You’ve decided you want to go kayaking, but you don’t have a lake or river in your backyard. That means you’re going to have to transport your kayak on top of your vehicle, and you’re in need of a rack. We’ve culled through the expert recommendations from KayakRoofRacks, RackMaven, and BoatSafe to bring you the best kayak racks that will protect your rig and your ride.
There are, in general, four types of racks: temporary pads, saddles, J-cradles, and stackers. If your roof has no side rails or crossbars, you’ll probably be using a temporary pad style. If you do have side rails or crossbars, you can move to one of the other three types of racks.
Most racks will carry two kayaks, but if you need to transport more, the stackers are the way to go. All four kinds are included in our roundup below.
If you’re looking to carry bikes instead of kayaks, check out our list of top-rated bike racks here.
This is a universal fitment rack that should mount to most brands of roof racks; the front and rear pads are engineered to fit a variety of hull shapes. It’s UV-protected, waterproof, and corrosion resistant.
This rack carries up to two kayaks, with one in a J-cradle position, or two in stacked-up position. It’s compatible with most crossbars and includes all the necessary straps and mounting hardware. A cam lever allows you adjust the upright position.
This inflatable rack fits on almost any vehicle and has a load capacity of 175 pounds. Besides kayaks, it can also carry canoes, paddleboards, surfboards, and more. It also deflates to a small size when not in use.
This rack fits two boats in a stacked configuration and can be used on most cars with round, square, and factory oval crossbars. The system folds down when not in use and assembles tool-free.
This J-cradle rack fits one kayak up to 34-inches wide and 75 pounds. It features quick on and off hardware and includes two ratcheting bow and stern tie downs. It fits most factory racks.
This low-profile carrier is easy to set up and takes up minimal roof space. The “Jawz” mounting hardware fits most round, square, and factory oval roof rails. It supports up to 70 pounds.
You can carry a variety of hull shapes with this Thule rack. It protects that hull with large rubber pads and fits most cars with roof rails. It can carry 85 pounds and boats up to 36-inches wide.
This is another highly rated J-cradle rack that fits one kayak. It folds out of the way when not in use and its mounting hardware will fit almost anything. Everything is protected with soft mounting points.
This steel rack can handle a kayak 36-inches wide and up to 75 pounds, and quick on-and-off hardware insures fast removal and installation. It’s made from steel and leaves extra roof space for another carrier.
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