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8 Best Kayak Racks for Trucks (2021 Reviews and Guide)

Today we are going to review the best kayak racks for trucks.  Transporting your kayak to and from the water safely is essential.  Finding a good kayak rack for your truck is critical.  In this article, we will look at different racks to help you find the right one.

There are a lot of different kayak racks to choose from. Finding the best fit can be a challenge. Ideally, you will want to have an idea of how to transport your kayak before you purchase one. This guide will walk you through the best racks and offer some helpful information to purchase the best one.

If you are in a hurry to find a truck rack for your next kayak adventure, check out these top picks:

Best kayak racks for trucks

A kayak rack for your truck should be able to carry the weight of your boat (or boats) and offer plenty of places to tie down your load. So, let’s get into these truck racks!

Apex ATR-RACK Ladder Rack

APEX ATR-RACK Ladder Rack (Adjustable Truck), 1 Pack
  • Universal utility rack adjusts to fit most pickup trucks up to 66-1/2” wide
  • Sliding, fully-adjustable system creates a perfect fit for any full, mid-size, or...
  • Quick and easy no-drill clamp-on installation
  • Includes four ladder stops
  • Manufactured from lightweight aluminum with a 800 lb. weight capacity

Features:

  • Aluminum
  • No drill installation
  • Adjustable
  • 800-pound weight limit

Review

Don’t let the name fool you; this rack is great for hauling your kayak to and from the water.  One of the great things about this rack is that you can still use the bed of your truck for other equipment.

The kayak will sit high up enough to give you clearance to access your tailgate. This also leaves room to pull a travel trailer or utility trailer behind your truck.

The ladder stops on the rack are adjustable side to side.  You can set those inches apart, or the width of the truck bed.  This is helpful as you can tie down your kayak very securely no matter how wide your kayak is.  The height is not adjustable.

The weight capacity is 800 pounds, more than enough to carry a kayak or two.  Some users have been able to transport more than one kayak or a canoe and a kayak. You may want to use some rubber padding or pool noodles to protect your kayak during transport.

PROS

Heavy-duty truck kayak rack
Slides are adjustable side to side
Universal design fits many different trucks
Easy to install
No drilling required

CONS

The height is not adjustable
Can’t use this with a truck canopy (shell)

Summary

The Apex ATR-RACK Ladder Rack is a great way to haul your kayak.  This rack is versatile, so when you are not transporting kayaks, you can use it for other things, like a ladder (hence the name).  This kayak truck rack is universal, durable, and adjustable.


Goplus Pickup Truck Bed Hitch Extender

Goplus Pick up Truck Bed Hitch Extender Adjustable Extension Rack w/Flag for Ladder, Rack, Canoe, Kayak, Long Pipes and Lumber (Black)
  • 【Heavy Duty Construction】Heavy duty steel tube construction with black coated...
  • 【Ideal for Long-Distance Loading】Good helper for your long-distance loading....
  • 【750 Lbs Load Capacity】Large load distributed capacity up to 750 pounds. It can...
  • 【Reflective Tape and Flag】Reflective tape on front and sides makes the greater...
  • 【Stainless and Easy to Storage】Simple design with stainless appearance....

Features:

  • Heavy-duty steel
  • No drill installation
  • Adjustable
  • 350-pound weight limit

Review

This truck bed extender is an excellent way to haul your kayak to the water.  You can easily haul kayaks or other materials that extend past your truck bed (or roof). The unique aspect of this extender is versatility.

You can use it to extend your truck’s bed to make it longer, or in a vertical position to be level with the roof of your vehicle. The height is adjustable from 15 ¾” (top of the shank) to 63 ¼,” and the width is adjustable from 28″ to 48″.  The extender is intended for use with a 2″ hitch receiver.

The hitch extender can also be used with SUVs in the same way it can with trucks. Depending on the length of your kayak (and a short trip to the water), you could lay down the SUV seats and use this extender that way.  You can also use it in the vertical configuration to strap your kayak on your SUV roof.

PROS

Versatile
Two different ways to configure
Durable powder coat finish
Reflective tape increases visibility
Adjustable

CONS

Some users report that the vertical orientation is a bit wobbly

Summary

This hitch extender is versatile, making it one of the best kayak racks for trucks or SUVs.  It’s easy to install and break down, so you can store the unit when you are not using it.  You can use this for things like kayaks, canoes, or lumber.


AA-Racks Model APX25

AA-Racks Model APX25 Extendable Aluminum Pick-Up Truck Ladder Rack (No Drilling Required) - Sandy Black
  • Universal design to fit a variety of full-size pickup trucks, NOT COMPATIBLE with...
  • Durable, reinforced heavy duty aluminum construction 71" wide x 28" high
  • Great for hauling ladders, lumber, pipe, and distributed utility loads up to 800 lbs
  • No drilling required, easy installation with universal mounting clamps (set of 8...
  • There's the upgraded accessory P-APX25-WG (ASIN:B07CHGCY67) available.It protects the...

Features:

  • Aluminum construction
  • No drilling required
  • Adjustable
  • 800-pound weight limit

Review

This universal rack is made from heavy-duty aluminum, is easy to install, and does not require any drilling.  The frame is versatile and multi-purpose, so it’s great for kayaks, a canoe, or other stuff you need to transport.

You will need to make sure this truck rack is compatible with your vehicle.  It will not fit if you have accessories like a camper shell, tonneau cover, or truck box. This rack is durable and comes in a variety of colors.

The rack is fully adjustable side to side (width). This is great since kayaks are different sizes. You can tie down your kayak nice and tight with the adjustable sliders. The height is not adjustable is the only negative. You may want to use a piece of rubber, or some other padding, like a pool noodle to protect your kayak when you load it.

PROS

Easy to install
No drilling required
Durable and sturdy
Aluminum construction
Fully adjustable width

CONS

You can’t use this if your truck has certain accessories

Summary

This is one of the best kayak racks for a truck because it is easy to install and has an adjustable width.  You can tie down more than one kayak, or a canoe, or other stuff you need to transport.  You will love the versatility of this truck rack.


TMS Adjustable Utility Rack

Sale
TMS 800 LB Adjustable Fit 2 Bars Utility Ladder Truck Pick up Rack Kayak Contractor Lumber Utility (US Patent NO.D722,007)
  • Set of 2 heavy duty steel adjustable truck ladder rack. This multi-functional rack is...
  • Very sturdy frame offers a weight capacity of 800 lbs. Very easy to install. Width is...
  • Max Height: 30 inch plus the height of your truck's bed. Width: Adjustable for most...
  • Width: Adjustable for most pickup trucks (Adjustable width of 5 feet minimum to 7...

Features:

  • Heavy-duty steel
  • Install requires drilling
  • Adjustable
  • 800-pound weight limit

Review

This heavy-duty steel construction rack will transport kayaks with ease.  The universal rack is adjustable to fit most trucks.  One nice feature of this rack is with your kayaks on top; you still have access to the rest of your truck bed and tailgate. This is an excellent use of space, and you can haul other gear along with you.

This also leaves your hitch receiver free so you can pull a trailer behind you, such as a travel trailer or a utility trailer.  You can take all of your toys when you head out, an RV, camping gear, and your kayaks.

The instructions do call for this to be installed with bolts, which may require you to drill holes in your bed rail. Some users have installed this with C-clamps. It comes with a cleat to tie your kayak down to.

PROS

Heavy-duty steel construction
Universally designed to fit most trucks
Adjustable width
Includes mounting bolts

CONS

May require drilling to install
Height isn’t adjustable

Summary

This rack is versatile and will fit a variety of trucks. You can transport more than one kayak, and still, have room in your truck bed for other gear.  This is one of the best kayak racks for trucks because it’s sturdy, durable, and allows you to take all your equipment with you. It’s an excellent rack for camping.


Thule Xsporter Pro Aluminum Truck Rack

Thule Xsporter Pro Multi-Height Aluminum Truck Rack, Silver, One Size
  • Custom Adjust bar height provides maximum carrying versatility for easy loading,...
  • Air Trip technology is integrated into the bar to redirect airflow for superior...
  • Wind Diffuser technology raised textured strip disturbs airflow for ultra quiet road...
  • Secure Lock locks the rack to the truck with four One-Key lock cylinders (included)
  • Reinforced aluminum design provides strength to carry up to 450 pounds

Features:

  • Aluminum
  • No drilling required
  • Adjustable
  • 450-pound weight limit

Review

Thule’s height-adjustable Xsporter Pro is an ideal kayak rack for your truck.  This versatile rack is easy to load since you can adjust the height to load and carry your kayak.  The load stops are adjustable from side to side so you can get a snug fit no matter how wide your kayak is.

One great thing about this truck rack from Thule is that you can add accessories based on different equipment you want to transport.  The adjustable-height rack allows you to use the bed of your truck for other gear you want to take. So you can load your kayak on the rack and have plenty of space for camping or other equipment in your truck bed.

No drilling is required to install this truck kayak rack, and it’s available for a wide variety of vehicles. You will need to make sure the rack is compatible with your vehicle. Some accessories, like truck boxes, or camper shells, will not work with the Xsporter Pro.

PROS

Durable aluminum frame
Adjustable height
Fits a variety of different trucks
Available in aluminum or black color
Easy to install
No drilling required

CONS

Is not compatible with certain accessories like a truck box or camper shell
More expensive than comparable options

Summary

The Thule Xsporter is a versatile truck rack that will transport not only your kayaks but also other equipment.  This heavy-duty frame is fantastic for your watersport equipment.  Installation is easy, and no drilling is needed.


YAKIMA – BigCatch Kayak Rack

YAKIMA, BigCatch Kayak Fishing Boat Saddles for Roof Racks and Trailers
  • Built for big boats: Specially designed to support the extra weight of fishing and...
  • Full-contact carry: Oversized cradle protects the boat and conforms to a variety of...
  • Easy to install: Simple, tool-free attachment for easy installation, removal, and...
  • Universal mounting hardware: Fits all Yakima crossbars, factory bars, aerodynamic...
  • If you have T-slot crossbars: If your vehicle is outfitted with T-slot crossbars,...

Features:

  • Rubber padded saddles
  • Tool-free installation
  • Adjustable
  • 150-pound weight limit

Review

This universal kayak saddle is built for heavy fishing and sit on top kayaks. The oversized cradles have rubber padded seats that accommodate the hull of the kayak. The BigCatch is specifically designed to handle big boats, up to 150 pounds.

The “catch” here is that these are designed to fit Yakima Streamline and HD bars.  So, if you already have a Yakima rack system, the BigCatch is an excellent kayak rack. The rack is a full-contact rack, so that means that your boat sits nice and tight.

The BigCatch includes heavy-duty straps, as well as bow and stern tie-downs. The rack is easy to install, you don’t need any tools.  This fits on an SVU or truck with a Yakima rack over the cab or a Yakima truck rack.

If you have a Yakima truck rack, you can load your kayak and still use your truck bed for other gear and accessories.  You can take all your camping gear, with your kayak stowed up high.

PROS

Specially designed for heavy boats
Rubber padded cradles will not scratch your kayak
Easy to install, no tools needed
Fits existing Yakima racks
Sturdy and durable

CONS

Only carries one kayak
You need to have a Yakima rack system

Summary

The Yakima BigCatch is an ideal way to haul your heavy fishing or sit on top kayak.  This is one of the best options if you have an existing Yakima rack system.  If you have a Yakima truck rack and want an easy way to transport your kayak, the BigCatch is worth a look.


Darby Industries 944 Extend-A-Truck

Darby Industries 944 Extend-A-Truck
  • Designed for secure and safe hauling of long loads
  • Features a 4 Feet wide support
  • Can be stored flat behind the seat when not in use
  • Features adjustable height for roof top hauling
  • Comes with a red flag

Features:

  • Steel
  • No drilling required
  • Adjustable
  • 350-pound weight limit

Review

The Darby bed extender is an excellent kayak rack for your truck.  The extender mounts to an existing 2” trailer hitch receiver.  It’s adjustable so you can use it with different size vehicles. You can use it vertically or horizontally, so it works work roof racks or truck beds.

The Darby 944 is made of heavy-duty powder-coated steel, so it’s durable and built to last a long time. It’s easy to install in seconds, with a pin and clip. The support is 48″ wide, so you can potentially use it for more than one kayak. The bed extender has a 350-pound weight limit as well.

The versatility is excellent.  You can either use this unit as an extension of your truck bed or with a compatible roof rack on a pickup or SUV. The bed extender breaks down for secure storage.

One of the things I really like about this unit is you can use this in conjunction with a camper shell. If you use it in the vertical position, you can have your camping gear stowed safely away under your camper shell, and have your kayak mounted on top.

PROS

Versatile kayak rack
Can be used vertically or horizontally
Works for other items you need to transport
Easy setup

CONS

Not tall enough for extra tall camper shells
You might need to wrap the support to avoid scratching your kayak

Summary

Truck bed extenders are an easy way to turn your truck bed into a kayak rack.  This unit is versatile and can be used vertical or horizontal, depending on your needs. It’s easy to set up and break down for secure storage.


AA-Racks Model X39 Truck Ladder Rack

AA-Racks Model X39-8Clamp Pickup Truck Ladder Rack Side Bar with Long Cab Ext. (8) Non-Drilling C-Clamps - Matte White
  • Our unique design of Bracket Bar are built to strengthen the existing basic truck...
  • The package also comes with Two of the One-Piece Handrail, which provides the “Grab...
  • It features the extendable top cross-bar which can be adjusted for different sizes...
  • Both the Over-cab Extension Bar & Side Bars are Adjustable in length; offering a wide...
  • Non-Drilling X39-LC Truck Rack with Black C-Clamps (Set of 8) included,NOT COMPATILE...

Features:

  • Powder-coated steel
  • Install requires drilling
  • Adjustable to fit your truck
  • 1000+ pounds weight limit

Review

This truck ladder rack is great for hauling your kayaks.  The best thing about this truck kayak rack is how customizable it is. The pieces allow you to adjust the measurements.  The rack is adjustable to fit your application.

With a hefty load capacity and a wide frame, you can haul multiple kayaks. There are cleats mounted to the side of the rack so you can secure your kayaks, canoe, SUP, whatever you are transporting to the water.

This rack design is excellent because it does not close off your truck bed. Since the kayaks are elevated and out of the way, you can haul a lot of other gear in your truck bed.  You can take camping gear, or whatever else you need.

One thing to note is that drilling is required for installation, although AA-Racks does sell C-clamps as an option.  The best thing to do is to confirm the proper installation method for your vehicle. Also, things like camper shell, tonneau cover, or truck box may affect installation, as you may not be able to use it.

PROS

Heavy-duty powder-coated steel
Robust frame
Adjustable to fit your application
Wide variety of uses
Cleats to tie down your kayaks

CONS

May require drilling into your bed rails
Will not work with a camper shell

Summary

This versatile and robust frame is an excellent option to transport kayaks to and from the water.  The frame is sturdy enough to handle multiple boats and includes cleats to tie them down.  The design keeps your truck bed open so you can take other gear with you.


How to choose the best kayak rack for your truck

Will the kayak rack fit your vehicle?

As you read this article, there is a wide variety of kayak racks for trucks.  Kayak racks come in different styles, shapes, and sizes.  It is essential to make sure the truck kayak rack will fit your vehicle.

There are certain accessories or body styles that may prevent you from installing specific racks. For instance, if you have a camper shell or tonneau cover, a hitch extender would work well, but a frame mounted on your bed won’t.

If you have a truck box or side box on your truck, some racks are not compatible with these. Some kayak racks require drilling into the bed rails on your vehicle.  If you don’t want to drill, then look for a model that does not require drilling.

Most manufacturers will have a compatibility tool to be sure the rack is compatible with your vehicle.  I highly recommend you check with the manufacturer before you make a purchase.

Types of truck kayak racks

best kayak racks for trucksPin
Boricuaqueen / CC BY-SA

There are different types of truck kayak racks for various applications or vehicles.

Bed extender – This style fits into a hitch receiver.  You can use a bed extender horizontally or vertically. For this reason, bed extenders are a versatile option.  When used vertically, it can be configured with a roof rack.  In the horizontal position, this extends the length of your truck bed.

Bed rail rack – There is a variety of styles within this category as well.  The general idea is that a bed rail rack attaches to the rail of your truck. 

Some require drilling, and others can be installed with C-clamps. One advantage of a truck bed rack is that the truck bed is still available to carry other gear with you.

The kayak rides on top of the rack, leaving your truck bed open for other things.  You can even use your hitch to pull a trailer, like a travel trailer, or utility trailer. This type of rack leaves you with a lot of options.

Roof rack – Of course, we have roof racks too.  Some truck cabs are long enough to accommodate a roof rack.  Some vehicles have a camper shell that will allow you to use a roof rack. You can use a roof rack in conjunction with a bed extender.

Are kayak racks for trucks safe?

If the rack fits your vehicle and is installed properly, yes, truck kayaks racks are safe.  You have to make sure your kayaks are tied down securely, and you don’t drive too fast.  These are some common sense points, but yes, a truck kayak rack is safe to use when following these guidelines.

Are kayak racks for trucks secure?

If you are concerned about someone stealing your kayak rack while you are on the water, you are not alone. It’s not unheard of.  Some types of racks are easier to lock down than others.

With a bed extender, you can buy a lock for the receiver hitch.  These fit through the bed extender and the hitch receiver.  Many of the bed extenders are easy to break down, and you could even store it in your truck while you are on the water.

A bed rail type of kayak rack is a different story.  If you drill the rack into your bed frame, chances are someone isn’t going to go through the hassle of unbolting the rack.  But, if it’s secured with C-clamps, you may have trouble.

The best thing to do is look for a rack that will allow you to lock the kayak rack to your truck frame.

What are truck kayak racks made of?

As you can see from this article, many kayak racks for trucks are made of aluminum or steel. Both of these materials are excellent for kayak racks.  Aluminum is more lightweight, yet strong and durable.  Steel is more substantial, durable, and well, it’s steel.

Kayak rack weight capacity

Depending on the kayak rack and how it is used, the weight capacity varies, sometimes considerably.  In the case of the Yakima BigCatch, the saddles are rated for a boat up to 150 pounds.  That’s a heavy kayak.  But some of the other racks, which are more of a utility, or ladder rack, can support a lot more weight.

On many of these racks, you can load more than one kayak, or a combination, like kayaks, SUP’s, a canoe, etc.  When you are looking for the best kayak rack for your application, make sure you know how much weight you will be transporting and how much weight the rack can hold.

Do you have a trailer hitch?

For a bed extender, you will need a trailer hitch.  Now, I bought a vehicle somewhat recently, and it did not have a trailer hitch.  If you don’t have one on your truck, you can have one installed. This is an added expense, though.

With a trailer hitch, you have the option to use a bed extender. With a bed extender, you can use the kayak rack to lengthen your truck’s bed or use the extender vertically to work with a roof rack. A bed extender is the only time you need a trailer hitch, so if you don’t have a hitch (or don’t want to spend the money on one), you can look at other options.

What’s your budget?

As you shop for a kayak truck rack, you will see a lot of different price points. You can spend a lot of money on a truck rack.  Figure out what your needs are, set a budget, and stick to it.

If you have a hitch on your truck already, a bed extender is an affordable way to go. If you want a more versatile rack, your budget may need to increase.

FAQ’s

Are truck kayak racks stable?

If your rack is the right fit for your vehicle and installed correctly, kayak racks are very stable.

Is using a truck kayak rack a good idea?

Using a kayak rack for your truck is a great way to transport kayaks. Here are a few reasons why I like them.

First, you can install a kayak rack, and you will still have room in your truck bed for other gear. You can haul your kayaks and all of your camping gear with a truck rack. With many models, you can also pull a trailer behind you.  Of course, you can’t pull a trailer if you are using a bed extender.

Second, with a bed extender, you can use the truck bed to hold most of the weight of the kayak.  This also helps when you are loading and unloading since the kayak is closer to the ground.  Bed extenders are versatile because you can use them vertically with a roof rack.

Finally, your rack is attached to your vehicle, which means you don’t have to pull a trailer.  Some people don’t mind pulling trailers, but others don’t want the hassle.

How many kayaks can a truck rack hold?

This depends on the capacity of the rack.  You will need to check the weight limit for the kayak and the dimension to make sure it can hold more than one kayak.  In a case like the BigCatch from Yakima, that rack is specially designed for one kayak. Other models of truck kayak racks are more universal, and you can load more than one boat.

How to put your kayak to your truck rack

Okay, so you bought a kayak rack for your truck, now you have to lift the kayak onto the rack.  Some of the truck bed racks are adjustable height, making it easier to load and unload your kayak.  In some cases, though, you can’t adjust the height, and you need to be able to load the kayaks up high. This is the case with a roof rack too.

If you are not up for lifting your kayak overhead, you may want to look at a bed extender. This is lower to the ground, and you can slide the kayak in place a lot easier.

Is drilling required?

In some cases, yes, drilling is required. Kayak racks that attach to the bed rails sometimes need to be drilled.  In other cases, no drilling is required, and you can attach the rack with C-clamps. Be sure to check the installation guidelines before you buy your rack.

Wrapping up

Best kayak rack for a truck - black kayak rack on a pick upPin

There are a lot of options when it comes to finding a kayak rack for your truck. The final decision really depends on how you want to use the rack.  I like the truck racks with adjustable height like the Thule Xsporter because of their versatility.

Truck racks are great because you can still use your trailer hitch for other things. This leaves your truck bed open to carry additional gear.  You get the kayaks up and out of the way to take your camping gear or other stuff with you.

If you have any questions, let me know.

Steve Morrow Founder of Paddle About
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve is an avid kayaker and founder of Paddle About. When he is not on the water, Steve enjoys outdoor activities, including fishing, camping, and hiking with his family. Read more.