Best Kayak Rack For Trucks | Your Guide To The Best Truck Kayak Racks | AutoDeets


Kayaks are a great way to explore the amazing sights around you, even as you’re exercising and having fun. Owning a kayak can be a rewarding experience, especially if you’re someone who enjoys spending time outdoors. You can experience the water, see colorful wildlife, and challenge yourself to achieve more. Kayaks open many doors to new opportunities.  You also may be wondering how to haul it.  Well we’ve got you covered with the best kayak rack for trucks listed below:

1.TracRac TracONE Universal Truck RackCheck Price
2.Apex ATR-RACK Ladder RackCheck Price
3.Pick Up Truck Bed Hitch Extender Extension RACKCheck Price
4.MaxxHaul Hitch Mount Truck Bed ExtenderCheck Price
5.TMS T-NS-HITCH-BED-EXTENDER Hitch-Mounted Extender RackCheck Price
6.TMS Universal Pick Up Truck Ladder RackCheck Price
7.AA Products Inc. Extendable Aluminum Pick-Up Truck Ladder RackCheck Price

Not all kayaks are equal, or even shaped the same. Sometimes confused with a canoe, kayaks are small, slim boats that are most often made for one occupant. While you can purchase tandem kayaks that hold more than one person, these tiny water boats are most often used in a variety of situations, from leisure and recreation to surfing and competition. The type of kayak you invest in determines what waters you’re able to excel in, so it’s important to know what you’ve got before you go out on the water—and find yourself up a stream.

To know what type of kayak rack is best for you, let’s first take a closer look at the types of kayaks out there. Each type of kayak will require a different kind of rack depending upon their size and weight. There are also many other factors that go into deciding what kayak rack to invest in. After you determine what type of kayak you have, you’ll be better prepared to purchase the right type of kayak rack.

Do you know what type of kayak you own?

Types of Kayaks

Kayaks are most often categorized by size and shape, because depending on their dimensions, they can be used for slower, leisure activities, or for racing and surfing. It’s a bit like buying a limousine or a tiny sports car. Except for the part about the water. 

Northwest River Supplies categorizes kayaks based on where they will be used. This is a great way to think about kayaks because you’ll want to start associating each type of kayak with the water and terrain that they’re best implemented in. That way you’ll know if the kayak you own is one that can tackle the type of water before you. And more importantly, if you’re capable of handling the type of water your kayak is meant for.

The first type of kayak is a creek boat. These are going to be the kayaks you see the most because they’re best used for leisure and beginners. These are your slow kayaks. Typically longer in length, they are a high-volume kayak with larger deck shapes to shed water. Some creek boats might have “chines,” which are small ridges on the bottom of the boat that allow the kayak to steer through the water better.

Downriver boats also allow you to cruise in comfort, but are a bit smaller in size than creek boats. Though they retain a longer length to cut through the water at a straight angle, because they are smaller, they are able to move more quickly through the water. This type of boat is best suited to those who want to learn how to ride in surfing kayaks, but are still learning all the mechanics.

Related: Best Kayak Roof Rack

Play boats are the final type of kayak as defined by Northwest River Supplies. These types of kayaks are used for surfing and cutting through the water with a very deliberate angle in mind. The volume of play boats is centered around the cockpit, and the chines located on this type of kayak are more profound than those on creek or downriver boats. Usually only one person rides in a play boat.

Marine Insight also lists a variety of kayaks that can be used in many different locations. Leisure kayaks are lightweight and durable and can easily be maneuvered in mild waters. Sometimes leisure kayaks will come as a two-seater, so you and a friend or loved one can enjoy the outdoors together.

Fishing kayaks are manufactured in 2 styles: sit-in and sit-on. This designation shows where the occupant is located in terms of sitting position. Sit-in kayaks are best for shallow waters with a strong current. If most of your body weight is located inside the kayak’s form, you are less likely to tip over or fall out. Sit-on kayaks should be used in warmer waters where you can move about freely and not have to worry about strong currents or waterfalls.

Lastly, ocean or touring kayaks are built for the long-haul. They include many storage compartments in their design, and are stronger and more durable for longer use. Comfort is usually a big factor in touring kayaks, because riders will be occupying the cockpit for long periods of time—and you can’t exactly get out to stretch your legs.

Now that you know a bit more about the types of kayaks on the market today, let’s take a closer look at some of the terms you might hear or see. Knowing the proper terms for the parts of your kayak will help you understand what each component does and what to do in case of a malfunction. It will also be easier to talk to a salesperson if you’re trying to explain the specific part you’re looking for.  

Kayak Terminology 

There are 4 main terms you’ll want to memorize if you own a kayak. Each term differentiates one kayak from another, so knowing the differences will help you not only in the buying process, but will aid you in considering where to bring your kayak the next time you’ve got some free time.

Here are those 4 key terms:

  • Volume:

    This term describes the inner capacity of a kayak, measured in gallons. High-volume kayaks shed water quickly as the ends are ballooned up high. This banana-like shape allows the high-volume kayak to stay above the surface of the water. Low-volume kayaks have thinner, pinched ends that cut into the water. However, you shouldn’t use a low-volume kayak in whitewater rapids because the low-slung ends will have a hard time staying above the surface of the water.

  • Hull:

    There are 2 types of hulls: displacement and planing. Displacement hulls are the traditional form of the shape of the bottom of the kayak. Planing hulls have a flat bottom that allows them to cut through the water at low speeds and buoys them above the top of the water at higher speeds.

  • Chines:

    Chines are small ridges on the bottom of your kayak that help it move through the water. Depending on the severity of your chines—how hard or soft they are—you are either able to plow through the water more easily or be able to move in a straighter line. Think of chines like the fins of a fish.

  • Rockers:

    This designation is used to describe the curve of the bottom of the boat. Rockers can either be kick or continuous. Kick rockers are similar to planing hulls in that they cut through the water, while continuous hulls allow the water to flow by the kayak with greater ease.

Now that you know more about your kayak, let’s take a closer look at how to choose one that fits your style. 

How to Choose a Kayak 

If you’re considering what kayak to buy, the best place to begin is the used market. New kayak styles are coming out consistently, so seasoned kayakers are looking to get rid of their current set-up and try out what the latest and greatest kayak has to offer. While you’ll still want to make sure you’re getting a decent kayak for the money, buying a used one is less of an initial investment.

If you’re unsure about buying from the used market—whether it be because you think you might end up with a cheap kayak, or you aren’t sure which one to even look for—check out your local kayaking club. Ask members if they’ll allow you to sit in their kayaks, and better yet, pick their brain while you’re there. Ask them what sort of kayaks they started out with, and those that they recommend. If they’re from your area, they’ll know where to start out as well, and where the best places are to practice. Who knows? If you find yourself kayaking a lot, you may even join that kayaking club!

It’s important to consider your budget as well. The kayak itself is an initial investment, but what about the accessories and gear you’ll need to buy as well? This is another great question to ask members of the kayak club. What is the minimum in terms of gear that you’ll need to get started, and where did they buy their kayaks and gear? It’s always good to research prices and deals yourself, but it can’t hurt to find out what’s out there locally too.

Related: Best Ratchet Straps

Owning a full-size kayak also means storing a full-size kayak, so if you don’t have access to the space or simply don’t want to wrestle with one all by yourself, there are alternative types of kayaks out there. Folding kayaks are a cinch to store and transport, but they aren’t necessarily as durable as solid models. Full of hot air? Invest in an inflatable kayak. They’re great for flowing rivers and are surprisingly sturdy. You can also invest in tandem kayaks if you’re interested in sharing your kayaking experience.

While each alternative kayak varies in terms of materials, most kayaks are made of polyethylene plastic, ABS plastic, or composites. If you end up purchasing a polyethylene plastic kayak, make sure you store it in a covered location, as the plastic could fade and deteriorate quickly. ABS plastic is a bit more UV resistant, but we don’t recommend leaving it out in the sun either. Composites are much more expensive, but they come with added performance and durability.

Most kayaks will have a recommended weight range. It’s best if you can put yourself in the middle of this range, because theoretically that is the optimal point for the kayak in terms of performance. If it’s not possible to truly put yourself near the middle of the range, go for the larger kayak that can hold more weight. It’s better to have more wiggle room, literally.

The most important part of searching for a kayak is simply taking the plunge with one you feel remotely confident with. You’re not only going to have to learn the styles of what’s out there, but you’re going to have to get used to what you prefer as well. It’s better to start somewhere, gain knowledge, and then invest in a different kayak than to never start at all. Check out the models that are out there, sit in as many kayaks as you can, and let your body decide.

After you’ve purchased a kayak, you’ll want to invest in a few accessories before you take your first ride on the water. The first accessory you should invest in is a paddle. 

Choosing a Kayak Paddle 

Picking out the right kayak paddle is all about listening to your body as well. There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind as you search for a kayak paddle, including: the width of your kayak at its widest point as well as your height; the materials and price point you prefer; blade styles; and finally, shaft choice. With the right combination of each of these factors, you should be able to find a dependable paddle that will make kayaking that much more fun.

It stands to reason that if you’re a taller kayaker, you’re probably going to want a longer paddle length. At the same time, if you have a wider kayak, this is also true. If you’re not sure exactly how wide your kayak is, here’s a quick-reference guide to most types of kayaks:

  • Recreational kayaks are 26 to 30 inches wide.
  • Touring kayaks are a bit smaller, at 22 to 25 inches in width.
  • Performance kayaks are meant for speed and agility, so they tend to be 19 to 22 inches wide.

The next factor that comes into play is weight, as it takes most folks a bit of time to get used to the rigors of paddling a kayak. Plastic paddles are a cheap alternative to more expensive ones made of carbon-fiber, but they can degrade easily when left out in the sun. If you’re not looking to spend a fortune to get the lightest and most dependable, opt for a fiberglass paddle instead. While still lightweight enough that you’ll notice a difference, they make up the middle ground in kayak paddles.

Related: Cargo Hitch Carrier

For a quick paddle selection test, first, extend your arms out from your body, forming a “T” shape. Next, fold your elbows 90 degrees to where your palms are upwards, facing the sky. This is the position you’ll want to hold your kayak paddle in. If you center the kayak paddle on one side of your head, your hand should be about 2/3 of the way between your head and the kayak blade. Check out the helpful pictures if you still need more guidance.

Choosing a kayak paddle can often be as time-consuming as picking the kayak itself, but rest assured, once you find the correct paddle that feels best in your hands, your kayaking experience will be that much better. 

Store your Kayak Properly 

While you’re not on the water, you’ll want to make sure you store your kayak properly. Most kayak storage racks are similar in shape and principal to kayak racks for your car, but the best are designed to keep your kayak as intact as the day you bought it. Let’s take a closer look at how you can best store your kayak.

Before you even get out the hammer and nails, attend to your kayak first. Thoroughly clean the kayak with warm, soapy water and allow it to dry completely before you store it. Clean any accessories, seats, or accompanying equipment as well. That way, the next time you go out for a kayak ride, you’re all set to load up your gear and go. No chores necessary!

Storing your kayak indoors doesn’t mean just plopping it down in a corner and leaving it. Kayaks should be stored upside down, vertical, or sideways, but never directly on the hull. If you choose to hang the kayak, be sure that those points bearing the weight of the kayak are able to take the stress. If you place hanging points in a weak spot, the kayak will deform and lose its proper shape.

It’s best to store your kayak indoors if you can, in a basement or garage, but even if you do need to store the kayak outside, you want to protect your investment. Cover your kayak with a tarp, but make sure to leave a gap. Wet tarps that rest on kayaks can cause mold and fungi and are not pleasant to clean.

It is recommended to lubricate any moving metal parts on your kayak and tighten all screws, nuts, and bolts down. You certainly don’t want to come back to your kayak the next year and find screws missing. The same kayak experts recommend conditioning your kayak with 303 Aerospace Protectant as well. Locking in the moisture of your kayak will help it retain value.

Finally, never store your kayak on a wheel cart or mobile storage platform. These are to be used for transportation purposes only.

Before we begin looking at the top 7 kayak racks out there, we’re going to discuss what a strong, dependable, and reliable kayak rack looks like. These will be key characteristics you’ll want to keep in mind as you shop, and may even help you choose between different kinds of kayak racks. Keep reading to find out more!  

How to Choose the Right Kayak Rack 

There are a few key questions about your kayak that you’ll want to ask yourself before you even open up your internet browser. The first thing you’ll want to do is familiarize yourself with the parts of a kayak rack. Yes, kayak racks are not simply one-piece contraptions; they are made up of a number of working parts that make up a very useful whole. Here are the main components to your typical kayak rack:

  • Mount: The kayak rack mount is the actual component that attaches to your vehicle. Most often it is specific to the make, model, and year of your particular automobile.
  • Tower: Think about the towers as the lifting points that allow you to carry your kayak above the surface of your car’s roof.
  • Cross bars: These bars run the width of your car, providing a tray-like cushion for your kayak’s hull.

Each kayak rack is different, just like each kayak itself varies, but the best way to know what kayak rack will work for your vehicle is to visit your local marina or kayak club and chat with their members. What kayak racks have they found to be useful and worth the money, and which ones do they recommend? Not all research happens online.

Probably the most important aspect is knowing what type of kayak you have and how far away you’ll have to transport it. It’s a much different thing to drive 15-20 miles at low speeds to get to your destination than it is driving at 75 miles-per-hour for 3 hours.

Also important is the number of kayaks you will be transporting, and on what car. If you’re traveling with multiple kayaks, do you also have room to transport your gear as well? Most often, it’s best to own an SUV or truck if you’re going to be hauling kayaks. Small cars can get the job done, but SUVs and trucks are going to be a safer, more reliable option. Most SUVs and trucks come equipped with tie-down points and are specifically made for tasks just like transporting a kayak.

The next part of the process is determining whether or not you’re going to be alone when you have to load your kayak, or if you’ll have help. Each kayak rack is made with a specific scenario in mind, so investing in ones that help individuals can be a great way to feel empowered and get the job done yourself. All the same, isn’t it great to spend time outdoors with friends and family? Whichever scenario you find yourself in, plan ahead and prepare before you purchase a kayak rack.

Still want more tips? Check out this video, which talks more about what you’ll need to know before choosing a kayak rack. Or, you can skip ahead to our top 7 kayak racks for your truck. 

Kayak Rack Styles 

In general, there are 2 popular types of kayak racks: J-style and saddle. Each has their own pros and cons, but either will get the job done, just in a different way.

J-style kayak racks are your typical kayak rack design. Kayaks are stored vertically, so these types of racks are great for smaller cars. You can also pair a bike or cargo rack with a J-style kayak rack if necessary. In summary, J-style kayak racks are best for cars lower to the ground and taller kayak owners who are able to lift the kayak directly onto the rack itself.

Saddle racks are better for transporting a kayak short distances, because really all you’re doing is laying the kayak on top of your car and tying it down. While it may not seem like the safest rack out there, it’s great for someone who doesn’t have an extra set of hands—or the muscle power—to lift the kayak onto a taller vehicle’s roof. These racks, however, can cause more damage to your vehicle than J-style racks might.

The most important thing to consider is buying a rack that will fit your needs. If you’re not able to lift your kayak above your head and onto your car by yourself, saddle racks are probably the best option for you. J-style racks are best for those who want to protect their vehicle.

Saddle racks are what others might refer to as horizontal racks, while J-racks are considered to be vertical racks. As you saw, each style has its pros and cons, but there are other styles out there as well.

For example, roller lift assistance racks, like saddle racks, are great for individuals who struggle with lifting their kayaks. The rollers allow for a smooth surface when pushing the kayak onto your car’s roof. If you want to get even more fancy, they do make lift assisted kayak racks that use pneumatic gas struts. While it may seem a bit excessive, who wants to throw out their back lifting the kayak when they could be paddling it in peace?

If your car doesn’t come with roof rails or attachment points, don’t sweat it! There are plenty of racks out there that can be mounted to cars with a smooth, bare roof. Most of these systems use clips that mount to the door jambs, while others require the use of the built-in rain gutters found on older cars. The most extreme is permanently mounting a rack to your car, but if you’re not in love with your kayak, it’s okay. You don’t have to make such a commitment. 

Consider this When Shopping for a Kayak Rack 

As you perform Google searches, visit stores, and talk to people who own kayaks, keep these things in mind when considering purchasing a kayak rack:

  • What type of kayak do you have?
  • How many kayaks will you need to transport?
  • What vehicle will you be using to transport your kayak(s)?
  • What is your budget?

Depending on what type of car owner you are, you might also consider installing clear bra material on your car’s paint before mounting a kayak rack. Clear bra is a stretchy, transparent film that acts as a barrier between objects that might damage your car and the paint. Most often it is used on the front of your vehicle, to protect the front fascia, but it can be a relatively inexpensive investment if you plan on reselling your car. The clear bra should not hinder the kayak rack installation process either.

Let’s get down to it! Here are 7 of the best kayak rack for trucks out there that will fit on your truck. Narrow down which choices you prefer, go visit some more stores, and finally, invest in the opportunity to explore new places and make new memories with your kayak. Don’t let transporting it stand in the way of you having fun! 

Top 7 Best Kayak Rack for Trucks

 1. TracRac TracONE Universal Truck Rack 

Number one on our list of kayak racks for trucks is this silver rack from TracRac. This rack can hold up to 800 evenly-distributed pounds of weight and is a one-size-fits-all rack for any truck. While it is the priciest rack on our list, coming in at around $350, there are a lot of great features customers will enjoy, and we think may make up for the higher cost.

Some of those features include elliptical crossbars that are custom-formed to minimize wind resistance, trip strips that are inserted within the slots of the crossbars to prevent noise while driving, and aluminum crossbars powder-coated to prevent weathering and damage. When installed, this kayak rack sits about 26 inches high. The aerodynamics of this rack make it quiet during transport and it’s dynamic enough that it will allow you to adapt to any of your toy-hauling needs.

Crossbars on the TracRac TracONE measure 65 inches by 4 inches by 1.5 inches. The internal structuring on the crossbars provides added strength, but the nice thing about this kayak rack is that you don’t have to cut into your truck to install it. In about an hour, this kayak rack installs via single-axis C-clamps that mount inside the truck bed. Don’t feel like carrying your kayak this weekend? No problem! You can simply remove the kayak rack and store it for its next use. That’s the great thing about this particular kayak rack.

Customers who buy this rack will also receive adjustable composite tie-down loops. This kayak rack is compatible with the Thule DockGrip and DockGlide Kayak carriers, which are sold separately.

If you’re in the market for the best-of-the-best, check out this kayak rack from TracRac. It’s a great investment if you kayak a lot. You can also remove the kayak rack from your truck, so there’s no permanent installation that stops your truck from being all it can be.

But if you’re operating on a budget, keep reading! We’ve got 6 more kayak racks, one of which is sure to fit your needs.

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2. Apex ATR-RACK Ladder Rack

Here’s another great rack if you don’t want to drill into your truck. Apex offers the Ladder Rack, which weighs 38 pounds and measures 12.6 by 66.5 by 30 inches. Also capable of holding up to 800 pounds, Apex’s Ladder Rack features durable heavy-duty aluminum construction that will withstand the worst of conditions.

This universal truck rack from Apex will fit on most pickup truck models. Patented clamps secure the rack to the pickup bed, ensuring a tight fit and safe transport. This kayak rack package comes with 4 upright posts and 2 fully-adjustable crossbars with built-in ladder stops. While it may seem a bit bare bones, this kayak rack by Apex is a great alternative if you’re wanting to spend less but still have the same capabilities.

Apex’s Ladder Rack will cost you around $233, so it’s not the cheapest rack on our list by any means, but there is a lot to be said for getting what you pay for. With the Apex Ladder Rack, you’re getting a reliable kayak rack you can remove if you want, at a relatively-affordable price.

The next few kayak racks are a bit more budget-friendly, so take a look at our number 3 pick for the best kayak rack for trucks if you’re concerned about your bottom line.

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3. Pick Up Truck Bed Hitch Extender Extension RACK

Third on our list is the Hitch Extender Extension RACK. At a cost of about $64, this hitch extender is a great way to transport your kayak without having to damage your roof or permanently install rails. Hitch extenders are a quick and simple solution to transporting your kayak, while at the same time saving buyers the stresses of lifting a kayak above their heads. Most pickup truck beds sit about waist-high, so as long as you can raise your kayak that far up, you won’t have to worry about any heavy lifting.

Hitch extenders can be just as capable as traditional kayak racks. This particular hitch extender rack can hold up to 750 pounds, which is only 50 pounds less than the 2 more expensive racks above. Heavy-duty steel tubing allows this extender to bear all the weight, and the rack itself is height- and width-adjustable. Simply move the hitch anywhere from 4 to 10 inches tall, or from 28.25 to 48.75 inches wide. The hitch extender itself only weighs about 32 pounds, and measures 53.5 inches from the center of the half-inch hitch pin hole to the extension’s end, or 52 inches from the center of the 0.75-inch hitch pin hole.

Use this hitch extender on 2-inch trailer hitches. If you don’t have a 2-inch trailer hitch, that’s fine! This extender can also be used on hitches with 1.225-inch receivers by simply using an adaptor. The greatest feature of this kayak rack, however, is the fact that it comes with a red flag to attach to the end of your kayak. It’s always best to give other drivers the notice that you are carrying something much longer than the typical truck-bed length, so having this red flag is a key component to not only your safety, but the safety of other drivers as well.

We’ve still got 4 more kayak racks to talk about, so keep reading!

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4. MaxxHaul Hitch Mount Truck Bed Extender

We’ve got another hitch extender on our top 7 kayak rack list, this time from MaxxHaul. Weighing only about 35 pounds, MaxxHaul’s kayak rack costs just over $50 and is capable of hauling up to 350 pounds. Like our number 3 pick, it is designed to install in 2-inch hitch receivers. MaxxHaul’s truck bed extender measures 37 inches by 19 inches by 3 inches.

MaxxHaul truck bed extender owners can adjust the length and width of the extension itself, from 4 to 10 inches in height and 28.25 to 48.75 inches in width. The entire truck bed extender measures nearly 54 inches from the center of the half-inch hitch pin hole to the furthest point of the extension. Hitch pins are sold separate from this extender.

One of the greatest features of this product is the 4 quick-release pins that allow for quick assembly and easy disassembly. Both side arms can be lowered, creating supports for a mobile workspace. The heavy-duty steel tubing comes with reflective tape installed to increase visibility for this truck bed extender, but it’s always a good idea to carry around—and use—a safety flag as well. The more visible you can make the extra load, the better driving experience you’ll have.

Truck bed extenders are a great way to get more out of your truck without having to invest in specialized equipment. Extenders also allow for alternative applications, such as transporting building materials, ladders, wood, other wide loads, and other various jobs. When you don’t need your truck bed extender, simply remove it from your trailer hitch. There are no permanent measures you’ll need to take, and storing the extender is easy. In fact, maintenance and care is simple as well.

Hooked on the idea of a truck bed extender? We’ve got one more option for you to take a look at. Then we’ll get into ladder racks for the final 2 of the best kayak rack for trucks on the market.

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5. TMS T-NS-HITCH-BED-EXTENDER Hitch-Mounted Extender Rack

For about $90, you can invest in the Truck Bed Extender, which fits into 2-inch hitch receivers. It can also be adapted to 1.25-inch receivers as well. Weighing just over 30 pounds, the adapter is lightweight and a powerhouse when it comes to carrying capacity. This particular model can support up to 750 pounds.

Made of heavy-duty steel tubing, this truck bed extender measures 53.5 inches by 48.8 inches by 28 inches and can be used for a variety of applications. Whether you’re hauling wood, gear, tools, or any other materials you might need to transport, the Truck Bed Extender is your new best friend.

The extender’s arm can be adjusted length-wise and width-wise, ranging in 4 to 10 inches in height and 28.25 to 48.75 inches in width. The side arms are capable of folding down in case you need a writing or working surface in the field. The front and sides of the extender are covered in reflective tape so that other drivers are aware of its presence, and a blaze orange flag adds the final touch.

A hitch pin is not included in this package, but customers will receive 4 quick-release clevis pins that attach the truck bed extender to your favorite pickup. The extension itself measures 53.5 inches from the half-inch hitch pin hole’s center, and 52 inches from a 0.75-inch hitch pin hole. This hitch-mounted truck bed extender is a great portable and reliable option if you plan on hauling all kinds of materials, from wood and tools in your working days to kayaks and camping gear on the weekends.

While truck bed extenders can be a great tool for transporting kayaks, you don’t necessarily have to use all that truck bed space for your kayak. You can also invest in ladder racks. These racks work similar to racks you might install on your car’s roof, but they still allow for use of the truck bed itself. Let’s take a closer look at 2 of the ladder racks we found most useful.

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6. TMS Universal Pick Up Truck Ladder Rack

Cheaper of the 2 ladder racks on this list, the TMS Universal rack is a great buy at about $130. With bars made from steel, the ladder rack is a great option for those who, similar to the truck bed extenders, don’t want to necessarily drill into the roofs of their pickups. Ladder racks can also be used for a number of different applications, from moving and construction to most anything in-between.

The ladder rack consists of 2 bars that locate in the front and rear of the truck bed. Each bar stands 30 inches high and together they can support up to 800 pounds. The best part about these 2 bars is that, once properly installed, they are able to equally distribute the weight of the load onto the back end of the pickup. While the pickup itself might squat down a bit depending on how much weight you are transporting, you can be sure that the weight is resting equally upon each rear tire. This not only helps with steering, but also gas mileage as well.

This ladder rack is easy to install and comes adjustable for most pickup truck beds. Customers can choose a width between 5 and 7 inches from the point where the ladder rack attaches to the truck bed itself. In total, both racks weigh about 55 pounds. While they’re a bit heavier than some of the kayak rack options we’ve discussed, the added stability and reliability more than makes up for it. TMS’ ladder racks measures 31 inches by 16 inches by 10.5 inches.

The biggest issue you might have with ladder racks is height. When used to transport kayaks, these ladder racks can be a bit cumbersome as you’ll have to hoist your kayak up onto the bars themselves and then tie them down. All the same, if you are able to get your kayak into the bed of your truck, you only have to overcome the distance between the truck bed floor and the top of the ladder rack. Still, this could be a deal-breaker for some customers.

At the same time, ladder racks offer a large number of tie-down points for nearly any type of application. They’re sturdy enough to carry even the heaviest of loads, and if you want to remove the bars for any reason, the process is very quick and easy. Construction workers will find a ton of uses for these ladder racks. Storing these racks is also easy, as they can slip in behind shelves or even hang from wall-mounted brackets. Whether in-use or stored away, ladder racks are a great alternative to permanently-mounted kayak racks.

Still haven’t found a good kayak rack? We’ve got one more option for you. 

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7. AA Products Inc. Extendable Aluminum Pick-Up Truck Ladder Rack

This ladder rack completes our top 7 kayak racks on the market today. Though it will cost you a pretty penny at near $300, it is a dependable and portable option that allows you to transport whatever you need to when you need it, and remove it when you don’t.

This kayak rack from AA Products Inc. is compatible with most full-size pickup trucks. However, it is not compatible with those featuring a utility track system. This rack is capable of supporting up to 800 pounds, so you can truly transport a number of items in a variety of sizes and shapes.

AA Products Inc.’s ladder rack is powder-coated to prevent the heavy-duty aluminum from rust and wear. The rack itself measures 71 inches wide and 30 inches high, and weighs about 40 pounds. What makes this a great buy is the fact that the C-clamps allow for easy and quick installation without any drilling necessary. These 8 clamps are included and universal to most pickup truck beds.

If you’re hauling building materials, lumber, piping, ladders, glass, or kayaks, check out this rack from AA Products Inc. While it is quite an investment compared to the other products we’ve discussed so far, you do get the universality of being able to install this quickly and efficiently, and remove it without frustration. You can also buy upgrade accessories that protect your rear window from any damage that might come from transporting objects in your truck bed.

There you have it! Those are our top 7 kayak racks for your truck. Whichever rack you choose, make sure you research well and investigate if it will work for your needs. Consult an expert if you need help installing the rack, and once you’ve got it mounted and installed, slap that kayak on it and go have fun! It’s all about being smart and safe while you’re enjoying the outdoors, and investing in a kayak rack is investing in better health and a happier life.

If you’re still interested in learning more about kayaks, keep reading! We’ve got more tips and tricks for you, and a few “what not to do” scenarios as well. There’s even a tutorial on how to build your own kayak rack if you feel the ones above are lacking—or you just don’t want to spend the extra money.

Do spend the extra time glancing at the section below. Owning a kayak—and a kayak rack—means behaving responsibly, so make sure you tie your kayak down properly before buckling up and setting out. 

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Properly Tying Down your Kayak 

Transporting your kayak safely should be your number one goal from the moment you purchase and install a rack. Everyone wants to get to their destination in one piece, have fun, and then get back home to wake up the next day and do it all over again. No one wants to be the cause of anyone getting hurt because their kayak came untied and broke free. Kayaks are heavy. Consider how much damage a car can do at even 45 miles-per-hour. Kayaks might not be thousand-pound hunks of steel, but the idea is the same. Tie your kayak down properly and you’ll be protecting everyone on the road, including yourself.

To help advise you on how to transport your kayak safely, we’ve gathered the following tips. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so take these tips as cautions against reckless behavior in tying down your kayak.

If you don’t have the funds to invest in a kayak rack, but own a pickup truck, it is common to simply throw the kayak in the pickup bed and call it good. This is a huge safety risk to everyone on the road. To safely transport the kayak in this way, tie down both ends of the kayak to secure points on the truck. Make sure the kayak is secure and will not move. Never place one end of the kayak above the cab of the car. Wind speeds at 50+ miles-per-hour will quickly lift the kayak and deposit it nowhere near a body of water.

If the kayak end is going to stick out beyond the truck bed’s length, place a red flag on the end to alert other drivers. While it’s never a good idea to be incredibly close to someone, drivers behind you will—or should—recognize you need an extra bit of space behind you to compensate. You should also never tie the kayak down to plastic parts of your vehicle. You always want to make sure the pressure points you’re creating by tying something down are going to withstand the tug.

Before you set off on your journey, check your tie-down straps. Make sure they are tight by tugging on them with a measured amount of force. If you feel slack in the line, cinch them down a bit more. It’s always a good idea to check your lines as you travel as well. Whenever you stop for gas, or need a bathroom break, take a few minutes to make sure your lines are still placed where you had them when you set off. Tighten any lines that might have shaken loose, and be sure the kayak itself hasn’t shifted positions.

The Paddler Mag has a great set of commandments for kayak transport. Here are just a few nuggets of safety wisdom they offer:

  • Allow yourself plenty of time to gear up before you go
  • Invest in a cockpit cover to reduce drag
  • Keep extra tie-down gear handy, just in case
  • Practice safe driving techniques

Whatever you do when you transport your kayak, think about all parts of the journey with common sense. Don’t take risks and endanger your life or others’ lives. It’s important to have fun and be safe, because no one wants to get a kayak through their windshield. 

How to Transport a Kayak without a Roof Rack 

Let’s say you find yourself in a dilemma. Either you don’t have the money to invest in a kayak rack right now, or you’re simply waiting on your kayak rack to arrive, but want to get out on the water. How can you transport your kayak safely, without a rack?

While your do-it-yourself mind might be racing to find a solution, there are a few great ones out there already. A couple of ingenious kayakers came up with the idea to invest in a few pool noodles and some ratchet straps. You then simply place the noodles—3 is usually a good number—across the roof of your car and then nestle the kayak on top of them. Of course, you’ll also want to make sure you tie down both ends of the kayak to make sure you’re transporting it safely.

While this pool noodle trick is great for those looking to pinch a few pennies, you can also invest in kayak trailers. These trailers do run anywhere from $250 to $1,500, but they are a worthy investment if you plan on traveling far and wide with your kayak.

Whichever way you choose to transport your kayak, always remember to be safe. Secure your kayak as best you can, and respect the other drivers on the road in your behavior.

Don’t feel like investing in what’s out there? You can also build your own kayak rack, though it’s not a task you’ll want to take up if you’re not accustomed to fabricating sturdy objects. The kayak rack you build will still need to accomplish the same tasks as a professionally-built rack. It is possible to create a rack on a budget, as you’ll see below. 

Building your Own Kayak Rack 

While you still want to make sure you consider how many kayaks you’ll be transporting and what exactly you want from a kayak rack, it’s safe to say that you’ll probably be using the kayak rack a lot if you’re spending the time building one. A custom rack, however, can be anything you want it to be.

Most home-built kayak racks are made of PVC pipe and are constructed for certain applications. Not everyone has the time, energy, resources, or knowledge to build a kayak rack for themselves, but it can be a rewarding experience all the same. The article above provides step-by-step instructions, pictures, and a number of helpful tips, so give it a glance if you’re a DIY-er. 

Kayak Rack Maintenance and Care 

Taking care of your kayak is one thing, but taking care of your kayak rack is another. If you think about it though, the better shape you keep your kayak rack in, the better shape your kayak will be in before and after every transportation.

The first thing you’ll want to do is remove your kayak rack every so often for cleaning and inspection. Some kayak racks may have parts that you can’t remove, which is fine, but those that can be removed, should. That way you can check for any damage that might have occurred, clean any debris out of channels and mounting points, and address any problems that need attention before you’re already all saddled up and ready to go.

Kayak rack maintenance occurs before and after any trips you go on. Plan to service your kayak rack a few days or even a week before your next trip, and make sure to store your kayak rack—and kayak—properly after every use. Keep any and all accessories in one storage spot, and do what you can to prepare yourself for a great experience the next time you pull out your kayak.

Though we’ve covered a lot of topics and discussed a lot of great kayak rack options, there is tons more out there to learn about kayaks and kayaking. Search the web for kayaking techniques, buying guides, tips, tricks, and stories from other kayakers as well. Investing in a kayak and exploring the waters around you can be a rewarding experience, so have some fun, get outdoors, and de-stress from life.

Happy kayaking!

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