Yakima Kayak Racks Reviewed

When you purchase a kayak, they are an investment.

The last thing you will want to happen is for your kayak to fall off your roof or become damaged during transport. Given this, a kayak rack is a must.

One company that produces great quality kayak racks is Yakima. Yakima’s kayak racks can be relied upon and are a fantastic option.

In this article, we have reviewed a handful of their racks so that you do not have to. We have spoken about specifications such as the size, cost, and effectiveness to find the best option for you. 


YAKIMA, JayLow Rooftop Mounted Kayak Rack for Vehicles, Carries Up To 2 Kayaks

The Yakima JayLow is our top choice as it is reasonably priced and a great option overall.

It allows you to carry two kayaks, safely and securely. The vertical stacking system will allow there to be more room on the roof of your car.

The JayLow fits the majority of crossbars. It includes all of the straps you need to ensure that the kayak stays safely secured. It comes with a Same Key System for security.

It is easy to install in only 10 minutes and requires no tools. It is compact and folds down when not in use. The contact points are extra padded to ensure that your kayak does not damage during transport.

It can be used with any type of kayak, and it is made with durable materials. It does not have load assistance.


  • Universal - This will save you money purchasing a new crossbar
  • Vertical Stacking System - This allows you to transport more than one kayak at once
  • No tools required - This makes the installation process quick and hassle-free


  • No-load assistance - Loading will be a little more difficult if you are doing this alone


Yakima - BowDown Roof Mounting System for Boats

The BownDown Mounting System is a great option if you are looking to transport one kayak.

It is suitable for use with the majority of kayaks and can support up to 80 pounds. It folds down when it is not in use, which is better for overall roof clearance and appearance.

The BowDown is fairly universal and can fit the majority of crossbars. An additional feature of the rack is that it has an integrated ramp system. This allows you to load the kayak and remove it with ease.

There are also heavy-duty straps included ensuring your kayak is secure while transporting.

The padded protection keeps your kayak secure and less likely to scratch. The SteelCore construction makes this rack sturdy and durable.

It is easy to install, requires no tools, and comes with Same Key System locks for added security.


  • SteelCore construction - Durable materials that are built to last
  • Universal - allows you to use this with the majority of vehicles
  • Fold-Down - Gives you better clearance and a better overall appearance for the roof of the car


  • One Kayak - Cannot accommodate multiple kayaks


YAKIMA - SweetRoll Rooftop Mounted Boat Loader and Rack for Vehicles, Carries 1 Boat

The SweetRoll Rack features rollers and a saddle for easy attaching. They are only suitable to carry one kayak.

The kayak is placed horizontally. The rack is universal and is suitable for use with the majority of crossbars.

It is easy to install and requires no tools. The padded protection protects the kayak from scratches during transport.

It is auto-adjusting, which allows the loading process to be seamless.

Everything you need to secure the kayak in place is included with the rack, from the rollers to the saddles. The rollers ensure that the boat can be removed with ease.

It is suitable for use with the majority of kayaks and it is made to hold up to 80lbs. It is durable and sturdy.


  • Padded protection - This ensures your kayak does not damage or scratch during transportation
  • Rollers - Allow you to easily mount and remove the kayak
  • No tools required - Quick installation process, makes the job easier for you


  • One Rack only - This is not the best rack to purchase if you want to transfer more than one kayak at once


Yakima EasyTop Universal Roof Rack – Kayak pads for car, Soft Strap Racks Carrier, Cars Without Rails, SUP, Surfboard, Paddle Board and Ladders no mount

While this roof rack can be used for Kayaks, it is also multi-use. It is easy to install and is secured through the door frames.

It is a great option if you do not want a permanent fitting on your roof. It comes with tie-down ropes and everything you need to secure it in place.

The materials are durable and built to last. The padding is structurally thick, and the double latching buckle provides extra security. As this is covered by a lifetime warranty, this will give you peace of mind.

In terms of compatibility, this rack can be used with the majority of vehicles. However, it is not suitable for vehicles with a gull wing, falcon style door, or sliding doors.

The overall design is simple and the padding helps to protect both the kayak during transport and the roof of your vehicle too.


  • Multi-Use - As this can be used for many uses 
  • Durable materials - The rack is built to last
  • Padding - This helps to prevent the kayak or your car roof from becoming damaged


  • Can only be installed on certain vehicles - You will need to check it is suitable for your vehicle before purchasing


Yakima - JayHook Rooftop Mounted Kayak Rack for Vehicles, Carries 1 Kayak

The JayHook is another J-Style rack that can transport one kayak. It is space-saving and allows you to carry other things on the roof alongside the kayak.

It can carry a kayak up to the weight of 80 pounds and is compatible with the majority of models.

The JayHook is universal and will be suitable to use with the majority of crossbars. The minimum spread is 24 inches.

There are straps included at no additional cost and keep the kayak secure and help to prevent scratching. The straps are heavy-duty and durable.

This rack is easy to install and requires no tools. It can be set up and ready to go in just 10 minutes.

Unlike some of the other Yakima racks, the JayHook does not have the option to fold down when it is not in use. 


  • Universal - The JayHook is compatible with the majority of vehicles 
  • Heavy-duty straps - The straps are long-lasting and will help to keep your kayak secure when in use. 
  • Easy to install - Hassle-free installation allows you to set this up quickly


  • Does not fold down - Some users may prefer a fold-down option

Yakima Kayak Racks Buying Guide

Different Types of Kayak Roof Rack

There are a handful of different types to choose from.


The J-Style is one of the most popular styles. The name reflects the shape of the rack. You can load them from the side of the car, this allows them to be easier to use.

The kayak is placed on its side at an angle. This allows you to add other storage to the roof of your vehicle. If you are looking to transport multiple kayaks, this is a great option.


Roof pads are great if you are looking for a temporary storage solution. This type of roof rack involves several different pads that will stick to the roof of your vehicle.

They are typically made from foam and do not require any installation. They can be attached by using looping straps.

If you are taking the kayak on a short journey, this is one of the easier options. They are not the most suited to long-haul journeys.


If you are looking to transport multiple kayaks, a stacker is a great option. Stackers work in a similar way to a J-stack.

Then place the kayak side by side on the roof. They are sturdy and can be attached to an existing crossbar.

While this option is great for smaller kayaks, it may not be the best option for larger kayaks.


Crossbars are the simplest type of roof rack. Crossbars are typically attached using mounting hardware or rails, and they are a more permanent option.

What is great about crossbars is that you can attach the kayak directly to it.


Rollers can be used alone or they can be used alongside another type of roof rack. They are a more secure option in comparison to pads.

They allow you to add the kayak to your roof with ease.


The saddle attaches to a crossbar and holds the kayak flat to the car’s roof. While they are great, they do take up more space on the roof of the car.

They are best suited if you are planning to transport one larger kayak, rather than two or three smaller ones.

The Number of Kayaks

The number of kayaks you are transporting is important. The more kayaks you are transporting, the more room you will need on the roof of your car.

A rack that can hold multiple kayaks, or one small enough to install multiple is the better option for this purpose.

Your Vehicle

While some of the Yakima racks are universal, some may not be suitable if you have a particularly small car, however.

Before purchasing you will need to know the exact measurements of your car roof. You will need to ensure that this aligns up with the model of Yakima rack you choose.

The Quality of the Rack and Materials

Once you have chosen the correct roof rack to suit your vehicle, kayak, and journey length, you will want to ensure that it is of good quality.

The rack should be made out of durable materials that will not only hold the kayak securely during transportation, but that will not be affected by adverse weather conditions.

A good roof rack tends to be made using thick and durable metals. You will want to avoid purchasing a roof rack that does not secure well as this can become quite dangerous.

You will want to ensure that the rack and kayak are safely secured before traveling. 


What is the best roof rack for a kayak?

The most common roof racks include J-style, and pads. J-style are great space-saving options.

They are sturdy and well suited for long journeys. As they place the kayak at an angle, you can store more than one kayak on the roof.

If you are looking for a non-permanent option, pads are a great choice. They are easy to install and remove.

They are the best choice for longer trips. However, they do not work as well for larger kayaks, and they are not suited to long-haul trips.

Do I need a roof rack for my kayak?

We would always recommend using a roof rack to transport your kayak for safety purposes. Before you begin your journey, it should be safely strapped to the roof rack.

While you can technically transport your kayak without using a roof rack it is far more difficult to do.

You can do this using equipment such as pool noodles or a ratchet strap. However, using a roof rack fit for this purpose is a far easier option.

Can you put a kayak rack on any car?

Kayak racks are suitable to use for the majority of cars. However, we would recommend double-checking the user manual before purchasing a kayak-specific rack.

While they are suitable for the majority of cars, there may be some exceptions. If it is not suitable for your car, you can use a regular roof rack to secure your kayak.

How do you use a Yakima kayak rack?

Yakima kayak racks are fairly easy to use, especially if you have installed a rack to the roof of your car in the past.

You should not run into any issues. How you use and install a Yakima kayak rack will vary slightly depending on the type of rack you have purchased.

For example, if you have purchased a J-style this will attach to a crossbar. It is hassle-free and requires no tools.

The majority of the racks will fit onto an existing roof rack or crossbar. Regardless of the type of Yakima rack you purchase, they are quick and easy to install which is a great time-saving feature.

What is great about some of the Yakima Kayak racks is that they come with the Same Key System for added security when traveling.

How do you kayak a J rack by yourself?

While it is always best to receive assistance when placing a kayak on a J-style rack, this can be done by yourself. Before you begin, you will want to ensure that the J-rack has been secured to the roof of your car.

Once you are satisfied with this, you will need to lift the kayak off the ground and onto the roof of the car. You will need to take care while doing this, ensuring that you are lifting from the legs rather than your back.

If you are not tall or strong enough to do this, you can carefully place the kayak on the hood of the car and push it up to the roof.

Once the kayak is on the roof of the car you will need to tip it on its side and lift it up and into the J-rack. This can be a little tricky to do yourself. If you ensure that you are holding the kayak as widely as possible, this will help to stabilize it to stop it from tipping over.

Once the kayak is placed in the J-rack, you will want to ensure that it is placed correctly in the middle of it and secure it tightly.

How do you use a Yakima Big Stack?

Yakima Big stack racks are a great option if you are looking to transport more than two kayaks at one time. They are easy to use and can be attached to both generic and Yakima crossbars.

The installation is tool-free. All you will need to do is attach the bottom of the Yakima Big Stack to the crossbar. The T bolt will fit into the slot and secure the Big Stack in place.

When you are ready to attach the kayaks, you will need to secure and attach the strap and lift it so that it is upright. Then you will need to secure the straps tightly. You can do this for multiple kayaks.

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