What Are The Best Kayak Racks For Pickup Trucks? [6 Options Explored!]

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  • Post last modified:May 1, 2021

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Whether you’ve been kayaking for years or just now considering taking it up, knowing how to properly transport the equipment is important. If you’re using a pickup truck, getting your kayak to and from the water is easiest if you have a rack installed. You might be wondering which type to purchase, as there are a variety of types and styles available. We researched kayak racks from a great number of manufacturers, so you’ll be able to make the best decision possible.

Kayak racks for pickup trucks are available in three different styles; rooftop mount, hitch mount, or bed mount. The type of mounted rack you choose will depend on the size of your pickup truck, the size of your kayaks, and your own personal preference. Additionally, some kayak racks can be used to carry other types of equipment. Below are our best picks for kayak racks:

  • MaxxHaul Hitch Mount Bed Extender
  • TMS 800 lb Adjustable Fit
  • J-Bar Kayak Roof Rack
  • AA Racks Model X31
  • Tikaton Kayak Roof Rack
  • Leader Accessories 2 in 1 Folding J-Rack

Now that you know the best kayak racks for pickup trucks, you’ll want to read ahead to get the specifics about each one we listed. You might also be wondering how far a kayak can hang outside of a truck or if there is any way to transport a kayak without a rack. To find out the answers to these questions and more, read ahead in this post.

An SUV with kayaks in front of mountain during sunset, What Are The Best Kayak Racks For Pickup Trucks? [6 Options Explored!]

The Best Kayak Racks Available Today

MaxxHaul Hitch Mount Bed Extender

This rack from MaxxHaul is multipurpose. While a great way to carry your kayaks, you can also use this rack to secure and haul ladders, lumbers, and piping. It fits securely in your hitch mount and is easy to install and remove.

To view this kayak rack on Amazon, click here.

TMS 800 lb Adjustable Fit

This model kayak rack is secured to the top of the cab of your pickup truck. Like the MaxxHaul, this rack can be used to carry other objects than your kayaks. This type of rack was designed to carry longer objects that might be too long to fit into the bed of your truck.

To view this kayak rack on Amazon, click here.

J-Bar Kayak Roof Rack

This model kayak rack is another rooftop design. This one is made specifically for kayaks and surfboards and wouldn’t be as suited for serving as a dual-purpose rack for carrying any construction equipment. Quick and easy to install, the J-Bar model is very durable, no matter the driving or weather conditions. 

To view this kayak rack on Amazon, click here.

AA Racks Model X31

This model rack is more utilized for construction equipment but still works great for hauling kayaks and canoes. The rack is secured inside the bed of the truck. It’s adjustable, so getting it to work inside of trucks with varying bed sizes is easy.

To view this model kayak rack on Amazon, click here.

Tikaton Kayak Roof Rack

The Tikaton Kayak Roof Rack is one of the most durable on the market. Its aluminum frame makes it lightweight and weather resistant. This model will allow you to carry two separate kayaks or canoes. 

To view this model kayak rack on Amazon, click here.

Leader Accessories 2 in 1 Folding J-Rack

This model kayak rack from Leader Accessories is another rooftop mounted one. Its collapsible design is durable and lightweight. After a quick and easy install, you’ll be able to carry a pair of kayaks or canoes on your trip.

To view this kayak rack on Amazon, click here.

Should A Kayak Be Transported Upside Down?

In most circumstances, a kayak should be transported either sideways or upside down, with the hull or bottom of the boat facing up. This is for a number of reasons. 

In cases of inclement weather, a kayak stored upright will take on water. Water will quickly add a lot of weight to the kayak, which can be dangerous. This unexpected added weight can make it harder to control the transporting vehicle. If you’re using a rooftop rack, you can also damage the top of the cab, as they are only able to carry so much extra weight.

Keeping your kayak upside down or sideways will also make it easier to secure. The rounded hulls make it a little more challenging to properly fasten the kayak, which can result in the kayak becoming loose and falling free. 

Another reason to transport your kayaks in the above mentioned positions is to prevent damage to the hull. Tightly securing a kayak can warp or dent the hull if it is placed with the hull in contact with a flat surface. 

The one exception is if your kayak is made of any composite material. This would include fiberglass, aramid, or carbon fibers. It’s ok to carry these right side up if you place kayak stackers beneath them. Just be sure it’s not a rainy day.

How Far Can A Kayak Hang Out Of A Truck?

The United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Size Regulations law sets regulations on how much any object can protrude from any vehicle. This regulation states that you can have an item hang out no more than three feet from the front, four feet from the rear, and four inches from the side. Of course, any object that sticks out further from your vehicle should have a bright red flag attached to it, so other drivers can be made aware more easily. 

How Do You Transport A Kayak Without A Rack?

If you’re needing to transport a kayak and don’t have access to a kayak rack, there are ways to safely do so. While racks make it a lot easier, they aren’t always necessary to haul your equipment to and from the water.

You can secure a kayak to the roof of almost any vehicle using pool noodles and straps. The pool noodles should be placed and secured on the roof of the vehicle. This will not only prevent damage to the roof but will also keep the kayaks from skidding. 

As soon as the noodles are placed, set the kayak on top of them upside down. Then, secure the kayak with straps. The kayak should be strapped over the bow, stern, and middle. Make sure each strap is secured firmly so that the kayak will stay in place once the vehicle is in motion. 

SUV with kayaks in front of mountain at sunset

In Closing

Transporting a kayak with a pickup truck can be done very easily with the right type of kayak rack. Most of the racks on the market are multi-use and can also be used to transport ladders, piping, and other construction equipment. The majority of kayak racks are easy to install and remove and can be purchased fairly reasonably. Be sure to read the owner’s manual that accompanies your kayak before you attempt to transport it, and be careful to follow all state and local safety regulations when transporting and using your kayak.

If you enjoyed reading this post on pickup trucks, we believe you’ll find the following posts on cars and trucks informative:

What’s The Best SUV for Towing A Travel Trailer? [Including Six Recommendations]

What does Payload Capacity actually mean in a Pickup Truck?

Best Pickup Truck Tent Campers That Will Enhance Your Camping Experience

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