Thule Kayak Racks Reviewed

Carrying your kayak to from your car to the water? Easy.

Getting your kayak from your home to the water? Not so easy!

To safely transport your kayak on your car for a long journey, you’re going to need a good quality roof rack. 

Some people have tried to make do without a roof rack to transport their kayak and use foam blocks instead. But a quick glance at all the forums will tell you that this method is plighted with all manner of problems and issues.

The real solution is to get yourself a quality roof rack that won’t damage your kayak in any way, or make your vehicle unsafe to drive.

In this article, we’re going to review some of the best Thule kayak roof racks out there.

And after that, you should totally stick around for our FAQ section.

Let’s get moving, shall we?

OUR TOP PICK

Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier

If you’re lucky enough to have 2 kayaks to transport, then this could be the roof rack for you. Its J-style cradle carrier helps to create more room on the load bar. Room that you can use for another kayak or for other accessories.

It can accommodate kayaks up to 34 inches wide and up to 75 pounds in weight.

Installation is super easy, and it requires no special tools whatsoever. And it’s very easy to load too.

Once the kayak is in position, you can use the included two ratcheting bow and stern tie-downs, and the two straps with buckle protectors to secure the kayak safely in place.

You don’t even need to have a Thule rack to accommodate the carrier – it will fit most factory racks.

It folds right down when not in use for increased overhead clearance, to get under tunnels or car park and drive-through barriers.

We were also impressed by the lifetime warranty. It feels like Thule really has your back.

Pros

  • Accommodates 2 kayaks
  • 100% tool-free installation
  • Very easy loading
  • Kayak is safe & secure
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty

Cons

  • Premium product at a premium price

EDITORS CHOICE

Thule Compass Kayak and SUP Carrier

This kayak carrier is a little more versatile, able to carry either kayaks or SUPs.

What really impressed us with this kayak and SUP carrier was the load capacity, which comes in at a whopping 130 pounds, which is almost double that of the Thule HullaPort Pro.

It’s very quick and easy to install, and there are no tools required to do so. You don’t even need to have a Thule rack to accommodate the carrier – it will fit most factory racks.

There are several different carrying options, including carrying a single kayak in either a J-style or a saddle mode. Or you can stack 2 kayaks together in stacker mode, or carry two SUPs in saddle mode.

The paddles feature very thick rubber and are padded upright for the best possible protection. We also like the integrated Strapcatch, which really helps to manage the straps when loading the kayak onto the rack.

They fold right down when not in use for increased overhead clearance, to get under tunnels or car park and drive-through barriers.

There are two sets of load straps with BuckleBumpers and bow and stern tie-downs included in the box. 

Pros

  • High weight capacity
  • Able to carry 2 kayaks
  • Can also carry SUPs
  • Integrated Strapcatch

Cons

  • Premium product at a premium price

BEST VALUE

Thule 881 Top Deck Rooftop Kayak Carrier, Black

Now, this is something much more affordable, something the more budget-conscious amongst you can appreciate.

The box includes four saddles, heavy-duty straps, mounting hardware, and ratcheting tie-down lines. Basically, everything you need to secure your kayak to the roof of your car,

They can be mounted onto several different types of roof rack, including Thule rack systems, such as the Rapid Aero, the Xsporter bars, and the Yakima. And crossbar, round bar, or factory-installed racks.

It can accommodate kayaks up to 36” wide and that weight up to 75 lbs, which covers most kayaks.

The four saddles with their integrated rubber pads share a large contact surface area with the kayak, which is how the 881 provides such excellent protection for your kayak.

It’s easy to load and unload – you can manage it with just one person.

And, you’ll be pleased to hear, it comes complete with a limited lifetime warranty. 

Pros

  • Great affordable option
  • Easy to load & unload
  • Kayak is safe & secure
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty
  • Mounts on almost any rack

Cons

  • Can only carry one kayak

RUNNER UP

Thule DockGlide Kayak Carrier , Black

This is another popular kayak carrier from Thule. What we like about this one is how it holds the kayak horizontally.

It features 4 well-cushioned pads, that really protect the hull of the kayak during transport.

These 4 saddles are comprised of two pivoting saddles at the front, and two felt-lined saddles at the rear. The front two can really pivot, which really helps them conform to hulls of different shapes, so you can rest assured that your kayak will be carried securely and damage-free.

It can accommodate kayaks up to 36” wide and that weight up to 75 lbs, which covers most kayaks.

It will fit onto a variety of Thule rack systems, round bars, and most factory-installed racks. This is thanks to its T-Track and FlipFit brackets.

It’s very easy to load and unload your kayak onto the carrier once properly installed. In fact, this kayak carrier gets its name, DockGlide, from how the kayak just glides in place to load.

You can then secure the kayak in place with the center load straps with car-protective buckle bumpers and QuickDraw bow and stern tie-downs.

Pros

  • Easy to load & unload
  • Kayak is safe & secure
  • Mounts on almost any rack

Cons

  • Can only carry one kayak
  • Premium product at a premium price 

Wrap Up

Before we go onto our FAQ section, it makes sense to sum up what we’ve said so far with a brief conclusion.

Thule clearly makes some truly great roof racks for kayaks. Better than a lot of their competition in fact. But some are clearly better than others. But you have to weigh up performance and convenience against the cost, and ensure that you’re getting good value for money.

We’ve laid out for you the best Thule kayak roof racks and their various pros and cons, and all that’s left for you to do, is to check the prices as you go along and pick out the best one for your particular budget.

We’d be the first to admit that Thule racks and kayak carriers are not always the most affordable ones out there, but their pros by far outweigh their cons.

And it’s important to note that this point that you don’t necessarily need a Thule roof rack to use a Thule kayak carrier. In fact, most Thule kayak and SUP carriers can be secured to a factory-installed roof rack. If you’re at all unsure, be sure to check this on the product page with the online retailer.

We think the best Thule rack for carrying more than one kayak is the Thule HullaPort Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier, closely followed by the Thule Compass Kayak and SUP Carrier.

Or if you wanted to spend as little money as possible on a carrier for just one kayak, you could do worse than the Thule DockGlide Kayak Carrier.

Please note the racks we’ve reviewed here are by no means an exhaustive list and there may be others that you might want to check out.

FAQ's

Which kayak roof rack is best?

Since this article is about Thule kayak roof racks, we’re going to answer this question accordingly, and tell you which Thule Kayak is best. We believe it’s the

How do you mount a kayak on a Thule roof rack?

Check out these YouTube videos, they show you exactly how to mount a kayak on a Thule roof rack, depending on what one you get:

Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Demonstrated By Rack Outfitters

Thule 898 - Hullavator - Lift-Assist Kayak Carrier Presented by Rack Outfitters

How to put a Kayak on a car.

How do you transport a kayak without a roof rack?

Some skinflints who try to transport a kayak without a roof rack have tried turning to foam blocks.

But this is far from ideal, and you really should be using a roof rack to avoid any issues, damage, or accidents.

Do I need a roof rack for my kayak?

We would hands down recommend getting a roof rack for your kayak if you have the budget to do so.

There are some great roof racks to choose from, and you can get one at a very reasonable price if you shop around.

Can you put a kayak rack on any car?

For each car brand and model, there is a Thule roof rack solution that fits.

But unfortunately, we can’t say that for every brand of roof rack out there.

Should a kayak be transported upside down?

While rotomolded kayaks can be transported on their edge or upside-down, composite kayaks should always be transported on their bottom to prevent any unnecessary deformation.

How do you pronounce Thule?

Thule is pronounced "too-lee" and has been since it was first founded as far back as 1942 by the Thulin family.

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