You have bought a kayak. Congrats!
In case if you don’t mind asking this – how are you going to transport it to the nearby lake or river? You are not going to keep it as a trophy in your garage, are you?
Unless you have purchased an inflatable kayak that can be folded easily, you need to have a roof rack so that the kayak can be mounted on the roof of the car. Without these handy kayak Roof Racks, things can go horribly wrong during the transportation. The kayak might get slipped off the roof and get damaged. When it comes to transporting a kayak, the options are very much limited. You might be tempted to take a shortcut and end up buying ropes to strap the kayak to the roof of the car. But believe me, this is a horrible idea.
Unless you have mad driving skills and the condition of the road is excellent, you will eventually end up damaging both the car and the kayak in the process. And did I mention the scratches that your kayak can develop in the process of lifting it off the car?
The safest and the probably the easiest way to transport a kayak is to get a kayak rack which is also known as kayak carrier.
Different Types of Roof Racks
Not all Roof Racks are the same. Some are meant for cars whereas some are specifically developed for pickup trucks and this is the reason why we need to take a look at different type of roof racks that are available in the market so that you can make a better buying decision at the end –
1. Kayak J Cradles
As the name suggests, J-style kayak racks derive its name from its J-Shape form and it is considered to be one of the most popular kayak roof racks available in the market. The best thing about these Kayak J Cradles is that they don’t take much space. Since Kayak J Cradles are side-loading, they give you more space to load other accessories on the roof of the car. Cars with a narrow roof should get these Kayak J Cradles installed because vertical hauling of kayaks with rollers or saddles is not going to work. Transporting multiple kayaks on a small car is only possible if you get J-style kayak racks attached to the roof of the car.
The major advantage of using J-cradles is that they make it super easy to load and unload even heavy kayaks. J-cradles are also known for their remarkable level of stability and they do help you secure your kayaks on long-distance travel. However, if your kayak is extremely heavy, then you might find it really hard to haul it sideways. So, in case you get tired easily or don’t have the muscle power that it needs to side-load a kayak, you should stick with a standard saddle.
Top 3 Best Kayak Roof J-Cradles.
Since the market is getting flooded with J-cradles of different shapes and sizes, here we have listed top 3 best Kayak Roof J-Cradles so that you don’t have to spend hours on the web to figure out which one suits your requirements –
Easy to load and unload, Thule 835PRO Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier is an elegantly shaped roof rack that is designed to help you free up some space and believe me, these Roof J-Cradles are not going to give you any hard time during the process of installation. You can sling up to 4 kayaks easily. Another major advantage of Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Kayak Roof J-Cradle is that it is foldable; so, when not in use, you can fold it to minimize wind resistance which will have a positive impact on the mileage of the car.
Easy to use and efficient, Thule 835PRO Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier has 4 padding adjustable touch points and it is built around two folding J-profile Hull-a-Port carrier. When stowed precisely, your kayaks will stay in their position no matter what. Aerodynamically designed, its vertical stowage position is extremely safe for long distance transportation.
- Carrying capacity is 75 lbs
- 1-person load and unload
- Space saving design
- Adjustable padding offers better protection
- Made from steel
Yakima JayLow Kayak Rack is one of the most popular and affordable Kayak Roof J-Cradles available in the market. Its foldable construction helps to save space and also it helps to improve the aerodynamics of the car and thus boosting the mileage of the car. It comes attached with an integrated cam-lever as it allows people to carry multiple kayaks in a vertical position. However, if you are transporting only one kayak, you can transport it in J-Cradle position. To offer better grip for long distance travel, Yakima JayLow Kayak Rack comes fitted with extra padded contact points.
- Straps and bow included
- Integrated bottle opener
- Padded contact points
- Locks to the base rack
Looking for a simple yet robust Kayak Roof J-Cradle that can help you transfer your kayak without creating any trouble in the middle of the journey? In that case, you need to check out Malone Auto Racks DownLoader Kayak Carrier. Secure your kayak with the straps and place it gently into the two Maui-2 Cradles and you can rest assured that your kayak is not going to develop any scratches or fall off.
- 75 lbs maximum load capacity
- 19.5″ height and 17″ length
- Oversized paddings
- Foldable design
- Built-in boarding ramp
It does not matter what kind of vehicle you own; Malone’s unique range of kayak roof racks will help you transport your kayaks safely without causing any damage or dent in the process. No matter what kind of crossbar system that you have installed on the roof of your kayak, Marlone’s JAWZ universal fit mounting system will fit perfectly with it. One of the major advantages of Malone J-Pro 2 J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier is that it is e-coated that adds to its durability and it is made with corrosion-resistant steel. Once strapped down with Malone J-Pro 2 J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier, there is very little chance that your kayak will fall off all of a sudden in the middle of the journey.
- Limited Lifetime Manufacturer’s Warranty
- 12-Foot Cam Buckle Straps
- 60mm and 70mm Pre-Coated Mounting Bolts
- Easy to Assemble
In case you are looking for a really dependable J Style Kayak Carrier Roof Rack that stays true to its promise to provide reliable solutions when it comes to transporting a kayak safely. ROLA (59912) J Style Kayak Carrier Roof Rack draws its strength from rust-resistant hardware and it is built with powder coated steel and it means, it is basically designed for the long haul. To project the kayak from scratches, foam pads are used and the best thing about this ROLA (59912) J Style Kayak Carrier Roof Rack is that they work seamlessly with almost all kind of crossbars. Premium quality straps are used to make it easier for the users to tie the kayak easily and to ensure that the straps don’t get snapped that easily.
- Straps and bow/stern tie-downs included
- Compatible with most crossbars
- Powder coated steel construction
- Compatible with most crossbars
2. Kayak Rack Stacker
Kayak Rack Stackers are known for their extreme space saving capability. They save up to 50% crossbar space and that means, you will easily be able to transport 4/5 kayaks at one go. By arranging boats in an upright position, Kayak Rack Stackers help free up space that can be utilized for storing other adventure sports gears. All you have to do is to stack one kayak against another and these Kayak Rack Stackers will keep them in a stable position throughout the journey. Some of the major advantages of Kayak rack stackers is that they are extremely stable in nature, highly affordable and you can install them on the roof your car without taking any assistance from anyone else.
Top 4 Best Kayak Roof Stackers
Since there hundreds of varieties of Stackers available in the market, choosing the best kayak rack stacker for your vehicle is never an easy task. To help you out, we have listed the best 4 Kayak Rack Stackers –
Undoubtedly, Thule The Stacker is one of the best Kayak Roof Stackers available in the market. Thule The Stacker is extremely easy to install and you can even remove it from the car without burning many calories. It draws its durability from its steel body and it has a non-scratch outer coating.
- Extremely easy to use
- Can withstand rough weather
- Compatible with almost all rack systems
- Maximum weight capacity 75 lbs
- Can carry 4 boats at maximum
On a standard car roof, you can easily transport 2 kayaks without facing any hassle if you decide to install Malone Stax Pro2. Economical and efficient, Malone Stax Pro2 allows you to transport your prized possession i.e. kayaks without compromising anything on the safety front. To offer support to the boats, octagonal aluminum posts are included in this set. Mounted to the car’s rooftop load bars, these aluminum posts are designed to offer strength and support to the kayaks so that they don’t get displaced during the transportation. To secure the kayaks to the posts, 12-foot long load straps should be used. These octagonal aluminum posts and the load straps help stabilize the kayaks. Foam stackers are included and they do an excellent job when it comes to absorbing the shocks. When kayaks are stacked side by side, this Malone Stax Pro2 can help you transport four standard sizes kayaks at one go.
- Stable, durable and strong
- 4 foam Stacker Blocks included
- Lifetime warranty
- H.D. polypropylene load straps
- Bow and Stern safety tie-downs
Just like any other Kayak Roof Stackers, Yakima BigStack Rooftop Stacker Boat Rack allows you to transport 4 kayaks without causing the slightest wobble in the transit. When you are not using it, you can fold it down and this will dramatically improve the aerodynamics of your vehicle. Yakima BigStack Boat Rack is compatible with almost all kind of roof racks like square bars, Yakima round bars etc.
- Built around steel tube frame that adds to its greater strength
- Stern Tie-Downs and Heavy-Duty Straps included
- Padding included keeping your kayaks protected in the transit
- Integrated ramp system
- Maximum carrying capacity is 4 kayaks
If you are finding it hard to tie down boats on the roof of your car with straps, you need to check out Yakima Kayak Stacker. Yakima Kayak Stackers have arrow-top hooks that make it super easy to tie off kayaks with elan and ease. Its vinyl-coated steel posts are scratch resistant and they offer superior support to kayaks. When paired with crossbar pads, these Stackers can offer a remarkable level of protection to your kayaks from scratches.
- Stern Tie-Downs and Heavy-Duty Straps Included
- Straps with coated metal buckles
- Vinyl-coated steel posts
- Compatible with almost all types of car rack systems
3. Inflatable Soft Roof Racks
The great thing about Inflatable Soft Roof Racks is that you don’t have to install a rack system on the roof of your car to use them. They work fine with a naked roof. Installing inflatable soft roof racks is easy peasy; all you have to do is to use the straps to get them attached to the roof of the car and there you go.
To be honest, Inflatable Soft Roof Racks are not meant for long distance tours; rather they are great for short trips and traveling on bumpy roads with these Inflatable Soft Roof Racks is a big No No. You should not forget the fact that these Inflatable Soft Roof Racks are available at dirt cheap price and that means, you should not have too much expectation from them. Those of you who want to move a kayak to the local lake or river, these Inflatable Soft Roof Racks can prove extremely handy.
Top 4 Best Inflatable Soft Roof Racks
Since these Inflatable Soft Roof Racks can be made from cheap materials, you have to be extra careful while selecting an inflatable soft roof rack for your car. To make your job less stressful, here we have listed the top 4 inflatable soft roof racks –
Universal Car Soft Roof Rack Pad & Luggage Carrier looks stunning and they are strongly built. This particular Inflatable Soft Roof Rack helps you utilize the roof of the vehicle to its maximum and since they held on to the kayaks firmly, you can rest assured that your kayaks will not develop any scratch in the transit.
- 2′ wide metal buckle straps included
- The buckle straps are waterproof and they also prevent the water from sipping in the vehicle.
- 1-year warranty
- Storage Bag Included
- Shock-absorbent and extremely lightweight
- Polyethylene Foam Pads included
Malone HandiRack Inflatable Soft Roof Rack is great if you are planning to transport a single kayak. This inflatable roof rack protects the roof of the car and given the price tag, we can safely say that it is doing its job quite well. A hand pump is included.
- Load straps included
- Travel bag included
- 180-pound carrying capacity
- 5 D-ring anchor points
Rakapak Inflatable Universal Car Roof Rack can be used to transport all kinds of adventure sports items like snowboard, kayaks, surfboard, paddleboard and more. Rakapak Inflatable Universal Car Roof Rack allows you to transport all the items that can be accommodated inside the car. Designed to accommodate up to 180lbs, these Rakapak Inflatable Universal Car Roof Racks are extremely durable in nature. They can be installed on almost all kind of roofs regarding the type of vehicle you own. If you are looking for an inflatable roof rack that can go above and beyond your level of expectation, you need to try Rakapak Inflatable Universal Car Roof Rack now.
- Since these Rakapak Inflatable Universal Car Roof Racks have soft padding, they will no way cause any harm to the roof of your car.
- These Rakapak Inflatable Universal Car Roof Racks are extremely to carry around.
- Rakapak Inflatable Universal Car Roof Rack can be inflated in a matter of few seconds.
TIROL Universal Auto Soft Car Roof Rack Carrier Luggage Easy Rack is another popular Inflatable Soft Roof Racks available in the market and the best part is, it is available for cheap. It can be installed easily and effortlessly on all type of vehicles and since they have a weight capacity of 60 Kg, you can transport a standard kayak without worrying about getting it damaged in the transit. heavy aircraft buckles are included and they offer strength to TIROL Universal Auto Soft Car Roof Rack Carrier Luggage Easy Rack.
- 60KG weight capacity
- Compatible with almost all types of cars
- Strong and durable
4. Kayak Roof Saddles
Kayak Roof Saddles can be used either as two separate cradles or you can use it as a single cradle. Kayak Roof Saddles are basically simple pads with additional functionalities. These pads start from the bottom of the kayak and they extend to the base rack. Large surface area is one of the unique features of Saddles. The biggest advantage of using Kayak Roof Saddles is that they will help you keep your kayak in a stable position no matter how bad the weather is or how bad the condition of the road
Top 2 Best Kayak Roof Saddles
Since there are so many varieties of kayak roof racks available in the market, it is getting increasingly difficult for common people like you and me to identify the best kayak roof saddle for your need. To help you out, here we are going to list the best 4 kayak roof saddles that have gained immense popularity among kayakers –
Without an iota of doubt, Malone SeaWing is definitely one of the most popular Kayak Roof Saddles that are available on popular e-commerce websites. The Malone SeaWing Roof Saddle looks like the wings of a bird. Kayaks will sit perfectly in the cradle and there is very little chance that you will have to struggle a lot to fit the kayak within the cradle. Straps are included and all you have to do is to wrap them around the kayak.
- Maximum weight capacity is 70kg.
- Synthetic rubber padding
- Easy to install
- Universal roof rack kayak carrier
- QuickDraw bow and stern tie-downs
Thule DockGrip Roof Saddles can be fitted to the base rack without spending hours on it. The kayak will sit between 4 brackets.
Thule DockGrip Roof Saddles have cushioned pads that will protect your kayak from impacts during the transit. They have an angle-setting lever that allows you to carry hull of different shapes and sizes.
- Manufactured in the United States
- 2 pivoting saddles with angle-setting lever
- 85 lbs maximum weight capacity
Advantages of Kayak Roof Racks
There are some definite advantages of kayak roof racks. Listed below are some of them –
1. Cost Effective
Unlike Kayak Trailers which are extremely expensive, kayak roof racks are available in different price points. No matter how small your budget is, chances are that you will be able to find a kayak roof carrier that suits your budget precisely.
2. Offers Protection
Kayak roof racks are specifically designed and built to offer extra protection to your kayak. A kayak trailer might prove handy while transporting a kayak from one place to another but it does not offer any kind of protection from scratches or dents. Since a vast majority of kayak roof racks come with paddings, there is very little chance that your kayak will develop scratches in the process. On a bumpy road, these paddings are certainly going to save your skin.
3. They are Versatile
The best thing about these paddings that we have just discussed is that they are very versatile in nature. Of course, they make it easy to attach the kayak firmly to the kayak rood racks but besides that, they also help people carry their luggage. This is the reason why most people don’t remove these padding from their cars, even when the kayak season officially ends.
Which Roof Rack Is Best for Me?
There are a number of factors that you need to carefully consider while selecting a kayak roof rack. Most of the kayak roof racks are built for the specific type of vehicles for easy transportation. So, that means, you must check the compatibility of the kayak roof rack with your vehicle first before making the final buying decision. A kayak roof rack that fits perfectly on the roof of a pickup truck is definitely not a good choice for you if you own a standard SUV. Visit the manufacturer’s website to figure out whether the roof rack that you are planning to purchase is compatible with your vehicle.
There are other aspects that you will also have to carefully consider –
1. The Base Roof Setup of Your vehicle
Some cars do come with rails on its roof whereas some sport a bare roof. If your vehicle does not have any setup on its top, you should bury the idea of carrying a kayak on the top. Followings are some popular setups that are usually attached on the roof of a vehicle – Side Rails, Aftermarket crossbars, and factory crossbars.
If your vehicle has nothing on its top, there is only one way to transport a kayak and that is installing foam pads on it. This might sound a great idea on the paper but these foam pads are not as reliable as side rails. Chances are quite high that these foam pads might fail to secure the kayak throughout the journey and in the process, you might end up damaging both the kayak and the vehicle.
The best way to deal with such a situation is by purchasing crossbars and then installing them on the roof of the car. However, if your car already has factory crossbars attached to its roof, you should consider buying stackers, j-cradles, saddles or similar type of gear mounts to put some teeth into the crossbars’ carrying capacity. However, don’t forget to take a look at the weight capacity of the factory crossbars before you start installing these gear mounts on them.
2. Type of Kayak
What kind of kayaks you are planning to transport? Kayaks are available in different shapes and size like –
- Sit-In Kayaks
- Sit-On-Top Kayak
- Recreational Kayaks
- Folding Kayaks
- Inflatable Kayaks
- Fishing Kayaks
- Whitewater Kayaks
Some of these kayaks are easy to transport whereas some others might give you a lot of trouble while transporting them on a car. Some are extremely wide in the middle whereas some are narrow and short in size. This is the reason why it makes sense that you purchase an adjustable kayak roof rack in case you have different varieties of kayaks available at your disposal.
3. Kayaking Frequency
Do you really want to spend hours just to load and unload kayak? Of course, you don’t. Those of you who tend to kayak on a regular basis, you need to figure out a way to speed up this boring loading and unloading task. You need to consider upgrading your existing kayak hauling systems by attaching a pair of rollers on the back of the rack and a pair of saddles on the front. Side-loading j-cradles is also a great option to speed up loading and unloading of the kayak. The bottom line is, you need to find out a carrier that offers a decent level of assistance during your daily ordeal with kayaks. Side and top loading kayaks are a good alternative but they also demand extra attention from the drivers while driving as they increase the width of the vehicle.
4. Features of The Kayak Roof Racks
Most kayak roof rack manufacturers try to ignore or overlook the drawbacks of their kayak roof racks. They only include positive features of their products on the website and that means, if you want to get a 360-degree view of the product, you need to check out the reviews of the buyers on eCommerce sites like Amazon or eBay.
Try to identify those kayak roof racks that offer a decent level of protection from dent and scratches. However, you should not compromise on the quality front. The Kayak Roof Rack should have a well-built structure and they should be extremely adjustable in nature. If you don’t want your kayak to fall over while driving on a bumpy road, you need to read all the features of kayak roof racks carefully.
5. Branded Product
The market is getting flooded with fly-by-night manufacturers. Since these types of manufacturers don’t two hoots about the quality, they can sell their products i.e. roof racks in dirt cheap rates. Don’t even think of buying a kayak roof rack from these manufacturers because if anything goes wrong, there is no way you will get a replacement. This is the reason why you need to purchase a kayak roof rack from a trusted manufacturer.
6. Long Distance Travelling
In case, you are planning a cross-country trip, you need to find something more reliable and stable than those foam pads. Don’t get me wrong; foam pads are great for short distance travel but they tend to lose their grip over the period of time and that means, the longer you drive, the greater the chances of your kayak falling over and damaging your vehicle eventually. So, in case, you are driving long distances, it is safe to use j-cradles or saddles for such cases.
7. Foam Rollers or Roof Racks?
If your car happens to have built-in racks and bars, you might be tempted to attach some foam pads onto it to give it good grips. Unless the weather is too rough or the road condition is pathetic, this trick might work. But consider buying kayak roof racks if you are planning a long-distance tour because you may never know when things might get ugly.
Try straps along with foam pads to secure your kayak without spending a fortune. Don’t go overboard with creativity while doing so. Try to keep it as simple as possible. However, foam pads have a major drawback and that it can only let you transport a single kayak. But dedicated kayak roof racks will let you carry multiple kayaks.
Another major advantage of dedicated kayak roof rack is that they are more secure in nature and they offer more stability. Some roof racks do come with a built-in locking system that adds more to its stability.
The Best & The Most Popular Kayak Roof Rack Brands
There are a number of companies that have entered this lucrative business of manufacturing kayak roof racks lately and this has made it all the more difficult for new buyers to zero in on a kayak roof rack that can offer a decent level of performance. You would certainly not like to buy a kayak roof carrier from a manufacturer with a questionable market reputation. Moreover, you can’t trust reviews on e-commerce sites because they can be manipulated easily. Understanding the complexity of this problem, Kayak Manual has created this list of top 4 kayak roof rack brands so that you don’t lose your sleep over it –
1. Malone Auto Racks
Malone Auto Racks tops this chart with its impressive track record. Considered to be one of the fastest growing kayak accessories manufacturing companies in North America, Malone Auto Racks has its stores spread across different parts of Europe, Canada, Australia, and the United States. It has been operating successfully for the past 10 years and that means, you are going to get support from them in case your kayak roof rack runs into some sort of trouble. In case, you are not aware of; but Malone Auto Racks was credited for manufacturing and marketing “J” style kayak carrier.
Today Yakima is considered to be one of the most trusted and respectable kayak roof racks manufacturing brands in the United States but its journey was tough and humble to be precise. The company started its long and illustrious journey in a tiny machine shop in Yakima, Washington. It is hard to even imagine how a small machine shop can catapult itself into a major brand of car racks within such a short time span. It is one of the few car racks manufacturing companies that are spending its resources on developing cutting edge kayak roof racks.
Founded in 1942, Thule was credited with being the first company who finally came up with something to help vehicle owners to transport their sports equipment all by themselves. This Swedish company is also credited for manufacturing a wide range of car roof racks for different car models.
TMS is considered to be a new entrant in this industry but that does not mean that it is playing second fiddle here. Almost all its products are listed as best sellers on major e-commerce sites like eBay and Amazon and this is not a simple feat by any standard. If you are looking for high-quality kayak roof racks, you can definitely put your trust in this brand.