Can You Fit Three Kayaks on a Roof Rack?

Can you fit three kayaks on a roof rack? You probably love spending time paddling with friends and family, but what happens when you have more than one kayak to transport? Surely you can’t just leave one at home.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can safely transport multiple kayaks on a roof rack. This blog post will share several ways to get all your boats to the water safe and sound.

Putting Three Kayaks on a Roof Rack

There are a few ways to transport three kayaks on a roof rack safely. Stackers are an excellent means for loading up to four kayaks. Paddlers can also use J cradles with an adjustable arm and stack the kayaks on either side of the cradle. Finally, if they are wide enough, some people strap three kayaks directly to the crossbars. Make sure you stick to the weight limit of the cradle, stacker, rack, and the weight limit of your vehicle’s roof. 

Choosing the Right Roof Rack

Before transporting three kayaks on a roof rack, you must have the right rack. The crossbars must be wide and sturdy enough to handle all your kayaks. Whether you use a J cradle or a stacker to load multiple kayaks on your car, ensure the crossbars can safely carry the load.

How to Use a J Cradle

J cradles are an excellent way to transport three kayaks and can easily fit on the crossbars of your car. In addition, J cradles make loading kayaks a breeze. I recommend the Jaylow cradles if you have Yakima crossbars, but other aftermarket cradles work well too.

Kayak cradles used for transporting 3 kayaks on a roof rackPin

Make sure the cradles you buy have an adjustable arm so that you can lock the arm at 90 degrees. This way, you can strap one kayak in the cradle and another on the back.

Then you can repeat on the other side with another pair of j racks for transporting up to four kayaks. Check to ensure the roof of your car and the kayak carrier can handle the weight!

How to Use a Kayak Stacker

A kayak stacker is another excellent way to transport three kayaks on a roof rack. Once again, Yakima has an excellent stacker called the “Big Stack,” which can fit many crossbars.

Yakima Big Stack for transporting 3 kayaks on a roof rackPin

The Big Stack is a pair of steel tubes wrapped with a hard padded “HullGuard” material to protect your kayaks and keep them from slipping during transport. Think of these stackers as upright that stick up from the crossbars.

You can strap down two kayaks on either side of the stackers if your crossbars can handle it. Loading kayaks on stackers can be a little tricky because they tend to slip around on the crossbars. So, it’s helpful to have an extra pair of hands.

Put Kayaks Directly on the Crossbars

Another option some paddlers use to transport three kayaks is strapping the kayaks directly to the crossbars. If the crossbars are wide enough, you can put the kayaks upside down on the crossbars and strap them each down individually.

Strapping down each kayak is the most secure method of transport, although it requires more straps and may be challenging to load and unload. And you may want to use some padding between the kayaks to keep them from rubbing or damaging each other. 

Bow and Stern Lines

Whether you haul one kayak or multiple kayaks, it’s crucial to tie down your kayaks properly, which means using bow and stern lines. Using bow and stern lines gives another layer of protection when transporting kayaks.

Tie the bow line from the kayak’s bow to the front of your vehicle. And the stern line is tied from the back of your kayak to the rear of your vehicle. No worries if your car doesn’t have front or rear anchor points.

You can buy hood anchors that go under your hood for the bow line and in the trunk for the stern line. These anchors give you a secure place to tie your kayak down.

Understanding the Size and Weight Limitations

We have already touched on this a few times, but it’s worth repeating. If transporting more than one kayak, ensure your car’s roof and rack can handle the weight.

Some kayaks are heavy, and when you add multiple boats to the roof of a car, the weight can add up quickly. Check with your vehicle’s manufacturer and the roof rack specs to ensure you can handle the weight.

Strapping Kayaks to the Roof Rack

You can check out my article here about loading kayaks, but when it comes to securing the kayaks, a few different options are available. One of the best ways is to use cam straps to secure them. Cam straps are easy to use and hold tight.


Three kayaks can fit on a roof rack, but it may take some maneuvering. Nevertheless, it’s a great idea so long as the weight is evenly distributed and make sure the kayaks and the rack are secure.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.