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The 9 Best Kayak Roof Systems [2023]

Amar Hussain's image
Amar Hussain
Amar Hussain's image

Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

Countries Visited: 44U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

We may be compensated when you click on product links, such as credit cards, from one or more of our advertising partners. Terms apply to the offers below. See our Advertising Policy for more about our partners, how we make money, and our rating methodology. Opinions and recommendations are ours alone.

Kayaks are a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy the water, but transporting them can be a pain. That’s where kayak roof systems come in. They allow you to easily carry your kayak on the roof of your vehicle. Not only are they convenient, but they also provide added safety and security while you’re on the road.

We will discuss what kayak roof systems are, their benefits, and all the factors you need to consider before making a purchase. Let’s take a deep dive into the world of kayak roof systems.

Things To Consider With Kayak Roof Systems

Before we look at our top picks, let’s first go over a few things you should keep in mind when shopping for a kayak roof system.

Capacity

You’ll want to make sure your roof rack can accommodate your kayak — or kayaks if you’re carrying more than 1.

Your roof racks should be able to hold at least the weight of your kayak. It’s a good idea to aim for the next weight category up so that you know your kayak will be safe.

Ease of Use

Another important thing to consider about roof racks is their ease of use. After all, you don’t want to be struggling to put your kayak on the roof of your car when you’re trying to enjoy a day out on the water.

Some systems come equipped with features that make them easier to use, such as straps with easy-to-use cam buckles. Others require a little more effort to put in place, but they may be more affordable.

Compatibility

You need to make sure that the roof rack system you’re considering is compatible with your car. There are a few different ways to do this. The best way is to consult your car’s owner’s manual.

It will likely have a specific section on roof racks and list the types compatible with your car. However, if you can’t find this information in your owner’s manual, you can also check the website of the roof rack manufacturer. It should have a list of compatible vehicles for each of its products.

You also should consider the compatibility between the roof racks and your kayak. To transport your kayak, you’ll need to have some way of attaching it to the roof racks.

Hot Tip: Most systems come with straps or other attachment devices, but it’s always a good idea to double-check that they will work with your particular kayak.

Security

Security is one of the most important things to consider when carrying anything on the roof of your car. After all, you don’t want your kayak to come flying off while you’re driving down the highway.

When it comes to security, there are a few things you’ll want to look for in a roof rack system. First, ensure it’s equipped with strong straps to hold your kayak in place.

Next, you’ll want to look for a system with some sort of locking mechanism. This will help ensure that your kayak stays put even if the straps come loose.

Finally, you’ll want to make sure the roof rack system is attached to your car securely. The last thing you want is for the whole system to come loose while you’re driving.

Material

When it comes to roof rack systems, there are 2 main types of materials: steel and aluminum. Steel is the most common type of material used in these systems. Steel is strong and durable, which is important when you’re carrying something as heavy as a kayak on the roof of your car.

Aluminum is another option that’s becoming more popular. It’s lighter than steel, which can be important if you’re worried about your car’s fuel efficiency. It’s also less likely to rust, which is a major advantage if you live in an area with a lot of salt on the roads (such as near the ocean).

The 9 Best Kayak Roof Systems

Now that we know what to look for in a roof rack system, it’s time to take a look at some of the best products on the market.

1. Kayak Rack With 2 “J Bars”

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Leader Accessories Store Roof Top Crossbar

The Leader Accessories roof rack system is made of steel, can hold up to 150 pounds, and is very durable. It also has a black powder-coat finish, which helps protect it from the elements.

One of the best features of this roof rack system is that it comes with everything you need to get started. It includes 2 kayak racks, 4 straps, and all the necessary hardware. It also has a universal design, meaning that it will work with most types of vehicles.

The only downside is that it’s not compatible with vehicles that have gutters. However, you can still use it with these types of vehicles if you purchase a gutter mount kit.

What We Like

  • Heavy-duty construction

What We Don’t Like

  • The setup process requires a bit more time

2. Premium Kayak Carrier With Lift-assist

Thule Hullavator Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use roof rack system, then you might want to consider the Thule Hullavator Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier. This system is designed to make it easy to load and unload your kayak by yourself.

It does this by using gas-assist struts to lift the kayak onto the roof of your car. This is a great feature if you’re worried about hurting your back when trying to lift a heavy kayak.

The Thule Hullavator Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier also includes 2 ratchet straps, which will help keep your kayak secure while you’re driving. While it does have a premium price point, you’ll definitely appreciate this system’s ease of use.

What We Like

  • The lift-assist feature

What We Don’t Like

  • The high price tag

3. Car Roof Rack Pad With Anti-vibration Feature

Stanley Universal Car Roof Rack Pad

If you want an affordable option, you may want to consider the Stanley Universal Car Roof Rack Pad. This system is made of a heavy-duty PVC material, which is designed to withstand the elements and can hold up to 110 pounds.

The polyethylene foam filling absorbs shock and reduces vibrations. It also includes 4 adjustable straps, which will help keep your kayak in place while driving. The only downside is that it doesn’t come with a locking system. However, you can always purchase one separately if you feel like you need the extra security.

Overall, this is a great option for anyone looking for an affordable way to transport their kayak.

What We Like

  • Easy to set up and mount your kayak

What We Don’t Like

  • There’s no locking system equipped

4. Universal Inflatable Roof Rack With Bars

HandiRack Universal Inflatable Soft Roof Rack Bars

With this inflatable option, you can really save a lot of time and money by not having to go out and purchase a roof rack system. The HandiRack Universal Inflatable Soft Roof Rack Bars are designed to be used with any type of vehicle.

All you need to do is inflate them and then strap them onto the roof of your car. They also come with 2 ratchet straps, which will help to keep your kayak secure while you’re driving.

They’re a great option for those looking for an affordable and easy-to-use roof rack system. Best of all, they come with a 1-year warranty, so you’re covered should they spring a leak.

What We Like

  • Universal design with ratchet straps

What We Don’t Like

  • Not the most durable option

5. Soft Roof Rack for Kayaks

Alfa Gear Universal Kayak Soft Roof Rack

With a special design and plenty of durability, the Alfa Gear Universal Kayak Soft Roof Rack is definitely one of the best systems out there. This system is made of a 600D polyester material designed to withstand anything the weather throws at it

It also comes with 4 straps, which will help keep your kayak in place while driving. This system can support up to 200 pounds — perfect for 2 kayaks.

It’s a great option for those who are looking for a durable and long-lasting roof rack system. It also comes with a compact 20-inch storage bag when not in use.

What We Like

  • Supports 200 pounds

What We Don’t Like

  • Slight movement when turning

6. Great for Those Without Roof Bars

MeeFar Universal Car Soft Roof Rack
906 Reviews
MeeFar Universal Car Soft Roof Rack
This car rack set has everything you need to safely transport outdoor sporting gear. You can even use it to transport lumber if you have a construction project coming up.

MeeFar Universal Car Soft Roof Rack

The MeeFar Universal Car Soft Roof Rack is another great option for those looking for an affordable and easy-to-use roof rack system. This soft roof rack is made of a 700D polyester material with around 3 inches of EVA foam to keep both your vehicle and your kayak protected.

The MeeFar Universal roof rack comes with 4 straps, which will help keep your kayak in place while you’re driving. Possibly the best thing for those who like to travel, this roof rack is very easy to store and keep safe. The only thing you need to do is fold it and put it away.

You don’t have to worry about compatibility as this roof rack can be attached to any type of car. With straps, ropes, and a storage bag included, you have everything you need to transport your kayak safely.

What We Like

  • Easy to store

What We Don’t Like

  • Not as durable as steel systems

7. Multi-functional Carrier With 3 Carrying Positions

DRSPORTS Universal Foldable Kayak Canoe
1,707 Reviews
DRSPORTS Universal Foldable Kayak Canoe
These car racks are adjustable and can be installed in multiple ways. No matter what you're planning to transport, you'll be able to use these racks to secure your belongings.

DRSPORTS J-Bar Kayak Rack Roof

This roof rack is made of very sturdy and durable steel tubing that’s capable of handling 2 kayaks up to 75 pounds each.

Coming with 4 lashing straps and 4 hook ropes, this roof rack will make sure your kayak stays in place no matter where you go. The J-shape design is specially made to provide better support and stability for your kayaks.

Additionally, the soft foam padding and rubber base will ensure your car roof is not damaged or scratched. This roof rack is also very easy to install as it comes with all the necessary hardware and instructions.

What We Like

  • The J-shape design

What We Don’t Like

  • Setup requires a bit of time

8. Discreet and Rust-resistant Kayak Roof Rack

Onefeng Sports 135LB Kayak Saddle
398 Reviews
Onefeng Sports 135LB Kayak Saddle
These roof racks are strong and secure enough to reliably transport your gear. However, they’re also durable. They also come with thick straps that are easy to tie and won't rip.

Onefeng Sports Aluminum Kayak Roof Rack

The Onefeng Kayak Roof Rack is one of the most convenient and discreet options you can find. This roof rack is constructed of a sturdy and lasting aluminum material that will see you through many seasons out on the water.

With 180-degree rotation, it can move to accommodate any shape of kayak weighing up to 135 pounds. The anti-sliding rubber is extremely effective at keeping your kayak secure, and it also prevents scratches on your vehicle.

This roof rack is very easy to install, and it’s universal. All in all, it’s a great investment for those who love to go kayaking.

What We Like

  • Very secure

What We Don’t Like

  • The kayak has to be placed rather than slid on your car’s roof

9. Side-loading Carrier With Cushioning Pads

DISCOUNT: 17%
Rhino-Rack Nautic 570 Series
238 Reviews
Rhino-Rack Nautic 570 Series
The Rhino-Rack company is so sure you'll love this model that it even comes with a 3-year warranty. You can even use these racks if you prefer to side-load your car rather than top-load it.

Rhino-Rack Kayak Carrier

The Rhino-Rack is a roof rack system that is perfect for kayaks, SUPs, or canoes. What’s more is that the hardware is a universal fit and can be attached to elliptical, round, and square cross bars.

This carrier comes with 4 Santoprene rubber pads that will cushion and secure your kayak without putting any stress on the hull. The innovative 180-degree rotation of the cradles makes loading and unloading your kayak a breeze.

Designed and engineered in Australia, the Rhino-Rack comes with a 3-year warranty for your peace of mind.

What We Like

  • High-quality cradles

What We Don’t Like

  • Allen bolts are a bit fiddly

Final Thoughts

There’s no need to worry about the safety of your kayak if you go with any of the roof racks on our list. With so many different options available, you’re sure to find the perfect one for your needs.

Be sure to consider all of the factors we mentioned before making your purchase. Then, with the right roof rack, you can enjoy your kayaking adventures worry-free.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need cross bars for a kayak rack?

You will need cross bars in order to install a kayak rack. Depending on the model, these can be purchased separately or as part of a roof rack system.

Do you need to tie down the front and back of the kayak?

You should tie down both the front and back of the kayak for extra security. This can be done with straps or rope, depending on the roof rack system.

How do I choose a kayak rack?

Choosing a good kayak rack requires you to find the most suitable option for your needs. You should consider the car you have, the size of your kayak, the security, and how often you’ll use the rack.

What are the best roof racks for kayaks?

There’s no definite answer as to what the best roof racks for kayaks are. It really depends on your specific needs and preferences. Consider how many kayaks you will need to transport, the ease of use, the compatibility with your car, the security, and the material.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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