Best Kayak Rack for Trucks

So you have made the decision to purchase a kayak for the thrills and enjoyment it will offer you. Now there is only one problem.

Unless you live right next to the sea, a river, or a lake, you will have to transport this beauty. Kayaks are long, heavy, and awkward to move about so trying to move one to a different location could be a nightmare without an adequate rack.

Fortunately, truck kayaks come in all shapes and sizes to accommodate your needs. Not all of us have the time to rearrange the bed of our truck to fit in certain items every time we have to go somewhere.

We know the worries and factors that go into transporting kayaks and that is why we have sifted through hundreds of products online to find the best models on the market today.

Whether you have a kayak, toolboxes, or camping equipment, a kayak rack for your truck will make your life easier so let’s take a look at the best ones available so you can finally go kayaking in peace.

OUR OVERALL

AA-Racks Model APX2503 Low Profile Heavy Duty Aluminum Truck Bed Rack for Trucks and Trailers with Open Rails (300lb On Road Capacity)

When you’re looking for a good-quality kayak rack for your truck, you will want one that is reliable, durable, and versatile to hold other items in as well as your kayak.

The AA-Rack Model APX2503 Aluminum Truck Bed Rack has all of this on offer so you can transport personal possessions with ease.

Although it has a very simple design, this AA-Racks truck rack performs very well. It is very easy to set up so you can have more time for fun activities.

It allows you to transport other heavy outdoor gear such as skies or bikes without the risk of destabilizing the whole rig. This rack can support up to an astounding 300 lbs so you shouldn’t need an extra trailer for more items.

The AA-Racks Model APX2503 is compatible with a variety of pickup trucks but it can not be installed on those with a Utility Track System.

Its aluminum construction which is power-coated ensures strength and durability so it should last a long time. 

Pros

  • Versatile - As well as carrying a kayak, this rack can support up to 300 lbs of equipment such as skis or bikes
  • Very Strong - Its super-strong aluminum construction ensures durability and strength to last many years supporting heavy items
  • Easy setup - No drilling is required as this comes with universal mounting clamps to fit a variety of pickup trucks

Cons

  • Not compatible with trucks that have a Utility Track System - Although compatible with most pickup types, this isn’t suitable for those with this system due to logistics

BEST VALUE

TMS 800LB Universal Pick Up Truck Ladder Rack Contractor Pick Up Rack Lumber Utility(US Patent NO. D843,922)

The most affordable item on our list is the impressive TMS 800LB Universal Pick Up Truck Ladder Rack. This can fit just about any truck out there and has outstanding adjustable properties.

You can adjust this rack to 5-foot and 7-foot beds meaning you won’t have to purchase a new rack if you buy another truck.

Although it comes with a cheaper price tag, there is a reason we have chosen this as the best value. This rack can support up to an eye-watering 800 lbs of weight so most watercraft can be carried easily.

Why stick to one kayak when you can carry two? With this rack, you have versatility at a low budget!

You can firmly secure longer watercraft to this TMS rack with one user being able to transport a 17-foot canoe. This just proves the strength and stability of this kayak rack.

You can also elevate items above the bed by up to 30-inches which gives you plenty of space to store cargo if necessary.

Pros

  • Budget-friendly - This is one of the cheapest kayak racks on the market but still offers a great deal and sometimes more than its competitors
  • Easily adjustable - Can easily adjust the rack to different size beds to use on different truck models as well as personalize the height if necessary
  • Highly versatile - Can support up to 800 lbs of watercraft and other items such as lumber, pipes, or ladders for work use

Cons

  • Height or rack - This can be too tall for some people and their trucks making it harder to use but it can be cut to your required size
  • Requires drilling - Includes bolts and screws for assembly so setup takes up more time 

BEST TRUCK BED KAYAK RACK

AMP Research 74813-01A Black BedXTender HD Max Truck Bed Extender for 2004-2019 Ford F-150 (Excludes 2004 F-150 Heritage), 2005-2008 Lincoln Mark LT, 2007-2019 Toyota Tundra, Standard Bed

This product is ideal for shorter kayaks or for trucks that don’t include a hitch.

The AMP Research 74813 BedXTender ensures the whole bed of your truck is utilized and provides your kayak an additional 2 feet of space. Its U-Shaped gate also makes it easier to lower your tailgate to attach the extender creating more space.

The extra space also means driving and parking will become a whole lot easier as driving with long cargo is a difficult task. This rack is pretty versatile too for carrying other water sports gear.

Just flip the extender inside and then close the tailgate and smaller items that are easy to lose are secured preventing them from falling off on the interstate.

According to the instructions, you will have to drill into your truck to assemble this but there are bracket installation kits if you don’t like the idea of altering and drilling your truck’s bed permanently.

Pros

  • Classic U-Shaped design - This allows you to add more cargo without needing additional trailers
  • Durable - Has a torque-resistant clam-shell design with T6 aluminum alloy tubes with a powder coat finish to ensure the rack lasts a long time in all weather conditions
  • Adaptable - You can flip the extender inside and close your tailgate to secure smaller items that are easy to lose

Cons

  • Poor part replacement service - Some have complained about customer service and found it difficult to replace parts if required

BEST TRUCK TOPPER KAYAK RACK

Vantech Universal Pickup Topper M1000 Ladder Rack w/ 60' Bar Steel Black

If you’re looking for the best truck topper kayak rack, you will be hard-pressed to find anything close to Vantech Universal Pickup Topper M1000.

It is supremely made with a top-quality design that is affordable and extremely lightweight.

The two sets of aluminum crossbars can carry up to 500 lbs with a width of 60-inches. The only way to install these is by drilling eight holes into your truck’s bed topper which may not be ideal for many.

However, these bars lie around five inches above the topper allowing for plenty of clearance between the seats and various items that may be attached to your kayak’s deck.

Weighing only 14 lbs, the crossbars of the M1000 Ladder rack makes this the lightest rack on our list.

Vantech’s crossbars don’t have bumpers which are especially useful if you want to secure a load as well as prevent your kayak from moving around.

The whole process of getting your kayak on the topper is made a lot easier too due to the lack of bumpers.

Pros

  • 500 lb capacity - This weight capacity and width of 60-inches is more than enough for most to transport watercraft and other necessities
  • Very lightweight - Weighing only 14 lbs, this rack is easy to use and maneuver when required
  • No Crossbar bumpers - This makes it a lot easier to tie down your kayak or other items without the risk of them slipping about

Cons

  • Paint chips off - Some users have reported paint chipping off within a few months which can be detrimental to the longevity of the rack as well ruining the overall look

BEST KAYAK RACK FOR TONNEAU COVERS

Darby Industries 944 Extend-A-Truck

Darby Industries 944 Extend-A-Truck is a fairly simple kayak rack that can be attached to the hitch receiver (tow bar) and then carries the kayak inside the truck’s bed.

With a 350 lb capacity, it doesn’t support as much as some of our previous entries on this list but it is more than sufficient for carrying small watercraft and kayaks.

The 944 kayak rack is unique when compared with other models. It is made from only three pieces which are a crossbar, a vertical bar, and another bar that extends back horizontally from the truck’s hitch.

The vertical and horizontal bars are able to switch positions so the kayak can either lie in the truck’s bed or on its roof rack attached to the cab. This option is very useful if you intend on using your truck for storage rather than kayak transportation.

The 944 also includes a very wide crossbeam to haul larger loads more easily. Its crossbar has smaller bumpers compared to similar models so it is imperative you tie down your load very tightly and securely.

Weighing just 25 lbs, this rack can be broken down into numerous pieces for easy storage behind the cab’s seats.

This 944 rack won’t interfere with your truck’s bed when it is in its rooftop mode but can be rolled back if you need to carry your kayak in the bed.

Pros

  • Easily adjustable - Has the ability to adjust for truck bed and rooftop hauling offering more options for carrying different accessories
  • Portable - Can be folded into several pieces to fit into your cab when not in use or stored somewhere else
  • Extra-wide crossbeam - Provides maximum storage for your kayak or other larger items that you may need to transport

Cons

  • Lower weight capacity - Not best suited to larger watercraft or heavier outdoor objects

BEST KAYAK HITCH RACK FOR TRUCKS

Lund 601021 Hitch Mounted Truck Bed Extender

If you have a large kayak that is hard to fit into your truck, the Lund 601021 Hitch Mounted Truck Bed Extender could be ideal for you.

This rack is perfect for carrying cargo with an extended length providing an extra 7-inches of ground clearance when installed.

Patented steel wall support bars ensure this hitch-mounted rack is durable and strong enough to support a hefty 750 lbs of weight.

These also act like springs that move with your truck’s suspension so your cargo is kept safe at all times. Its side wings (27-49-inches) are completely adjustable so that the rack can accommodate many sized cargos.

Along with side support which folds down easily, you will be able to carry your cumbersome kayak far easier.

Its heavy-duty steel design is capable of carrying heavy loads for long periods so it is perfect if you work in the construction industry or are working on a renovation project with various heavy loads.

This multi-purpose rack is easy to install with reflective tape for extra security in the darkness.

Pros

  • Carries long length cargo - Its design can support and transport extended lengths of cargo including watercraft for easier portability
  • Multi-purpose - Suitable for carrying wider and longer construction materials if required
  • Easy assembly - Very simple process in assembling and disassembling to save you time and frustration

Cons

  • Tends to corrode - After some time, this hitch rack is vulnerable to corrosion due to a poorer-quality paint finish which can shorten its lifespan

Best Kayak Rack for Trucks Buying Guide

There are a few key considerations to take into account when buying a kayak rack for your truck.

Let’s take a look at the most important factors to think about so you can go ahead and choose the best model for you and your needs.

Rack Types

You can choose from a variety of different shapes and sizes. The three main types are:

  • Roof-Mounted Racks
  • Lumber-Style Racks
  • Bed Extenders

Roof-mounted racks are one of the most common types with the huge advantage of being able to be attached and detached to your truck with ease. These are ideal for amateur kayakers or those who don’t kayak regularly. However, your truck must have factory racks or crossbars installed in order to use these racks.

Lumber-style racks are best for those who need permanent kayak transportation. These are attached to the side of your truck’s bed and provide a very stable platform for transporting your kayak gears safely and easily. The best factor about lumber-style racks is how low maintenance they are. Just strap down tightly and you’re ready to go!

Bed extenders are excellent at limiting the risk of any injuries when transporting a kayak over long distances. Simply slide your kayak into the bed and secure it in place. This saves you from lifting the kayak above your head to place it on the kayak rack.

Weight Capacity

You must check the weight of your kayak and then compare it with the weight capacity of the kayak rack.

It is recommended that you always go for a kayak rack that has a higher loading capacity to ensure your watercraft and other items can be transported securely and safely.

Safety

Your rack’s main job is to keep your kayak safe. You will want one that you are confident in keeping your kayak in one place.

While all kayak racks go through testing to ensure their security and testing, some offer extra safety elements such as vertical supports or tie-down loops.

These allow you to double-down your kayak ensuring your kayak is fully secured on your truck.

It is worth checking with the manufacturer if the rack comes with any additional safety features.

Aerodynamics

Kayak racks should have an aerodynamic design. If they don’t, they can have negative impacts on your truck’s fuel efficiency and affect the vehicle adversely.

Less aerodynamic designs can also add a lot of noise to your journey as the wind hits certain parts of the rack. The more aerodynamic the rack, the more comfortable, and cheaper your journey will be.

FAQ's

How do you carry kayaks in a pickup truck?

To carry a kayak in a pickup truck, there are two main methods. You can either place it in the bed of your truck or lay it across the cab’s roof. Which one is best for you depends on the size of your kayak and your truck.

The easiest way to carry a kayak is with a kayak rack. These can be placed on the roof, side, and bed of your truck. These ensure your kayak is securely fastened to your truck for safe transportation.

If your kayak is a little too long, you can use rack extenders which give more space for your watercraft to lie.

How do you secure a kayak to a truck rack?

This depends on what type of rack you are using. If you are laying a kayak down flat on your truck bed, you have to tie the bow and stern of the kayak down first.

Ensure both ends of the kayak are secured by tying them down to the truck bed with ropes. Strapping it down will prevent the kayak from slipping, keeping it stuck to the truck bed. Bow and stern lines will help prevent the kayak from sliding out.

If you are using a roof-mounted rack, you need to lay the kayak straps over the bars of the roof rack. Make sure the buckles on either end of the straps don’t scratch your truck’s paintwork. Thread each strap underneath and then around each bar. Let the kayak straps fall flat against your truck.

You will find that boat straps usually have two ends. One has a clamp or metal buckle while the other doesn’t.

Avoid damaging your vehicle’s paint by resting the clamped end very carefully against your truck’s window and let the non-metallic end of the clamp hang alongside the truck’s body. Now ensure the crossbars of the kayak rack are not loose. If they are, tighten them up.

The next part is placing the kayak on the roof rack. If you are going to tie the kayak to the crossbars of the rack, place the kayak upside down on the rack.

If you will be using kayak carrier pads or other attachments like hooks or rollers on the roof rack, the kayak can be placed right-side up.

Now, bring the kayak straps over the kayak to the other side of the rack. Pull the buckle end and move it around the end of the vehicle before placing it over the kayak.

Let this hang freely and then pull the other end to add more length. Then, toss the non-metallic end across and over the kayak before securing and tying down the kayak properly.

Part of a video titled “How To Properly Secure a Kayak To a Roof Rack” - YouTube

If you’re still unsure of how to properly secure your kayak to your truck’s roof rack, take a look at this video to help you understand further: How To Properly Secure a Kayak To a Roof Rack.

How far can a kayak stick out of a truck?

The amount in which your kayak can stick out of your truck depends on the laws in any particular state.

According to the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Size Regulations law, no cargo can overhang from a vehicle front by 3 feet. On the side this restriction is 4-inches and the rear is by 4 feet.

In most states, any load that exceeds the length of a vehicle has to have an indicator of some sort attached to the rear of the load sticking out. This warns other motorists of the load so they can keep a safe distance behind. Most of the time, this is indicated by a simple red ribbon or rag.

What kind of roof rack do I need for a kayak?

The type of your vehicle can determine what roof rack is best for your kayak. The good news is, whether your vehicle is a beastly full-sized 4x4 or a more petite, compact car, there is a roof rack for your motor.

For smaller cars, a simpler setup is the best option. These can carry one or sometimes two kayaks in one go. If your vehicle is larger, you can choose a larger rack that can carry up to three or four kayaks.

It is recommended you measure the available outside roof space of your vehicle before investing in a roof rack.

Whether you want a roof-mounted rack, slumber style rack, or bed extender depends on your circumstances, preferences, and requirements.

It is worth noting that your vehicle must already have a roof rack system in place for roof-mounted kayak racks. If your vehicle’s roof is bare, you can always try a multipurpose base rack system.

How do you transport a kayak without a rack?

There are a few options for transporting a kayak without the use of a rack. One option is to buy an inflatable kayak.

Of course, this is best if you are beginning and don’t already own a kayak. Many inflatable kayaks are cheaper than the hard shell models and save you money on additional transport supplies.

Most of these inflatable models deflate easily and become small enough to fit into the trunk of your car. A great option if you don’t kayak very often and lack storage space.

If you do own a hard shell kayak, another option is to use a trailer. This is the most budget-friendly option and means you won’t have to make any permanent modifications to your vehicle as you would with some roof-mounted racks.

This is also very handy if you have other vehicles that you may want to use for transporting cargo. However, it is important your vehicle has a hitch to tow the trailer. If not, there are still more ways.

You can also use a foam car top carrier. As the name suggests, this fits on top of your car with two foam blocks and ratchet straps run through the inside of your car.

This is a great option if you want to carry your kayak on the roof but don’t have the necessary side rails or cross bars needed for roof racks.

You can also use an inflatable roof rack which acts like crossbars but is a lot cheaper. These can be put on and off in a hurry but are not as stable as metal crossbars.

Do I need a roof rack for a kayak?

You don’t have to have a roof rack to transport a kayak but it is advisable.

Most vehicles don’t have room for a kayak so transportation becomes impossible. Using a roof rack will make transporting your kayak far easier and safer.

As we have mentioned, there are other methods of transporting your kayak but a roof rack is proven to be one of the most safest and secure ways of transporting a kayak with your truck.

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