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Best Kayak Roof Rack Reviews
Is there anything better than a relaxing day on the water in your kayak? Well yeah, a relaxing day with a paddling buddy, of course!
Kayaks are one of the most popular ways to enjoy a day of sight seeing or fishing, and for good reason. They are agile little boats that allow you to avoid the expense and hassle of launching from a boat landing.
Kayaks are all-systems-go wherever there is water, and that makes using them super convenient, but you still have to transport your kayak to the water.
Instead of tying knots and hoping disaster doesn’t strike, installing the best kayak roof rack for transporting your kayak will help you get to the water safely without damaging your kayak, or your vehicle.
Top Kayak Roof Rack Features To Consider
- Low Profile – Your kayak roof rack can easily become damaged from overhead tree limbs or low clearances from garage doors. This is exactly why folding designs have become the most popular designs by far. But there are some non-folding designs that provided an advantage in certain respects.
- Easy Loading – Lifting your big and heavy kayak up onto a rooftop rack isn’t easy even for a relatively strong adult. The best kayak roof racks offer smart designs that make loading easier and much more accommodating for smaller statures and physical limitations. At first glance a J-style kayak carrier might appear difficult to load, but innovative designs have added small loading ramps that greatly reduce the difficulty level. Another option is a Saddle-style kayak carrier, which some users prefer because they can be loaded from the rear of the vehicle and the kayak to slide forward into the saddle-style carriers. Which option works the best for you will help to guide your decision.
- Overall Width – If you plan on carrying more than one kayak on the rooftop of your vehicle then you will want to do a little measuring before you purchase a set of kayak roof racks. The roof rails simply need to be wide enough to accommodate two sets of rooftop kayak carriers side-by-side. With folding kayak roof racks, there is one important consideration to make that often slips by unnoticed. The vital measurement should be taken with two roof racks in the upright operating position. J-style roof racks often lean back slightly and can take up a bit more space than a J-style with a vertical support will.
- Load Capacity – Large kayaks that are loaded with features and accessories are getting heavier and heavier. Some fishing fishing kayaks are a good example of a kayak that can be quite heavy. Unfortunately, purchasing a kayak roof rack that supports the weight of your kayak is not the only piece of the equation. Your roof rack and crossbars will likely have a recommended weight capacity designated by the manufacturer as well. You don’t want to push beyond manufacturer recommendations for safety reasons. On other words, just because your kayak roof rack is rated for 100 lbs doesn’t mean you can safely load two roof racks at their maximum capacity. Consulting your roof rack manufacturer as part of the planning process is vital.
Top Kayak Roof Rack Comparison Chart
Best Kayak Roof Rack
This simple, durable and all-in-one j-style kayak rack from Malone is one of the best racks out there. It makes loading your kayak easy with its built-in boarding ramp. The Malone Downloader has pretty much everything you need to carry your kayak vertically in a quick and safe manner.
When not using the carrier it can easily fold down creating more roof space. In fact, this roof carrier is one of the best folding racks on the market. Another nice touch from Malone is the oversized padding that protects the kayak while in transit.
You may find the rack from Malone is slightly heavier than your previous kayak racks due to a much more solid build than others. There is a unique nylon protective sleeve for the bar padding which adds to the build quality by keeping the padding in place. Often, the padding on a normal kayak roof carrier starts to become damaged after a year or so.
The built-in loading ramps make easy work of getting your kayak up in the roof. Once up there the Malone strap design is also simple to use meaning you can spend less time trying to figure out how to strap your kayak down and more time on the water. The load strap can move effortlessly around the ramp and through the hole for you to tie down which is also relatively easy to do. The JAWZ mounting hardware can fit round, square and most factory oval cross rails making the Downloader an ultra-versatile kayak carrier.
A very special feature on this Downloader rack is the ‘Telos’ system that has made alternative expensive hydraulic systems obsolete. Those who have particularly heavy kayaks or struggle to reach the roof would usually invest in a hydraulic system to ease the loading process. However, with Malone’s design, it has two easy to detach ramps that can instantly clip to two holes on the rack where your strap would go. When attached you will see that each ramp has a ratchet so that you can actually push the boat up at one end and move kayak up onto the rack with ease.
Easily a contender for the best roof rack for kayaks out there.
Here is a great video showing the loading process on the Malone Downloader Kayak Rack:
- J-style kayak carrier with built-in boarding ramp for easy loading
- Fold down technology increases overhead clearance. Compatible with the MPG351 Telos Load Assist
- Oversized padding protects boat during transport
- JAWZ mounting hardware fits round, square and most factory oval cross rails, includes both 60mm and 70mm pre-coated mounting bolts;Cam style load straps with buckle protectors
- Dimensions:Length: 17",Width: 6",Height: 19.5",Load capacity: 75 lb
This kayak rack from Rhino Rack allows you to carry one kayak at a time of varying sizes and styles. It’s compact and does a great job-saving you some space on the roof so that you can utilize the space for more precious gear for the trip. The Rhino Rack has a weight capacity of 99 pounds but this can be increased with the use of extension arm.
Much like the Downloader kayak rack above, this rack is armed with good padding to protect your vehicle and kayak from any damage during transit. The rack itself is well built and comes with all the necessary steps required for quick mounting. It even comes with some useful holders that allow you to carry your paddles with ease, this is a nice touch.
You will notice that the Rhino Rack design is strong and robust using quality materials such as steel with an anti-corrosive finish. This allows the kayak rack to brave any weather and keeps the equipment durable for a very long time.
Rhino Rack has thought about the straps carefully providing the user with everything they need for a safe journey. You will receive shorter straps that help secure the kayak to the carrier and you will also receive a longer bow and stern straps should you need them. It feels as if the straps alone could carry your kayak safely without the need for the rack at all.
The Rhino Rack is a safe choice for anyone looking for a safe and reliable kayak roof carrier that will stand the test of time.
- Rhino-Rack Folding J Style Kayak & Canoe Carrier, Universal Mounting to most Roof Racks with easy installation. Suitable for all vehicles.
- Fully assembled read for easy installation; fits to most roof rack cross bars.
- Easy side loading & includes a cradle for carrying paddles.
- Includes 2 cradles, hardware, rubber tube padding & tie down straps.
- 2 Kayak/Canoe's can be carried with S512X extension (purchased separately).
Thule claims that this rack is the premium quality choice for anyone looking for a J-style easy loading rack. Initial mounting is in fact very easy, the straps provided hold the kayaks very well and are tucked in at the end by un-velcroing the rack pad which is a nice touch. It also helps reduce noise from the wind when driving.
This rack from Thule is also good on space allowing the user more room for other gear. There is solid protection between the kayak and rack so that scratches and knocks are easily avoidable during transit. The design is sleek and the user will enjoy the seamless motion of the parts as it folds up and down.
The wide mouth j-profile allows for easy loading and unloading. The rack also features on/off hardware that ensures fast installation. All of these features are beneficial for those of us who have heavy kayaks or simply getting old. The kayaks, when ready to be loaded, can be simply lifted and held in place by the padded J-profile Hull-a-Port design.
Thule also has your gas expense in mind with a specially designed aerodynamic rack that folds in a way that saves your vehicle on fuel both when unloaded and loaded. This is a great little feature, especially for those who like to complete long journeys. When unloaded, the rack can be folded flat on the roof via a small lever. This is really useful for anyone that stores their vehicle in a garage.
Overall, the Thule Hull-a-Pro rack is a clear market leader with top design features, ease of use and quality build. However, it is slightly more expensive than other similar quality racks on this list.
- Proven J-style kayak carrier creates more room on the load bar
- PFD lever (pull, fold, done) for rapid folding and improved overhead clearance
- New J-profile for easy boat loading and includes quick on-and-off hardware
- Includes two ratcheting bow and stern tie downs and two straps with buckle protectors for safe boat transport
- Fits Thule rack systems, round bars and most factory racks
This top piece of gear from Yakima allows you to carry up to two kayaks. That’s either one kayak in a j-cradle position or two kayaks in a vertically stacked position. You could even combine two of these Yakima racks to support the transit of 4 kayaks with ease.
This rack from Yakima feels solid and reliable. The straps included allow for easy and safe transport of your kayaks that could withstand the big journeys if required.
The Yakima racks, like the others on this list, are really easy and quick to install. The rack arrives pre-assembled and doesn’t require any tools to fit. The rack is stable and the heavy-duty straps are easy to tie down offering you complete peace of mind over the safety of your kayaks.
The rack folds nicely into a flat position which is perfect for fuel consumption and moving your vehicle in and out of the garage. It’s also one of the lightest carriers on the market at only 11 pounds. This makes life easier should you need to install and reinstall frequently. The rack comes with an SKS locking system also so you will never feel worried about leaving the rack installed on the car during your trip.
This carrier from Yakima is ultra-versatile, light and easy to use. Its ability to take the capacity of 2 kayaks is an added bonus, however, the rack does not come with enough straps for 2 kayaks which is a small downfall to this product.
Overall, this rack from Yakima is one of the best racks out there is you’re looking for something light and simple to use with the capacity for two kayaks.
- Folds down when not in use for better aerodynamics and easier access to height restricted areas
- Multiple settings with cam-lever operation allow you to carry one boat in J-cradle position or two boats in vertical position
- Integrated ramp system makes it painless to load your boat
- Tool-free install to round, square, factory or aerodynamic bars with universal attachment
- Includes anti-rotation adapter for round bars
The key feature of the SeaWing kayak rack from Malone is the ease of loading. If you position the front of your kayak at the rear of your vehicle then move to the back of your kayak you can quite easily lift the kayak up onto the rack with little effort. This is the perfect solution for anyone who struggles to normally load their kayaks alone.
The SeaWings offer a low profile carrier with a single saddle design. The design allows for extra space on the roof which is useful for packing extra gear. The rack can also flex gently down to provide better aerodynamics on the roof which will help with fuel mileage when not in use. Malone’s standard JAWZ mounting hardware will fit round, square and most oval rail crosses.
As with all Malone gear, the rack is well built and feels robust. The quality cam straps provided feel safe for long journeys and there is less sound from the wind when driving compared to other models. The racks come with two fasteners rather than four which makes loading much faster and easier to tighten.
The SeaWings offer a greater level of flexibility and seem capable of handling most size kayaks. The v-shape fit allows for an extra strong hold of your kayak and can brave any high winds while on the road or by the sea. The materials used on the SeaWings are of high quality and feel sturdy. The rack and strap will no doubt stand the test of time, this is reaffirmed by Malone with a lifetime warranty with purchase.
One flaw of the SeaWings is the lack of security. There is no anti-theft system as with other racks on this list.
The SeaWings are a great choice for anyone looking for an alternative to J-racks that are capable of carrying two kayaks that are easy to mount and feel safe even in extremely high wind conditions. Also suitable for anyone with a number of different size kayaks. If you are a lone kayaker then look no further than the SeaWings.
- Low-profile kayak/cargo carrier with single saddle design
- Easy-to-set-up mid-point mounting takes up minimal roof space
- Flexes gently to cradle boat and improve gas mileage
- Jawz mounting hardware fits round, square, and most factory oval cross rails
- Measures 27 x 5 x 6 inches (W x H x D); supports up to 70 pounds