1ec251ee2b3c40da9694b7bf7893c699You just got your new kayak and are stoked to hit the water – but wait, how do you take it there? Depending on your needs and budget, there are an overwhelming amount of options out there for you to transport your kayak. Today I’m focusing on rack systems for car-topping your kayak. Just like the name implies, car-topping is when you’re carrying your kayak on top of your car. Easy peasy! Now let’s explore these three ways to transport your boat using various types of kayak car racks:

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.49.18 PMSaddles

Kayak saddles make it easier for you to load and remove your kayak because there’s no need to flip your kayak upside down or turn it on its side. If you’re using something with built in rollers, like the Whispbar Saddle Roller Kayak Carrier loading your kayak from the rear is a breeze. This is something important to consider if you’re planning on going out alone or want the ability to easily independently load your boat on your roof. The saddles are adjustable so you can secure your boat safely and keep it in the same position as when you’re on the water so you’ll have the least possible height when driving. This is especially handy if you’re in an area with low-clearance ceilings like a parking garage.


Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.45.01 PMA kayak cradle rack holds your kayak sideways and are one of the most popular options. With a J-Cradle,  you’ll find it’s very low maintenance and versatile. With something like the Yakima JayLow  (love that name) you’ll be able to fold your J-Cradle kayak carrier flat when not in use, carry one boat in the J-Cradle position, or two boats in the vertical stacker position. A J-Cradle is compatible with the base rack system car racks that come standard on your car or with any separate multi-purpose roof rack crossbars.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.45.59 PMFoam Blocks and Sleeves

If you’re looking for a quick and easy temporary system for transporting your kayak, this is it. The Quick Straps Sports Rack features magnum foam sleeves to cushion your kayak and is secured using ratchet straps that loop around your car’s roof through the doors. Foam blocks like on the Malone Stax Pro Two Boat Universal Car Rack Carrier are designed to pair with any pre-existing roof rack or an aftermarket system. Similar to a J-Cradle rack, this holds your kayak on its side allowing you to transport two boats. Both foam blocks and sleeves feature “no tool needed” assembly so you can easily toss them up on your car or a friend’s. This is also the least expensive method for car-topping your kayak.

Of these three styles of car-topping systems which do you prefer? I’d love to hear your experiences and any specific products y’all are using!

Devyn, Always on Top

P.S. Check out this short video that shows how to properly tie down a kayak to a roof rack.


  1. Really surprised that you didn’t mention the use of a bed extender for pickups. They are inexpensive, slide into the receiver and allow a single person to load a yak. If you cover the cross piece with a little carpet and some duct tape you’ll avoid damaging your yak. By having the yak low and streamlined there isn’t any increased wind noise or fuel consumption. I’ve carried 4 yaks in a full sized pickup. As a final note, when carirying multiples yaks place an old blanket or mover’s blanket between the yaks to keep them from rubbing against each other.

    1. All such good points! I didn’t mention the bed extender because this article was intended to help with car-topping. When you have a truck, there’s a whole new world of options for transporting your kayaks – you’ve inspired a new article

  2. I purchased my Hobie PA12 at Mariner Sails in Dallas a few years back and i love it. I fish out of it more than my big boat. The only thing that I didn’t like about the heavy kayak was I was told I can not put it on my 2009 Mitsubishi Galant. Is there anything on the market now that will allow me to put it on my rook instead of having to use my truck? I can go much further in my car vs the 97 Chevy. Thanks.

  3. We used the Yakima system with Jaylows. With a small car (Honda Civic), it is nearly impossible to go over 50 without worrying they will fly off. The speed limit here is 70, which is a pipe dream for a small car with 2 kayaks on it. We don’t want to be that person doing 50 in the right lane, but 50 is about all the car can handle. We generally just stick to back roads. The car really has to work to do anything, and forget going up a hill. We are going to get a mini van next year and remove the back seats and put in a front steel mesh net for safety. My cousin did this with her tweaked van and it takes her about 15 seconds to gently place her kayaks in the minivan. No noise on the highway, no worries, no speed lag, and the safest transport you could get! I must add, the fairing helps tremendously with noise reduction and costs just a bit more. It is also nice to be able to keep the jaylow down and also nice that you can lock them! We have never had a problem and check over everything multiple times before taking off each time, but I am still anxious about the kayaks up there on the roof. Our system will do for now, but I can not wait for the minivan!

    1. Spend some time researching methods of strapping the boats down. Sometimes it helps to tie additional lines to strut towers and tow points. You’ll be surprised how solid they can ride on a little car. It’ll be worth it when you’re cruising in the left lane.

    2. I have transported 4 or more kayaks (rec or ww) on the roof of my SUV using Yakima roof racks and kayak stacker. I have driven from New Jersey to North Carolina doing about 80 mph. Gas mieage is terrible very noisy but the boats are secure.

    3. Oh, yeah – the minivan sounds like it’ll be a great situation for y’all! In the future, I highly suggest you (and all other ACK shoppers) consult the fit guides to determine the best racks for their vehicle. Both Thule and Yakima do a fabulous job suggesting the right configuration for your vehicle – our customer service team consults these guides all the time to help people choose their best option!