Updated on October 5, 2020

Kayaking is one of the finest, most tactile ways to experience the outdoors. From the seat of your kayak’s cockpit, the wilderness seemingly opens up and you have the first-row seat to see it all. First, though, you’ve got to get your kayak there. But, how do you know what’s the best kayak roof rack?

Here at The Adventure Junkies, we pride ourselves on giving you the best tips, tricks and guide to experience the great outdoors. Whether it’s kayaking or scuba diving, we’ve got you covered.

Want to know more about kayak roof racks? If so, keep on reading to find out which roof kayak is best suited for you.

For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, check out the Best Kayak Carts

 

Quick Answer - The Best Kayak Roof Racks

  1. Thule Xsporter Pro Truck
  2. Thule Hull-a-Port
  3. Yakima Jayhook
  4. Thule Top Deck
  5. Thule Hullavator Pro
  6. TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier

 

Comparison Table - Best Kayak Roof Rack

PictureNameInstallationShape of CradlePriceRating
Thule Xsporter Pro TruckThule Xsporter Pro TruckDifficultFlat$$$$4.0
Thule Hull-a-PortThule Hull-a-PortModerateJ-Curved$$$$3.9
Yakima JayhookYakima JayhookEasyJ-Curved$$4.6
Thule Top DeckThule Top DeckEasyFlat$$3.8
Thule Hullavator ProThule Hullavator ProDifficultFlat with Expandable Base$$$$4.7
TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak CarrierEasyJ-Curved$4.0
PictureNameInstallationShape of CradlePriceRating

Reviews - The Best Roof Racks for Kayaks

Thule Xsporter Pro Truck

Specs
  • Installation: Difficult
  • Shape of Cradle: Flat
Thule Xsporter Pro Truck

BEST FOR: PROFESSIONALS WHO MAY NEED TO HAUL MORE THAN ONE KAYAK OR BOARD WITH THEM

PROS: Incredibly well-built, includes an aluminum design and weather-resistant fastenings

CONS: Only suitable for flatbed trucks, professional installation is recommended

Thule Hull-a-Port

Specs
  • Installation: Moderate
  • Shape of Cradle: J-Curved
Thule Hull-a-Port

BEST FOR: BUDGE-CONSCIOUS CONSUMER WHO WANTS THE STABILITY OF A J-CURVED RACK SYSTEM

PROS: Solid build quality for the price, easy installation

CONS: Foam cushioning may be prone to wear over time and weathering

Yakima Jayhook

Specs
  • Installation: Easy
  • Shape of Cradle: J-Curved
Yakima Jayhook

BEST FOR: HEAVY DUTY SETUPS AND FOR TRANSPORTING LONGER SEA KAYAKS

PROS: Fantastic J-curve setup for longer kayaks that don’t suit themselves well to strapped racks, rust-resistant

CONS: A bit bigger than most and the dismounting angles can be tricky for shorter people

Thule Top Deck

Specs
  • Installation: Easy
  • Shape of Cradle: Flat
Thule Top Deck

BEST FOR: ALREADY RACK-MOUNTED VEHICLES AND TRANSPORTING SINGLE KAYAKS

PROS: Quite affordable and one of the more versatile rack systems currently on sale

CONS: Only applicable for single-rack setups, requires an already installed car rack to use

Thule Hullavator Pro

Specs
  • Installation: Difficult
  • Shape of Cradle: Flat with Expandable Base
Thule Hullavator Pro

BEST FOR: ARGUABLY THE STURDIEST AND BEST-LOOKING RACK SYSTEM CURRENTLY ON SALE TODAY

PROS: Streamline installation with most vehicles, incredibly compact in design and comes with an expandable base

CONS: Quite pricey, can be hard to find in-stock on Amazon or REI

TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier

Specs
  • Installation: Easy
  • Shape of Cradle: J-Curved

BEST FOR: SINGLE-KAYAK SETUPS AND TRANSPORTING LIGHT CANOES, BOARDS, AND KAYAKS

PROS: Affordable option to other more expensive setups to transport boarding equipment

CONS: Not weather-proof or recommended for heavier, more robust tandem kayaks or canoes

 

 

HOW TO CHOOSE BEST KAYAK ROOF RACKS

YOUR VEHICLE

The type of vehicle you have will play a huge role in determining which roof kayak roof rack is best for you. Whether it’s a small compact car or full-sized 4×4, there’s definitely a roof rack for your car.

For smaller cars, simpler set ups that can carry one kayak (maybe two) will be your best bet. But if your car’s quite sizable, you can opt to buy a rack that can carry three or four kayaks.

We recommend measuring the available outside roof space of your car first. That way, you know exactly what you’re getting into. Check out this guide to car roof racks from REI to learn more about which vehicles are best suited to have racks installed on them.

 

NUMBER OF KAYAKS

It should go without saying that the more kayaks you’ll want to carry, the larger the roof rack you’ll need. Keep that in mind as you shop around. This becomes even more important for safety reasons.

Shoving too many kayaks on a rack system that’s not designed for it can be hazardous on the roadway. Also, take into account that you’ll be needing to transport your paddles as well.

 

BAR HEIGHT

If you’re vertically challenged, a rack system that stands a foot above your car’s roof might not work. But, ones that are flush with the roofline will work better.

If you’re quite tall, you can opt for a taller rack system. These vertical rack systems can be used with little to no problem.

 

MATERIAL

When transporting kayaks worth a mortgage payment (or two), you want to be sure they won’t meet their demise as you drive down the highway. By avoiding certain cheaply made fasteners, you steer clear of unexpected detachments.

Plastic and aluminum fasteners are a no-go. Opt for models that use rust-free coated steels and even carbon fiber fasteners.

 

NEED OF AFTERMARKET CROSS BARS

If your car already has a roof-mounted cross bar system, you’ll want to ensure its compatibility with the roof rack model you’re looking at.

If your car doesn’t have one, you’ll want to be sure you purchase an aftermarket cross bar system. Be sure to check its compatibility with your roof rack system, too. Most in-store outlets will be more than happy to help you ensure just that by doing a test install.

For beginners and families, opt for a setup that has the potential to carry more than one kayak. Check out this guide from Rack Attack for more fitting details.

READ MORE

For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles:

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