Best Kayak Racks For Jeeps

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As most Jeep owners will probably tell you, they can be excellent vehicles for handling off-road terrain. But they may not have the most compatible roofs for carrying a kayak. 

We’ve researched the best Jeep kayak racks on the market to give you a better idea of what you need to carry a kayak on your Jeep’s next adventure.

Don’t want to read them all? The best one is the Rhino Rack Folding J-Style carrier.

Quick Picks: Kayak Racks For Jeeps:

Top 17 Best Jeep Kayak Racks Reviewed

1: Rhino Rack Folding J-Style Kayak Carrier (best for Wrangler)

  • Rack type: J cradle
  • Compatible with: Wranglers (2012-2022), all crossbars except Thule Aero and Professional
  • Weight capacity: 132 pounds

The Rhino Rack Folding J-Style Kayak Carrier is designed with a universal mounting system. This means it can fit almost all types of crossbars but you may need to purchase additional accessories to fit certain crossbars, such as square bars. However, it’s not compatible with Thule’s Aero bars or Professional crossbars.

Remember, you will need to install crossbars to your Jeep Wrangler before you install this kayak rack. It’s also not the cheapest option. But it does include bow and stern straps and padded tie-down straps.

The J-cradles are padded to provide cushioning for your kayak’s hull when in transit.

A great feature of this rack is that it folds down flat, minimizing the additional height on top of your vehicle so you can still drive in low clearance zones, such as your garage.

Pros

  • Folds flat for garage clearance
  • Padded
  • Straps included

Cons

  • Not cheap

2: Thule Compass Kayak Carrier (best for Cherokee)

Thule Compass Kayak Rack Pin
  • Rack type: J-style/saddle/stacker
  • Compatible with: Cherokee (2014-2022), Grand Cherokee  (2012-2022)
  • Weight capacity: 75 pounds (one kayak)

The Thule Compass Kayak Rack can be a great kayak carrier if you want the option of carrying more than one kayak at a time. This can carry two kayaks in a stacker mode. Alternatively, you can carry just one kayak either in a J-cradle mode or a saddle mode.

This versatile rack can also be ideal for carrying SUPs in addition to a kayak. But it’s expensive.

It has a universal mounting system to fit all types of crossbars. It also comes with two sets of load straps with Buckle Bumpers for added protection and security.

The kayak has thick rubber saddles to cradle your hull, and padded upright arms to prevent scratches to your hull. The arms fold down when not in use, for improved aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.

Pros

  • Folding
  • Multiple carrying configurations
  • Ideal for one or two kayaks

Cons

  • Expensive

3: Yakima JayLow Kayak Rack (best for Gladiator)

  • Rack type: J-style
  • Compatible with: Gladiator (2020-2022), most crossbars
  • Weight capacity: 100 pounds (for two kayaks), 80 pounds (single kayak)

The Yakima JayLow Kayak Rack can carry one kayak in a J-cradle configuration or two kayaks in a vertical stacked position.

One of the best features of this kayak carrier is that it folds down. This means when you’re not carrying kayaks on your roof, you can still drive into your garage without having to remove the rack completely each time.

Another good feature of the JayLow is the integrated ramp to make it easier to load your kayak, which can be useful on high vehicles like the Gladiator, Cherokee and Wrangler. However, with a 100-pound capacity, it’s not the best choice if you’re wanting to carry two heavy fishing kayaks.

It’s compatible with most crossbars, so you can install it on most Jeeps depending on the type of crossbars you have installed.

Pros

  • Universal fit
  • Folding design
  • Integrated loading ramp

Cons

  • Not great for heavy kayaks

4: Rhino Rack Fixed J-Style Kayak Carrier (best for Compass)

Rhino Rack Fixed J-Style CarrierPin
  • Rack type: J-style
  • Compatible with: Compass (2012-2022), most crossbars
  • Weight capacity: 99 pounds

This Rhino Rack Fixed J-Style Carrier has a universal mounting design so it can fit various types of roof rack systems. It features rubber tube padding on the cradles and arms to help protect your kayak from damage while it’s being transported.

This heavy-duty kayak rack can hold up kayaks weighing up to 99 pounds, so it can be ideal for transporting fishing kayaks and other heavy kayaks.

A downside of this rack is that it does not fold down when not in use.

This rack can also be used to transport SUPs and canoes. Additionally, it benefits from having a three year warranty and comes with two abrasion resistant padded straps.

Pros

  • Great for fishing kayaks
  • Padded straps
  • Compatible with

Cons

  • Doesn’t fold flat

5: Inno Kayak Roof Rack (best for Renegade)

  • Rack type: Stacker
  • Compatible with: Compass (2012-2022), most crossbars
  • Weight capacity: 70 pounds per kayak

The Inno Kayak Roof Rack can be a great option for carrying up to two kayaks on the roof of a Jeep Renegade. It has universal mounting hardware so it can be installed on other vehicles as well.

This features padded cradles to support your kayak and prevent scratches to both your kayak and your Jeep. It includes two sets of cradles for carrying two kayaks, which is useful.

The upright bar is also padded and conveniently folds down flat against your roof when you’re not hauling kayaks.

Straps are included so you can secure your load. Remember, this rack is designed to be installed on crossbars, not the side rails on your Renegade.

Pros

  • Universal mounts
  • Padded cradles
  • Folds down for clearance

Cons

  • Not ideal for fishing kayaks

6: Thule Hullavator Pro Lift Assist Kayak Carrier (best for Patriot)

Thule Hullavator Pro Lift Assist Kayak CarrierPin
  • Rack type: Lift Assist
  • Compatible with: Patriots (2007-2017)
  • Weight capacity: 75 pounds

The Thule Hullavator Pro can be an ideal choice for a Jeep Patriot. It can also be great for other Jeeps and other SUVs.

The main function of this kayak rack is that it can help you load your kayak onto the roof of your vehicle. However, it is very expensive compared to other racks.

It has eight points of padding for the protection and support of your kayak. The cradles are wide enough to accommodate kayaks up to 36 inches wide.

It has gas struts that can lift 40 pounds of the weight of your kayak.

This is a side-loading rack so it doesn’t affect the back door of your Jeep.

Pros

  • Lift assist kayak rack
  • Padded cradles
  • Good for wide kayaks

Cons

  • Very pricey (it is Thule!)

7: Rugged Ridge Sherpa Roof Rack (best for soft top)

  • Rack type: Roof mount
  • Compatible with: Wranglers (soft top)

This Rugged Ridge Sherpa Roof Rack is designed to mount directly to a 4-door Jeep Wrangler with a soft top. There is also a version for the 2-door soft top Wrangler.

This is a mounting system that is designed with a tilt feature, so that you can still access the soft top to open it or close it. It’s also built to work with hard tops and the Freedom panels can be removed without having to remove the rack.

It sits over the roof of your vehicle to let you carry various cargo. It does not include crossbars or carriers to transport a kayak.

It has an integrated light bar at the front and the bars have a rust-resistant powder coating for durability. The bolt-on rack means you don’t need to drill into your Jeep.

Pros

  • Tilt function allows roof access
  • No drilling required
  • Versatile carrying options

Cons

  • Crossbars not included

8: Kuat Class 2 Kayak Rack (best value)

Kuat Class 2 Kayak Rack Pin
  • Rack type: J cradle
  • Compatible with: universal crossbar mount
  • Weight capacity: 80 pounds

This Kuat Class 2 Kayak Rack features a set of J-cradles and is designed to carry kayaks that weigh up to 80 pounds. This kayak rack offers great value at a relatively affordable price. It’s durable and can be great for frequent use. It also comes with a No Worries warranty.

These J-cradles are crafted from co-molded rubber, which is designed to offer support and protection for your kayak’s hull. You’ll also find a set of bow and stern lines for securing your craft to your vehicle.

The rack has a universal fitting, so it’s designed to fit almost any style of crossbars, up to 4.25 inches wide and 2 inches thick.

A downside is that they don’t fold flat, which could be an issue for clearance if you want to keep them on your Jeep while not in use.

Pros

  • No Worries warranty
  • Rubber J-cradles
  • Straps included

Cons

  • Non-folding cradles

9: Rhino Rack T-Loader Canoe And Kayak Rack (best for tandem kayaks)

  • Rack type: Hitch mount
  • Compatible with: Class 2 hitches
  • Weight capacity: 132 pounds

The Rhino Rack T-Loader can be the ideal kayak rack for a Jeep if you plan to load and unload your kayak by yourself. This can make it much easier to load, as the T-Load can be lowered so you can use it for leverage, making it ideal for tandem kayaks or long touring kayaks.

This is a hitch-mount kayak rack that’s designed to be used with Class 2 hitches. These types of hitches are commonly found on four-door Jeep Wranglers, as well as other Jeep models and other SUVs.

It includes a Rhino Rack Vortex crossbar so it can also be used as an extender for longer kayaks or for added support for heavier kayaks. However, you will need to first install a set of crossbars on your roof, as it’s not sufficient on its own.

Pros

  • Hitch attachment
  • Load assist
  • Roof extender

Cons

  • Requires additional crossbars

10: Yakima BigStack Boat Rack (best for multiple kayaks)

Yakima BigStack Boat Rack Pin
  • Rack type: Stacker
  • Compatible with: universal crossbar mount
  • Weight capacity: 165 pounds

The Yakima BigStack can be an ideal option if you want to carry up to four kayaks on the roof of your Jeep with just one kayak rack. This is a stacker rack that features a central bar that can support two kayaks on either side.

However, the number of kayaks you can hold will depend on the size of each kayak. But it only includes a straps for tying down one kayak.

The bar is padded for added hull protection and it conveniently folds down flat against your roof. So you don’t need to remove it each time you put your kayaks in storage.

Pros

  • Carries up to 4 kayaks
  • Padded arm
  • Folds flat

Cons

  • Straps included for only one kayak

11: Pelican Adjustable Foam Block Kayak Carrier (best budget)

  • Rack type: Foam
  • Compatible with: most hardtop SUVs and cars
  • Weight capacity: depends on vehicle’s roof

This Pelican Kayak Carrier can be a good idea if you’re looking for a simple solution that can be easy to install on the roof of most vehicles. This is a budget kayak rack that is designed to be used on vehicles that don’t have crossbars already installed.

It has foam blocks and two 38-inch crossbars. The crossbars are designed to fit inside the foam blocks for added weight support and rigidity for the rack.

The rack is attached to your vehicle through the windows, so it’s easy to install.

The foam blocks are designed to hold one kayak. But if your Jeep already has crossbars or side rails, this may be difficult to use.

Pros

  • Budget friendly kayak rack
  • Easy to install
  • Straps included

Cons

  • Not for vehicles with side rails or crossbars

12: Hooke Road Roof Rack Crossbars

  • Rack type: crossbars
  • Compatible with: Wranglers (2007-2022), Gladiators (2020-2022)
  • Weight capacity: 88 pounds

The Hooke Road Roof Rack features a set of crossbars that are designed to fit all newer models of Wrangler and Gladiator.

The two low-profile crossbars are a slightly different size from each other, with the front one being 50 inches wide and the back one being 50.78 inches wide. This is so that they can be mounted directly to the rain gutters on your Jeep without requiring drilling or damage to your vehicle.

However, these crossbars are not compatible with soft-top Jeeps.

The capacity of 88 pounds is not the best but it can be ideal for carrying a kayak.

Pros

  • No drilling
  • Low profile
  • Ideal for Wranglers and Gladiators

Cons

  • Not suitable for soft tops

13: Riverside Car Top Universal Kayak Carrier

Riverside Car Top Universal Kayak CarrierPin
  • Rack type: Foam blocks
  • Compatible with: Universal crossbars
  • Weight capacity: depends on crossbars

This Riverside Car Top Kayak Carrier can be an easy way to carry your kayak on the roof of your Jeep. This carrier features two closed-cell foam blocks that are designed to fit over and around the pre-installed crossbars on your vehicle’s roof.

The foam is CFC-free and HCFC-free. It’s also waterproof and resistant to UV damage. Each foam block is 18 inches wide and designed to support and protect a single kayak.

It’s not recommended to use this kayak rack without crossbars.

It comes with bow and stern lines but they’re not the best quality straps.

Pros

  • Lightweight foam
  • Works with all crossbars
  • UV-resistant

Cons

  • Tie-down straps are not the best

14: HeyTrip Universal Soft Roof Rack Pads

  • Rack type: Roof rack pads
  • Compatible with: Most Jeeps
  • Weight capacity: 176 pounds

This HeyTrip Universal Soft Roof Rack can be an ideal solution for Jeeps and other vehicles without a roof rack.

This rack system can be easily installed on most vehicles by threading straps through the windows for security. However, it’s not designed to be used on soft-tops.

It has a huge weight capacity and is crafted with a non-slip mat underneath to prevent it from slipping during travel. It can be ideal for carrying up to two kayaks or a single canoe.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Generous weight limit
  • Carries up to two kayaks

Cons

  • Not for soft top roofs

15: Vertiyak Kayak Rack

  • Rack type: Hitch mount
  • Compatible with: Class 2 hitches
  • Weight capacity: 150 pounds

This Vertiyak kayak rack is a little different. This is designed to attach to the Class 2 hitch on your Jeep. But it may not work with all Jeeps and all kayaks.

This is made to hold kayaks that are no more than 12 feet long. However, depending on the style of your kayak, you may find that it hits the ground.

Your kayak should fit into a lower hoop on the rack that measures 11 ½ inches by 17 inches. This might work better for recreational kayaks that have a wider bow and stern.

The kayaks are stored vertically on this rack, which could also affect your fuel efficiency and aerodynamics, particularly if you plan to travel at higher speeds. But kayaks might be easier to load on this rack than on your roof.

Pros

  • Easy to load kayaks
  • Generous weight capacity
  • Hitch mount

Cons

  • Vertical storage may not work for every kayak

16: Malone SeaWing Saddle Kayak Carrier

  • Rack type: Saddle
  • Compatible with: round, square, most factory oval crossbars
  • Weight capacity: 70 pounds

The Malone SeaWing Kayak Carrier is designed to be compatible with most crossbars. But you will need to have crossbars already installed on your Jeep.

The low-profile design of the saddles can help to minimize drag and improve gas mileage. It can also mean less height is added to your roof for low-clearance access when you’re not hauling a kayak.

The cradles are designed to flex slightly for improved boat support and fuel efficiency.

The rack is also made to be easy for one person to load a kayak on their own, as the cradles can help to take the weight of the kayak as you load it from the back of your vehicle.

However, the saddles can be tricky to install on your crossbars.

Pros

  • Low profile
  • Easy to load a kayak
  • Flexible saddles

Cons

  • Difficult to install

17: Malone Foldaway-5 Kayak Rack

  • Rack type: J-cradle
  • Compatible with: round, square, oval crossbars
  • Weight capacity: 75 pounds (per boat)

The Malone Foldaway-5 can be a great kayak rack for almost every Jeep. This is because it can fold down flat against the roof of your vehicle for added convenience when it’s not in use.  

One of the best features of this versatile kayak rack is that it can hold more than just kayaks. As well as having the capacity to carry two kayaks in a stacker mode, it can also fold down to carry a canoe or SUPs.

You can also carry just one kayak in a J-cradle mode. If you’re carrying two kayaks, each kayak must weigh no more than 75 pounds.

A downside of this rack is that it doesn’t have a locking function to lock it to the crossbars. So this could be a security issue for some paddlers.

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Folds for clearance
  • Universal crossbar fittings

Cons

  • No locking function

How To Choose A Kayak Rack For Your Jeep

Types Of Racks

Roof Rack Crossbars

Crossbars can be one of the most versatile types of rack to carry a kayak on a Jeep. Installing crossbars can let you add a specific kayak rack to suit your boat.

But crossbars can also give you the option of carrying other accessories and rooftop cargo when you’re not kayaking.

Often, you can put padding over the crossbars and secure your kayak directly to the crossbars without the need for a secondary rack. This can help to keep your weight low and minimizes any additional height on your vehicle, helping with clearance and gas mileage. 

J-cradles

J-cradles can be one of the more popular ways to transport kayaks on your roof, as it can let you carry the kayak on its side. This can free up space on the other side of your roof for additional cargo or another set of J-cradles for a second kayak.

While J-cradles can be great for carrying a single kayak, it can be a good idea to choose a rack that can be folded down when not in use, especially on a Jeep. This can give you the additional clearance you need to drive into your garage or a parking lot without having to remove the entire rack each time. 

Hitch-Mount Racks

These types of racks mount to the tow hitch on your Jeep. Generally, most Jeeps will have a Class II or III hitch, with a 2-inch opening. This means they should be able to fit with most hitch-mount racks.

However, if you’ve upgraded your hitch receiver or you have a non-standard one, you’ll need to double-check your measurements.

Hitch-mount racks can let you extend the roof of your Jeep with an additional crossbar for added length. There are also some that can let you carry kayaks vertically against the back door of your Jeep.

Lift-Assist Racks

These racks can be ideal for loading a kayak on a Jeep on your own. Lift-assist racks can help take the weight of the kayak so it can be useful on Jeeps and other high-sided vehicles.

Some of these racks can be expensive. But they can be a back-saver for lifting a heavy kayak on a roof rack.

The Thule Hullavator Pro  which features on our list, is a great load-assist rack.

Loading A Kayak On A Jeep

This can be tricky if you’re on your own due to the height of a Jeep. This is where you might want to invest in some lift assistance. This can be by way of a load-assist kayak rack or an accessory such as a roller that can help you lift your kayak onto your roof rack.

Video: Strap and Carry a Kayak on a Jeep with Load Assist

The type of load-assist tool you use will depend on the type of rack you have for your Jeep.

A cheaper option is having someone to help you. Of course, this may not always be possible. 


Jeep Kayak Racks: FAQs

How Do You Put A Kayak On A Jeep Without A Rack?
You can use foam blocks (or pool noodles) and secure them to the roof of your Jeep with straps through the windows. This can also work with soft-top Jeeps.

Should I Buy A Hitch-Mounted Or Roof-Mounted Kayak Rack For My Jeep?
You may find there are more options out there for roof-mounted kayak racks. However, hitch mounted racks can sometimes be easier for loading kayaks if you’re on your own. But hitch-mounted racks may not be suitable for all sizes and types of kayak.

How Do You Put A Kayak On Top Of A Jeep By Yourself?
You can use a load assist accessory to help you load your kayak by yourself. Some racks have built-in load assistance or you can buy tools made specifically for the job, such as this kayak roller with suction cups.

Can I Fit A 12 Foot Kayak On The Roof?
Yes, a 12-foot kayak should be able to fit on the roof of most models of Jeep. You may have some overhang but you can secure the bow and stern to the front and back of your vehicle using bow and stern lines.

Do Kayak Racks Carry Canoes?
Yes, some kayak racks can carry canoes if they can handle the additional weight and size of a canoe. Some racks, however, are designed only for kayaks and are not recommended for use with other water equipment.


Racking Up: Conclusion

We think the best Jeep kayak rack is the RhinoRack Folding J-style carrier. It’s durable, easy to use and folds flat. It also has a high weight capacity, making it ideal for most kayaks.

Our runner-up pick is the Thule Hullavator Pro for its excellent lift-assist technology. It can be ideal for most Jeeps and most kayaks, and can make easy work of loading a kayak on a Jeep by yourself.

Think about the type of kayak you want to transport and how many kayaks you plan to travel with, as this can help you choose the right rack for your Jeep.

If you plan to paddle solo, you may prefer a load-assist rack. But if you’re on a budget, padded crossbars might work better for you.

Best Kayak Racks For Jeeps - PinterestPin
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