In an ideal world, we would all store our kayaks close to the river or shore, drive over, and put them in whenever we want. Better yet, we would simply live by the water and eliminate the drive altogether.
Unfortunately, the majority of us need to drive our boats to the water, making our vehicles a critical part of owning a kayak. If you’re looking to get into the sport, keep this in mind, as buying the right kayak rack could save you years of struggle, inconvenience, and damage to your boat or car.
Questions to Ask Yourself
One of the biggest considerations to keep in mind is how convenient it will be for you to load and unload your kayak. For this reason, it’s important to know which car you’ll be installing the rack on, if you can easily get to its roof, how many kayaks you’ll most likely be traveling with, and if you’ll need extra space to carry paddles and other kayaking gear.
It’s also important to learn which kind of roof your car has, as this will determine which rack you can use. Once you’ve figured this all out, you can start studying the different kinds of racks and which you think would work best.
These racks are the standard ones you see and are excellent for safely and reliably getting your kayak from point A to point B. These are great for smaller cars, as the kayak is tilted vertically to save roof space.
J-Style racks can also be paired up with bike racks or cargo boxes because of the limited space they use. However, these racks are much easier for taller paddlers to handle and are better suited for lower-lying cars.
The Thule 834 Hull-a-Port is a great example of a J-style rack.
If you conclude that you most likely won’t be able to reach the top of your car, you may want to opt for a saddle rack. These are much easier to load, with the kayak sliding bottom-down onto the top of the roof and being clamped in.
With saddles, simply load the kayak from the rear of the car by resting it on the back and pushing it up. This eliminates the need to dead lift the kayak above your head, which can certainly be a struggle for some paddlers. Thule makes certain racks that actually lower down, making it easier than ever to load or unload. The company’s Hullavator system can reduce the lift height required to load and unload the kayak by as much as 40 inches.
However, with these racks, you won’t be able to haul as many kayaks at once, since they take up more space on the roof of your car.
There’s a large array of additional kayaking equipment hardware that you can purchase to make loading and unloading even easier. Thule’s Outrigger extension bar makes loading a J-Style rack by yourself much easier, and can also help protect your kayak, and your car, from unwanted contact. Along those lines, Thule also makes a nonskid mat, called the Waterslide, to protect your car when loading your kayak from the rear.
Since the drive is an unavoidable part of kayaking, it’s best to choose a system that makes it easy and convenient to get out and start paddling.
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