Home Buying Guide How to Choose a Kayak Rack

How to Choose a Kayak Rack


Choosing the right kayak rack for your car is never easy. There are a number of factors that you need to evaluate when choosing the roof rack that best suits your needs. In this guide we discuss all the specific needs of kayakers and how to choose the gear that meets those needs.

What’s your car’s base roof setup?

Before deciding which roof rack to buy, you need to inspect your vehicle to see what is already on the roof. There are four possibilities:

  • Bare/Naked Roof
  • Side Rails
  • Factory Crossbars
  • Aftermarket Crossbars

If your roof is naked or is only fitted with side rails, then your only out-of-the-box solution for carrying your kayak are inflatable or foam pads. This is because there is nothing on the top of the car to attach the gear mount to.

If you want sophisticated carriers that are specifically designed for the business of carrying kayaks, then you will need crossbars. If your car comes with factory crossbars, you can move to buying one of the gear mounts designed for kayaks, such as saddlesj-cradles or stackers. However, be sure to check to see if there are weight limitations on factory fitted crossbars. If there are no crossbars, then you will need to purchase a set of these excellent rook rack crossbars.

How many kayaks do you plan to carry?

The number of kayaks you are going to transport is another big factor to consider when deciding on a roof rack. Basically, if you don’t plan to carry more than 2 kayaks, most solutions will work for you as double kayak roof rack. However, if you plan on carting more than 2 kayaks, stackers are definitely your best pick, since they allow maximum boat capacity. This is limited only by the width of your vehicle’s roof and the size of your crossbars. So if you own 2 kayaks and own a car with a narrow roof, my suggestion is that you pick a pair of j-cradle sets.

Do you plan long-distance driving on the Interstate?

If you plan to travel cross-country to seek out other lakes and coasts, you’ll probably want a more solid and secure solution. If that’s your situation, avoid foam or other temporary pads. In extreme conditions, such as stormy weather or when driving on bumpy roads, you’ll need to wrench down the temporary pads very, very hard which can damage your kayak. If you don’t do that, your kayak may shuffle around on top of the roof or the foam pads may blow right out from under it. Solid roof rack systems such as saddles and j-cradles are the best fit in this case.

How often do you intend to kayak?

If you paddle every day, you’d want to spend as little time as possible loading and unloading your kayak. A pair of saddles on the front of your rack and a pair of rollers on the back will be one of the most convenient kayak hauling systems to use. Some paddlers even find side-loading j-cradles easier to load and unload. The bottom line is that with a good roof rack system, convenience is the real pay-off.


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