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Best Kayak Racks for 2024

Just about everywhere you look there is a vehicle with some sort of kayak rack on it these days. And for many of us kayak fishermen, kayak racks are almost a necessity for hauling our kayaks to where we want to explore. While some kayakers choose to haul their kayak on a trailer, on top of a camper, in the bed of a truck, many kayak owners are subject to transporting their small plastic boats on the roof of their car, truck or van.  It may not look like an easy task to get a kayak up there, but with numerous new innovations to the best kayak rack designs, it’s almost effortless to load them these days.

When we started kayaking a quarter century ago there wasn’t much out there to hold your kayak in place on top of a vehicle.  We simply strapped it to the roof, scratching the paint off as we traveled to our destination. Fast forward many years down the road, and you can now find qualified roof rack systems that will, not only hold your kayak effectively in place, but also not damage your vehicle or kayak. Before purchasing a high quality rack it is best that you take a good look at your existing roof rack system.

In this article, we will look at the best kayak racks from our testing and anglers we trust and then discuss the differing qualities to enhance your transportation needs.  From recreational, touring, fishing or whitewater kayaks; there is a kayak rack for you. Most of them require an existing roof rack system installed if loading your kayak overhead.  But there are alternatives as well.

With so many types and brands of kayak racks to choose from, a person can easily become confused.  All we need to remember is that there are basically four types of racks that will hold your kayak in place. From the temporary pads you can find in most big box stores to J-cradles, saddles, full-lift systems and stackers, there is a fit out there that will work for you. The key is to learn what each can do according to the type of kayak you need to transport.



One of the best J-Style racks is the Yakima JayLow kayak rack which can accommodate up to 2 kayaks. It fits most crossbars and includes straps to secure your gear. The JayLow also has an integrated cam lever that allows you to adjust different positions with ease and folds down flat when not in use to give better overhead clearance and reduced wind drag. It also has a lock system which is sold separately.


  • Supports one or two kayaks
  • Affordable option
  • Simple setup
  • Lower profile for stand-up rack


  • Only supports 80-pound kayak or 110 pounds between two kayaks.
  • Catches more wind than flat carrier



Another popular J-Style rack is the Rhino Rack Canoe and Kayak Carrier which is designed to safely and securely transport your canoe or kayak on its side which will save space on the roof area of your vehicle.  It also includes padded buckle straps and a paddle holder. You can select from a fixed or folding option. It will mount to most round and other aero bars.


  • Great price
  • Supports up to 132 pounds
  • Simple and good tie downs


  • catches side wind
  • bottom bars are short and can make mounting on some rails harder


ez rec kayak rack


Another full lift system is the EZ Recreational Rack developed to be operated by a single person while cutting the weight of the kayak to be lifted in half. It has a strong lightweight design and can be installed in most crossbar style racks. The kayak is basically loaded from the rear on a slide-in rack. You actually tie down the kayak before lifting it and sliding it into place on top of your vehicle.  It works really well on trucks and vans with roof racks in place.

This is the rack I own and have used the most. It’s a little more but it makes loading big heavy-duty fishing kayaks on top of a camper a breeze for one person. I can have my kayak loaded and strapped down in under 10 minutes. 


  • Ease of use
  • Great for big kayaks
  • Super secure
  • Lockable
  • Low profile for less wind resistance


  • Price
  • Heavier than all other mounts
  • More to install


thule hullavator kayak rack


The Thule Hullavator Pro is a system that uses pneumatic gas struts to take on the load of your kayak while lifting it easily over the roof of your car. This system only works with Thule roof rack systems not allowing it to be used with a factory installed rack. But it can take a lot of the stress out of getting a kayak up on top of your vehicle. It still requires two people but it’s a lot easier to get the kayak up on top than most rack systems.


  • Great assist function to get kayak on top
  • Very sturdy
  • Low profile


  • Pricier than some options
  • Only fits Thule rails


TMS Kayak Roof Rack


And to get the best bang for your buck the TMS Kayak Roof Racks for 2 Kayaks is a great choice! This is a simple low cost yet effective method to transport your kayaks. It fits virtually every crossbar and load bar out there on the market. You can fit up to 4 sets of these racks on a full size truck.


thule dockgrip


For those who wish to have their kayak rest flat on the roof area of their vehicle the Thule DockGrip is a great option. It will carry kayaks and SUPs up to 36 inches wide and fits all hull shapes. It will fit most roof rack cross bars and has an 85-pound weight capacity.


Yakima bigcatch kayak saddles


For heavier kayaks, another good option might be the Yakima BigCatch Kayak Fishing Boat Saddle for truck camper roof racks, rails and trailers. This one fits all Yakima cross bars and will hold kayaks up to 150 pounds. It’s a great heavy kayak option that fits a variety of mounts and all the Yakima mounts. 




For easy rear loading the Malone SeaWing Kayak Carrier with Stinger Load Assist Combo comes complete with tie downs and a V-Style Rear Loading system. This system will simplify your loading with the wing style saddles and a modular loader that extends up to 25” back from the center of the rear crossbar which will protect your vehicle from scratches and safely load your kayak. It comes with mounting bolts and cam straps and needs no tools to install.



One other economical option is the Malone FoldAway-5 Multi-Rack Folding 1 or 2 Kayak, SUP, or Canoe Carrier. It features a pair of quick-release fold-down frames with removable 2-boat modules for wider kayaks. It also fits most load bars. Comes with cam style load straps and a limited lifetime warranty.



The first step is to find the option that fits your needs and vehicle. Most kayak racks are described by their ability to carry your kayak. So we can start there to match the kayak rack by how you need it to be carried on your particular vehicle.

The first step is to determine which roof options are available for your vehicle and then select the best type of roof rack system that fits most effectively.  At first, this may look very complicated but it is actually very easy to find the best rack system for your vehicle. Once you determine your base roof rack system you will be ready to take a trip comfortably knowing that your kayak is secure while traveling.

We must understand that there are towers or feet that are attached to the bare roof of your vehicle on all four corners or on existing factory roof rails. These allow load bars or crossbars to be attached which provide a mounting area for your other accessories.  You can then add a fit kit or landing pad which attach to the tower on your vehicle. Some vehicles have factory installed raised rails which will take the place of the fit kit or landing pad.

With so many possible variations, the ability to find which towers or feet work best for your vehicle can become quite mind boggling. An easy solution is an online resource at Rack Attack which provides an Automated Roof Rack Fit Guide. All you need to do is type in your vehicle’s year, make, and model and the guide will find the best fit for you.

If you are concerned with the security of your kayak most roof rack systems are equipped with options of a built-in locking capability. These are sometimes sold separately. It’s also a good idea to look at the aerodynamics of a roof rack system to reduce fuel consumption and the noise a rack can make while driving.

A great option for the vehicles that do not have rain gutters or a factory roof rack installed is the Thule Evo Clamp system. Assembly is easy and quick with click-in mounting brackets. It will securely hold the rack to the vehicle and no tools are required to install it. The clips for this option are sold separately due to being vehicle specific.


Be sure to always check your fittings and straps for proper kayak security before leaving on your trip.  Another tip is to frequently check your straps when you stop for fuel or food.

Whatever your needs are for transporting your kayak these popular and proven roof rack systems are certain to help make your kayaking journeys more pleasant.

Regardless of which option you choose for your kayak hauling needs, there will be some learning to go with your new rack and you will eventually develop a system that works for you to unload and load your kayaks with ease with 1 to 2 people and have you exploring a lot more waters a lot more often.