Kayak Rack Guide
Got a kayak and a vehicle? Want to transport the kayak on said vehicle? You’re at the right place!
Height of Vehicle
Tall vehicle roofs–more difficult to load from the side, easier from the rear
Low vehicle roofs–easier to load from the side
Number of Kayaks
How many kayaks are you planning to carry–the number greatly impacts which racks are best for you. Some racks take up a lot of space and therefore can’t accommodate multiple boats. The inverse is also true.
1 Kayak–Saddles, J-Cradles or soft-tops
2 — Saddles (>60″ bars) or J-Cradles
3-4 — Stackers or J-cradles used as stackers
Available Crossbar Space
Kayaks take up a fair amount of real estate on roof racks. In general, the wider the crossbar, the more stuff you can fit on it. Additionally, the wider crossbars stick out the sides of the vehicle, the easier it will be to load from the sides. For vehicles without crossbars, the softop option is good.
50″ bars can hold 2 kayaks in J-cradles or 1 kayak in a saddle
60″+ can hold 2 kayaks in saddles
Weight of kayak(s)
Light kayaks can be lifted by one person, heavy will need 2+ people. Heavy kayaks for one person are easiest slid up from the rear of the vehicle.
Factoring in the kayaks weight and height of the vehicle should give you a good idea on which loading method will be easiest and therefore which racks to consider.
Types of Racks
As the name suggests, they are in the shape of a “J” and hold the boat vertically/sideways. Usually, the boat is placed on the cradles from the side of the vehicle
-Take up less space
Saddles take up the most crossbar space as the boat sits on them like it would on the water, hull down. Saddles typically consist of 4 separate supports which help load, support and tie down the boat.
Kayaks are heavy. Load assist kayak racks help with the lifting. There are a couple different types of load assists, but the most common are elevator types where the j-cradle comes down to the side of the vehicle from is place on the crossbars. The kayak can then be loaded at an easier chest height and then assisted back into position up on the rack.
Consisting of simple vertical poles sticking up from crossbars, stackers are essentially a pole that boats can be leaned on or stacked on. This is an ideal solution for carrying up to 4 kayaks and most standard size roof racks. The boats are stacked on their sides against the stacking pole and tied down.
Usually, soft padded racks that are strapped through the cab of the vehicle on cars that don’t have other roof rack options. These are versatile, less expensive racks that can carry of range of items from boats to ladders.
|Kayak Rack Type||Price||Easiest to Load From||Best For||Our Picks|
|J-Cradles||$-$$$||Side||Low vehicle roof height, 1-2 kayaks, optimizing rack space for other accessories (cargo boxes, etc.)|
|Saddles||$$||Rear||1 kayak, loading from rear of vehicle|
|Stackers||$$||Both||Multiple kayaks, 2+ people loading|
|Load-Assist||$$$||Side||Heavy kayaks, tall roofs, 1 person lifting|
|Soft-Tops||$-$$||Both||Bar roof vehicles, temporary transport, budget|