Kayak Roof Rack

The Best Kayak Roof Rack 2020

Many people dream of going kayaking until they become disappointed by the logistics of this unmatched outdoor activity. Simply carrying the kayak can be a daunting task. Placing it in the car is not an option but with the help of a kayak roof rack, this can certainly become a reality for many adventure seekers. There are a few great options to be considered for kayak roof racks for cars without rails as well, so most types of cars should be covered.

Our Pick!

TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier

TMS J-Bar Rack HD

As far as kayak roof racks for cars without rails, the TMS J-Bar is hard to match. Its simplistic design is all that’s needed to carry a kayak

Given that double kayak roof racks are available as well, plenty of adventures can be had with a friend or with the partner. But what makes a good kayak and how can they be differentiated according to their strengths and weaknesses?

Below we have the 10 best kayak roof racks currently available for sale online:

1. TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier

As far as kayak roof racks for cars without rails, the TMS J-Bar is hard to match. Its simplistic design is all that’s needed to carry a kayak. Of course, drivers already need to own roof crossbars as the rack attaches to these bars. It cannot be attached to the roof rails.

As with most inexpensive roof racks, there are a few areas which are not a premium. Luckily, the TMS J-Bar only has a small number of issues with the instruction manual and not the roof rack itself. It seems the instructions are not very clear for all kayakers, but the good news is that the rack can still be mounted even without consulting the manual. The installation process is straightforward. Rubber blocks go on the bottom of each crossbar. The J bars go in these blocks and the entire rack is secured with two bolts from underneath each crossbar.

The racks are made to be as practical as possible with very few complications. It means that they are made from steel to be as durable as possible. In order to protect the kayaks, the bars are also accompanied by soft padding. This padding offers a great response to those who are always worried about scratches on their beloved kayaks. At the same time, the padding also minimizes sounds while driving. Straps are used to tie down the kayaks. Being easy to handle, they represent a simple solution in terms of the needed time to secure each kayak.

So apart from the affordability and the simple installation process, why would kayakers consider this rack? Made with a minimalistic design, the kayak roof rack represents a great starting point for those who already struggle to find enough storage space around the house for their outdoor adventures gear. In other words, storing the roof rack doesn’t require too much space. It can be a crucial characteristic which can even replace some other traditional choices which need considerable storage space in the garage.

Quick removal can also be important for a number of users. It might not be on top of the priorities list, but quick removal can be crucial for those who are constantly on the go. For example, many garages might not have enough clearance to park the car with the kayak roof rack still installed. In this case, having the ability to quickly remove the rack can be important.

2. Yakima Jaylow Kayak Carrier

Kayak roof rack manufacturers come and go. However, a few names can be recognized by many enthusiasts. Yakima is certainly among those names. The Jaylow Kayak carrier can be an interesting choice. Of course, it is made to the high standard Yakima fans are used with. However, its strength lies in its practical design. With a foldable design, the roof rack represents a choice which many people need to have. If drivers don’t have enough clearance to enter garages or underground parking, they will immediately appreciate Yakima’s intuitive design.

But having foldability is not the only benefit of the kayak roof rack. While it is not a double kayak roof rack, it represents a reliable solution for a single kayak of up to 80lbs. This should cover the needs of most kayakers.

One of the areas Yakima fans look for with every new release is at the locking mechanism. This is included in the Jaylow. Using the already popular SKS locking mechanism, Yakima offers the users the possibility of actually locking down their kayak roof racks to offer some protection against theft.

In terms of installation simplicity, kayakers are happy to know the roof rack works with most crossbars. It can be one of the mechanisms which work well with any type of modern crossbar. Those already using Yakima’s own crossbars can also benefit from using the same SKS locking mechanism.

In terms of carrying practicality, the kayak roof rack is made for a single kayak. However, users can make the most of the design simply by placing another kayak on the crossbars. Both kayaks can be secured with straps. It means that while the kayak roof rack is made for a single kayak, it can still be used for adventures with a friend or with the partner. The straps and tie-downs are included in the pack and it means users are ready to make the most out of the rack as soon as it arrives.

In terms of finer details, Yakima doesn’t disappoint. The manufacturer also offers a padded design to avoid the contact of pure metal bars with the kayak itself. With lower transportation noise, this can also act as one of the comfort-enhancing characteristics of the carrier.

In terms of durability, the roof rack is made to last and impress most users. Even the plastics are durable. They are used in the release of the bars from a horizontal to a vertical position. Plastics are also used to lock the rack to the crossbars on the car.

3. Malone Auto Racks DownLoader Kayak Carrier

Malone offers a practical kayak carrier which can easily be considered for any type of kayaks. Its main strength lies in its simplicity and ease of use. For example, the holes in the rack can be used for the straps. These straps can be connected underneath the load bar and back through the hole followed by the buckle lockdown.

The kayak rack itself is quite easy to use. It represents one of the most interesting choices when it comes to simplicity. Apart from being recommended for quick strapping, it also comes with a foldable design. This allows the kayak roof rack to remain on the crossbars even when not in use. However, it may not be indicated to keep the rack mounted at all times as it might come with some whistling noises. Furthermore, noises can be reduced if the padding is placed where needed. Screws, buckles and straps are included in the pack and there should not be too much noise if the kayak is mounted correctly. But the versatility of the carrier does not end here. There are a number of solutions recommended for proper installation. Those who are still using square crossbars might be worried about certain functionalities. But the carrier can be used on both squares and rounded, more modern, crossbars. Those using the crossbars for other sporting equipment don’t need to change them as all roof racks should not fit crossbars.

When not in use, the carriers can be easily removed from the front and rear crossbars and placed into storage. They need very little storage space, which can only be a major advantage given the kayaks themselves can be quite difficult to deal with from this perspective.

4. Malone J-Pro 2 J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier

Some of the more dedicated kayakers might be actually moving away from foldable carries mainly for reasons of durability. Judging by a simple principle, the fewer moving parts a carrier has, the better it is suited for durability. This is the case with the J-Pro 2 Style carrier. Made with the same J-style design, the metal carrier represents one of the recommended choices for added durability. With a corrosion-resistant finish, the carrier is among the most interesting choices when it comes to the ultimate freedom and it allows users to leave the rack on the roof of the car even when the weather is not constantly sunny.

Of course, Malone also offers everything needed to secure the kayak. With 12-foot cam buckles and included tie-downs, securing the kayak on the rack should not be too complicated. This allows for proper lockdown in minutes. Similarly to the DownLoader, the J-Pro 2 can be mounted on most types of crossbars. Square, round and oval crossbars can be used with the carrier.

Among the other characteristics worth to consider, the kayak roof rack represents one of the recommended products to use for years to come. For this purpose, Malone offers lifetime warranty coverage which makes the product one of the leading choices as a one-time purchase. There is no need for upgrades in the future which means the carrier can even be recommended for better savings.

5. GSG 2 Set Roof J Rack

GSG 2 Set Roof J Rack

As a double kayak roof rack, the 2 Set Roof J rack is among the top choices for serious kayakers. Made with a simple and efficient design, it manages to offer a very sturdy design which can handle weights of up to 150lbs. With included 12-feet tie-down straps, it is among the most interesting options when it comes to a minimum installation time. But the rack also comes with large transportation wheels. They perform great on uneven surfaces as well, which makes the entire process much easier than most people actually expect.

Most importantly, the set carries two kayaks which are perfect for days out with friends. For many people, it represents the perfect combination when out on fast waters with a partner as well. When it comes to the installation process, the carrier is installed similarly to some of the leading options on the market, which makes it practical for those who come from other brands and who might already be familiar with roof racks. Made from durable materials, the carrier can be among the leading choices when it comes to improved trust and long-term return on investment.

6. Thule 898 Hullavator Pro Kayak Lift System

Those looking for premium designs don’t have too many alternatives. Those seeking a carrier to protect their backs while lifting the kayak on the car are also stranded for options. The 898 Hullavator Pro is Thule’s solution. People who are active know Thule is arguably the world’s best manufacturer when it comes to roof carriers. The research and innovation behind the companies’ products are impressive.

The kayak carrier allows users to load the kayak on the side of the car, which can only be seen as a major advantage in terms of practicality. Using gas struts, it allows users to load the kayak at waist level. This is the major advantage of the carrier, but it also means some users won’t be able to fit their kayaks while in the garage.

In terms of protection, there are 8 padded points on the kayak. It represents a must-have by modern standards. Furthermore, this protection is made without sacrifices. In terms of durability, the rack is made with corrosion-resistance to a high standard, similarly to the entire Thule range. Of course, fans of the manufacturer can also value other characteristics, such as the built-in lockdown mechanism. This allows the carrier to lock to the car, protecting the investment against theft. However, one of the possible drawbacks of the rack comes with its compatibility. Since it has a unique design, it will work with Thule crossbars only, or with any other crossbars with T-mount designs.

7. Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier

The Thule Hull-a-Port Pro kayak carrier is among the most interesting options when it comes to improved simplicity. It comes with the popular and proven J-style design which means users will find it practical and minimalistic. It can be mounted on any types of crossbars and it represents one of the leading options when it comes to improved simplicity. Furthermore, it can also be among the options Thule fans can consider when it comes to foldable designs.

The attention to detail with the carrier is impressive. Even lose straps can be easily tucked away in the included pockets. However, unlike other Thule designs, the carrier is not lockable, which can be an issue for the fans of the manufacturer. But among the strengths of the rack, it’s worth noting it comes with no tools required for installation, which can only make it a leading option when it comes to simplicity. With a limited lifetime warranty, the carrier is among the most interesting options for most kayakers looking to make an investment for the future.

8. Thule Hull-a-Port XT Kayak Rack

The XT kayak rack comes with a maximum weight capacity of 75lbs. The combined weight capacity for both the front and the rear roof rack is 130lbs and it represents an attractive solution for many types of kayaks. The J-cradle design is met with padded surfaces which make the rack an attractive solution to further protect the kayak and to limit possible noises specific to transportation.

Among the leading characteristics of the XT, kayak roof rack is the folding design. It’s worth noting that the folding system is smooth, being one of the best in its class. This means there is reduced wind resistance when the carrier is not used and when it is folded. Under normal circumstances, it would carry a single kayak. But if mounted to the side of the car’s crossbars, it can also be the support for another kayak. Both kayaks can be secured with the included straps.

In terms of compatibility, the kayak roof rack works well with different types of crossbars. Of course, the manufacturer can recommend Thule fans to use the Aeroblade design for maximum benefits such as reduced air drag for the crossbars. With a minimalistic design, the kayak roof rack is among the most interesting options when it comes to ease of use.

9. Vault Cargo Management Kayak Rack

The rack is one of the few on the market which come with the 180-degree folding design. This system might not be superior to the regular folding mechanism, but it is certainly a distinct characteristic which has its own fans. Otherwise, it remains similar to many of the best solutions on the market with its J-style design.

With heavy-duty aluminum construction, it is among the most interesting choices when it comes to a lightweight design which is sturdy as well. Other benefits include the universal mount, which makes the carrier a recommended solution for any type of roof crossbars. Kayak roof racks without rails which not be as in demand at the moment, as roof crossbars offer impressive versatility. The carrier is sold as a pair. It means the user can install one on each crossbar. This evenly distributes the weight of the kayak on the entire surface of the roof. However, it is still recommended to check your car’s owner manual to see the maximum allowed load for the roof.

10. Swiss Cargo 3 in 1 Kayak Carrier

The unique Swiss Cargo carrier is one of the few dedicated options for up to two kayaks. Apart from being able to carry two kayaks, the rack is recommended for those seeking a fully foldable solution. Available in sets of two, it can be one of the solutions which are easy to install. Straps and buckles are the leading choices to secure the kayaks to the rack. Tie-down straps and hooks are included in the pack.

The fully foldable design is recommended for maximum freedom when it comes to roof clearance when entering a parking underground. But at the same time, the carrier comes with other advantages such as the compatibility with all types of crossbars. Furthermore, many users can also appreciate the rack for the no-tools-required installation. With a compact design that features some padding, the rack is recommended even for the most expensive kayaks.

Best Kayak Roof Rack Buying Guide

Choosing the best kayak roof rack should not be too complicated. However, things might be different for those who are seeking their first kayak roof rack. The characteristics may not be followed entirely, as the choice is ultimately decided by personal preferences. However, standardization and minimum requirements with these products may lead to the following characteristics which should be taken into consideration.

Type of vehicle

The type of vehicle aimed to carry the roof rack is the point of start for the best choice. It can be an important variable to consider. Many people need to take the vehicle into account when it comes to the height and the weight capacity of the roof. The height of the vehicle is only going to increase with a roof rack, it is why there should be enough clearance when entering the garage. At the same time, it is important to find the right solution when it comes to parking in public space where overhead clearance is even more important.

Of course, some solutions might help here. Foldable designs can ensure users don’t actually need to take the carriers off the vehicle when entering the garage. At the same time, some users simply prefer to leave the car out on the driveway. This ensures the roof rack can be in position at all times. Other solutions might also work well, such as the lateral load carriers such as the Thule Hullavator.

In this situation, those with taller vehicles such as SUVs might feel more comfortable. But at the same time, it is also worth noting there are plenty of improvements to be made when it comes to these mechanisms and making them more affordable for kayakers. Thule shows this can be done to a certain degree. However, having this type of mechanism doesn’t ensure the car can enter the garage. While the garage may have enough vertical clearance, it might not have enough space to unload the kayak laterally. It is a matter of finding the right product according to the type of vehicle and according to the use of the kayak.

Total height

The total height of the vehicle and the kayak also has another important impact. It has a direct impact on the way a vehicle can be driven. Since an added roof rack comes with increased air drag, even with aerodynamic designs, the top speed of the car is limited as well. Most manufacturers do not actually state the top speed which can be reached with their products. However, in order to drive safely, it is recommended not to drive as fast as usual. The increased air drag impacts the stability of the vehicle and it also impacts the sound discomfort. Different whistling sounds can be heard at high speeds and kayakers are recommended to reduce their speeds at this point.

However, it is also important to consider that certain roads might favor high speeds. Driving on the highway might seem more difficult as most vehicles can pass by with higher speeds. Other roads might be a better alternative when it comes to traveling with a roof rack carrying a kayak or canoe. At the same time, regardless of the speed of the car, it is still recommended to ensure the kayak is properly secured before driving off.

Roof Rack Materials

There are a few materials seen on most kayak roof racks. They vary from aluminum or pure steel. It can be difficult to establish a clear winner in terms of materials. However, it is easy to see the maximum load capacity of each carrier as the manufacturer informs users of this number on the product’s page. Each carrier has a certain maximum load and it is important not to go over this recommendation. Apart from this load capacity, the roof of the car has its own load capacity. Before purchasing a kayak roof rack, it is strongly recommended to check the maximum weight which can be handled by the roof of the car.

Aluminum materials can be a lightweight solution and an alternative to steel. They can be seen across various types of products and they can be easier to lift and to handle for most users. However, they are not necessarily more efficient than pure steel alternatives. Since most carriers come with the J-style design, they are not too heavy either. This means they can be easily handled and installed, in most cases, by a single person.

One area which can potentially see a slight improvement with aluminum choices can be with the foldable designs. These types of racks can be handled multiple times per day and since they can be lightweight, they might be easier to handle for the user. At the same time, it is also important to note that some of the lightest materials are not necessarily bad for durability. It is actually the straps or the plastic covers which tend to break first, as many users can attest. In terms of durability, if the rack is not forced with higher weight than recommended by the manufacturer, there should be no difference between aluminum and other metals.

Padded Bars

Roof racks for kayaks also tend to come with various padded designs. These designs are recommended for those seeking improved overall safety, stability and kayak protection. But maybe most importantly, this is highly recommended for those who want to minimize the noise a kayak can make while moving on the rack, especially when going over bumps. While most kayaks should be secured to the rack with a tight fit, having padded bars can help keep the kayak in mint condition for a longer period of time.

Padded bars can be found even on the entry-level kayak roof racks. However, some of the most expensive racks can come with padded bars which ensure the kayak is fully protected regardless of how it is actually placed on the rack. One such example comes with Thule’s famous 8-point padding which protects all types of kayaks.

At the same time, the padding can suffer in time when it comes to durability. There are endless stories where the padding needs to be replaced in time. In order to keep the padding in good shape, it is not really recommended to keep the rack out in direct sunlight for the entire duration of the summer. UV lights can damage the padding. At the same time, exposure to low temperatures during the winter time can also damage the padding. Damaged pads can be seen with small cracks on the surface of the padding, which is normally rubberized.

Compatibility with Aftermarket Crossbars

Another area to look at when choosing the best kayak roof rack comes with its compatibility. There are constant efforts made by manufacturers to ensure their designs are actually compatible with all types of crossbars. Some popular crossbars are made with rounded or oval shapes. However, there are plenty of crossbars on the market which are designed with a square shape. Since most racks are made to be secured with screws, this should not be an issue.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Thule is known for offering the Hullavator which is mainly compatible with Thule’s own crossbars. So this is a variable to look at for many users. At the same time, it is also important to look at areas which represent future use as well. Those planning to use their crossbars in the future should actually consider the type of roof racks they are actually going to use. A much-needed upgrade is a right direction for square crossbars which are not as efficient at dealing with the wind at higher speeds. At the same time, it is also important to look at the solutions which allow the best compatibility with multiple racks.

Kayakers are active people. They are not likely to remain inactive during winter months. It is why they might replace their passion for fast waters with the passing for skiing. In this case, the kayak roof rack can be replaced with a ski rack. This can only mean the crossbars on the roof of the car need to be able to handle all types of racks themselves. For this to happen, they should be an up to date design.

Security Mechanisms

There are only a handful of manufacturers offering security systems on their kayak roof racks. As the fans already know, they are mainly Thule and Yakima. But a safety mechanism might not be always needed. There are a few instances where it might be perfectly safe to leave the kayak rack unattended. However, those who travel frequently with their kayaks installed might actually be struggling to mount and unmount the racks for safety purposes. It also means that minimum safety mechanisms such as Yakima’s SKS are highly recommended.

In most situations, kayakers will also want to ensure their racks are actually safe on the car. If the car sits on the driveway, it might be recommended to look for a rack which comes with an included safety mechanism. Some of the manufacturers offering these mechanisms can also offer an integrated system which uses the same key for the rack and for the crossbars as well.

The problem with security mechanisms is that they mainly secure the roof rack and not the kayak. It is important to understand that a kayak is difficult to protect against theft as it is only secured with straps. It is why so many manufacturers are not offering any type of safety mechanism at all. Furthermore, those who are making an effort to offer a safety lock are usually rare to find and they only secure the rack. However, the more expensive the roof rack is, the higher the need to protect it against theft. It is also important to consider the types of solutions which can be adopted as best safety practices.

It is highly advised to only park the car with the mounted kayak in the parking lot of a hotel when away from home. Ideally, their parking lot should have some time of surveillance. It is not recommended to park the car away from street lights during the night. It should also be avoided to leave the kayak on the roof of the car while parked on the driveway at home in order to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Furthermore, it is also recommended to take the rack off the crossbars if away from home if the kayak is not mounted since many of them can be removed quickly with no tools. Another safety measure is not to leave the kayak unattended for long periods of time as even the best safety mechanisms can be hacked at the time.

Brand Name

Another important aspect for dedicated kayakers comes with the brand name. While there are plenty of carriers on the market, not all of them have a good resale value in the kayaking community. There is an increasing trend of brand loyalty in the kayaking community and this can represent a differentiator where people are unsure about which product to choose. It is also recommended to choose a brand which can be easily maintained in the future as well. Parts might be needed in the future but if the brand is not on the market anymore, kayakers might need to replace their entire roof racks.

Brand loyalty can also benefit users from a different perspective. Those using the same brand for the crossbars and the roof rack can potentially benefit from unique designs, which would not fit together otherwise. At the same time, it is also important to understand that product branding is not where it all ends for the purchase. Some products are known to come with sub-standard quality but carrying a strong name can actually work as a disservice for the final customer.

Brand loyalty in water sports is different from brand loyalty in roof racks. Since there are a few select numbers of companies only making roof racks, they can have a clear advantage over the competition as their entire focus goes into perfecting their carriers. This means that seasoned kayakers instantly recognize names such as TMS, Yakima, Malone or Thule. These brands have been known to make some of the leading carriers on the market.

A brand name can also influence the perceived durability of a certain roof rack. However, the good news is that a few brands offer extended warranties which are able to cover the roof rack’s use at least for a few years.

Those who are often changing their sporting equipment are often looking at the best purchase from a resale point of view. In this case, the most up to date carrier might be the best option. Even if features evolve quickly with roof racks, purchasing the most up to date version can be a great solution for those who get tired of the same equipment and who would like to sell it a few years down the line.


The design of a roof rack is highly interpretable. Most people can find the best solutions are those which are simply made to carry the kayak but as with any products, the perceived aesthetics influence the purchase as well. It is why many people are actually looking to purchase products which are made for their own car but which also look good in relation to the car. Since there are so many designs to choose from, it can be complicated to see the design as one of the main purchase factors for first-time purchasers. However, some design characteristics such as a folding profile can make a huge difference at the end of the day. Many people can simply struggle to find practicality in these designs, but they are seen more and more on the market which means there is a demand for such practicality.

The design of the kayak roof rack can also come with the classic J-style approach. This type of design can be the cheapest to manufacture. Bending iron is much more cost-effective than putting multiple pieces together. It is why some of the J-style designs on the market are actually the most affordable and they can be an option for kayakers on a budget. At the same time, the good news is that these affordable roof racks are also among the most durable products which makes them highly desirable and solution which rarely need an upgrade.

The design of the roof rack can also influence the ease of use. It is why it goes hand in hand with the practicality of the product. A J-style design requires users to lift the kayak a bit more in order to lay it down in the cradle. A folding mechanism is somewhat similar but it can allow the kayak to be loaded from both sides, which can be an advantage in certain spaces.

Another characteristic influenced by the design is storage space. When not in use, the kayak roof rack is typically placed in storage. But this might not be as easy as many people expect with diminishing garage space. Those who own multiple roof racks might know this issue too well. Online forums in the kayaking world often advise purchasing foldable designs if storage is an issue. These types of designs can slide under a desk or wardrobe. They can easily be stored in the garage or in the basement. They do not require too much space which means they can offer one of the best solutions for those with considerable storage limitations. Hanging the roof racks off the wall in the garage is another suggested storage idea, especially for the J-style designs.

But users also need to know that these carriers come with multiple accessories which also need storage space. Some of them, such as the straps, cannot be left next to heat sources such as radiators. For the best storage conditions, both the roof racks and its accessories need to be stored in cool and dry places for the winter months when not in use.


The price of the kayak roof racks is another important aspect to consider. The sport is not too expensive, but certain purchases can add up and they can cost a lot more than initially anticipated. It is why the roof rack should actually be part of a budget. The budget for the kayak should always include the price of a roof rack. A carry cart might also be needed. Additional accessories such as straps or buckles might represent a great purchase as well. At the end of the day, there are a few mandatory items which need to be purchased and this means making a budget is necessary in order to avoid overspending. Most people can also find budget alternatives both for the kayak and for the roof rack itself.

Number of Kayaks

The number of kayaks is also important when making the right purchase. If most carriers are made for a single kayak, there are a few double kayak roof racks to consider as well. In many cases, people can do the best with a single carrier as well. Since every carrier is mounted on the crossbars, there is enough space for a second kayak which can be strapped to the carrier as well. Of course, additional straps and safety measures should be in place, but there are endless examples where people manage to carry two kayaks with a basic roof rack.

The carries made for two kayaks might be a more elegant solution for people who are out on adventures with a friend. Installing and using such designs is not complicated either. Each kayak is loaded from a side of the car. The unloading is the same, where the kayaks are unloaded to the left and to the right side of the car. There are no waist-loading designs for two kayaks which means they need to be manually lifted and placed in position on the roof racks.

But these designs also intuitive. Kayakers can make the most of such designs simply by choosing to look at the solutions which are made for safety first. The load is doubled with two kayaks on the roof of the car. Apart from having to ensure the car can handle such loads, kayakers should also take note that the air drag is also increased with two kayaks. It means there is no possibility of driving faster or at the same speed. Increased air drag also comes as one of the issues which can cause multiple noises. Adding a second kayak on the roof of the car means the whistling at high speeds can be more pronounced. For many people, it also means that accessing certain spaces such as underground parking is limited as well.

Ensuring both kayaks are protected against theft is also harder. While there are a few solutions to lock a single kayak on the carrier, there are not too many options with an included lock for two kayaks. Since a car carrying two kayaks draws a lot of attention, it is always recommended to park it in a safe space while traveling around the country, especially at nighttime.


An important consideration to make comes with the accessories which are included with a roof rack. They might be limited to straps and buckles in most cases. The quality and the length of the straps differs from cases to case.

However, there are plenty of additional accessories which can be purchased as well. Apart from additional straps, kayakers can also purchase safety locks, such as in Thule’s case. These types of locks might not come as standard and they might be compatible if made by the same manufacturer as the rack. Tie-downs are not expensive. But they represent a great additional purchase for many users. They can be used to secure the canoe from forward and reverse slide but it can also hold in place when the car turns. In the case of unusual canoes, more straps might be needed to ensure they stay in position.

A carry cart might also be a good purchase. Even those who do not yet own a kayak roof rack may already own a carry cart which makes transporting really easy. Balancing the kayak on such a cart is easy but most importantly, the cart is truly recommended for the best experience for those who cannot count on extra help to carry the canoe. In this case, simply avoiding heavy lifts can keep certain back or shoulder injuries away. A carry cart might not be the best solution on trails, but on reasonably level surfaces, it might be all that’s needed when it comes to carrying the kayak around the house.

In order to ensure there is plenty of flexibility on the number of kayaks, users should also look at the maximum load capacity of the crossbars. Since most crossbars are quite durable, this should not be an issue. However, in the case of a doubled weight with two kayaks, it is important to look at the maximum load capacity of each crossbar. This is typically found in the product description itself. If the crossbars don’t come with any specification or their documentation has been lost, it is recommended to contact the manufacturer and establish the maximum load capacity to ensure there is enough support for two kayaks.

Ease of Installation

Installing a kayak roof rack should not be too complicated. Kayakers can find the best options when it comes to improved simplicity and ease of installation when working with no tools and when the process is short. However, there are multiple issues with ease of installation, especially with budget brands. Kayaking forums have plenty of stories about poor installation instructions. In many cases, some of the most affordable products might come with the most unreliable user instructions.

The simplest way to install a kayak roof rack when the instructions are poor is to simply look at all the pieces in the box and plan in advance. Most of the J-style designs have a base which needs to be attached and locked to the crossbar. In most cases, this comes with 4 screws for each of the two pieces of the roof rack. Ensuring these screws are tight is crucial for the rack to remain in position. At the same time, it is also important to consider the solutions at hand when it comes to accessing the crossbars in the first place.

In order to avoid scratches on the roof of the car, using a stool or ladder is highly recommended. The entire process should not take more than a few minutes. When installing a roof rack for a single kayak, it is not recommended to place it the middle of the crossbars. Kayakers should choose one side of the car where to install the rack. This is due to the fact that quick access is needed when placing a kayak. At the same time, this is only possible when the rack is installed to the side of the car. Many new users are wondering if they need help while pacing the kayak on the rack. Most manufacturers state that a kayak should be loaded by a single person.

Loading and Unloading the Kayak

Loading and unloading the kayak also goes further. Kayaks are not too heavy. However, it is not recommended to keep large objects in an elevated position for too long in order to avoid pressure on the lower back. Loading and unloading the kayak should only take a few seconds. The further towards the middle of the roof the rack is situated, the more distance needs to be covered with the kayak in the loading or unloading process. Some car such as SUVs can come with their own set of challenges. Short users might struggle to properly strap the kayak on taller vehicles. In this case, purchasing a small ladder can be recommended to load and unload the kayak.

It is also recommended to choose a solution which can allow lateral loading if this is not possible. In this case, those with back problems can avoid heavy lifting as such designs can function on gas-aided supports which can reduce the lifting effort with up to 40lbs. There are plenty of great solutions to consider, but those who are seeking the simplest loading and unloading of the kayak can look for the options which allow them to go through the process with no help.

Securing the kayak with straps and buckles is the next step. For this purpose, there are various recommended techniques. Users should do the best to follow the indications of the manufacturers. Some racks, such as the Malone racks, actually come with specific holes which allow for a tight lockdown. However, many enthusiasts have come to the conclusion that a very tight fit can actually damage the plastics of the kayak. For the best results, it is recommended to follow the indications of the manufacturer. Since straps can also show signs of wear after a few years, they should also be replaced for safety purposes. Most straps can last for years, but changing weather conditions can affect them differently. Some users even purchase additional straps as an extra safety measure to consider alongside the regular straps which are offered by manufacturers out of the box.

I have no crossbars, can I still install a kayak roof rack?

One of the most discussed issues comes with the crossbars as they are the base of the kayak roof rack. But not all users are actually able to find solutions for their kayaking hobby. Is there a way to tell if a kayak roof rack can be mounted on the roof of the car?

If there are no stock roof rails (they run alongside the car) then it can be impossible to install a roof rack. However, some roof racks can be installed even without roof rails. But in most cases, the crossbars are installed directly on the roof rails. They represent one of the most interesting options when it comes to quick installation.

Good practices can involve purchasing the roof rack and the crossbars together as many manufacturers offer them in various options. However, modern crossbars can be different from the designs used just a few years ago. Manufacturers are pushing for more futuristic crossbar designs and this means they are actually made to reduce air drag as much as possible. Even if the car might not travel way faster than with square crossbars, it might still come with reduced noise and whistling, which is great when it comes to long drives. It is also recommended to choose solutions which are also easy to install.

Those looking to install the crossbars and the kayak roof racks together might feel intimidated. But the truth is modern designs should be easy to install. Crossbars can also serve multiple purposes. They can be used for bike racks or cargo carriers and they come with enhanced versatility.

Another good tip to follow when the crossbars and kayak roof racks are purchased together is to look for products which can be locked together. Thule and Yakima offer such products which use the same lock key both for the crossbars which are secured to the car and for the kayak roof rack which is secured, in turn, to the crossbars.

Warranty Information

A kayak roof rack might not be the most technologically-advanced product. This means its durability should be impressive. For most people, this means the roof rack can come with an extended warranty and even lifetime warranty. However, some manufacturers might have specific conditions in which the lifetime warranty can be lost which usually refers to the improper use of the product. It is why users should actually take the time to fully read the product warranty before using the roof rack for the first time.

How to load and unload a kayak or canoe

Those who are looking to use a kayak roof rack for the first time might need some guidance. The following section explains this process in detail.

Carrying the kayak

Carrying the kayak properly is the first step. If the kayak is carried by a single person, it is recommended to place it on the shoulder. Balancing the kayak is recommended in this case. It is not recommended to drag the kayak on the ground where rocks can damage it forever. If two persons are carrying the kayak, the process should be simple. Each person should grab the handle at the bow or stern in order to carry it where needed. The good news is that two kayaks can be carried using this method. Those looking to purchase a double kayak roof rack can save time by carrying the kayaks with this method.

As a safety precaution, it is not really recommended to lift the kayak off the ground with the back. The best way to lift the kayak safely with no help is to squat down, place it on the shoulder and stand up. The pushing is made by the legs and there is no extra pressure on the back. Those with no help can also follow these tips:

Protect the shoulder – carrying the kayak with no help means it is carried on the shoulder. In this case, the shoulder can be protected with a pad or a spare T-shirt to reduce the impact of the weight.

Protect the back – it is never recommended to lift the kayak from the ground with square feet. Having the knees bent immediately reduces the impact on the back. At the same time, squatting is the perfect way of reaching the kayak which allows kayakers with no help to easily lift the canoe by themselves.

Use a cart – some people might find it tiring to carry a kayak on long distances with no help. In this case, a helping cart can be the answer. There are various types of simple and inexpensive kayak carrying carts, but in some cases, kayakers can safe further by purchasing a great bundle. For example, the 2 Set Roof J Rack Kayak by GSG comes with an included cart which makes it a top choice for all types of users who are simply tired of carrying the canoe.

Final Considerations

When it comes to choosing a new kayak roof rack or updating an older roof rack, it is important to look at a few basic characteristics. Weight capacity, ease of use, durability, warranty, price and even the resale value can be important aspects for many dedicated kayakers. However, one of the most important aspects is to keep both the driver and other traffic participants safe. Since the kayak travels on top of the car, it needs to be properly secured. For most users, it is also important for the roof rack to be easy to handle.

Installing a kayak roof rack should be possible even without previous knowledge. Experts don’t need to be called for such a simple process. Even more, the tools needed for the installation are mostly minimal. At the same time, there are various designs on the market which have their own particularities. One of the important complaints of new users comes with poor installation guidelines. But even in these conditions, it should not be too difficult to install a kayak roof rack.

When it comes to proper durability, the way in which the kayak roof rack is cared for is important as well. Kayakers should avoid shocks which can dent or peel off the paint on the roof rack. Off-season storage is at least as important. Since most racks are made from some type of metal, they should not be stored in high humidity environments. Some basements are known to have high humidity. Users who want to keep their kayak roof racks in good condition for years and years should store them in dry places. Furthermore, keeping the racks and all the accessories away from heat sources is also recommended by most manufacturers.

Our Pick!

TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier

TMS J-Bar Rack HD

As far as kayak roof racks for cars without rails, the TMS J-Bar is hard to match. Its simplistic design is all that’s needed to carry a kayak

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