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Choosing kayak racks for pickup trucks can be a time consuming process. You probably need to know the length and weight of your kayak, as well as the height and length of your truck bed and/or cab.
There are also different types to choose from. But we have put together some information to help you check out the various racks to see which one might be the most suitable for you and your kayak.
The Best Kayak Truck Racks And Extenders
1: Thule GoalPost (best vertical extender)
- Length: From 46 to 67 inches
- Weight: 27 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 165 pounds
The Thule GoalPost is designed to work in conjunction with a roof rack crossbar on the top of your truck. It attaches to the hitch on the back of your pickup and can be extended vertically to provide a second crossbar to support your kayak.
The telescopic vertical bar extends from 46 inches up to 67 inches so it can be adjusted to suit different heights and models of trucks to keep it in line with the crossbar on the roof of your cab. However, the rack is only designed to work with 2 inch receivers.
The GoalPost comes with a 58 inch crossbar that attaches to the vertical extender and helps to support the weight of your kayak. You can also carry two kayaks using this rack, as long as you stay within the maximum load limit of the rack (165 pounds).
The rack features an anti-wobble design and benefits from twin-coat anti-corrosion protection both inside and outside of the steel bars. It comes with two load straps to help secure your load and is compatible with a range of kayak saddles or cradles (sold separately).
This rack can also be used with SUVs, as long as your vehicle’s height is within the range of the telescoping arm.
- Extends up to 67 inches
- 58 inch crossbar included
- Includes two load straps
- Durable coating
- Can carry two kayaks
2: Yakima LongArm Truck Bed Extender (best horizontal extender)
- Length: 48 inches
- Weight: 12 pounds 8 ounces
- Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
The Yakima LongArm Truck Bed Extender is designed to be attached to the 2 inch tow hitch on your pickup. It features three different load carrying heights to suit both your truck and the type of load you want to carry.
However, to use the extender at different heights, apart from the bed height, you would need additional accessories that are not included.
The LongArm bed extender has a high 300 pound capacity, meaning you should be able to carry two fishing kayaks as long as you have sufficient width in your truck..
The LongArm extends up to 4 feet beyond the end of your truck bed and comes with a 60 inch crossbar to support your kayaks. Despite having a high weight capacity, it only weighs just over 12 and half pounds.
The extender is made from strong aluminum and features a black powder-coat finish for added durability. The crossbar is designed to be compatible with other Yakima accessories, such as kayak saddles.
It benefits from having integrated tie down points so that you can tie down your kayak easily and securely to the rack. The LongArm also features a built-in bottle opener, which could come in handy on camping trips.
- Extends truck beds up to 48 inches
- Lightweight aluminum construction
- High weight capacity
- Can be combined with various accessories (sold separately)
3: Darby Industries 944 Extend-A-Truck
- Length: 53 to 62.5 inches
- Weight: 25 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 350 pounds
This Darby Industries 944 Extend-A-Truck is designed to extend your truck bed by up to 53 inches when used as a horizontal bed extender when your tailgate is down. However, this rack can also be used as a vertical extender so that you can combine it with a cab-top roof rack (sold separately) to carry a kayak on the top of your truck.
Video: How To Install The Darby Extend-A-Truck Bed Extender
When used as a vertical extender it can reach from 55 to 62.5 inches above your tow hitch, so it can be suitable for trucks of different heights.
The rack has a high weight capacity of 350 pounds so it can be ideal for heavy fishing kayaks. If you have enough width availability you should be able to carry two kayaks side-by-side.
The crossbar on the rack measures 49 inches long and it comes with a red flag so that you can tie it to the end of your kayak to alert other drivers. It can also be stored flat behind your seats when you’re not using it.
- Can be used either vertically or horizontally
- High weight capacity
- Includes red safety flag
- Adjustable height extender
- Easy to store flat
4: Yakima SideCar Side Rails – Long Bed (best adjustable truck rack)
- Length: From 60 to 84 inches
- Weight: 13.5 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 100 pounds
The Yakima SideCar Side Rails are designed to be used in conjunction with the Yakima OutPost HD and Yakima OverHaul HD truck rack systems, which need to be purchased separately. These side rails attach to an existing Yakima truck rack, mounting to the frame of the crossbars, providing additional strength to your rack.
With the SideCar side rails attached to your rack system, you can secure additional gear by installing extra mounting accessories (sold separately). This means you can increase the storage capacity of your truck bed by having gear secured to the side rails that sit between the crossbars.
The side rails are made from aluminum, making them durable and strong without adding a lot of weight. The SideCar rails can also be adjusted from 60 inches to 84 inches, making them ideal for varying distances between your crossbars.
These side rails can also be used with other Yakima truck accessories, such as the SkyRise HD 3 Tent.
- Yakima OutPost HD or OverHaul HD rack system required
- Increases carrying capacity of existing rack
- Compatible with Yakima truck accessories
5: Yakima BigCatch Kayak Saddles (rack saddles)
- Weight: 6 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 150 pounds
These Yakima BigCatch Kayak Saddles are designed to be used on a range of racks and crossbars and can be ideal if you already have a suitable rack but want extra protection for your boat. They have a high weight capacity of 150 pounds, which can make them ideal for carrying heavier fishing kayaks safely on your rack.
The four saddles are designed for fishing kayaks and recreational kayaks so they may not be suitable for some narrower touring boats due to the shape of the cradles.
The large saddles are rubber padded with additional felt pads to help prevent scratches on your kayak while loading. They come with universal mounting hardware to attach it to your roof rack. They can be used on various racks, from truck bed racks to trailers, as long as you have your own crossbars.
- Ideal for fishing kayaks
- High weight capacity
- Felt pads
- Secure fit for kayaks
- Universal mounting hardware
How To Choose A Truck Rack
Kayak racks for trucks come in different styles, allowing you to haul your kayak in various ways. The type you will want will usually depend on how many kayaks you want to carry and whether or not you will want to carry other gear in your truck bed at the same time.
A lot of kayak racks, whether it’s a vertical bed extender, a horizontal bed extender or a standard rack, may still require you to purchase additional accessories. For example, you may want to purchase kayak saddles or cradles for your kayak to sit in while on the rack.
These can usually be mounted to the crossbars of your rack and can provide a secure and often padded base for your kayak to avoid damage.
Vertical Bed Extenders
A vertical bend extender can let you extend your carrying capacity vertically, so that you can hold gear in line with the roof of your cab. This usually requires you to install a crossbar onto your roof so that the other end of your kayak has something to sit on.
These types of racks can be ideal if you want to free up the space inside your truck bed, for example if you want to carry additional gear.
It can be useful to look for vertical extenders that can be easily adjusted to suit the height of your cab roof.
These types of racks may not always be suitable for very heavy kayaks, as you may find the load capacity is reduced. You may also find it difficult to load a heavy kayak as high as your cab roof, particularly if you have a large truck.
Weight capacity may also be reduced on vertical extenders because the load is being suspended above your truck bed. This may eliminate this category of racks for you if you want to carry two fishing kayaks, for instance.
Another consideration is the additional height of your kayak, which you might want to think about for clearance purposes, such as driving into your garage or a parking lot.
Horizontal Bed Extenders
A horizontal bed extender is basically just as it sounds. It can let you extend the length of your truck bed so that you can carry kayaks and other items that are longer than the bed of your truck.
This type of rack can be ideal for heavier fishing kayaks as it means you don’t have to lift the kayak up to the height of your cab roof. You only have to lift it as high as the bed.
Some horizontal bed extenders can be adjusted for height, so that you can choose whether to use it with the tailgate up or down. Sometimes the rack may allow for a higher load capacity when the extender is at its lowest level, with the tailgate down, which might be more suitable for heavier boats.
However, horizontal bed extenders can mean you need to take a little extra care while driving and parking, as you have to consider the extra length at the back of your truck. These types of racks will also generally require a safety flag on the back of your load, so that other road users can see it clearly.
Racks can be similar to car roof racks, but instead of being mounted to the roof, they are designed to attach to the bed of your truck. Racks can usually be mounted to the sides of your truck bed, giving you a set of crossbars for carrying kayaks and various other loads above the bed.
Generally, this type of rack is bolted to the bed of your truck so it may not be a good idea if you want to be able to remove it when not in use.
However, a rack can be useful if you carry kayaks frequently and want to carry more than one or two, as racks tend to have a higher weight capacity than bed extenders.
Racks can be ideal if you want to carry additional gear inside the bed of your truck, as the rack would sit over your truck bed, freeing up the space underneath.
If you plan to carry a particularly long kayak or canoe, you may want the height of the rack to be above the roof of your cab, as the boat may have to extend over the roof for weight distribution and to avoid it extending too far beyond the end of your truck.
> How to tie down a kayak to a roof rack
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Kayak Truck Racks Safe?
Yes, they can be safe, as long as you make sure your kayak is safely secured to your rack and/or truck and you’re not carrying more weight than your rack can handle. If your kayak extends beyond the length of your truck, a visible safety flag can be useful.
Should I Just Use A Roof Rack Instead?
You’ll probably find that standard car roof racks are not suitable for carrying kayaks on truck cabs. It could affect the weight distribution and be unsafe.
Can I Make My Own Truck Rack?
It may be possible to make your own kayak truck rack as long as you make sure it’s secure and strong enough to support your kayak while on the road.
Video: DIY Kayak Truck Rack
The type of rack you choose for your truck will probably be down to personal preference and the size and weight of kayaks you want to transport. The Thule GoalPost can be a great vertical bed extender, allowing you to carry up to two kayaks.
If you’d prefer a horizontal bed extender for a fishing kayak or two, the Yakima LongArm Truck Bed Extender can be an excellent option thanks to its high weight capacity.
The Yakima SideBar Side Rails can be a good accessory for increasing the carrying capacity of your existing Yakima truck bed racks. And another great accessory that can be useful for many truck racks is the Yakima BigCatch Kayak Saddles with the universal mounting system and padded cradles for keeping your kayak safe on your rack.
As with all products, not all of these will be suitable for every truck or every kayak, so it can be worth knowing the specific dimensions and weight of your own gear before you purchase any products.