If there’s one problem in owning your own heavy-duty kayak, it’s the struggle of transporting it from your home to the water body onboard your SUV or truck. Not only do you have to lift it on and off your vehicle, but also you need to make sure that it stays safely strapped on while you’re on the road. Even if loading and unloading can be managed, when it comes to transportation, you’re definitely going to need auxiliary equipment. This is where kayak racks for pickup truck beds come in. Unless you have a folding or inflatable kayak, these truck tracks are indispensable for transporting your heavy, long, and generally unruly kayaks. They usually comprise a set of crossbars along with a system for attaching them somewhere on the vehicle, and that too in more ways than one.
Just like the Best Kayak Carts, Wheels, and Trolleys are greatly helpful in transporting the kayak from the truck to the water, these truck racks help you get the kayak on the truck in the first place. Moreover, they allow you to travel down winding mountain or rough off-the-track roads without worrying about our kayak getting damaged or worse, falling off the truck in the middle of the road. To that end, here are the 13 best kayak racks for pickup truck beds.
How To Choose The Best Kayak Racks For Trucks?
Whether it’s transporting a kayak or storing it, kayaking accessories such as the Best Outdoor Kayak Storage Racks or even the Best Kayak Garage Hoists are extremely helpful. The same goes for kayak racks for pickup trucks, for which there are a lot of considerations before buying. You need to look at key specifications such as weight, width, and height, as well as the weight capacity, the material, and the kind of mount, depending on your truck type. So, what are they? Read on.
Basically, there are two different kinds or rather styles of truck kayak racks. One is the bed rail back that extends the length of your truck bed, while the other is the receiver rack that allows you to stash your kayak atop your cab. Bed rail racks slide into the stake pocket or attach to the bed rails of a truck bed. Why bed rail racks are so popular is because you can leave them installed without worrying about ever taking them out. What’s more, they don’t interfere with your payload as they go up and above the truck. The only con, if we can call it that, is that they’re usually hard and tall to reach.
Receiver racks, on the other hand, go into the truck’s receiver by taking out the hitch and ball, and then sliding in the kayak rack. They can be adjusted vertically and they support your canoes when the tailgate is down and you stash them in the bed. Essentially, they’re best for short-bed trucks that don’t have space for longer kayaks. Despite requiring a receiver to be installed on your truck, they’re cheap and easy to install and access.
Racks are usually made of two materials, aluminum or steel. Aluminum racks are slightly more expensive than steel but are lightweight and ideal for installing and removing racks continually. However, you’ll also find aluminum stands sprinkled with steel as steel excels in some areas while aluminum in others. Steel, on the other hand, is heavier but is widely available, strong, and cheap. Moreover, they can hold a lot more force or weight as compared to aluminum.
The last thing you want is the expensive receiver of your expensive truck rack gone after you come back from a day of peddling. Thus, you have two options for keeping receiver racks safe. One is via locking hitch pins, while the other option is getting locks. However, bed rail kayak racks are even harder to secure, as it’s important to have racks where you can place your own lock or with built-in locks. Since bed rail racks are designed so, they have limited options for installing your own locks. That said, lock tumblers tend to seize up when left out or not in use, so do spray some lubricant into the lock before leaving it out to combat the harsh elements.
When it comes to capacity, there are two things to think about. For starters, you need to consider how many kayaks that you’ll want to carry. Most truck beds, including hitch racks, can fit two kayaks side-by-side. Even bed rail racks can carry two boats at a time, but that’s only because they’re limited by the truck’s width. Secondly, you need to consider how long your kayaks are. Usually, any hitch or bed rails rack can handle kayaks of any length. But, if you have boats longer than 14 or 15 feet, then make sure to check the rack specs before buying. While the bed doesn’t need to fit in the entire kayak, it does need to have its center of gravity within so that you can securely strap the canoe in. That said, longer boats sit better on bed rail racks.
Tongue and receiver weight capacity
Receivers are basically the square sockets on an SUV or a truck, which is where the hitch goes, and thus are the only limitation to hitch-mounted kayak racks. So, the most important aspect to pay attention to is the rack’s tongue weight rating. Generally, truck racks can hold 400 lbs, but your receiver can’t, thus leading it to break or bend and destroy your kayak. Thus, never exceed the weight capacity of your receiver.
How do you mount a kayak on a truck bed?
There are two main ways you can carry a kayak with your truck. Either you lay it across the roof of the cab (receiver rack) or you put it in the bed (red rail rack). For placing your kayak on your truck bed, you first need to position the boat by angling the kayak’s stern into the front left corner of the truck bed. Then, you need to align the bow of the kayak to the tailgate at the opposite back right corner. Then, you need to tie it down securely.
How much weight can a kayak truck rack carry?
Most kayak truck racks have a maximum weight rating., with most kayaks weighing less than 100 lbs. So, even if you load two boats, you should be well within almost any extender or rack’s weight capacity. All you need to remember is to secure your kayaks using tie-down straps so that the load doesn’t shift.
AA-Racks Model X39 Truck Ladder Rack
The AA-Racks Model X39 Truck Ladder Rack is one of the most versatile and robust kayak rack for truck options. The best part about the rack is just how customizable it is as the discrete allows you to adjust the measurements separately. Thanks to the wide frame and hefty load capacity, you can haul multiple kayaks with this design. What’s more, the cleats mounted to the rack’s side secure whatever you’re transporting to the water. Plus, since it doesn’t close off your truck bed, the kayaks are out of the way and elevated. Hence, you can load a lot of other gear in your truck bed, such as camping gear and more.
Despite the fact that drilling is required for installing this rack, the brand does sell C-clamps also, but the ideal thing would be to confirm the proper installation method before doing so. A robust frame and a wide variety of uses are what make this kayak such an excellent buy.
- Cleats to tie them down.
- Adjustable and customizable.
- Might require bed rail drilling.
Darby Industries 944 Extend-A-Truck
Truck bed extenders are an excellent way of turning truck beds into kayak racks. This is what makes the 944 Extend-A-Track from Darby Industries one of the best kayak racks for pickup truck beds, which are basically extender mounts to add to an existing two-feet long trailer hitch receiver. Moreover, its adjustable nature allows you to use it on different-sized vehicles as well as horizontally or vertically. Made from heavy-duty powder-coated steel, the truck rack is durable, robust, and built to last. The icing on the cake is that it can even be installed really easily using a clip and pin.
Thanks to the 48-inch-wide supports, you can even possibly mount more than one kayak. What helps is the fact that the bed extender itself has a 350-lbs weight limit too. Finally, it can even be used in conjunction with a camper shell and in the vertical position, and it even breaks down for secure storage.
- Easy to set up and install.
- Can be used horizontally and vertically too.
- None, really.
YAKIMA – BigCatch Kayak Rack
The Yakima BigCatch Kayak Rack is one of the best kayak rack for truck options and is the ideal way to haul your heavy sit-on-top or fishing kayak. In fact, the BigCatch is specially designed for handling big boats that weigh up to as much as 150 lbs! For starters, the oversized cradles have rubber-padded seats for accommodating the kayak’s hull. The “catch” is that the system is designed to fit only Yakima rack systems and Yakima HD and Streamline bars. Even then, the full-contact rack is completely worth it, especially since the boat sits nice and tight.
Furthermore, the BigCatch includes stern and bow tie-downs as well as heavy-duty straps. Since you don’t need any tools to install this one, it’s very easy to install by a single person too. Finally, the truck rack is so spacious that there’s space left over after you haul your kayak onto it for other accessories and gear.
- Durable and sturdy.
- Easy to install.
- Rubber padded handles.
- Specially designed for heavy boats.
- Need to have a Yakima rack system.
- Only carries one kayak
Thule Xsporter Pro Aluminum Truck Rack
The Thule Xsporter Pro Aluminum Truck Rack is another excellent option for a kayak rack for pickup truck bed. The adjustable-height rack allows you to haul the kayak on the top and stuff a ton of other gear at the bottom. What’s more, the load stops are adjustable even from the side, so you can get a snug fit for your truck bed no matter how wide your boat is. However, what’s particularly great about this product is that you can add different accessories based on all the various equipment you want to transport.
Besides being able to use this rack for a ton of other gear, this rack doesn’t require any drilling for installing it onto your truck and is, thus, available for installing on many kinds of vehicles. All you need to do is ensure that it’s compatible with your truck, that’s all.
- No drilling required.
- Easy to install.
- Comes in black or steel color.
- Adjustable height.
- Durable aluminum frame.
- Slightly more expensive as compared to others on this list.
TMS Adjustable Utility Rack
What makes the TMS Adjustable Utility Rack such a great kayak rack for truck is that it’s versatile and fits a variety of trucks. Not just that, but you can transport more than one kayak, and yet have tons of room left over for your other gear. Wrapping up its litany of plus points is the fact that it’s durable and sturdy too. Thanks to its heavy-duty steel build, the universal rack fits most trucks, with your kayak on the top and all other gear slipping easily into the bottom. It’s one of the best ways to use the space of your truck bed efficiently without wasting even an inch of it.
Moreover, this system even leaves your hitch receiver free for pulling an RV or a trailer behind you. The kit even comes with a useful set of instructions but might require you to use bolts and thus, drill holes in your bed rail. However, this task can also be done with C-clamps. The best part? It has a weight limit of a whopping 800 lbs!
- Includes mounting bolts.
- Adjustable width.
- Heavy-duty steel construction.
- The height isn’t adjustable.
AA-Racks Model APX25
The AA-Racks Model APX25 is one of the best kayak racks for a pickup truck bed because it has an adjustable width and is easy to install. Made from heavy-duty aluminum, the rack doesn’t require any drilling and is, thus, easy to install. Moreover, the frame is multi-purpose and versatile, making it great for canoes, boats, kayaks, and other gear as well. All you need to make sure is that your truck is compatible with this rack and that it already doesn’t have accessories such as truck boxes, tonneau covers, or camper shells installed.
Available in three colors of black, white, and silver, the truck rack is as durable as they come. With a fully adjustable width (side-to-side), it’s perfect for loading kayaks that are of different sizes. Despite the height not being adjustable, the adjustable sliders make it easy to tie your kayak down nice and tight.
- Fully adjustable width.
- Aluminum build.
- Sturdy and durable.
- No drilling needed.
- Cannot be used with other truck accessories.
Goplus Pickup Truck Bed Hitch Extender
Are you looking for a hitch extender sort of kayak rack for truck? Then look no further than the GoPlus Pickup Truck BVed Hitch Extender, which is one versatile accessory for your truck. Easy to break down and install both, it can be stored and transported easily as well. What’s more, you can easily haul kayaks and even other gear that extends past your truck roof or bed with this unique extender. If that wasn’t enough, you can even install this in a vertical position for leveling it with the roof of your vehicle. Plus, the width is adjustable from 28 to 48 inches, while the height is adjustable from 15.75 to 63.25 inches!
Designed to be used with a two-feet long hitch receiver, this hitch extender can also be used with a variety of other vehicles. Reflective tape for additional visibility and a durable powder coat finish make this product a force to reckon with.
- reflective tape increases visibility.
- Durable powder coat finish.
- Some could find the vertical orientation to be slightly wobbly.
Apex ATR-RACK Ladder Rack
The Apex ATR-RACK Ladder Rack is one wonderful kayak rack for pickup truck beds in more than one way. Don’t let its name fool you – this is one nifty product for getting your kayak from your home to the water easily. Basically, the ladder, which has a whopping capacity of 800 lbs, has side-to-side adjustable stops. So, they can either be set inches apart or spanning the width of the truck bed, Why this is helpful is because you can customize the fit according to the width of your kayak, ensuring a snug fit. With such a high weight capacity, you can store not just one but even two kayaks!
What’s great about this rack is that since the kayak sits high up, the truck bed can still be used to store other gear and equipment. Additionally, the kayak is also high enough for clearing your tailgate, allowing you to even drag a utlity or travel trailer behind your pickup.
- No drilling required.
- Universal design.
- Slides are adjustable side-to-side.
- Heavy-duty rack.
- The height isn’t adjustable.
Malone Stax Pro 2 Kayak Roof Rack
Are you looking for a kayak rack for a truck with the best security? You might want to consider the Malone Stax Pro2, which boasts high-impact ABS plastic clamps that help you secure it and lock it onto your crossbars. Thus, you never have to worry about your kayak falling off the rack onto the road, no matter how rough it is. Made from anti-rusting composite material, your rack remains free from rust even in the moistest of weather conditions. The best part? The truck rack can hold up to as many as four kayaks! Thanks to the long straps, all your kayaks stay safe and secure.
What makes the truck rack particularly great for solo kayakers is that it’s easy to assemble and disassemble, is collapsible, and employs a simple tie-down system. Finally, when you’re done for the day, you don’t even need to disassemble it – you can simply fold it!
- Collapsible and versatile.
- Simple and straightforward design.
- The setup requires little time.
MaxxHaul 70231 Hitch Mount Truck Bed Extender
Are you on a budget kayak rack for pickup truck bed? You’ll love the MaxxHaul 70231 Hitch Mount Truck Bed Extender, which costs all of $70! In spite of costing so less as compared to other racks, this one doesn’t sacrifice security or quality, for that matter. This hitch mount bed extender is compatible with any vehicle that has a two-inch receiver, making it extremely versatile. Thanks to its standard size, you don’t have to worry about getting it to specially fit your vehicle, as it’ll fit easily anyway. What’s more, it even ensures a snug fit thanks to the foldable side arms to hold your kayak firmly. When it comes to disassembling, you don’t have to worry about uninstalling the whole thing, but simply folding it to put it away.
The truck bed extender can even withstand the harshest weather conditions due to its rust-resistant construction. So, whether you live in extremely tropical places or very cold ones, this rack stays in top-notch shape no matter what. Rounding up the features are the reflective tapes on the side that increase visibility during dark or low-light conditions.
- Foldable sidearms.
- Compatible with many vehicles with two-inch receivers.
- Ideal for a longer load.
- Some users found the installation confusing.
Malone J-Loader Kayak Roof Rack
Malone is a reliable and very well-known brand for its range of products, and the Malone J-Loader Kayak Roof Rack is no different. One of the best kayak rack for trucks, the rack comes with extra padding right out of the box that keeps your boat protected. Hence, you don’t have to worry about damaging or scratching the kayak’s hull at any time. What’s more, it’s perfect for beginners as it comes with all the easy instructions and hardware required for the set-up.
Furthermore, the package even comes with a ratchet strap for securing your kayak, along with a 12 feet long loading strap for protecting it and the truck. Plus, you don’t have to disassemble it once you’re down with it. Instead, you can simply fold it down so as to not keep assembling and dissembling it all the time. The best part? The rack weighs just 12 lbs, making it one of the most lightweight on this list.
- Comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
- Comes with boarding ramps.
- The kayak is stored on the side, which others might not be comfortable with.
The Kayak Wing – Sea Kayak Rack With Covered Straps
One of the most unique and yet best kayak rack for pickup trucks is The Kayak Wing – Sea Kayak Rack With Covered Straps. Sold as a complete set for storing one kayak aboard your vehicle, it’s best suited for canoes or kayaks whose width is less than 30 inches. Lightweight, reliable, and sturdy in character, the truck rack even comes with a five-year warranty against breakage. The rack is also easy to assemble and doesn’t require any tools for installing it. What’s more, it has a 1.5-inch clearance between the crossbar and the car roof, and the maximum crossbar width is also a good 3,25 inches.
The wing design which is best suited for defined keel or V-shaped hull kayaks even prevents hull damage such as scratches and dents that occur with other roof rack systems. Overall, for being priced at less than $100, this truck rack is a real steal.
- Five-year warranty.
- Lightweight and durable.
- Doesn’t fit all truck roofs.
ECOTRIC Adjustable Full Size Truck Contractor Ladder
It’s only fitting that we leave the best and rather the most heavy-duty one for the last. behold the best kayak rack for truck with the most weight capacity on this list, a whopping 1,000 lbs – the ECOTRIC Adjustable Full-Size Truck Contractor Ladder. Made from solid steel, it’s no surprise why exactly it can carry such massive amounts of cargo. Moreover, the heavy-duty powder-coat paint is resistant to rust too, allowing you to store it in any environment, Moreover, it even has an adjustable center brace that’s perfect for load distribution.
Besides being compatible with different sizes of truck beds, the rack even has multiple tie-down points for ropes, bungees, and straps. Finally, the universal design fits both short and long bed pick-up trucks and can be installed without any drilling.
- Even distribution of load.
- Easy to install.
- Difficult to assemble.