Multiple kayaks on roof?

Hello, I have 2 big and heavy ocean kayaks and look to purchase another one. I also have a youth kayak we got from Costco. I am looking for the best way to transport all 3 (4 total eventually) kayaks on the roof of my minivan. So far, it looks like a stacker is the best option, and perhaps I need extended cross bars. Do you have any caution for me, or other advice on transporting the big heavy boats on top of my car? Thanks so much!

There are 2 concerns - enough width on roof to carry boats and the amount of weight of the boats.

For width, stackers and longer bars are a common way to allow fr more. Putting kayaks on their side is generally the way to get the most boats on to a roof.

On weight, you need to look into what your rack manufacturer recommends, and how securely you attached it (this is likely much more important for you with heavy boats than the white water groms which have small/light weight boats). The weak point is usually the attachment between rack and roof. I wouldn’t trust gutter rails or door clips as much as I would a rack that clamps around factory roof rails or bolts into made for rack spots on the roof. The weight limit number they list is one which many of us have done just fine exceeding, but some have also had racks blow completely off - YMMV. A bow line (or better yet, bow and stern line) is strongly recommended if you are going to push weight limits, as this can take load off of the rack. Lower speeds are less pressure, so also preferred if you are pushing limits. I would push limits more for a short shuttle trip on back roads than I will for a trip on highways.

I friend has a full size van often with 5 or more large boats on top. Round Yakima bars. Not sure how rack is attached I will have to look next time I see him. Iam sure that is over the weight limit of the bars but seems to do just fine. He has been doing this for well over 20 years with different vans over the years same bars though. Bars are real far part. No bow or stern lines used. Other guy I know has pickup with wide placed bars no bow and stern lines either. Place the bars far apart makes it stronger. like at least 8 feet apart. Compared to my car bars at about 3 feet part makes it much stronger I think.

I would also check with the manufacturer of your minivan. Many auto companies state the weight limit for roof loading in the specifications section of their glove compartment handbook.

Doubtful you minivan roof is rated for anything close for three heavy kayaks. Handling issue also with all the weight on the roof.

What minivan and year is it.

Third party cross bars can likely carry the weight, and the support towers should go on or near a structural member of the car. Stackers best option but 2 cautions-

Absolutely use bow lines so you see if anything starts wobbling, especially the kid’s kayak which will likely be too short for you to see the bow while driving. I will let other owners of similar vehicles have the argument about stern lines, don’t know where you would secure it.

Make sure you strap each boat individually, and correctly, to a stacker. Do not do what I saw on the highway earlier today, two rec boats on their side between stackers with just a couple of straps running over the top of the two boats and to the top of the stackers.

On their side like this

The shuttle van, but why are all those kayaks up there?

You should be able to get 3 on a standard size bar. Strap down the center boat individually and it will function like the stacker bar. I don’t know if you will be able to get four big boat up there. Tie down the bow and stern as well.

You had to know this was coming…

Good read https://www.fatherly.com/gear/how-much-stuff-can-you-load-on-a-car/

Here is my solution to the multi-hull carry on the roof of a van:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBdN9f-Q9gc&t=291s

The weight limit on my Yakima racks is 165 lbs. I didn’t feel comfortable carrying 3 sea kayaks (55 - 60 lbs each) from Florida to Canada so I purchased a T-bar ($60 at Harbor Freight), I attach to my hitch and place my boat so the vast majority of the weight is carried by the T-bar. It also allows me to carry some of our gear in my boat so we have more room in the car. The other two boats ride on J-racks so that the combined weight is well below the maximum. The only problem is that I have is no access to my CRV’s back hatch.

Interesting boat.

You said Ocean Kayaks, not Sea Kayaks, so I assume they weigh about 70 lbs each. That’s a lot of weight on your bars not to mention lifting said boats up on the bars sideways. They would be too wide to load more than two flat. Some have said they use no bow and stern tie downs. No boats should go without them unless short distance and slow speeds. But I even fear that. I have had my entire rack ripped off my roof with one boat and hit the expressway on a rare occasion when I didn’t use them. Thankfully no one was injured. I always use bow and stern lines now. Scares me when I see boats on the road without them.

Interesting boat it is. It’s a NDK Greenlander Pro Sea Touring Kayak - 17’10"’ long and 21.5" wide and weights 57 lbs.
Sea and ocean kayaks are used interchangeably (unless you’re making reference to the company Ocean Kayaks that makes sit on tops). They usually weigh between 40 lbs - 65 lbs depending on the material they’re constructed of (carbon fiber is generally the lightest, fiberglass the heavier). I have two sets of crossbars - 58" and 78". With J-racks I can easily carry 3 sea kayaks with my 58" crossbar and 4 with my 78". I always tie down the boats whenever going a long distance. Transported 4 kayaks from Florida to Lake Superior half a dozen times without any problems.
Here’s a photo of the car and boats heading to Maine.

I have carried four often on my Honda pilot roof with no difficulty. Aftermarket rack system that attaches to your roof rails is best. On my Nissan Armada, I have carried 5 on the roof with no issue. However, not being the tallest guy in the world, I have a small trailer that I had some rails made to attach my roof rack to. So easy to load and unload. It also keeps the kayaks down out of the wind and you get better gas mileage. a small trailer is the best way to tow multiple boats. And with a couple storage boxes in the trailer you have plenty of space for PFD’s and other gear. I have actually had some special load bars made and I can now haul 6 kayaks and I am just under the maximum vehicle road width of 104 inches. Kayaks and a light trailer pull so easy that I even drag it around sometimes with my daughters 4 cylinder CRV. One big camping expeditions I attach hook up the kayak trailer behind my 30 foot travel trailer and pull tandem behind the Armada. With the light weight of the trailer and Kayaks, you do not know its there and they are down out of the wind. I have attached a camping expedition picture showing the kayak trailer on the right.

You should also be wary of any insurance company restrictions. A couple of times a year I drive from New Jersey to Nova Scotia with two kayaks on top of my Santa Fe and I have insurance riders on my auto policy protecting the boats from damage and theft.

It wouldn’t surprise me though that if I exceeded the load rating of my SUV, then my insurance company would easily have a way out of any liability in the event of an accident.

@jamesismith said:
Here is my solution to the multi-hull carry on the roof of a van:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBdN9f-Q9gc&t=291s

I like this.

@Overstreet said:

Someone like that should be arrested.