Because we love to seek out bodies of water while we’re on the road, we prefer to bring our kayaks along for the ride. Although we could haul the boats in a trailer, maneuvering a camper can be tricky enough without affixing another appendage to the rear. That’s why we prefer to transport them the old-fashioned way.
That’s what prompted us to seek out the 5 best camper kayak racks on the market.
- TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier
- AA-Racks Steel Jetty Saddle Rack set
- Thule Hullivator Pro
- SportRack Mooring 4-in-1 Carrier
- AA-Racks Model X27
How To Select The Best Camper Kayak Rack
What should you look for in a kayak rack?
If you’ve ever purchased one for your car or SUV, you’re probably familiar with the basics. Here are a few particulars that merit close attention during your search.
Which style you choose depends on how much space you have, how many boats you’ll be transporting, and whether you’ll be paddling alone. Since lift-assisted racks also tend to be more expensive than the rest, your budget also plays a role here.
Here’s what you need to know about the 5 basic types of kayak rack on the current market.
As the name suggests, these racks support the kayak in a J-shaped cradle. They’re prized for the stability and extra protection that they provide. Most J-style racks are also fairly easy to install. Because of their popularity, you should have plenty of options in this category.
The simplest style of the bunch, horizontal kayak racks are designed to hold the kayak flat on its hull. Some racks of this type are nothing more than block-shaped pads that provide a barrier between the boat and the roof of the camper. While they’re effective on an aerodynamic level, they might require additional reinforcements to hold the boats in place.
If you’ll be paddling alone, a lift-assisted kayak rack is your best bet. These nifty inventions are equipped with poles or wheels that allow you to slide the craft neatly into place. The more sophisticated versions have pneumatic gas struts to take on the majority of the lifting chores.
For tips on how to safely load a kayak when you’re working solo, take a look at this video demonstration.
Also known as kayak posts, these models give the boats a place to rest against when they’re stacked on their sides. Because most versions can hold up to 4 kayaks at a time, they’re ideal for larger groups.
Kayak racks that are mounted on the hitch are usually configured to transport the kayaks in a stand-up position at the rear of the RV. While some are outfitted with a crossbar that rests against the bed of a pickup truck, these aren’t usually suitable for campers unless you have an exceptionally low-riding rig. For the purposes of this guide, we’ve limited the search to include only hitch mounts with a rear-loading function.
Note that these terms provide only a general overview—for example, some of the types have overlapping characteristics. As you learn more about the principles involved, you’ll be able to gain a clearer idea of what you need.
Ease Of Installation
You don’t want to spend half a day attempting to secure the rack to the roof of your RV. The best models should feature customized hardware to make the installation process as smooth and easy as possible.
If there are customer reviews available, check them out to see what past users had to say about the procedure. While you’re at it, see if anyone had any comments regarding the loading and unloading of the boats themselves. This, too, should be quick and convenient so you can spend less time fiddling around with straps and more time out on the water.
Here is a great DIY solutions you can checkout.
What is the kayak rack made of? Anodized steel is a popular and durable choice, but some quality brands may also include padding to help protect the boats from dings and scratches. The components should also be treated with a finish to make them resistant to rust and weather damage.
While a sturdy build is important, the material doesn’t need to be overly heavy in order to be durable. In fact, some high-end models weigh in at under 10 pounds, which is especially convenient if you’re installing the rack yourself.
How many kayaks can the carrier hold? If you’re transporting a single kayak, narrow your search to exclude racks that are designed to hold multiple boats.
Similarly, take a look at the weight limit of the rack. If your kayaks are exceptionally large or bulky, you’ll need an exceptionally hefty model that’s designed to withstand the extra pounds.
The 5 Best Camper Kayak Racks: Product Review Guide
In this section, we’ll review the key features and benefits of five leading camper kayak racks, using the information listed above as a guide.
If you’d just like the basic rundown on each model, here’s a quick overview:
|Category||Best Overall||Best Budget||Best Runner Up||Alternative||Alternative|
|Model||TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier||AA-Racks Jetty Saddle Rack||Thule Hullivator Pro||SportRack Mooring 4-in-1 Carrier||AA-Racks X-27|
|Installation||Easy||Easy||Moderate||Moderate to difficult||Moderate|
|Weight||8 lbs.||10 lbs.||35 lbs.||20 lbs.||55 lbs.|
|Load Capacity||75 lbs.||300 lbs.||75 lbs.||130 lbs.||800 lbs.|
1. TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier
While there are many quality options out there, the TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier is a hit in every category. The steel rack is lightweight and simple to install, with a generous J-style design that’s wide enough to accommodate broad lake-touring kayaks.
Adjustable padding provides stability and protection, while the wide mouth makes loading and unloading a snap. Best of all, the price is low enough to keep this purchase from breaking the bank.
Looking for a dependable way to transport your kayaks without emptying your bank account? The AA-Racks Steel Jetty Saddle Rack set could be just the ticket.
Though the design is rudimentary—consisting only of four steel saddle-shaped attachments to hold the kayak in place—this unit is also hassle-free. With durable ratchet straps and a load capacity of 300 pounds, they deliver peace of mind as well as affordability. Be forewarned that your RV must already be outfitted with a roof rack before you attempt to install this system.
Best Runner Up
3. Thule Hullivator Pro
On the opposite end of the pricing spectrum is the Thule Hullivator Pro, a lift-assisted rack that earns high marks for tech wizardry. This horizontal loader is outfitted with gas struts that take on 40 pounds of weight during the loading process, thereby eliminating most of the hard work involved.
Because the Hullivator can be loaded from a low level, it’s a great fit for solo kayakers. Bow and stern tie-downs are supplemented by two center straps for additional stability. There’s also plenty of padding to keep the hull from getting scratched during transport.
For all its good features, the Hullivator has a maximum capacity of just 75 pounds, making it a better fit for lighter crafts. However, the cradles are wide enough to accommodate kayaks that measure 36 inches across.
4. SportRack Mooring 4-in-1 Carrier
If you’re in the market for a rack that can accommodate more than one type of outdoor gear, take a look at the SportRack Mooring 4-in-1 Carrier. With two pairs of bow and stern tie-downs and four load straps, this rack provides a safe and efficient way to transport your watercraft.
This unit is prized for its convenience and versatility. It’s suitable for stand-up paddleboards as well as kayaks, and can be configured to load either a single kayak or a pair.
Be aware that while the maximum capacity is listed at 130 pounds, the weight of a single kayak must not exceed 75 pounds, or it will put too much strain on the hardware. Your RV will need an existing roof rack in order to accommodate this unit.
5. AA-Racks Model X27
AA-Racks Model X27 is a set of racks that’s designed to fit on van rooftops. If you have a smaller camper and heavier kayaks, this could be the setup for you.
Each of the 3 bars has a load capacity of 350 pounds, but the combined capacity is slightly lower than the math would suggest—800 pounds. Still, the racks are plenty sturdy enough to support 2 or 3 kayaks, depending on their width.
The best thing about these racks is their heavy-duty steel construction, which gives them superb weather resistance in addition to durability. They also have a low profile, so they can be left in place even when you’re not transporting any boats. Be aware that you’ll need to provide your own tie-down straps if you choose to invest in this unit.
Installing a kayak carrier will give your camper a dynamic edge and allow you to fully enjoy the great outdoors. In choosing one of the models listed above, you’ll also enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ve selected a quality product.
Best of luck, and happy camping!