Kayak Racks--what to use??

What is the best way to transport 3 kayaks? (Probably 2 Perception America 13.5 and 1 Carolina 14.5—still in the market for the kayaks, too!) I went on the Thule and Yakima websites and tried to configure a rack for my truck. There are too many choices and I don’t know what to choose. I have a '99 Toyota 4Runner with factory racks. One person told me I could use the racks----one person told me I couldn’t. Can someone please tell me how to configure a rack system or tell me exactly what I need to purchase.




The vehicle factory racks have limited capacity. It’s not so much downward gravitational load, but uplift. I have hauled hundreds of kayaks for many years, and would not own an over the counter rack. I had a Yakima many years ago, and was unimpressed with the durability, as all the fittings rusted / seized, and it had minimal capability. A quality matal fabricator could custom build you a rack to fit your Toyota that would last for years. Probably for about the same price. I have an aluminum tig welded rack on my truck that is approaching 350k miles without incident. Still looks like new, and can carry several kayaks at a time. It cost me $400. I realize that my approach is not common for the average consumer, but what the pro’s know could benefit the average consumer. These retail racks don’t even have stainless fasteners! Lot’s of silly bells and whistles that neither you nor your kayak(s) need. You won’t see a commercial outfitter or kayak manufacturer hauling boats on these over the counter products. I’d recommend talking to an aluminum fabricator. You can have the rack customized and even powder coated. I can’t believe what these whimpy over the counter racks cost. Consumers seem drawn to gimmicks and marketing BS. I do see value in the products that allow single / weaker people to load their boat solo, but if that’s not an issue, go custom, or build custom to accept these attachments. Good luck

My 2 cents
Hard to go wrong with Yakima. Check and see if they have lowriders for your factory side rails. These make a secure connection. You will probably want to get the longer cross bars to carry 3 yaks.


Either Thule or Yakima work fine
Your factory rack weight is for the load the forces are taken care of by your bow and stern lines. IF you use them they take the strain of the up lifting forces off the rack.

Plastic v. Glass
I believe everything you menitoned is a plastic boat? Plastic should travel on its side against a vertical rail or, is you can find them, the older style of stackers that were actually upside down angled “U” shape. That is because plastic boats are strongest on their sides, will risk oil canning more easily if you travel them flat. Also, those stackers are secure as heck - we have gone thru winds that were knocking down dead trees with two plastic touring boats on the roof and the boats never budged.

Conposite boats are strongest on their bottoms, so they should travel on saddles (curved padded forms). Rollers on back make things a LOT easier, especially if you are lifting them up to the height of a truck system.

We’ve been happy with our Yakima systems, but we have two station wagons so would maybe are not usuing exactly the same stuff as you would on the support members. If it is open bed in back - we have one club member who used a support system intended to carry construction ladders etc. He’s been quite happy with it.

load limts
Check in your owner’s manual, but you’ll probably find that you’re past the limit with those three boats. And as previously noted, even the Yakima and Thule adapters for factory racks have to observe the factory limits (110 pounds seems to be a fairly common limit). It might be that you’ll have to circumvent them altogether and go with a Yakima or Thule that clamps on the same way it does for cars without racks at all, which would get you into their brand load limits (180 pounds or so - check their limits first).

Kayak stackers are still available from both brands, and will allow you to carry three boats on their sides nested against each other, which is space efficient as well as good for the boats (less likely of putting wows into the hulls on a hot day).

If you lines are tight enough to

– Last Updated: Mar-28-05 12:42 AM EST –

take the uplifting forces off the rack, then they are too tight in the opinion of such people as Tom Bergh and myself etc.

Many People hold that bow and stern lines are necessary back ups and most useful as indicators. Thus we leave them a bit loose and if they tighten up we know there has been a failure of the primary system (Straps and/or rack).

While I have no experience with racking boats on trucks my thule bars and yakima and thule saddles have given about 5 years or service and are still going strong. The Fabrication idea to get a platform for the rear of a truck so that the boats cna be level might well be a great idea I really would not know.


Yakima Racks work fine
I think the above review is out of line with common experience.

I have always gone for tight and watched for a loosening of one line or the other as an indicator that there’s a problem. I may have to rethink things now . . .



Tom has a good story

– Last Updated: Mar-28-05 12:46 AM EST –

about losing a boat to a tight line. You're sure to hear it if you ask.

Cars flex, I'd just as soon not have my boats as part of a tensegrity structure with one.


Lines tend to stretch and loosen up with tension, stress, time, and heat. so seeing a line loosen gives rise to the question why. See a line tighten and something has moved.

Unless you are using really good line to tie your boats down in which it might not stretch much, but then if the car flexes and the line is tight....

Composit boats are NOT
strongest on their bottoms, they are strongest on their tops, at least the NDK boats are and they are stronger everywhere than most. (heavier too)

NDK recomends carrying their kayaks with the top side down on the carrying rack.


Truth about weight?

– Last Updated: Mar-28-05 12:31 AM EST –

I believe that the weight capacities you are specifying for yakima/thule are calculated per load bar, not for the entire rack system.

I've been wrong before......

rack load ratings
Can somebody explain these to me? I’ve never been able to figure out what they are talking about. I very much doubt that they really mean the actual amount of weight that you can stack on the roof- after all, the roof pillars etc have to be strong enough to resist rollover, as far as I know. Obviously, this would be over 2 thousand lbs. The big risk with cheap factory racks is that they will rip off your car, not collapse onto the roof- there again, are they saying the rack can only handle 110 lbs of upward force (so that if you stood on the roof and pulled, that would be the most you could pull)? That seems very difficult to measure, and in reality would be totally dependent on how much updraft whatever object you are carrying would generate. I’m sure this could be calculated, but it would be very difficult, and probably would increase as a power of velocity (most things do).

My car (a Saab wagon) has these incredibly solid appearing roof rails, which appear to be directly attached to the frame of the car- then I have Yakima lowriders attached to those. Identical rails are on many other cars, certainly VW wagons, Audi’s etc. I can’t speak to American cars, but it must be fairly similar if they have these built in rails. I can’t imagine them collapsing or coming off in any sort of condition I could possible imagine, short of totalling the car while flipped over on the roof.

Can someone enlighten me here, or is this whole roof rack rating scheme entirely random?


Roof racks
We’ve used Thule and Yakima for many years and thousands of miles. We give Thule our business now since the square bars hold our accessories better and give more surface area when we do use stackers.

But both are good. Factory supplied crossbars are generally (but not always) cheap decoration and won’t hold loads as they are not rigid enough or have a lot of slop where they mount into the vehicle side rails. That’s why it’s best to use Thule CROSSBARS no matter what. Also, go longer and you can carry more boats or have more room for your tie downs. If you find your bars are TOO long, simply cut them down to the perfect size. We vote for loose bow lines so that if we see them tigten it raises the alarm and we pull off immediately. And we think on all kayaks we’ve ever seen, composite or plastic, that the perimeter edge is the strongest (where the deck and hull join together) and we like J-style holders for that reason. Stackers are great for limited space issues but may be difficult to load and secure solo of if you are small. When I worked at a big bike shop we used the Yakima and Thule fit guides and they were spot on 98% of the time with the only negaitve being they advocate shorter bars than most paddlers need hence our advice to go longer and cut down.

Call customer service for both
Yakima and Thule. It is their job to assist you with professional advice.


Captain Obvious

Decks stronger than hulls?
I have owned composite boats from Valley, P&H, qcc, ndk, WS, and westside.

I disagree with your contention. some specifics: the deck fron the P&H was very flexible (too flexible)imhop) the hull was rock solid carbon kevlar.

The hull and first inch above the chine of my seaward boat is a tank, the deck is a bit flexible.

QCC: no question the hull is stronger that the deck, and the chine to one inch above the seam is the most rigid.

Westside: deck and hull are both plenty stiff but the hull is much stiffer

The hull of my valley pintail is very stiff the deck is much less so.

Some brit boats do have a rescue patch right in front of the coaming which is very stiff but that does not mean that the entire deck is stiff

Capacities are per crossbar
I was asking some rack-related questions at stores, and it appears that 80 lbs PER CROSSBAR is used as a generic conservative load rating.

Strong tops
Don’t know about P&H, ect. NDK states in their owners sheet that kayaks should be transported on their tops as that is the strongest part of the kayak due to the many edges and such which add rigidity to the structure. I only thought they know more about their product than anyone else? Makes sense to me, the tops of my two NDK kayaks are built like a tank. But maybe you are more knowledgable than the folks who make them ?