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Best Roof Rack For 2 Kayaks

By: Kayak Guru
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It’s always more fun when you can paddle with a buddy, so a kayak rack that can carry two kayaks might be just what you need.

We’ve checked out some of the best options out there to help you choose the right roof rack for 2 kayaks. Our top pick is the Thule Compass 4-in-1 if you’re looking for quality and versatility.

Top Picks:

Top 11 Best Roof Racks For 2 Kayaks

1: Thule Compass 4-in-1 Kayak Rack (best J-cradle)

  • Rack type: J-cradle/stacker
  • Compatible with: Most crossbars
  • Weight capacity: 130 pounds (75 pounds for one kayak)

The Thule Compass 4-in-1 kayak rack is a versatile kayak rack that can be a great choice if you also enjoy paddle boarding. This rack can carry one kayak up to 75 pounds in J-cradle mode or saddle mode. Or it can carry two kayaks in stacker mode. It can also carry up to two SUPs in saddle mode.

However, you can’t carry a SUP and a kayak at the same time with this rack. And it may not be the most secure if you have a very heavy kayak.

The roof rack features excellent padding on the upright arms as well as durable rubber saddles. This can help to provide a secure grip for your kayak’s hull, as well as help to prevent scratches to your kayak.

This one also has the benefit of being able to fold down flat against your roof when not in use. This means you can keep it on your roof rack for convenience with minimal impact on your vehicle’s aerodynamics or height.

It comes with two sets of load straps with BuckleBumpers for added protection, as well as bow and stern tie-down straps.

The universal mounting hardware means you can install it on most types of crossbars without needing an adaptor.

Pros

  • Versatile kayak rack
  • Rubber cradles
  • Durable

Cons

  • Not great for heavy kayaks

2: Malone Stax Pro 2 Kayak Rack (best stacker)

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  • Rack type: Stacker
  • Compatible with: Most crossbars
  • Weight capacity: 100 pounds (50 pounds per kayak)

The Malone Stax Pro 2 is one of the best kayak stacker racks on the market, with the capacity to hold up to four kayaks.

It has vertical octagon shaped posts made from strong and lightweight aluminum. The arms feature individual strap slots to tie down two kayaks.

There are foam stacker blocks that fit over and around your existing crossbars. These help to provide a padded base to support the weight of your kayak and prevent it from damage.

Another great feature is that the arms fold down flat for storage so you don’t need to remove them each time you return home from a paddling trip. However, a downside is that the arms are not padded.

The JAWZ mounting hardware is a universal fitting design so you should be able to install the rack on any roof rack without the need for tools.

A nice feature of this rack is that it comes with all the straps you need to secure two kayaks to the roof of your vehicle. The rack also benefits from having a lifetime warranty.

Pros

  • Can carry up to four kayaks
  • Folding stacker rack
  • Universal mounting hardware

Cons

  • No padding on the posts

3: Yakima BigStack Boat Rack (best for tandem kayaks)

  • Rack type: Stacker
  • Compatible with: most crossbars
  • Weight capacity: 165 pounds

The Yakima BigStack has a high weight capacity that can be ideal for carrying two larger tandem kayaks or heavier fishing kayaks.

This is compatible with most types of crossbars, including round, square, and most factory bars. It’s also compatible with the SKS lock core system (sold separately) so you have the option of adding additional security measures.

A nice feature of this rack is that it has two options for securing your kayaks through the AnchorHead system. The outer hooks are ideal for lasso loading or you can put your straps through the center of the AnchorHead arm.

The AnchorHead posts have integrated padding to help protect your kayak’s hull from scratches and dents while on your roof.

However, there are no padded points to support your kayak from underneath. This means you may want to add padding to your crossbars to avoid your kayak’s hull resting directly on metal bars.

This rack folds down flat against your car roof for convenience and clearance. It also comes with a set of loading straps, but only for tying down one kayak. You’ll need to purchase a second set of straps to secure a second kayak.

Pros

  • Optional locking system
  • Padded arm
  • Generous capacity

Cons

  • No crossbar padding

> Rhino Rack vs Thule vs Yakima racks compared

4: Malone Foldaway 5 Kayak Carrier (best value)

  • Rack type: J-cradle/stacker
  • Compatible with: most crossbars
  • Weight capacity: 150 pounds

The Malone Foldaway 5 Kayak Rack offers incredible value and durability. This is a versatile rack that can be ideal for multi-sport use. It can carry a SUP or a canoe, in addition to offering cradles to carry two kayaks in a stacker mode or one in a J-cradle mode.

This also features a lifetime limited warranty against manufacturing defects.

The rack is made from corrosion-resistant coated steel and features thick padding to help protect your vessel while it’s in transit.

The J-cradle has an extension arm so that both kayaks can be protected and supported during transportation instead of resting directly on crossbars. However, it can be tricky to load kayaks on tall vehicles with this one because of the upturned lip on the cradle.

It has universal mounting hardware with two lengths of mounting bolts for an improved fit on individual bars.

The rack also folds for convenience and comes with two sets of loading straps so you can secure two kayaks.

Pros

  • Lifetime warranty
  • Straps for two kayaks
  • Padded cradles

Cons

  • Not easy to load kayaks

5: TMS 2 Pairs J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier (best budget)

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  • Rack type: J-cradle
  • Compatible with: most crossbars
  • Weight capacity: 75 pounds per set

This TMS J-Bar HD Kayak Rack features two sets of J-cradles and can be an easy and affordable way to transport two kayaks on the roof of your vehicle.

These powder-coated steel cradles feature adjustable padding so you can position the foam padding to suit the shape of your kayak. There are four cradles in total – two for each kayak. Each set of J-cradles can carry one kayak up to 36-inches wide and weighing up to 75 pounds.

This can be a good choice for carrying recreational kayaks, touring kayaks, and some tandem kayaks, as long as they are within the weight range. Two sets of straps are included.

A downside of these budget J-cradles is that they don’t fold down when not in use. This means you may have to remove them after each kayaking adventure if you want to be able to drive into your garage. This will likely be more of an issue with SUVs, minivans, and pickup trucks.

Pros

  • Two sets of J-cradles
  • Padded cradles
  • Affordable kayak rack

Cons

  • Don’t fold

6: Yakima JayLow Kayak Rack

  • Rack type: J-cradle
  • Compatible with: round, square, factory, and aero bars
  • Weight capacity: 110 pounds (80 pounds for one kayak)

The Yakima JayLow is one of the better known J-cradle kayak racks out there. It can be a good choice for carrying one or two kayaks. It can hold one kayak in the J-cradle position or two kayaks in a stacker position, with an integrated cam lever to make it easy to use.

However, when used to transport two kayaks in stacker mode, the kayak that’s not in the cradle does not have any padded support underneath. So you may want to add padding to your crossbars to prevent scratches and dents.

The cradles are padded well to protect your boat’s hull during loading and travel. A great feature of this rack is that it has an integrated ramp for easier loading into the cradle.

This kayak rack comes with heavy-duty cam straps to secure one kayak. To secure a second kayak, you would need an extra set of cam straps.

It’s designed to be compatible with most types of roof racks and works with the SKS locking system for additional security (locks sold separately).

Pros

  • SKS locking system compatible
  • Loading ramp
  • Cam lever position adjustment

Cons

  • Limited padding for second kayak

7: Thule Kayak Stacker

  • Rack type: stacker
  • Compatible with: Thule bars, round bars, and most factory bars
  • Weight capacity: 150 pounds

The Thule Kayak Stacker is designed to carry up to four whitewater kayaks (or other similarly small kayaks). It can be ideal for carrying one or two larger kayaks, including fishing kayaks and recreational kayaks.

This is designed to fit Thule crossbars but will also fit most round and factory bars.

It features an upright stacker arm to provide support for your vessel. And there is an upper strap loop to make it easier to strap down your kayak to the rack.

The arm features a non-scratch outer coating and it can fold down when you’re not using it for better fuel efficiency. It comes with tie-down straps and buckle protectors to secure one kayak to the rack.

There is no padding included for the crossbars, which could be an issue for some paddlers. With limited padding providing grip for your kayak, it can also be difficult to load a kayak if you’re on your own. 

Pros

  • Folding design
  • Durable stacker kayak rack
  • Carries up to four kayaks

Cons

  • Not easy to load kayaks by yourself

8: IKURAM R Folding Kayak Carrier

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  • Rack type: J-cradle/stacker
  • Compatible with: square and most oval crossbars
  • Weight capacity: 220 pounds

This IKURAM kayak rack is a durable and rust-resistant kayak rack that’s made from anodized aviation-grade aluminum alloys, making it lightweight and strong.

It is a folding J-cradle rack that can carry up to two kayaks in a stacker position or one kayak in the J-cradle position.

A useful feature of this kayak carrier is that it has padded cradles for both kayaks when used as a stacker rack. This can provide both kayaks with additional padding and support while you’re traveling. 

Another great feature is that it folds down flat against your roof when it’s not in use. So you don’t need to remove it each time. The upright arm can also be locked at different angles to accommodate different shapes and sizes of kayaks.

This comes with two sets of load straps so you can secure two kayaks to the rack. There are also two Native Paddle Holders on the rack so you can secure your kayak paddle as well as your kayak.

As a negative, the instructions to install this rack on your crossbars are difficult to follow.

Pros

  • Padded cradles for two kayaks
  • Folding rack
  • Built-in paddle holders

Cons

  • Installation instructions are difficult to follow

9: AA-Racks 2 Pair Double Folding J-Bar Kayak Rack

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  • Rack type: J-cradle
  • Compatible with: most crossbars
  • Weight capacity: 150 pounds

The AA-Racks Double Folding J-Bar Rack can be ideal for hauling two heavy fishing kayaks to and from your fishing hole. It can also be great for carrying a canoe or paddle boards.

One of the most interesting features of this kayak rack is that it has double folding cradles. This means it’s not just the upright arms that fold down when not in use, the lip on the shorter, lower bar also folds down.

Because of the double folding design, this can secure kayaks of different widths and can fold in to secure snowboards or skis. So it can be a versatile rack.

The cradles feature foam padding on the arms and a rubber base to provide support. There are two sets of cradles included, along with two sets of tie-down straps. However, the ratchet straps feature metal buckles that may not be the best if you want to avoid scratching your car.

Each set of cradles can support one kayak up to 150 pounds.

Pros

  • Great for heavy kayaks
  • Holds a variety of outdoor gear
  • Double folding design

Cons

  • Ratchet straps are not great

10: Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack (4 pcs)

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  • Rack type: J-cradle
  • Compatible with: most crossbars except round bars
  • Weight capacity: 150 pounds

The Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack is a set of four J-cradles to hold two kayaks. With each cradle having a generous capacity, these racks can be great for hauling heavy kayaks.

The J-cradles feature rubber and foam padding to help protect your hull. The foam padding can also be adjusted to suit different vessels. The powder-coated steel construction adds strength and durability, as well as weather protection.

Another useful feature of this rack is that it can also carry SUPs or canoes, making it a versatile choice if you participate in various watersports.

The J-cradles fold down flat when not in use, improving your vehicle’s gas mileage and clearance when you’re not hauling boats.

This rack is designed to fit most types of crossbars. But it will not work with round crossbars.

This set of J-cradles comes with four ratchet straps to secure two vessels to your roof rack.

Pros

  • Folds when not in use
  • Two sets of padded J-cradles
  • Versatile J-style rack

Cons

  • Not compatible with round bars

11: DRSPORTS Double Folding J-Bar Rack

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  • Rack type: J-cradle
  • Compatible with: most crossbars
  • Weight capacity: 150 pounds per set

This DRSPORTS Double Folding Kayak Rack features two sets of folding J-cradles to allow you to safely carry two kayaks. With each set having a generous capacity of 150 pounds, this can be an ideal choice for heavier kayaks, such as fishing kayaks.

These J-style cradles fold down flat for clearance when not in use. They also have the added advantage of being double folding. So the smaller cradle arm also folds for storage or a better fit for different sizes of vessels.

This kayak rack can be used to haul canoes, SUPs, and even surfboards. So you’re not limited to only using it to carry kayaks.

The cradles have cushioned padding for protection and support for various watercraft. However, this is not the easiest rack to install.

This set of two pairs of J-style kayak racks comes with four straps for securing two kayaks. It also comes with hood loops and rope hooks for the bow and stern lines.

Pros

  • Double folding rack
  • Holds two heavy kayaks
  • Padded cradles

Cons

  • Difficult to install

What Types Of 2-Kayak Racks Are There?

Stacker Racks

Stacker kayak racks are designed to let you carry two (or sometimes four) kayaks on your roof at the same time. With this type of kayak rack, the kayaks are stacked on their sides.

Most of the time, with a stacker rack, there is a central arm, which provides support and a tie-down strap looping point. When you’re loading two kayaks, one kayak is placed on each side of the stacker arm.

With these types of kayak racks, you can usually fold them flat against the roof of your vehicle when you’re not hauling kayaks. This can be useful for parking in garages.

These types of racks can also generally take up less space on your roof since they feature a single post on each crossbar rather than an entire cradle. You could have the freedom to carry additional cargo on one side of your vehicle and two kayaks on the other.

J-Cradle Racks

J-cradles are probably the most popular type of kayak rack. This lets you transport your kayak on its side, supported by the J-style cradle.

There are various J-cradle racks on the market but not all of them will be capable of carrying two kayaks. Most of the J-cradle racks that are designed to carry two kayaks are usually unable to carry two kayaks in J-cradle mode. These two-kayak racks often convert to a stacker mode to carry more than one kayak on the same rack.

To carry both of your kayaks in a J-cradle, it can be beneficial to opt for two sets of J-cradle racks. This lets you carry each kayak in its own set of J-style carriers. This can also often let you carry two heavier kayaks.

There are also other features of a J-cradle carrier to consider, such as whether or not it folds. Folding cradles are beneficial because they can usually be kept on the roof of your vehicle for convenience without adding too much height, meaning your vehicle’s clearance is not affected.

Racks that don’t fold flat on your roof when not in use may mean you’re unable to drive into your garage or certain parking lots without removing the cradles.

Compatibility Issues To Consider

Types Of Crossbars

The type of crossbars you have installed on your vehicle is likely to be one of the main areas where you may experience compatibility issues.

Some kayak racks will have universal mounting hardware to fit almost every type of crossbar. But this is not always as universal as you might like. But most kayak racks are generally designed to suit a wide variety of crossbars.

Remember, all of our top picks for two-kayak racks are designed to be mounted on crossbars.

As you probably now know, crossbars and roof racks come in different styles. These are generally round, square, oval, factory-installed, and aerodynamic bars. Not all kayak racks will work with every type of crossbars and you may have to purchase additional hardware, such as an adaptor, to fit your specific type of bars.

Size Of Kayak

The size of your kayak can also cause some problems with compatibility. If you have a very heavy kayak, such as a large fishing kayak, some kayak racks may not be suitable.

Most kayak racks have a maximum capacity and two heavy kayaks may greatly exceed the weight limit.

Some roof racks, especially some of the multi-use J-cradle styles, may be better suited for carrying two smaller kayaks or one single kayak.

How Do You Load 2 Kayaks To A Roof Rack And Strap Them On?

If you’re using two sets of J-cradle racks, you would simply load one kayak at a time and strap them down to the individual cradles and crossbars.

Video: How to Tie Down a Kayak on a Roof Rack with Cradles/J-Racks

If you have a stacker rack, strapping two kayaks down can be a little different.

Step 1: Put Your Straps In Place

Because you’re loading two kayaks, it can be important to put the straps in place on the stacker arm before you attempt to load the boats. This is because it can be difficult to reach the arm once there’s a kayak in the way.

Thread your cam straps for each kayak through the strap loop on the stacker post. Keep both ends of your straps towards the ends of your vehicle so you can reach them.

The rear straps should be over your back windshield and the front straps should be over your front windshield.

Be careful not to scratch your car.

> How To Tie Down A Kayak On A Car Roof Rack

Step 2: Lift Your First Kayak

You may or may not need assistance to load your kayak onto the roof of your vehicle. This will probably depend on the weight of your boat and the height of your car.

If you have someone to help you, one person should take the bow end of the kayak and the other person should take the stern end. If you’re on your own, simply lift your kayak up from the center and load it up onto the rack from the side of your vehicle.

Your kayak should be positioned on its side.

You can also use a kayak loader, which is ideal if you’re on your own.

Step 3: Strap It Down

Grab your front strap from the windshield and loop both ends over the top of your kayak.

Video: Thule 830 “The Stacker” Kayak Rack Review Video & Demonstration

Pull the strap so that the buckle end is closer to the top and against the hull of your boat.

Grab the free end of the strap and loop it under the front crossbar. Then you can take this end and thread it through the buckle against your kayak. This should be tightened so that it’s secure.

Tie up the free end of the strap around the crossbar so that it’s not loose while you’re driving.

Repeat this step for the rear strap.

Step 4: Load Your Second Kayak

Repeating step 2 and step 3, you can load your second kayak in the same way as you did with the first kayak.

Rack Off! Conclusion

To round up, our winner of the best roof rack for two kayaks is the Thule Compass 4-in-1 kayak rack because of its versatility and ease of use. It can be folded down when not in use and has the added benefit of padded support for both kayaks.

Another great alternative and our pick for runner-up, is the Malone Stax Pro 2. The added foam blocks over the crossbars provide great support for kayak hulls. And the individual strap slots on the stacker arm make it easy to tie-down two kayaks.

While both of these racks do have universal mounting hardware to connect to various types of crossbars, it’s always worth double-checking that these products are suitable for your roof rack and specific vehicle. Not all of these kayak racks will be compatible with all vehicles.

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