Apart from the fact that Steven is a car mechanic, we value his experience as an avid camper. Steven knows for sure how to make the most out of any space in your vehicle.
Last updated: January 12, 2022
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Kayak roof racks make it easier to tie down your small vessel to the roof of your car without damaging the hull. We reviewed and tested some of the best kayak roof racks in the market by looking at their capacities, construction, use modes, and other extra features.
The capacity of each rack influences the size, weight, and the number of kayaks you can attach to the device. Additionally, the construction determines the longevity and durability of the rack. As for the use modes and other extra features, they dictate the convenience of using the device. As such, if you intend to acquire a kayak roof rack, we used these features to curate the list of top-tier purchase options below.
"The Original Universal Inflatable Roof Rack comes fitted with anti-corrosion metal parts and offers superior weight load capacity for kayaks in addition to air technology cushions to protect both your car and the vessel."
Starting off our list of the best rooftop kayak carriers in the market is the Thule Hull-a-Port Aero Rooftop Kayak Carrier. It’s a simple device to set up that you can use in three different modes. One is the saddle mode which holds one kayak. Another is the stacker mode for two kayaks, and lastly, there’s the saddle mode for two stand-up paddleboards. It’s also easy to lock this kayak carrier onto the roof of your car, which helps keep it safe. That said, there’s no way to lock the kayaks onto the carrier except for using tie-downs.
The Thule Hull-a-Port Aero Rooftop Kayak Carrier is an excellent selection if you don’t want to keep removing and reinstating the carrier on the rooftop of your car. It comes with a keylock, and as such, you can leave it attached to the vehicle even when it’s not in use. Additionally, it works for users who own both kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, thanks to the three use modes available.
Why is it special?
First, we liked the universal mounting hardware, which means this rack will attach to just about any roof rack system you come across, even if it’s from a different manufacturer. Also, the fact that it’s lockable to the rack system gives users peace of mind as they don’t have to worry about theft. It even folds down into a low profile when not in use.
What are the flaws?
The installation instructions provided with the Thule Hull-a-Port Aero Rooftop Kayak Carrier are not easy to understand, therefore complicating the process. For the few roof rack systems that are incompatible, buyers will need adapters which means more money out of their pockets. Lastly, the Hull-a-Port Aero is quite pricey compared to other kayak roof racks listed.
Another top-of-the-line kayak roof rack to make it onto the list is the Malone Stax Pro2 Universal Kayak Carrier. It’s designed to work with both passenger cars and trailers and features mostly aluminum construction. This makes the rack both lightweight and durable. Additionally, as implied by the name, it can hold two kayaks simultaneously as long as none of them weigh more than 50 lbs. Another characteristic of the rack is the foam stacker blocks that cushion your kayaks from damage while also stabilizing them with the help of tie-downs. Lastly, the posts that protrude at the top of the rack can also be folded down when not in use.
The Malone Stax Pro2 Universal Kayak Carrier works perfectly if you’re looking for a kayak roof rack that won’t require special tools or equipment to install. Additionally, it’s a great purchase if you want extra assurances on the quality of the device. After all, with a lifetime warranty, there should be nothing to worry about.
What makes it special?
In our opinion using aluminum to make most of the rack is an excellent choice as it makes it lightweight. Consequently, you won’t struggle with getting it onto your car, not to mention it’s durable as well. Next, the lifetime warranty is proof that the rack is durably made and expected to last a long time. Also, users and buyers don’t need any special tools to install the device on their vehicles.
What cons did we find?
First, the tie-down straps provided aren’t the best quality. Consequently, they don’t seem to hold tension well, which means your kayaks won’t be secure unless you spend more money on ratcheting straps. In our opinion, the foam stacker blocks don’t seem like they’re good quality either. They might hold for a while, but they’ll eventually need to be replaced as well.
The IKURAM R is another kayak roof rack made from aluminum to make it onto the list. It features high-density rubber components that protect your kayak or surfboard from rubbing onto the metal during transit. As such, you don’t have to worry about getting to your destination only to find out you’ve damaged the vessel. The device can hold two kayaks and has a weight capacity of 220 lbs. This makes it the device with the highest overall weight limit on the list. Also, there are four different configurations that make it suitable for carrying stand-up paddleboards, surfboards, and ski boards in addition to kayaks.
If you’re looking for a dual-kayak roof carrier that can handle relatively heavy boats, then the IKURAM R should be one of your top selections, thanks to the 220 lbs weight capacity. Also, it differentiates itself from competing roof racks by having large high-density rubber components that cushion your kayaks from damage by the aluminum construction of the device. The 4 in 1 design makes it suitable for carrying more than just kayaks.
What do we love it for?
We noticed the accessories provided with this purchase are high-quality. This included the tie-downs and rubbers that protect the kayak from rubbing on the metal construction of the rack. Additionally, the weight capacity is significant enough that you won’t have to worry about overloading the rack. Lastly, it works well with most vehicle crossbars.
What were we disappointed with?
In our opinion, this rack is less stable on round crossbars. As such, users with the same won’t have as much peace of mind during transit as those with square or oval crossbars. Also, we noticed the instructions provided with the rack are incomplete, which will negatively affect the installation. You can, however, find the missing information online.
The Epomaking Kayak Roof Carrier has a similar weight capacity to the IKURAM R Kayak/Surf/Ski Roof Carrier, in addition to similarities in construction materials used. As such, it can easily hold two kayaks in its default configuration. It can also be used for transporting canoes, SUPs, and more. The aluminum should be less susceptible to rust and corrosion, so you don’t need to worry about reduced structural integrity over time. Additionally, it’s padded upright and on the bottom supports to provide extra protection to the kayaks you carry.
Like the IKURAM R Kayak/Surf/Ski Roof Carrier, you pick the Epomaking Kayak Roof Carrier if you want a kayak rack that can handle two relatively heavy boats. It’s also one of the go-to options if you want more durability, given the waterproof, anti-corrosion, and rust-resistant construction. In addition to that, the device is also foldable and versatile enough to transport other water equipment such as SUPs, surfboards, and canoes.
What are its best features?
The overall design looks aesthetically pleasing and won’t be an eyesore on top of your car. Also, given that it’s waterproof and rust-resistant, it should maintain its aesthetics for a long time to come. The rubber components are well-positioned, which keeps your kayaks safe. Lastly, this rack attaches easily to most passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs.
What could be improved?
The installation instructions provided with the Epomaking Kayak Roof Carrier aren’t in English, which can complicate the setup process. Nevertheless, if you’re handy with tools and are used to DIY projects, you just might be able to pull off the installation without any glitches. Also, the straps included don’t inspire confidence. As such, it may be wiser to acquire ratchet straps and use them instead.
If aluminum or plastic construction doesn’t strike your fancy, you may be better off with the Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack made primarily of alloy steel. Notably, this is a two-rack capacity device. That said, the weight limit is 150 lbs meaning each rack is limited to 75 lbs. It generally folds up and down quite easily, so you can switch seamlessly between the kayak-carrying and low profiles. Also, whether you use factory, aerodynamic, or square crossbars, you’ll find this rack is easily compatible with your vehicle.
As mentioned above, this kayak rack is for users who prefer alloy steel construction over aluminum or plastic, thanks to its structural strength and durability. Additionally, this is an excellent selection if you want extra padding to keep the kayak’s hull from rubbing on the metal. Another differentiator is the almost universal mounting that works with most car crossbars.
Why are we impressed?
The kayak rack is powder-coated therefore eliminating susceptibility to rust and corrosion. Next, it ships as a set of four separate devices, which makes installation easier, not to mention you don’t have to install both pairs if you only intend on transporting one kayak. Also, even if you install all four devices, they are still foldable, so they can be out of your way if they’re not in use. Another positive is the foam padding, which protects your kayak hull from rubbing onto the metal during transit.
What negatives must you be aware of?
While it offers almost universal mounting for most cross rails, it’s worth noting that it won’t work with round crossbars. Also, the bolts provided are not as rust-resistant as the rest of the rack. Consequently, they’re bound to leave rust stains on your car over time. Lastly, in our opinion, the manufacturer could provide some better straps with the purchase.
As for the HandiRack, it’s one of two temporary pad kayak racks to make it onto the list. It’s made of nylon, and you don’t need crossbars to use it. Typically, it only carries one kayak and will fit any car with a four-door setup. This includes sedans, SUVs, and even some trucks. The install is one of the easiest you’ll encounter in the market, although you still need a pump since it’s inflatable. Other than that, there’s no other specialized equipment required. Also, while it consists mainly of nylon construction, there are some anti-corrosion metal parts such as the cam buckles and anchor rings.
The Original Universal Inflatable Roof Rack by HandiRack is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a rack that comes off the car easily after use. It installs easily and won’t need more than 10 minutes to attach to the car once you’re used to the process. Another differentiator for this kayak rack compared to other options is the air technology cushions that protect your vehicle and kayak from damaging each other.
Why did it make our list?
In our opinion, the setup for this kayak rack is one of the easiest you’ll encounter. Most users can even hack through it without paying attention to the instructions. Next, the metal components included, such as the cam buckles and anchor rings, are durable and both rust and corrosion-resistant for longevity.
What is not ideal about it?
One of the biggest cons is the straps running into the car during installation. As such, they’re bound to drain some of the rainwater into the vehicle's interior during wet weather. Also, they could interfere with the safety features in your car, such as the side curtain airbags that could be lifesavers in case of an accident.
The TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier can only handle one kayak at a time. This is to be expected given the affordability of the device. Also, these kayaks cannot be wider than 36,” and it has a 75 lbs weight limit which is more than enough for this size of kayak. Similar to the Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack, this option is made of alloy steel covered in padding to protect your kayaks. You can also adjust the padding to fit the size of your kayaks better.
The TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier should be one of your go-to options if you’re strapped for cash. One carrier will set you back $30, and even if you get an extra one, you still won’t have to spend more than $70. Also, if you’re looking to save some crossbar space for carrying something else, this rack is small enough to allow you to do that.
What stands out?
This rack is quite affordable especially compared to other kayak roof carriers in the market. Additionally, all the accessories necessary for mounting the rack onto the crossbars on your vehicle are neatly vacuum sealed and packaged so they should be easy to locate. This also makes installation easy. Another feature we liked is the adjustable padding, as it caters to different kayak sizes and keeps them protected from damage.
What cons did we manage to find?
We noticed the bolts are not weather-resistant, and thus they’re prone to rust and may even leave stains on the roof of your car. Additionally, they’re a bit too long, and users have to be careful not to dent their vehicles during the installation. The straps provided with the purchase also don’t seem like they’re good quality, and you should set some money aside for replacements.
Next is the ARTIPOLY Kayak Roof Rack, which has the biggest weight load capacity for a single kayak on the list. Its construction consists of aviation-grade aluminum in addition to rubber components. As such, it can easily handle use in various weather conditions without damage. Additionally, you can fold it out of the way whenever it’s not in use. Unlike most kayak roof racks that are incompatible with round crossbars, you won’t have to worry about that with the ARTIPOLY Kayak Roof Rack. Also, it comes fitted with paddle holders, which is a feature not available in most other kayak carriers.
The ARTIPOLY Kayak Roof Rack is for users who want more convenient storage and transportation of their kayak paddles in addition to the kayak itself. Additionally, it works well for users with bulky kayaks, given the 165 lbs weight capacity. Lastly, it differentiates itself by easily working with round crossbars, a feat that not many other kayak carriers can achieve.
What are its best features?
Compatibility-wise, the ARTIPOLY Kayak Roof Rack works with passenger cars, SUVs, and trucks, not to mention all kinds of crossbars you find in the market. Additionally, the device is quite durable and can handle heavy devices, as seen by the 165 lbs weight limit. Another positive is the unique but convenient paddle holder, which makes transporting kayaking accessories a lot easier. Lastly, it features a foldable design.
What could be improved?
While most of the kayak carrier’s construction is solid, the same cannot be said of the closing and opening mechanism. Consequently, it might break or come loose, although the device can still be used manually if this happens. In our opinion, you may also need to upgrade some of the tie-down straps with better quality alternatives for a more secure attachment to your kayaks.
The KUCCMO J-Bar Kayak Roof Rack is another carrier option that works with all types of crossbars except round ones. As for the capacity, it’s identical to that of the TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier, where the device can carry a maximum of one 36” kayak as long as it’s not heavier than 75 lbs. Buyers get this carrier with four 11.48 ft straps for tying down their kayaks. Additionally, the KUCCMO J-Bar Rack is made of stainless steel and is safe for all-weather use thanks to the anti-rust coating. The padding in this carrier is also adjustable to cater to different kayak sizes.
This kayak carrier is for users with 36” kayaks or smaller, thanks to the highly adjustable padding that caters well to the different kayak sizes within the set limits. Another key differentiator for the rack is the durable stainless steel construction with the anti-rust coating that’s bound to last through long periods of use.
Why did it make our list?
First, the adjustable padding is quite an asset to users as they can set it up to protect their kayaks. Additionally, the setup and installation process is easy and only takes a few minutes to complete. The stainless steel components are pretty durable and resistant to damage. What’s more, the anti-rust coating makes them weather resistant.
What is not ideal about it?
As mentioned above, the KUCCMO J-Bar Kayak Roof Rack won’t work with round crossbars. However, oval, square, and other variations of roof racks should work just fine. Additionally, we noticed the rack doesn’t fold flat, and as such, you may have to remove it from your car when it’s not in use. Lastly, the bolts provided to fasten the rack onto the crossbars are not rust-resistant.
Similar to the HandiRack, The Original Universal Inflatable Roof Rack, the MeeFar Universal Car Soft Roof Rack has a nylon fabric exterior. However, instead of being inflatable, this option comes fitted with EVA foam. As such, it will be easier to install. The design includes a built-in non-slip mat that supplements the tie-downs in keeping your kayaks stationary. Also, it’s compatible with most cars without crossbars. Lastly, it’s foldable and easily fits into the provided bag for storage.
The MeeFar Universal Car Soft Roof Rack is for users who want a kayak carrier that sets up in five minutes or less without needing any special equipment. It’s also for users who don’t have crossbars on their vehicles. One key differentiator in the design of this device is the non-slip mat that protects your kayak from scratches.
What makes it special?
In our opinion, the MeeFar Universal Car Soft Roof Rack is one of the easiest kayak carriers to set up. The whole process might even take less than five minutes. Additionally, it keeps your kayak safe from damage thanks to the non-slip mat and the EVA foam packed inside. Another positive is the easy storage. As mentioned above, it folds easily, and buyers are even provided with a storage bag.
What cons did we find?
Like the HandiRack The Original Universal Inflatable Roof Rack, the MeeFar Universal Car Soft Roof Rack’s straps are bound to cause dripping in your car if used in wet weather. Also, the straps provided are flimsy and unlikely to hold your kayaks in place during use. As such, you’ll have to budget for extra ratchet straps. Lastly, the MeeFar Universal Car Soft Roof Rack is quite pricey compared to other temporary pad alternatives.
Things to Consider
Ultimately choosing the best roof rack for your fishing kayak is not something you can do at random. You have to consider how well it caters to your kayak as well as your car. After all, the differences in kayak and car models can make the rack incompatible with your needs. As such, we’ve curated a buying guide so you know how to make the best selection.
How to Pick the Best Kayak Roof Rack
Given below is a summary of everything you have to think about to ensure you end up picking the best kayak roof rack.
First, you select the type of kayak roof rack you intend to use from among the five options available that include crossbars, temporary pads, J-cradles, stackers, and saddles. Crossbar kayak roof racks are also often called cross rails. These are typically two metal bars that run across the width of your car.
Crossbars may be provided by the manufacturer with the purchase of your car, or they may be aftermarket inclusions. They’re typically installed permanently on your vehicle and come in three variations, including square, round, and aerodynamic/oval options. A
Some users elect to place their kayaks directly onto the crossbars before tying them down for transport. However, this can also damage the kayaks due to friction between them and the metal bars. As such, it’s best to place some sort of padding such as pieces of rubber or foam between the two to keep the kayak protected. Notably, there aren’t any examples of crossbar kayak carriers on the list above.
Other users elect to use other kayak carriers mounted onto the crossbars, including the saddles, J-cradles, and stackers types we mentioned above. As for saddle kayak racks, they’re are also called horizontal kayak racks and allow the vessel to sit in its typical upright position. They consist of a single cradle or separate pieces that cradle your boat and can adjust to the width of your kayak.
Since this type of kayak roof carrier offers more surface area for contact between the kayak and the rack, it’s often more stable. Additionally, the positioning of the boat makes it more aerodynamic and may help cut down on wind resistance as you drive. They’re also often placed on top of crossbars. Unfortunately, there’s also no example of a saddle kayak rack on the list above.
J-cradles are the most common type of kayak roof carriers, and they make up the bulk of the list above. One example is the KUCCMO J-Bar Kayak Roof Rack. They typically have a J-shape design as the name implies and sit your kayak at a 45° angle on the crossbars. As such, if you opt for this option, you’ll have to load your kayaks via the side of the car.
They’re not ideal for shorter people who drive SUVs as they won’t have the reach to position the boats on the tops of their cars. They also don’t work for people with heavy kayaks unless they have an extra pair of hands when mounting and removing the boats from the rack.
One benefit is they take up very little roof space leaving you to mount other pieces of equipment on the roof of your car. On the other hand, Stackers position your kayaks in an upright position on their sides. This also allows the boat to take up less roof space, and you can often stack up more kayaks as a result. The Malone Stax Pro2 Universal Kayak Carrier is a prime example of a stacker kayak rack.
Once you’ve settled on the rack type, you can then consider the other variables mentioned below.
Of course, the kayak roof rack you buy has to be compatible with your vehicle, and most rack manufacturers will tell you the kind of vehicles their product is compatible with. The MeeFar Universal Car Soft Roof Rack, for instance, is designed to be compatible with passenger cars, especially if they don’t have cross rails. Alternatively, the ARTIPOLY Kayak Roof Rack works with passenger cars, SUVs, and even trucks.
Consequently, you should always confirm compatibility with your vehicle before pressing the checkout button on Amazon.
Number of Kayaks
Also, it won’t do you much good to buy a single-kayak carrier when you have two or more boats to transport. As shown above, different kayak carriers have different capacities. That said, there aren’t any options listed with a capacity for three or more kayaks.
Max. Weight Load
The maximum weight load of the kayak rack also comes into play. After all, kayaks come in all different shapes and sizes. In fact, the average kayak can weigh anywhere from 20 to 80 lbs.
If you have a kayak that weighs 80 lbs, you can’t pick options like the Malone Stax Pro2 Universal Kayak Carrier, which has a weight limit of 50 lbs per kayak as it might break under the excess weight. This will, of course, damage your vehicle and kayak as well and may even cause an accident on the road.
Ideally, you should pick a rack with a significantly higher weight limit compared to the weight of your boat. This should even allow you to store some accessories inside the kayak without worrying about the outcome.
Ease of Installation
Next, you look at the ease of installation. Some of the kayak roof rack models listed above may require special tools to attach them to the roof of your car. Of course, if you don’t have these tools at home, you’ll have to budget for them as extras. Others like the MeeFar Universal Car Soft Roof Rack don’t require any tools, and the installation can be done in a few minutes.
Also notable is that with some kayak roof racks, you only have to worry about installation once. This can make your work easier than options that require occasional installation and removal from your vehicle.
Materials and Durability
The materials used to make the roof rack should also play a big role in the model you select, especially if you want your purchase to last long. One of the more common materials you’ll encounter is aircraft-grade aluminum. According to the Wiley Online Library
Trusted SourceCharacterization of phases, tensile properties, and fracture toughness in aircraft‐grade aluminum alloysAircraft-grade aluminum alloys are principal structural material for aircraft parts because they combine high strength and low weight.
, aircraft-grade aluminum is used in airplanes since it combines high tensile strength and low weight properties.
It is these same properties that make it ideal for kayak roof racks in addition to the excellent anti-corrosive properties. As for stainless steel, another popular construction material for roof racks, Britannica
Trusted Sourcestainless steel | Definition, Composition, Types, & Facts | BritannicaStainless steel, any one of a group of alloy steels usually containing 10 to 30 percent chromium. In conjunction with low carbon content, chromium imparts remarkable resistance to corrosion and heat. Other elements may be added to increase resistance to corrosion and oxidation and impart special characteristics.
describes it as an alloy containing 10%-30% chromium with high corrosion resistance. It’s also has a higher tensile strength than most other steels.
These two materials are bound to improve the longevity of your rack, although there are others that are just as durable.
The dimensions are another area of interest as they tell you how well the device will fit onto your vehicle. If the device is too big for a small passenger car, you should opt for a smaller roof rack to better match your needs.
Also, check the weight as it could be a crucial factor during installation. If the device is too heavy, you may have trouble lifting it onto the vehicle and keeping it there as you fasten it. As such, opting for a lighter rack may be the better choice.
There may be some extra roof rack features to look into as well. Examples include security, warranties, the straps provided, and more. Each of these additional features is likely to offer users an extra benefit or two. As such, the more extra features you can get with your rack purchase, the better.
Often how you use your kayak roof rack will depend on the make, model, and type. For instance, you can’t use stackers the same way you use temporary pads. Nevertheless, before you can use the rack, you need to ensure it’s properly installed on your vehicle. This will keep it from coming off with your kayaks in transit. Ensure all the bolts and straps are tight enough.
After that, you need to position the cushioning pads to match the size of your kayak, so they can keep it protected. You don’t want the vessel’s hull rubbing on the metal or plastic parts of the roof rack as that will cause damage.
Next, you lift your kayak onto the rack. If it’s heavy, you may need an extra pair of hands. Rollers mounted on the back of your vehicle may also work to lighten the load as you push the boat onto the roof.
Once the kayak is well positioned on the rack, remember to tie it down with reliable straps per the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember, how you tie down your boat depends on the design of each rack.
Also, you might want to try shaking the kayak vigorously to ensure it’s tied down well enough before leaving home.
It’s possible to stack kayaks on top of each other, but you’ll need to add foam padding between them. This keeps them from damaging each other during transit. Also, it’s not advisable to stack more than two kayaks on top of each other.
Some roof racks, e.g., the temporary pad options, are designed to be taken on and off. Others are designed to permanently fit onto the cross rails at the top of your vehicle. That said, even with these options, you can still take them on and off if you want to.
As for the Malone Stax Pro2, it’s easy to install even without using tools, works with a dual-kayak setup, and comes with a lifetime warranty. Lastly, the IKURAM R is one of the best kayak roof racks thanks to the superior construction, high weight capacity, 4 in 1 design, and the high-quality accessories.
That said, if you feel the top three positions should go to a different set of kayak roof racks, comment down below and let us know.
Characterization of phases, tensile properties, and fracture toughness in aircraft‐grade aluminum alloys
Aircraft-grade aluminum alloys are principal structural material for aircraft parts because they combine high strength and low weight.
stainless steel | Definition, Composition, Types, & Facts | Britannica
Stainless steel, any one of a group of alloy steels usually containing 10 to 30 percent chromium. In conjunction with low carbon content, chromium imparts remarkable resistance to corrosion and heat. Other elements may be added to increase resistance to corrosion and oxidation and impart special characteristics.