Searching for kayak racks for trucks can be daunting. There are countless review articles online and many similar products to sift through.
Kayak roof racks are too important a piece of equipment to purchase without understanding the ins and outs of each model.
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.
Best Kayak Truck Racks
Best All-in-One 2-Kayak System: AA Model APX25
We named the APX25 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 straight out of the package. Included is the kayak roof rack, 4 j-racks to hold 2 kayaks, 8 c-clamps, and ratchet straps.
What beds is it compatible with?
The AA Model APX25 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 ones with a utility track system, tool box or side box, or non-standard truck beds like an Avalanche or Honda Ridgeline.
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 watercraft in place.
One adventure traveler added an extra set of J-racks and had a great experience taking their APX25 cross-country:
“I just took a 2500 mile round trip with 3 kayaks through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Arizona, where at a time speed limits are up to 80 mph and severe side winds can be encountered. I have the rack attached with 2 c-clamps per side, per bar (a 4 total c-clamps per bar) and it was completely solid. I never had any issues at all with stability. We never used any bow or stern lines.”
Unlike some other kayak racks, you can hold any craft up to 16 feet long. That even includes canoes!
The total of one or both kayaks can be up to 2200 pounds, and you can rest assured knowing they’ve been tested by the company.
Easy no-drill installation
Looking for a truck rack that’s easy to install and deconstruct?
This AA Model APX25 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.
Best Truck Bed Extender: AMP Research 74813 BedXTender
The AMP Research 74813 BedXTender 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 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 AMP Bed Xtender 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.
Best Goal Post Truck Rack: Darby Industries Extend-A-Truck
The Darby Industries Extend-A-Truck is a goal post truck rack. This 25-pound 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 Darby product is the included red flag and receiver hitch. As long as you have a class III or class IV hitch with a 2-inch receiver, you can use this product. Consequently, you don’t have to do any guesswork to buy accessories.
The only things you will need to purchase are the ratchet straps for securing your craft for the journey to your water-filled destination.
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 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 Extend-A-Truck, with multiple users describing it as ‘versatile’, ‘no brainer’, ‘easy to use’, and even ‘ingenious’.
Whatever items you decide to carry on your Darby, it supports equipment up to 350 pounds and 4 feet 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!
Best Adjustable Bar Truck Rack: Thule Xsporter Pro Aluminum
The Thule Xsporter Pro Aluminum 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 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.
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 Aluminum 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 your truck.
Best Affordable Kayak Truck Rack: TMS Adjustable Pick Up 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 the most affordable item 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 custom making something, which can get pricey. In lieu of a quality and affordable standard vertical kayak rack for your RV, 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!
Best RV Kayak Rack: Malone MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package
The Malone 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.
Malone 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.
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?
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.
- 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?
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, like the AMP Bed Xtender or the Darby Extend-A-Truck option.
- 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 APX25 ones.
If you’re willing to pay for peace of mind and brand trust, then you can’t go wrong with any Thule products. The Malone 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.
All of the products we’ve listed as top contenders are well made, safe, and sturdy, so you can’t go wrong as long as you pay attention to you and your truck’s needs.
Last update on 2019-10-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API