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Kayak Racks

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A Look at Kayak Racks

If you’ve wound your way through the rabbit holes of the internet to find yourself on this page you undoubtedly have a question or two about kayak racks; why you need one, which model is best, what’s the difference? I’m here to help. If the best rack for you isn’t available on I hope to at least point you in the right direction. So without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Home Kayak Storage

A great place to start simply because this is what most people are looking to find. By “home” rack I mean any storage system that you’d use at your primary residence, beachfront cottage, dock, barn, etc. Basically all racks except those used for transporting your kayak. The subcategories are the real differentiators.

Freestanding Kayak Racks

These racks store your kayak(s) off the ground in an organized fashion. Freestanding means it’s not necessary to anchor these racks to walls or overhead rafters. They stand on their own and can support the weight of one or more kayaks without additional support from screws, cables or external support.

The best features of the freestanding kayak racks are that they almost all accept a wide range of kayak sizes and styles. Many have no problem fitting canoes or paddleboards as well. They consist of a series of horizontal arms that are designed to support heavy weight.

The downside to these racks is in the space they require and cost. Typically these are the most expensive kayak storage racks.

On we carry a broad expanse of freestanding kayak racks, from racks with artistic log construction to heavy duty steel framed kayak racks that come with wheels.

Wall Mount Kayak Racks

These racks operate similarly to freestanding racks though, as the name suggests, they mount to a wall with screws or bolts. Extruding arms cradle your kayak(s), so fit for longer or larger boats is rarely a problem.

Typically these racks are cheaper than Freestanding Kayak Racks, but they often support fewer kayaks.

Kayak Hoists

Probably the best option for most kayak owners who prefer to store their kayak in a garage, barn or large shed. Kayak hoists, also called kayak lifts, are a system of rope and pulleys that hoist your kayak from floor to just beneath your rafters. The height of your structure will be the determining factor in how high you can hoist your kayak; typically the bottom of the kayak will rest about 2’ beneath the bottom of your rafters. So a garage with an 8’ rafter height will see a kayak hang around 6’.

There are a couple of great features with any kayak hoist. The first is that the series of pulleys typically offers a mechanical advantage, so you may only need a pulling force of 20 lbs to lift a 30 lb. kayak. Rope brakes prevent unwanted or unsuspected descent.

Kayak hoists are also the perfect solution for boaters who often travel with their kayak mounted on a vehicle roof rack. Depending on garage/barn height it’s often possible to drive into the garage, then lift or lower the kayak directly from or onto your vehicle, thereby eliminating the need for overhead lifting.

Kayak Dock Racks

How often do you see kayaks haphazardly pulled up on shore or jamming up all the space on a lakeside dock? Take note, because every time you witness such a thing you’re seeing a kayak owner who needs a dock rack.

Dock racks are specifically designed to organize your fleet at waterside, where they belong. The best racks have features like lifting arms that help to retrieve and lower your kayak to the water. They can also be screwed, bolted or clamped to docks with all manner of decking: wood, composite or aluminum.

Multi-sport Racks

Plenty of folks enjoy time on the water in more than one style of boat. Canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, rowboats and even small sailboats can often be stored on a single multi-sport rack. This allows the boat owner to neatly store his or her fleet without needing to purchase a purpose built rack for each boat.

Mobile Kayak Storage

Vehicle Roof Racks

The other side to the coin. By this point you should have your home kayak storage figured out and you’re now ready to take things on the road. Roof racks come in varying styles and configurations to fit your vehicle model. Each essentially performs the same task. It secures your kayak(s) to the roof of your vehicle for both long distance and short term use.

Differences between roof racks abound. What works for you will largely be a factor of what you currently have atop your car and what’s your intended use. For example, if you have an integrated vehicle rail (rack) system and only want to take your kayak a few miles, you’ll be fine with some straps and foam blocks. But if you travel long distances or use the racking system frequently, you’ll do well to invest in a system that maximizes ease of use.

The best systems are typically J hook or cradle designs that allow you to mount your kayaks with minimal overhead movements, but secure them easily and quickly. Many have integrated locking systems for maximum security.

Steps to determining what rack will work for you typically follow this path:

          • What will work with your existing vehicle rack, or lack of vehicle rack?
          • How many kayaks do you want to carry?
          • Will it be used frequently?
                • If so, racks that setup quickly and securely, or remain in place, are best.
                • If no, simple systems like straps with foam blocks will work fine.
          • Will you be mounting and dismounting the kayak alone?

If yes, consider systems that allow you to mount the kayak from the side of the car and provide easy access to straps.

Kayak Trailers

Trailers are an excellent alternative to kayak roof racks. They allow easier access to your kayaks and free your roof for use in transporting bikes, surfboards or luggage. Since they can be backed down to the water, especially at launch ramps, trailers minimize the need to heft your kayaks around.

The downside, of course, is cost. Trailers are significantly more expensive than roof racks. For this reason alone, they’re typically not recommended for casual boaters.

Kayak Dollies

You can think of a kayak dolly--or kayak cart-- as a trailer for a single person. Kayak dollies are small, two wheeled wagons that are purpose designed to transport a kayak. Their design places the dolly at the centermost point of your kayak, thereby supporting the majority of the kayak’s weight. By holding your kayak’s bow loop you’ll be able to tow the entire setup by supplying only a few pounds of force.

Kayak dollies are a truly great option for individuals with a short walk to the water. Kayak dollies come with wheels that are designed for the terrain, whether it be sand, gravel, concrete or rocky path.

Boat Kayak Racks

Yeah, these things are cool. Dubbed “mothershipping” your kayak, these unique racks allow you to carry a kayak aboard your sail or powerboat without sacrificing deck space. A typical configuration is for your kayak to sit over or above the gunnel on your boat. Attachments are typically specific to the style of boat you have; pontoon, sail, powerboat with rod holders, etc.

Kayak Accessories to Note

Kayak accessories can extend into oblivion. Here the real purpose is to note a few that truly compliment storing and securing your kayak(s).

Kayak Locks

If you’re storing your kayak outside, or if it will be on a vehicle roof rack for periods while you’re in restaurants, shopping for groceries or swinging by the hardware store, you should definitely purchase a lock. It’s small insurance to pay in order to secure your kayak from opportunistic thieves. Plus, the same lock used on your vehicle rack can be used on your home rack.

Roof Roller

A clever solution for lifting your kayak onto your vehicle roof alone. The roof roller mounts to the rear of your vehicle via suction and allows you to “roll” your kayak onto the roof.