What is the best roof rack kayak carrier?

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What is the best roof rack kayak carrier?

Choosing the right roof rack system for your kayak can seem a little daunting with so many options out there. How do I know what’s going to work best for me?

There are such a variety of kayak roof rack carriers on the market. Let’s run through some of the popular ones briefly to give you an idea of their pros and cons.

These are some of the most popular roof racks around, particularly if you are transporting two kayaks at a time.

J- racks are just as the name suggests: racks shaped like a J. These hold the kayak on its side and are great for narrow vehicles where you want to transport 2 kayaks. The kayak leans up against the upright arm and is supported by the cradle portion. See How to tie down a kayak on a j-rack for some practical tips on how to use j-racks.

There are fixed and fold down versions available.

The downside of fixed j-racks is that your vehicle is now extremely tall and may not fit into your garage or other height restricted areas. As mentioned however, some  j-racks can be folded down when not in use.

A variation on the traditional J rack is one that has a bilateral design like the KUCCMO kayak roof rack (pictured). In concept, it is two J racks merged into one.
These can be a great option for transporting two smaller kayaks though with wider fishing kayaks I would personally recommend going for two standard J racks or one J rack and the other kayak on the flat next to it.

A great option if you are transporting a single kayak.

Saddle roof racks basically form a cradle to support your kayak. 

Though not always, they can be cheap and have a lower profile than some of the other options but a downside is that because the kayaks are mounted flat, it can be very tricky trying to fit more than one kayak  on your vehicle at a time.

Some are available with rollers to assist in the loading process which is a fantastic idea.

These are a great option for narrower kayaks. Though more functional for white water kayaks.

Stacker roof racks have a vertical post that acts as a support to tie your kayak on its side. The advantage being that you can transport more than one kayak at a time. A common complaint is that they don’t have the height to support wide kayaks. In my opinion these are not a practical option for fishing kayaks.

We started out with stacker roof racks but landed up selling them as our fishing kayaks were too wide and bulky to use this system. We found that when the kayak was upright, the side against the crossbars would constantly slide out whilst trying to get a strap on it. It was definately a two person job using these. This is one area where j-racks work really well- once up there the hook of the J holds it from slipping, leaving you free to tie it down without having to keep holding it.

If your vehicle doesn’t have any racks there are soft, padded options available which sit on top of the roof of your vehicle. 

These may provide a temporary solution but we wouldn’t recommend them long term. They have been know to rub on the paintwork.

If these are of interest to you please check out our article on ‘How to transport a kayak without a rack’.

Let’s narrow down the options…

How many kayaks are you going to be transporting?

One kayak

We would recommend either a saddle roof rack, particularly if height is an issue. Alternatively a J rack would offer more versatility, especially if there was a possibility that you would want to transport two kayaks in the future.

Two kayaks

If you are transporting two kayaks the options are J racks, bi-lateral j-rack or stacker system.  

Of these three we would recommend going with j-racks, particularly with the size and weight of fishing kayaks.

As an alternative, a single J rack is also an option if you are able to transport one kayak upside down next to the J rack.
We use this method and it works well but be aware, if you do transport your kayak upside down you have to be very careful of footrests, rod holders and other attachments when loading as they can be easily knocked.

Three or more kayaks…

Buy a trailer!

What else do I need to think about?

What profile are your cross bars? You want to make sure that your rack choice is compatible with what you already have.

What weight restrictions do your vehicle and roof racks have?

How will I get my kayak onto the rack? Check out our other transport tips.

What is the best roof rack kayak carrier?

What is our recommendation for the best roof rack for a kayak? For maximum versatility and ease of use with fishing kayaks we would recommend a fold down j-rack.

For more transporting tips click here.

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