Searching for kayak racks for trucks can be daunting. There are countless review articles online and many similar product descriptions to sift through. Rack systems can be divided into three categories: there are roof-mounted racks, truck bed racks and hitch racks. All types of racks have their own pros and cons. There are also extenders that make the truck bed longer and therefore able to carry longer kayaks.
Kayak roof racks are too important a piece of equipment to purchase without understanding the ins and outs of each model. The type of rack you choose is up to you, but we are here to help!
We are going to review the top kayak racks for trucks on the market today, help you understand the differences, and, ultimately, get your watercraft safely to its destination.
In This Article
- 1) AA Model X31: (Best All-in-One 2-Kayak System)
- 2) ADI OFF ROAD Truck Bed Extender: (Best Truck Bed Extender)
- 3) Mockins 2-in-1 Design Truck Bed Extender: (Best Goal Post Truck Rack)
- 4) Thule Xsporter Pro: (Best Adjustable Bar Truck Rack)
- 5) TMS Adjustable Pick Up Truck Rack: (Best Affordable Kayak Truck Rack)
- Kayak Racks for RV Options (limited)
- Multi-Sport Multi-Rack Kayak Trailer: (Best RV Kayak Rack)
- Truck Kayak Rack Takeaways
1) AA Model X31: (Best All-in-One 2-Kayak System)
We named the X31 the best all-in-one system, because everything you need to fit you and your paddle partner’s kayaks comfortably on your truck is included with the frequently bought together package. Included is the kayak rack, 4 j-racks to hold 2 kayaks, 8 c-clamps, and ratchet straps as well as bow and stern lines. The J-racks are a great kayak carrier, but if you have the necessary J-racks and tie-downs you can just choose to buy the racks only!
What beds is it compatible with?
The AA Model X31 can fit your standard truck beds such as the Chevy and Ford, as well as the uniquely shaped bed of the Toyota Tacoma. In fact, the steel tube for both mounts adjusts between different truck bed widths.
The only trucks this AA Model are not compatible with are some that have a utility track system, tool box or side box, or non-standard truck beds like an Chevy Avalanche or Honda Ridgeline. Please note that even some of the tool boxes are okay, as long as you they don’t block the racks clamps.
If you want to feel safe driving down the bumpy roads to your water destination, you can count on the strong c-clamps, ratchet straps, and extended bolts to keep both of your watercrafts in place.
Unlike some other kayak racks, you can hold any craft up to 800lbs and you have great clearance over the cab. That even includes canoes and some really heavy kayaks!
Easy no-drill installation
Looking for a truck rack that’s easy to install and uninstall?
This AA Model X31 fits the bill. You don’t even have to make any holes in the side of your bed! The 8 included C-Clamps take care of this for you and preserve the resell value of your vehicle.
2) ADI OFF ROAD Truck Bed Extender: (Best Truck Bed Extender)
The ADI OFF ROAD Truck Bed Extender is a U-Shaped Gate. This allows you to lower your tailgate and attach the extender so the whole bed is utilized. It’s a universal truck bed extender that gives your kayak an extra 2 feet of space. This is a great option where you don’t need a truck bed rack.
This product is a nice option for those with shorter kayaks or those with trucks that don’t have a hitch.
Or maybe you just don’t want to mess with having a long kayak hanging from behind your truck. Driving and parking with long cargo isn’t as easy as it looks!
To secure, you can prop one end of the kayak up on the extender and place the other end toward the cab diagonally tucked away. Lash the craft down in that position to keep it from moving around and hitting the sides of your bed.
When not using your truck bed extender for carrying water sports gear, simply flip the extender inside and close your tailgate. This keeps any easy-to-lose items from flying out so you can roll down the interstate without a care in the world.
Keep in mind the Bed extender comes with instructions for drilling it into your truck, but you can find bracket install kits that will fit and prevent you permanently altering your bed.
3) Mockins 2-in-1 Design Truck Bed Extender: (Best Goal Post Truck Rack)
The Mockins 2-in-1 design extender for trucks is a goal post truck rack. This multi-use and multi purpose kayak transport employs one bar that extends from the hitch up into a football goal post shape. Hence the unoriginal name for this extraordinary kayak truck rack!
Note: We did a brief overview of this product in our Kayak Transport Made Easy article. We were so impressed by it we decided to go into more detail here about why this product is so highly rated.
What’s really convenient about this truck rack is the large variety of different uses. The included reflective tape and durability are a definite plus as well. As long as you have a 2-inch receiver, you can use this product or you can use it with an adapter if you have a 1,25 inch hitch. Consequently, you don’t have to do any guesswork to buy accessories.
This rack even comes with ratchets so you won’t have to get those separately!
If you want to save on space when you aren’t using your Extend-A-Truck, you can simply fold it up and store behind a seat or in your truck bed. This is extremely handy when you are trying to find a spot in a crowded boat ramp parking area.
According to one satisfied user,
“…you can put it on in about 1 minute and another 30 seconds to strap it down”.
Versatility all around
Using this product is different than a traditional kayak roof rack, so we’ll give you a quick rundown. There are 5 different holes in the painted black steel bar, so you can attach your kayak at the cabtop or bed level. This gives you the ultimate in flexibility for how you transport your kayaks.
Another big advantage of the Extend-A-Truck is you don’t need a truck to reap the benefits. Do you have a Jeep, Honda Element, or other SUV with 58 inches between the hitch and the top of the roof? You can use this item as long as you have a roof rack to take the place of the truck bed.
Hundreds of users can’t speak highly enough about the goal post extender, with multiple users describing it as ‘versatile’, ‘no brainer’, ‘easy to use’, and even ‘ingenious’.
Whatever items you decide to carry on your rack, it supports equipment up to 750 pounds and 47,7 inches in width. Use it to haul a tandem kayak, canoe, solo kayak, timber, crown molding, or pretty much anything as long as it fits these criteria!
4) Thule Xsporter Pro: (Best Adjustable Bar Truck Rack)
The Thule Xsporter Pro is another worthy product we briefly touched on in our Kayak Transport Made Easy article, but we thought it was worth a deeper dive into what makes this Thule such a sought-after truck rack accessory.
One answer is the reliability and easy integration of all Thule products. Another lies in this top kayak rack’s ability to consistently perform on long trips, rocky 4×4 roads, high speed, and high winds. Did we mention how fantastic either the silver or the black will look on your truck?
Whisper quiet kayak transport
One annoying aspect of transporting a kayak on your truck is the loud noise it produces for those riding in the cab. This Thule kayak rack employs Airstrip Technology with a wind diffuser technology, to once again make the ride to the lake enjoyable, not unbearable.
This is an expensive roof rack, and you will want to keep it safe when it’s attached to your truck. Thule makes some of the best roof-mounted racks in the world for a large variety of products and their products are unfortunately also sought out by thieves as well.
However, there is no better kayak rack that offers you the protection you seek than this Thule. In fact, there are 4 different patented Secure Locks that keep your kayak rack securely on your bed.
No cutting or drilling into your vehicle is required, so pretty much anyone can follow the instructions and easily install this popular rack. With the ability to hold up to 450 pounds, the Xsporter Pro can have multiple different uses.
In fact, one excited customer uses their adjustable Thule for a different kind of work and play:
“Dirt bike on weekends and do construction on weekdays. Need to haul ladders and lumber. This does the trick. The adjustable height and easy, adjustable installation makes it versatile on any of our fleet vehicles. Something that fitted welded racks just can’t do.”
No matter what your intended use, the Thule Xsporter is the gold standard when it comes to safe, reliable, and quiet kayak racks for trucks.
5) TMS Adjustable Pick Up Truck Rack: (Best Affordable Kayak Truck Rack)
The TMS Adjustable Pick Up Truck Rack can pretty much fit any truck. It has the ability to adjust to both 5-foot and 7-foot wide beds, so you don’t have to purchase a new rack if you buy a new truck.
Besides being one of the most affordable items on our “Best Of” list, this extremely strong TMS can carry a whopping 800 pounds of watercraft.
Looking for a roof rack for 2 kayaks? A canoe? What about 2 canoes? Now you can and still stay on budget.
The maximum height you can elevate your items above your bed is 30 inches, which is plenty of space. A couple people even said this was a bit too tall for their truck.
Not to worry, it’s an easy fix as one Toyota Tacoma owner “cut four inches off the height” in order to personalize it to his vehicle. A Ranger owner “cut three inches off the horizontal bars”.
And these minor modifications to this universal rack were “worth it” to save $500-600 they would have spent on the products specific to their vehicles.
If you have a heavier kayak, this adjustable product makes it simpler for the average person to secure. Not to mention the weight of both of the bars is only a total of 50 pounds. Attaching one 25-pound bar at a time is doable for outdoorspeople of all shapes and sizes.
The strength and stability of this steel rack allows you to firmly secure longer watercraft. One pleased paddler takes their ’17-foot canoe on top’.
If you are a construction worker or like to do DIY, take notice. This pickup truck rack is great for attaching lumber, pipes, and even ladders.
However, it’s important to keep in mind this TMS kayak rack for trucks requires drilling.
The bases are tough-as-nails steel and include the required bolts and screws for assembly. Some owners decided to use clamps instead, and they recommend eight.
Kayak Racks for RV Options (limited)
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of options for kayak racks for RVs without some customization, which can get pricey. One of the best options is to get the VENN Rooftop Basket & J-Bar Kayak Rack that offers multiple ways to carry a large variety gear on top of your RV or other vehicle. Another option worth considering is a kayak trailer.
While there are many different transport trailers on the market today, not all of them are quality enough to be trusted with your precious cargo. Not to mention having to worry about those crazy drivers on the highway behind you as your rush onto your paddling adventure!
Multi-Sport Multi-Rack Kayak Trailer: (Best RV Kayak Rack)
The Trailer Kayak Transport Package has everything an RV kayak rack user could want. Included in the package are a 2-inch hitch, base trailer, cross rails, 4 tie-down straps, 2 tires (plus 1 spare!), and 4 Malone kayak j racks.
Simply put, there’s no better system that allows you to transport up to 4 kayaks at one time without having to lift them on your vehicle’s roof!
The complete instructions are included, and the manufacturer estimates assembly takes 2-3 hours. We recommend setting aside 4 hours if you haven’t put anything together in awhile. Luckily, previous buyers say the instructions are very easy to follow.
This kayak trailer works for other vehicles, too
You don’t need an RV to enjoy this Transport Package. As long as your truck, van, SUV, or other vehicle fits a 2-inch hitch and can tow 250 pounds plus the kayak weight, you can use this trailer. By the way, it can carry up to 350 pounds of cargo.
Even if you have an automobile with a smaller hitch size, you can find adaptors. One kayak lover attaches their Malone trailer to their Chevy Cobalt using an adaptor that “easily converts your 1¼-inch to 2 inches”.
Those who haven’t used a trailer for transport before might have a fear about their gear bumping around in the back. However, Malone manufactured an extremely sturdy product that can handle highway speeds even when it isn’t carrying much, or anything. This trailer is made for kayaks so you won’t need heavy-duty straps to tie-down your kayak.
Truck Kayak Rack Takeaways
Over the course of this article, we have hit on a few factors we recommend you consider when choosing the best truck kayak rack for you.
How strong are you?
Weight is a big consideration when choosing your rack system. Can you lift your kayak up on the roof, or do you need an adjustable rack?
The Malone Kayak Transport Package or the Darby Extend-A-Truck goal post rack might be the best option for you if heavy lifting isn’t possible. Remember that an aluminum truck rack is lighter, but not as durable as a steel rack.
How much weight are the racks approved for? A system where you can carry extra weight makes for a versatile rack as you can use it for heavier kayaks and even canoes.
To drill or not to drill.
This is completely up to you, but we recommend checking with your vehicle manufacturer or garage before doing anything permanent to your bed.
That goes double if your truck is still under warranty.
Fortunately, most of the options presented in this article are “no-drill” options to preserve the integrity of your vehicle.
Do you have a trailer hitch?
Is it 2 inches or do you need to purchase an adaptor? Hitch mount is a quick way to attach your carrier.
If you don’t have a hitch, perhaps a bed extender like the AMP will do the trick instead.
If you do, a kayak trailer might make your life a lot easier, especially if you’re looking at transporting multiple kayaks and other recreational equipment.
Amount of time you want to take putting together, installing, and de-constructing your kayak rack.
Some options are less labor intensive with quick assembly.
Amount of space you have for storage.
A kayak trailer is obviously going to be more cumbersome to store when not in use than easy to store kayak roof racks like the AA Model X31 ones. Remember that you also need space to store the kayak carriers or kayak saddles that you attach to the racks. Its always nice to have some extra padding available to protect yours and your partners kayaking gear!
An affordable price on a rack is not always a sign of poor quality. We have picked affordable kayak racks that have good bang for the buck. If you’re willing to pay for peace of mind and brand trust, then you can’t go wrong with any Thule products. The Mockins name is equally synonymous with quality.
If you’re a bit cash strapped after purchasing a new kayak, however, then the TMS Adjustable Pick Up Truck Rack is a solid bet for frugal fun-seekers.
As you drive the wind noise from the kayak carrier system can be quite annoying. If your truck is not insulated and sound-proofed really well this can be a factor to consider carefully. Wind noise might seem like a small thing, but especially if you get a lot of miles with your kayak carrier you want to have the noise to a minimum.
Another thing to consider is the annoying strap vibration you get when the wind hits the straps just right.
Conlusions on kayak racks
All of the types of kayak racks we’ve listed as top contenders are well made, safe, and sturdy, so its basically up to personal preference which one you choose. You can’t go wrong as long as you pay attention to you and your truck’s needs. No matter what carrier system you choose, don’t forget to get some tie-down straps and stern lines as well!