How to Choose a Kayak Rack for Your Truck

Transporting a kayak is not exactly a kayaker’s favorite activity. But you have to get the boat to the water so you don’t really have an option. Truck racks are a reliable way to ensure that you and your kayak get to the destination safely.

However, finding the best kayak racks for trucks can be an intimidating task. You’ll come across many models and confusing terms that only make things harder.

In this guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about choosing the perfect truck rack for your kayak.

Truck Rack Types

Kayak racks for trucks can be divided into three main types.

Take a look.

a.  Horizontal Bed Extenders

You may find that your kayak is longer than your truck bed. The horizontal bed extenders, as you can tell from the name, extend the truck bed to fit the boat. They attach to the hitch of the truck.

Most of them are adjustable so you can set them to fit your kayak.

Horizontal bed extenders are perfect for heavier kayaks since the boat rests on the truck bed. If carried on the roof, they will create a lot of resistance.

Another advantage is that loading your kayak onto the truck bed is way easier than getting it onto the roof.

The downside is that you’ll have to be extra careful while driving because your vehicle will be longer. 

Note: you are required to have a safety flag at the end of your yak for the sake of other road users.

b. Vertical Bed Extenders

What if you have other things that you would like to transport inside your truck bed?

Well, a vertical bed extender would be a great option.

Kayaks take a lot of space. You may not have room for gear with your boat in the bed of the truck.

A vertical extender works like a horizontal extender, except it holds your boat above the truck bed, in line with the cab roof.

But it may not be the best for a very heavy kayak.

Lifting the yak to that level is quite the task, especially if you will be doing it alone.

Additionally, it will create more resistance and even noise.  

c. Utility Racks

Bed extenders can be attached and removed as needed. Utility racks, on the other hand, are somewhat permanent. They are attached to your truck bed.

Utility racks can handle more than two kayaks at once and they will take a lot of abuse. Besides, you can use them to transport all sorts of heavy equipment, not just kayaks.

A utility rack is ideal if you transport your boat a lot. You don’t have to keep removing and attaching the rack every time. It is also suitable for the paddler who has to carry multiple kayaks at once.

What to Consider When Buying a Kayak Truck Rack

With all the truck tracks in the market, how do you narrow down to the one that is best for you?

Here is what you should pay attention to.

1. Weight Capacity

Kayak truck racks usually have a set weight limit. You shouldn’t load more than a rack can handle. The last thing you want is an accident and/or damaged kayak.

The capacity of the rack should be more than the weight of your kayak by 100 pounds or so. It is better to be safe than sorry.

While checking the capacity, don’t just focus on weight. Factor in the size of the kayaks and number of kayaks that you expect to transport. This mostly applies if you plan on carrying long yaks or more than two boats.

2. Aerodynamics

You will realize that there’s a difference in your gas mileage when driving around with a boat on top of your vehicle. This is because of increased air resistance.

Aerodynamics may not be an issue if you don’t travel with your kayak over long distances. But if you do, you will need a rack that offers aerodynamic efficiency. The effect will be less. 

The Thule Xsporter Pro is a good example. It features Integrated AirTip bar technology and WindDiffuser for superior aerodynamics and better fuel economy.

3. Safety

Placing your kayak on a truck rack is not enough. You have to secure it to prevent any damage. It also ensures safety, for you and other road users.

Some racks will come with ratchet straps. If not, invest in strong tie-down straps– even though you are on a tight budget.

While still on safety, your truck rack should be able to handle the weight of the kayak. And if the yak is long, have a safety flag.

Kayak Racks for Trucks Q&A

Q: How Far Can a Kayak Stick Out of a Truck?

A: Laws on this vary from state to state. In most states, if your kayak extends 4 feet or more, you will need to mark it with a red flag. When the visibility is low, you may require red lamps instead of a flag.

It is best to check with your state laws and avoid any kind of trouble.

Q: Should a Kayak Be Transported Upside Down?

A: Most kayaks can be carried either way, although many people seem to prefer carrying them upside down. It depends on your kayak. Manufacturers usually include a recommendation in their owner’s manual. So if you are in doubt, confirm with the manual.

Q: How to Build a Kayak Rack for your Truck?

A: If you don’t want to buy a kayak rack for your truck, you can as well build your own. It won’t be easy but it will be fun if you love DIY projects.

Check out this DIY truck rack.


Choosing a kayak truck rack can be a confusing process. But it doesn’t have to be. First, pick the rack type that will work best for you. It could be a horizontal bed extender, vertical bed extender, or a utility rack.

Next, check the weight capacity to make sure that the rack can hold your kayak(s). If you travel long distances frequently, you will want to consider aerodynamics. Lastly, find a solid truck rack that will promote safety. And don’t forget to get quality tie-down straps.

Do you have any questions about kayak racks for trucks? Feel free to ask us below. Happy kayaking!

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