A Buyer’s Guide to the Best Kayak Roof Racks

August 09, 2019 by Amanda Ellis, @WanderRedFox

Most kayakers agree that transporting the small boat from home to water is often the sport’s biggest challenge. While a truck bed can serve as a convenient option, space quickly becomes a commodity if you’re hauling more than one kayak or other bulky gear.

For SUV and crossover drivers, a roof rack is the best option for transporting a kayak. Whatever type of vehicle you drive, we’ve got a roof rack that should help you haul your kayak and save space.

FOR TRUCK BEDS: THULE XSPORTER PRO

Thule Xsporter Pro

The Thule Xsporter Pro’s legs attach to the truck bed. It holds up to 450 pounds. (Photo: Thule)

Why we picked it: The Thule Xsporter Pro offers the ideal setup for truck owners transporting kayaks. With legs that attach directly to the vehicle, the system keeps the truck bed accessible for gear storage. You can adjust the roof rack’s height for easy loading, carrying and unloading. The low position is ideal for short boats, while the high position is designed for supporting long loads.

The high-strength aluminum load bars optimize aerodynamics for improved fuel economy. Installation is simple and requires no cutting or drilling. The product features the brand’s SecureLock system with four One Key lock cylinders and will accommodate any other Thule carriers, as well.

The Thule Xsporter Pro is rated to hold up to 450 pounds and costs $800.

FOR LOADING AND UNLOADING EASE: THULE HULLAVATOR PRO

Thule Hullavator Pro

The Thule Hullavator Pro has gas-assisted struts and provides padded support for your kayak. (Photo: Thule)

Why we picked it: Featuring gas-assisted struts, the Thule Hullavator Pro allows for waist-high loading and unloading. The system’s extending arms lower the kayak by up to three feet in height and absorb up to 40 pounds of its weight. The Hullavator Pro is constructed from aluminum and double-coated steel for efficient corrosion resistance.

The cradles provide eight points of padded support and can accommodate hulls up to 36 inches wide. The Thule Hullavator Pro holds up to 75 pounds and costs $660.

UNIVERSAL OPTION: MALONE SEAWING

Malone SeaWing kayak roof rack

The Malone SeaWing’s universal base holds all kayak shapes. (Photo: Malone)

Why we picked it: The Malone SeaWing comes with two lengths of installation hardware to fit all crossbar thicknesses and a universal base to fit all shapes —square, round or oval. The SeaWing’s V-shaped saddle holds boats weighing up to 75 pounds and features cam-style load straps with buckle protectors. Its slim design means most racks can fit two kayaks side by side.

The Malone SeaWing roof rack system includes bow and stern safety tie-downs and costs $150.

FOR SUVs AND CROSSOVERS: YAKIMA SHOWBOAT 66 SLIDE-OUT ROLLER

Yakima ShowBoat 66 kayak roof rack

The Yakima ShowBoat 66 has a roller system for easy loading and unloading. (Photo: Yakima)

Why we picked it: The load-assist Yakima ShowBoat 66 features a slide-out roller system for easy loading and unloading while minimizing the chances of damaging your kayak. The roller clamps directly onto most factory crossbars and functions by sliding out up to 24 inches behind the rear of the vehicle. Stainless steel and brass hardware construction serve to resist corrosion.

The ShowBoat 66 includes two 66-inch Yakima crossbars and can support a boat weighing up to 80 pounds. The Yakima ShowBoat 66 costs $220.

KEEP THESE THINGS IN MIND WHEN SHOPPING FOR A KAYAK ROOF RACK

Number of kayaks: The more kayaks you plan on carrying, the bigger the roof rack system you’ll need. Be sure not to overload your system with too much weight.

Aftermarket crossbars: vehicle owners with factory-installed crossbar will need to check a roof rack’s compatibility before buying. If your vehicle doesn’t have factory crossbars, you’ll need to invest in an aftermarket crossbar system. Check out our guide to installing a roof rack on your adventure vehicle.

Aerodynamics: Roof racks that rise too high above your vehicle can create drag that results in poor fuel economy. The kayak roof rack that best meets your needs will hold boats close to your roofline or truck bed.

Amanda Ellis June 5, 2019
Roof racks are a secure way to transport surfboards and paddleboards, and most are versatile and easy to install.

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