The Best Kayak Roof Rack – Buyer Guides and Reviews

Best Kayak Roof Rack

Best Kayak Roof Rack

The Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier

There is little use in owning a kayak if you are unable to take in anywhere with you. Most vehicles are too small to accommodate kayaks inside, especially if they are the longer models such as touring or sea kayaks. This means that the only real way for you to transport your kayak is to get the best kayak roof rack available.

Fortunately, there are a lot of options available but not all of these are equally effective. If you want your money’s worth, it is best that you choose one from the article below.

In order to be considered a superior kayak rack, it should have certain features.

The product should be easy to mount on your vehicle, secure the kayak well, and make it simple for you to load the kayak on and off.

Here is everything that you need to know about finding the best one for you:

Best Kayak Roof Rack

Downloader Kayak Rack

One of the most notable features on the Malone Downloader kayak roof rack is that this J-style car rack can be folded.

Therefore, when the rack is not in use, you can fold it down to considerably improve your overhead clearance.

Of course, this is not even the most compelling thing about this product. This carrier has a built-in boarding ramp. This makes putting a kayak on the roof of your car a lot easier, especially if you are trying to manage it yourself.

Once the vessel is strapped in, you can be guaranteed that is going to remain unscathed because of the oversized padding. This means that there will be no dings or scratches on any part of the kayak.

With the Malone Downloader, you receive everything that you need to set the ramp up. This includes the bow and stern safety tie-downs, the mounting hardware, the cam-style buckle straps that are complete with buckle protectors.

The JAWZ mounting hardware is compatible with a variety of cross rails including square, round and many of the oval models as well.

The only prerequisite with the Malone Downloader is that there are rails already present on the roof of your car.

One of the advantages of this roof rack is that it is a universal fit which makes it well-suited to most types of kayaks.

The rack is a little bit heavier than some of the other models but it is also a great deal more durable as well.


  • Folding function
  • Built-in boarding ramp
  • Oversized padding
  • Compatible with square, round, and most oval cross rails

On Sale
Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier with Bow and Stern Lines
279 Reviews
Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack Kayak Carrier with Bow and Stern Lines
  • J-style kayak carrier with built-in boarding ramp for easy loading
  • Fold down technology increases overhead clearance. Compatible with the MPG351 Telos Load Assist
  • Oversized padding protects boat during transport
  • JAWZ mounting hardware fits round, square and most factory oval cross rails, includes both 60mm and...
  • Dimensions:Length: 17",Width: 6",Height: 19.5",Load capacity: 75 lb

Rola Kayak Roof Rack

If you want a kayak roof rack that is going to stand the test of time, then this J-style Rola model is definitely what you should invest in.

The very construction of the rack speaks to the durability of the product. It is made from powder coated steel. It has also been protected against rust and corrosion so you will not have to worry about leaving this rack attached even in bad weather.

You can also frequent saltwater locations as the salty air will not be able to deteriorate the rack.

The Rola rack works great not just with Rola crossbars but with most of the crossbars that you can attach to your vehicle roof.

There are several securing options with the rack. There are tie downs as well as heavy duty straps for both the bow and the stern. They have been designed to be able to take the weight of kayak of any shape or size.

This rack also contains appropriate foam padding so that the kayak is completely protected.

One of the plus points with this brand is that you can be reassured that all of their products have been made to withstand tougher conditions. So, if you like to head off the road to get to your kayaking spot, you can be sure that your kayak is going to remain secure.

The Rola roof rack has been built to be able to hold anything from smaller vessels such as solo kayaks to much longer sea kayaks without any issue.


  • Powdered coated steel composition
  • Compatible with Rolo and other crossbars
  • Foam padding

On Sale
ROLA (59912) J Style Kayak Carrier Roof Rack
74 Reviews
ROLA (59912) J Style Kayak Carrier Roof Rack
  • Robust capacity - perfect for sit-on-tops, singles, tandems or whatever your "yak" of choice
  • High strength powder coated steel construction for superior boat security year after year, season...
  • Foam pads cradle and protect your watercraft during transport
  • Universal hardware works with ROLA and most other crossbars
  • Premium heavy-duty straps and bow/stern tie-downs

SportRack Jetty Saddle Kayak Rack

Some kayakers prefer to transport their kayaks in an upright position.

“If you are one such person, then the SportRack Jetty Saddle is a good choice”

This carrier is actually quite easy to set up as it just involves attaching the saddles to the crossbar with a series of U-bolts and adjustable knobs.

Another one of the benefits of the Jetty Saddle is how easy it is to adjust. Because of this, the rack can accommodate kayaks of a variety of sizes, more specifically those with varying widths. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you have a long and narrow kayak or one that is shorter and wider. The saddles are also specifically contoured to fit different hull shapes as well. Therefore, you can even change the type of kayaks that you carry from one trip to the next with minimal hassle.

There are two different ways that you can get the kayak onto the roof of your car, with these saddles. You can either lift the vessel up and place it on the saddle or just slide it across on the saddles. You don’t have to be concerned about damaging the hull of the kayak as the edges are made from rubber to prevent scratches.

The kayak is tightly bound to the saddles and crossbar with the help of the bow and stern tie downs as well as thick, tough side straps. This way, the kayak will not move an inch.

The rack can be used with a variety of crossbar types, as it has a universal design.


  • Adjustable knobs
  • Contoured saddles
  • Rubberized edges
  • Bow and stern tie downs, side straps

On Sale
SportRack Jetty Saddle Kayak Rack
47 Reviews
SportRack Jetty Saddle Kayak Rack
  • Custom saddles conforms to multiple hull shapes
  • Integrated rubber padding protects kayak during transport
  • Includes saddles, 2 bow and stern tie downs and 2 ropes to carry 1 kayak
  • Fits SportRack Roof Rack Systems, square, round and most factory racks
  • Please check SportRack fit guide prior to purchase

Thule 830 The Stacker Kayak Rack

Thule is one of the most popular kayak rack brands on the market. Its fame is certainly well deserved as the brand does come up with some unique designs.

Case in point is the Thule 830 “The Stacker”.

With most racks, you have to resign to carrying just one kayak. However, what about if you want to travel with other kayakers? This is where The Stacker comes into play. This kayak allows you to carry multiple kayaks on the roof of your vehicle.

In fact, provided that there is enough of room on the roof of your car, you should be able to stack up to four kayaks.

Of course, this kayak is meant for whitewater kayaking and therefore, it is best used with shorter or smaller kayaks.

Unlike many of the other Thule accessories, The Stacker is actually compatible with most factory crossbars. Therefore, it should be able to fit on different vehicles, allowing you to easily transfer the rack from one car to another.

When you are not carrying the kayaks on your vehicle, you can fold the rack over so that you have greater overhead clearance.

Along with The Stacker, you get bow and stern tie downs as well as side straps. These are both heavy duty and incredibly tough, allowing for the kayakers to be bound securely.

The Stacker is quite durable and is more than capable of supporting the strain caused by several kayaks.


  • Can hold up to four kayaks
  • Compatible with most factory crossbars
  • Can be folded
  • Bow and stern tie downs, straps, and buckle protectors

Thule 830 The Stacker (4) Kayak Carrier
104 Reviews
Thule 830 The Stacker (4) Kayak Carrier
  • Fold-down steel design with non-scratch outer coating
  • Quick on/off hardware ensures fast installation and removal amd
  • Carries up to 4 recreational kayaks but includes all straps to transport 1 kayak
  • Accommodates kayaks up to 36 in/90 cm wide and to weight capacity of 75 lbs/35 kg
  • Requires Thule rack systems crossbars, round bars, or factory racks - see Buyer's Guide

If you are not looking to splurge on your kayak rack, this 9sparts J-style rack is a good, budget option.

What I like most about this rack, apart from the price is just how easy it is to install. It is just a matter of making sure that the rack is in the right position and that the screws have been tightened well enough.

The rack is composed of steel tubing that is 1.55m thick. This is to ensure that the rack is strong enough to carry different types of the kayak. In this endeavor, the brand certainly succeeds. The rack is able to support a kayak that weighs up to 75lbs. It is also great for slightly wider vessels as it can accommodate those that have a width of up to 36 inches.

The rack has been designed so that not only will it fit most of the factory crossbars, but most of the after-market versions as well.

This does offer you a great deal of freedom considering that many other racks are a bit restricted in this sense.

The rack has been well padded wherever the kayak will be placed on it. This way, there is no chance that the hull will become scuffed or scratched during the drive. The only real downside with this is the tie down straps.

If you are headed out on a long drive or will be going on some bumpy road, it is best to invest in more durable straps.


  • 55m thick steel tubing
  • Can carry up to 75lbs
  • Compatible with most factory and aftermarket crossbars

Great Lakes Kayak The Kayak Wing Kayak Roof Rack

As you well know, a sea kayak is a bit of a different animal. It tends to be longer and narrower than most other kayaks.

If you are someone who spends most of their time in such a vessel, the Kayak Wing is what you should get.

This kayak roof rack has been specifically designed to accommodate sea kayaks.

In particular, it has been adapted to kayaks that have a v-shaped hull. This is indicated by the way that the saddles sit atop the cross bar. The sloping of the saddles is so that the kayak can rest properly on them, ensuring that it can be secured more tightly. The saddles are completely padded so that all of the areas that are in contact with them are well protected.

You can’t beat the Kayak Wing for set up.

Everything you need is provided to you and it doesn’t require any additional tools at all. You will have no problem setting this rack up by yourself.

The straps are incredibly strong and prevent the kayak from moving while the vehicle is in motion. Because of the way that this rack is setup, it is actually much easier to get your kayak onto your roof and to tie it up there.

The Kayak Wing works well with a number of factory-installed racks, including some of the more pervasive ones.


  • Designed for sea kayaks
  • Accommodates kayaks less than 30 inches wide
  • Compatible with v-shaped hulls
  • Padded saddles

The Kayak Wing - Sea Kayak Rack with Yellow Straps for Boats Under 30' Wide by Great Lakes Kayak LLC
34 Reviews
The Kayak Wing - Sea Kayak Rack with Yellow Straps for Boats Under 30" Wide by Great Lakes Kayak LLC
  • Sold as a Complete Set to Hold One Kayak, No Other Parts neccessary
  • Best Suited for Boats under 30" Wide
  • Sturdy, Reliable, and Lightweight
  • 5 year warranty against breakage
  • Made in the USA!

What You Need to Know About Buying a Good Kayak Roof Rack

It is easy to get confused with all of the options available for kayak roof racks. There are ones of different shapes, sizes, and even functions. To help you to narrow down your choices, here are a few tips that you can use:

Types of Kayak Roof Racks

There are three main types of kayak roof racks. They are as follows:

J-style Racks

These racks are named for their shape, which is much like the letter J. These are the most widely used type of racks among kayakers. This is because they offer a great deal of support and stability, particularly for those heavier kayaks. The J-style racks require the kayaks to be stored sideways, on the crossbars. This is what makes it ideal for smaller vehicles that don’t have as much room on the roof. It is also great if you want to take other gear with you and need to store the equipment on the roof. The disadvantage with these racks is that they can be difficult to load and secure, particularly due to the position that they need to be in. Therefore, if you are lacking in upper body strength or are of a shorter stature, this may not be the best option for you.

Saddle Racks

Unlike with J-style racks, the saddle racks let the vessel lie flat, in a horizontal position. Here, a greater portion of the surface area of the kayak is supported which does include the stability that it offers. They are also well padded to ensure that no damage to the kayak is done. Due to the way that the saddles are attached to the crossbar, it is easier to place the kayak on this type of rack. At the very least, it requires less effort. One of the perks of using saddle racks is that they allow the kayak to sit more aerodynamically than the other types of racks. This means that your vehicle doesn’t have to use as much fuel to get to your destination.


Stackers, as the name suggests, allow for more than one kayak to be placed on the roof of the car. However, this does not mean that they are stacked on top of one another. Instead, the kayaks are placed into a position similar to that of those using a J-style rack. The stackers then act as posts to which straps can be used to secure the kayaks to the rack. The only disadvantage with a stacker is that it is meant for smaller boats. Therefore, you may not be able to use them successfully for wider vessels.

What is the Roof of Your Vehicle Like?

Some vehicles have a bare roof, with no additional structures on them. There are others that have rails on them. If you don’t have rails, unfortunately, your options are rather limited when it comes to kayak roof racks. Although you can use foam padding to secure your kayak, this won’t be nearly as effective as using a roof rack.

For the widest variety of options, it is a good idea to get rails, as well as crossbars, installed, if these don’t come with the vehicle already. This way, you can attach most kayak roof racks to your car.

What Type of Kayak Do You Own?

Recreational, solo, tandem, touring, and sea kayaks are all built in specific ways. While they do have some features in common, these vessels can differ in dimensions greatly. For instance, sea kayaks tend to be extremely narrow while tandem kayaks, by comparison, are quite wide. If you have just one type of kayak, all you will need to do is to make sure the rack is capable of accommodating those dimensions. There are certain manufacturers that make carriers especially for certain types of kayaks, such as sea vessels.

Of course, it is quite possible that you have a variety of kayaks as you like to kayak in various bodies of water. This doesn’t always mean that you have to get corresponding racks, nonetheless. Instead, look for ones with adjustable knobs. Then it is simply a matter of making the necessary adjustments depending on the vessel you will be transporting.

How Often Do You Kayak?

If you are someone who goes kayaking quite often, you will not be appreciative of racks that require a great deal of effort. You need to find a carrier that allows you to load the kayak on and off as quickly as possible. If you only kayak on occasion, however, you may find it easier to use side loading carriers.

These are a few of the things that you need to know about when looking for kayak roof racks. There are also some excellent options presented in this article if you want to make things a little easier for yourself.

Last update on 2018-02-25 at 11:52 / Affiliate links / Images / Prices from Amazon Product Advertising API

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