very good price point so many preferred this type.

The gas struts make it easy to load and unload the kayak unassisted as the carrier takes 40 lbs of the kayak’s weight. Other features include 8 touchpoints of padded support and is corrosion-resistant.

This roof rack works best for Aeroblade and Squarebar.

Inclusion:

  • QuickDraw bow and stern tie downs
  • Two center straps (Length of straps: 2×9.5 feet)
  • Car-protective buckle bumpers
Pros
  • It has a 40 lb. lift assistance
  • It has easy to remove arms
Cons
  • Thule’s One-key lock cylinders are sold separately
  • High price point

5. Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier

Why we like it: Durable and suited for long travels

Editor’s Rating:

The Malone downloader folding J-style has a built-in fold-down system. It is preferred by families who often travel for recreation because of its durability and its capacity — can carry 2 kayaks at the same time. This roof rack can carry up to 70 to 80 lbs and is made of solid aluminum and nylon.

This j-style kayak has an angled lip built specifically to help users load the kayak more easily in the roof of the car. The boarding ramps make it easier to board the kayak and it has oversize padding that protects both the boat and the car from damages.

While it is a bit heavy, this roof rack can mount up with almost all round, oval, or square factory rails with about 60mm and 70mm mounting bolts.

Inclusion:

  • (2) DownLoader Kayak Carriers
  • (2) Jawz Kits with Mounting Hardware
  • (2) Cam Buckle Straps
  • (2) Bow and Stern Safety Lines
  • (1) Instruction Manual
Pros
  • Fold in half
  • Easy to set up
  • high quality and does not deteriorate overtime
Cons
  • High price point
  • Can be a bit noisy during travel

6. Thule Dockglide Kayak Saddle

Why we like it: It’s large cushion pads protects the hull completely

Editor’s Rating:

The Thule Dockglide saddle is made of very good materials, is flexible, and has felt-lined saddle making loading and unloading of kayak very easy. The angles of the saddle can be adjusted based on the kayak’s dimension. Most paddlers prefer this kind of saddle because it is easy to use. It is great for ocean tour kayaks, and recreational or fishing kayaks.

One of the best features of the Dockglide is that not only it fasten the kayak securely, but also make sure the hull is protected during the course of transport.

This kayak roof rack supports 1 kayak up to 75 lbs and 36” in width. It is compatible with most roof rack load bars and has 15-foot load straps with protective buckle bumpers.

Inclusion:

  • 2 independent pivoting saddles with angle-setting lever
Pros
  • Provides ease in loading and unloading kayak
  • It has protective cushion pads
Cons
  • It is not lockable

7. Thule Xporter Pro Aluminum Kayak Rack for Truck

Why we like it: Simple but very reliable

Editor’s Rating:

This very durable roof rack is designed to be mounted on your truck, for the simple purpose of loading, carrying, and storing your kayaks or whatever huge it is that you needed to store. It is very easy to install without the need for drilling.

The Xporter pro has a SecureLock design that keeps it securely locked onto your truck and can hold up to 450 lbs of load. It has Airstrip technology that redirects airflow for superior aerodynamics effect. It also has a Wind Diffuser Technology that disturbs airflow for quite travels, whether long or short. The bars can be custom adjusted to provide maximum carrying versatility.

Inclusion:

  • cross bars
  • Saddle
  • uprights
  • Lock plug
Pros
  • Easy to assemble
  • No drilling needed
Cons
  • High price point

8. Yakima Showboat 66” Carrier Kit Rack

Why we like it: Great for any type of kayaks and canoes

Editor’s Rating:

Yakima is known for producing top of the like racks. The Showboat includes a pair of carriers that can securely carry any type of kayak and canoe without having to crowd the roof that much.

The brand’s attachment system can fit any crossbar systems like round and square. It also has large pads for protecting the hull and making the kayak even more secured on long and bumpy travels. Another great feature is the load-assist roller slides which make loading and uploading earlier. It is corrosion resistant and can carry up to 80 lbs boat and a 24″ maximum extension.

The best part about purchasing a Yakima? Its lifetime warranty.

Inclusion:

  • set of 66 in. crossbars that attach perpendicular to your factory rack or Yakima car rack system
Pros
  • Secured
  • Cross bars and handles included in the pakage
Cons
  • Might be difficult to attached strap

9. Thule 830 Stacker KayakCarrier

Why we like it: Easy to assemble and easy to remove

Editor’s Rating:

The Thule 830 Stacker is made with fold-down steel design making it durable and shock-resistant. The best thing about it is that it is very stable and very easy to install and uninstall.

Stackers are perfect for those who would carry more than one kayak. Paddlers who are going on a recreational trip or ocean tour usually invest in stackers to carry up to 4 kayaks. The 830 stackers can do just that plus, the brand is guaranteed one of the best. However, it is best to note that one kayak needs to be under 75 lbs. for the secured strap to manage it. It comes with only one secured strap and you have to buy extra straps for each additional kayaks you have.

This roof rack has quite a neat design and is very affordable. It requires Thule rack systems crossbars, round bars, or factory racks.

Inclusion:

  • 1 stacker
  • 1 secured strap for 1 kayak
Pros
  • Easy removable
  • Great price point
  • Reduced wind noise
Cons
  • May require you to change strap or buy a much durable one

10. Malone HandiRack Inflatable Universal Roof Top Rack

Why we like it: It’s inflatable, just perfect for leisure kayakers who don’t want a permanent roof rack

Editor’s Rating:

Yes, roof racks can be inflatable too and this one from Malone is actually very sturdy. Used as a pad on bare or naked roof, this is best used for quick travels and for recreation. If you are a paddler who wishes to bring your own kayak and fish alone, this might be a good choice for you.

The HandiRack takes about 30 seconds to inflate the bladder and it will take about 5 minutes or less to attached it in the roof of your car. It usually fits most car roofs except for soft-top convertibles.

It has a capacity of about 180 lbs and is made of 420-denier nylon with five D-ring anchor points and comes with a travel bag, load straps, and air pump.

Inclusion:

  • (1) Tote Bag
  • (1) Pump
  • (2) HandiRack Inflatable Carriers with Attachment Strap
  • (2) Cam Buckle Load Straps
  • (2) Bow and Stern Lines
  • (1) Instruction Manual
Pros
  • Inflatable
  • Easy to install
Cons
  • For recreational use
  • Can fit only 1 kayak

Guide to Buying the Best Kayak Roof Rack

Your vehicle

A roof rack should be able to fit your vehicle since not all of them are made universal. It is easy if you have an SUV or a truck but it can be challenging for those who have smaller cars. Generally, smaller cars can carry smaller and lightweight kayaks. You might have to consider a custom roof rack or equipment to tie in your kayak securely in a small car.

The type of car roof that you have

There is various type of car roofs so the type of roof racks to use may vary as well. It would help to check in the dimension first and compatibility guide to help you narrow down your choices.
Below are the typical type of roof that your car or SUV might have:

  • The naked roof. This means that there are no previous bars attached to it. For this type, it would be best to use temporary pads which are cheaper and don’t require you to install anything. Temporary pads for some are ok but for those who want to be more secured or those who have more than 1 kayak to carry around, an upgrade is necessary by getting your own crossbars.
  • The factory racks. These are the two bars neatly attached to your car or SUV roof. They can pretty much hold 1 kayak but it is not advisable for it to carry more.
  • Factory crossbars. Many types of racks will attach well to a factory crossbar so this is a good choice and without add ons, it can also hold 1 kayak in place.

The number of kayaks you have

Knowing the number of kayaks you will bring on a certain point, will help you a lot in choosing the best roof racks for you. Usually, those who will carry to kayaks can adjust to most racks. For more pieces of kayaks, however, many consider the stackers. But it will also depend on the capacity of the roof or how narrow or wide it is.

Distance

If you are going to drive for a longer distance, it is best to consider a roof rack that will keep your kayaks more secured. It is best to check on features as well and know what type won’t bring damage to your car roof in the long run.

Design

There are kayak holders or roof racks that are specifically designed to transport kayaks and other huge equipment. If you are a paddler or a recreational kayaker who often travel bringing your kayak with you, buying a roof rack that serves the purpose might be your best bet. However, if you want something that is multi-purpose, check the specifications if it will fit your kayak, dimensions wise.

It might be helpful to check as well the features of the roof rack you are eyeing on. It won’t be a problem if you are going to install and uninstall it after use. For a more permanent option, you might consider a folding bar to avoid hassle when going on a low area.

Material

You are going to trust the roof rack to hold your kayak on your travels and you are going to attach it to your car. These 2 require a lot of taking care of because damages can cost you more. Therefore when choosing a material, make sure it is sturdy and durable. Check out roof racks that are made of aluminum or steel. Check also the padding if its huge enough to protect both the kayak and the car. You might also consider an inflatable rack or a fabric rack. Both are easily available.

Brand

A brand reputation is also one of the good things to consider when buying your kayak roof racks. Apart from this, some brand excels because of good customer service and after-sales assistance. There are specific brands that produce racks specifically made to hold kayaks. Make sure to check out some of those.

Other equipment

Some roof racks are assembled and complete already when you buy it and others require you to buy additional parts separately like straps. Check out with the manufacturer on what they are going to provide especially when you want to save yourself from the hassle of buying more equipment than what you planned to buy.

Price

If you invested too much on a kayak, then it is best to invest as well on a high-quality rack that will be able to keep it in place. Price may vary depending on the brand and feature but it does not always mean that a good rack is expensive. There are some ranging from mid to high price points that have good quality and features.

Conclusion

Before buying your kayak, it is very important to consider how you are going to transport it. There are foldable kayaks and there are inflatable one but these don’t work for everyone especially to paddlers who invest in good kayaks for their sport or recreational use.

More than the brand, the style, and the features, a good roof rack need to be very sturdy. It will be attached to your car or truck and it will hold a heavy piece of equipment. Safety is a top priority so make sure to invest in good ropes and straps as well,

Most cars have built-in roof rail systems. While some of these are generally ok to hold a kayak in place, it is still important to check in your option for additional racks for they are suitable for long travels and for carrying heavier equipment. A suitable rack for those with a built-in roof system is a J-carrier which can accommodate up to 2 kayaks.
It is helpful to check other features as well like design and materials for they play huge roles in how long a roof rack is going to last especially for paddlers who frequently transport their kayaks.