What You Will Get Here
- Why Do You Need a Kayak Roof Rack?
- Different Types of Car Top Kayak Racks
- Things to Consider When Buying Kayak Roof Racks
- How Did We Pick These Products?
- Our Top 10 Product List
- Top J-Cradle Roof Rack: Malone Downloader Folding with Bow & Stern Lines
- Top Pad Kayak Roof Rack: HandiRack - Universal Inflatable Roof Rack Bars
- Top Stackers Roof Rack: Thule 830 The Stacker
- Best Saddle Roof Rack: Malone SeaWing Saddle Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier
- Good Value for Money: TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier
- A List of 5 Other Products We Reviewed
- Tips on Using Roof Racks and Rails
Why Do You Need a Kayak Roof Rack?
A kayak roof rack, simply put, is a rack which allows you to carry a kayak on top of your car. This is different from kayak trailers that require ample space behind the car, which can make parking difficult. These trailers can also be way more expensive.
On the other hand, kayak roof racks require additional vertical space, so going through areas with low ceilings may be a problem. Still, roof racks for kayaks are always better if you know how to use them properly.
Different Types of Car Top Kayak Racks
There are different types of kayak racks available, and each is suited based on different criteria. This would include what type of vehicle you have, what types of bars or racks are installed, what space is available to you, and how easy you would like to secure and remove your kayak.
Here are the most common types of car top carrier for a kayak that are available, as well as brief descriptions on each.
i) Temporary Pads
Temporary pads are basically foam pads that you can place on top of your car to support your kayak during transport and to prevent your car from being scratched. This type perfect for vehicles that do not have any type of rails installed, but they are not so great when it comes to security. Purchase these if you don’t intend on bringing your kayak along on a regular basis.
Saddles are preferred for vehicles that already have crossbars installed, and for those who will be carrying large kayaks. Saddles are basically pads that are V-shaped rather than flat, with its purpose being able to support the entire width of the kayak. This provides more support and security, especially for larger kayaks.
J-cradles are designed with space considerations in mind, as kayaks can be loaded on a 45-degree angle instead of upright. This will allow you to put more stuff on top of your car. You can also turn this into a double kayak roof rack if you want to carry more than one. This type is great for lighter kayaks a well as lower vehicles as carrying a kayak on its side to and from the cradles may require more physical strength.
Stacker provides ample space for stacking multiple light kayaks on your vehicle. This makes this the perfect choice for two kayaks, or maybe even more. Crossbar space consumed is limited, but very wide kayaks cannot be secured in this way. Vertical space is also required as kayaks will be stored sideways on top of the vehicle.
Crossbars are metal bars placed parallel to the rails of the vehicle. This is where the attachments such as saddles and stackers are placed. Most kayak roof mounts will require that this is installed, although you can have aftermarket crossbars installed if you do not have one. Take note, though, of crossbar weight limits depending on the weight and number of kayaks that you intend to load.
Rollers are systems that will help ease the loading of kayaks. As the name implies, all you have to do is place the end of your kayak on top of your roller and you can just roll it up to the rack. Rollers work in tandem kayaks with racks and cannot handle kayaks stored in a non-vertical position.
Things to Consider When Buying Kayak Roof Racks
When looking for these products, know that it is not a one-size-fits-all affair. Here is a list of things you have to consider before doing your shopping around.
1. Structure of Your Vehicle's Roof
Depending on the roof of your vehicle, you can attach different types of kayak roof racks. For bare roofs, pads are recommended, while those with rails may require to have crossbars installed if not are still available. With crossbars, you can install a removable rack or just keep them always attached if you would be using them often.
2. Type of Your Kayak
The type of your watercraft is a very important factor because it's size and weight will determine the rack's capability. Having a large kayak will require a rack that can accommodate not only the width but also the weight. This is especially important for smaller vehicles that may not be able to provide adequate support.
3. Your Kayaking Frequency
If you are a frequent kayaker, having your kayak racks fixed will be a nice idea. However, for those who do not frequently bring their kayaks, having racks that can be attached and detached easily will be necessary. Note that some types of racks will also need other parts of your vehicle such as windows and doors, so complicated setups done frequently can feel like a chore.
4. Features of the Racks
Some kayak racks have special features that will provide for different types of conveniences such as ease of loading and unloading, adjustments for differently sized kayaks, increased security, or added protection to your car. Look through special features and see which one appeals to you the most.
5. Trusted Manufacturers
There are different manufacturers of kayak roof racks, from cheaper to high-end ones. Price does not necessarily mean quality, though, but it is, however, important to get racks from manufacturers that have a good reputation in the market. Our shortlisted products are from reputed brands, so you won't have to worry about their quality.
Compatibility pertains to both the kayaks that you are loading as well as the accessories already present in your vehicle. While you can install new rails or crossbars, you should know that they should be compatible with the racks that you have your eye on. Otherwise, you might waste your money buying something that will not fit with what you currently have.
7. Damage Protection
Kayak roof racks should provide protection to your vehicle, even under the harshest of conditions. As such, they should be able to provide adequate space between the kayaks and the cars, even if said kayaks are heavy or move around.
8. Security & Stability
Security and stability is very important, especially in a moving vehicle. A secure and stable kayak rack will mean that kayaks will not dislodge, preventing accidents or injury. Racks should be stable and secure even with strong winds or when traveling at high speeds.
9. Easy of Install
A kayak rook rack, no matter how user-friendly, will need to be installed. Sometimes, they would have to be removed as well, especially if they would not be used for a long time. Having a hassle-free process to remove and install will be very convenient, especially if there are no tools required and with minimal manpower required.
10. Ease of Loading & Unloading
Loading and unloading kayaks should be very easy and would require as little effort as possible. This is especially important after kayaking as you may have already spent the majority of your strength. A good kayak roof rack should be convenient to use and you should be able to load and unload your kayak quickly and safely.
How Did We Pick These Products?
Picking the high-end and effective ones from so many choices was not an easy task. In our goal to find the most reliable choices, we did a ton of research and interviews both online and offline. We tested a few ones ourselves so that we could provide as honest a review as possible.
The research was based on the specifications provided by the manufacturers of the most popular kayak roof racks on the market. We have also scoured reviews from those who have purchased and used these items. Industry experts were interviewed so that we could get an accurate picture of how these roof racks performed. For our criteria, we based it on different factors which are discussed below.
As you might have different needs when it comes to roof racks, we have listed down the topmost products based on the category so that you can just skip through the ones that do not apply to you. Other options are also listed down so that you will have many more options to choose from.
Of course, despite our rigorous testing and review, you might find something that you would like more. You might even have differing opinions from ours, but that’s okay as this would only serve as a guide for you to know more about what to look for when buying kayak carriers for car roofs. As such, you can follow our recommendations below, or make your own decisions on based on what you have learned.
Our Top 10 Product List
Here, we have categorized the top kayak roof racks we found during our research. A detailed review, as well as specifications, has been included. Hopefully, this would provide you with all the details necessary to make a smart and informed choice when buying a kayak roof rack of your own.