Racks for a Jeep Wrangler

I need to buy a set of kayak racks for a Jeep Wrangler. I searched around and found a couple of links to topfiveracks.com. Not cheap, but if it’s the only game in town…

Does anyone have any recommendations for Wrangler racks? And if topfiveracks.com is my only option, does anyone have any experience with this rack? How much modification needs to be done to the body to install them? And once you’ve ponied up the $600 for the racks, how much more rack do you need to buy before you can actually carry kayaks?

BTW - In other threads that I found discussing Jeeps, most of the conversation was people trying to convince the poster that a Jeep was a bad idea. I understand that there are people who don’t like Jeeps and that’s fine, but I’m really only interested in folks’ experience with Jeep racks.

Thanks for any help.

Wrangler rack
I just got a Lange rack for my canoe. It works great. $400 including shipping.

You didn’t say if you have a ragtop or not. I drove a Jeep for fifteen years, shed a couple tears when it came time to put it down.

I put a “light bar” on mine, it mounts to the windshield frame. That was the only other mount point back then. I’ve hauled one of everything over the lightbar & rollbar. The newer ones have the full rollcage…

Jeeps are the ultimate vehicle when it comes to accessories, I’m sure there’s a better way nowadays but probably not cheaper/multifunctional.


– Last Updated: Apr-10-06 10:38 AM EST –

well...they aren't comfy, they're loud and the mileage is terrible...and i love it - hands down the "funnest" vehicle i've ever owned.

racks that mount directly to the vehicle and still let you operate the rag top include:

expedition rack from garvin
safari rack
best top
kargo master

i just installed a kargo master congo cage this weekend with the yakima adapter. it took longer than expected and despite assurances to the contrary, i am going to have to drill into the tub to properly secure it. additionally it's pretty heavy (and heavy duty - 500 lb carrying capcity!) and i don't think that my wife is going to be able to unhinge it and then pivot it back to operate the top by herself. aditionally, it makes the vehicle even louder.

the kargo master was about $600 and then the yakima set up was another $250 or so...not cheap.

our situation precluded it but have you looked into a receiver hitch and a trailer or is that not an option? it may be less expensive.

trailers require storage, registration and then backing those little suckers up and the racks you just toss on top and kinda forget about them...either or.

have a great summer!

Kargo Master
I use a Kargo Master rack on mine and couldn’t be happier. Can hold up to 500lbs (no others come close), accepts all Yakima and Thule attachments, can be installed without drilling into the body (but then the total weight capacity drops to 300lbs, still more than enough), you can still raise and lower the softtop, and the rack is hinged to allow for installation of the hardtop.


I bought mine two or three years ago. I love it. Two 17ft kayaks up there no problem. The padded bar at the back makes slidding the boats up alone easy. Install was easy. The only problem was the mounts at the bumper. My jeep was a little rusty and I had to tap out the threads to get the bolts back in. No problem a trip to the hardware store and twenty extra minutes.

Uses Thule and yakima parts.

Email me if you have more questions or want to see pictures.

I recently installed this rack

on my 04 Wrangler. Its a BEAR to install, but a very tough rack. Carries up to 400 pounds. Requires drilling in the frame. But I have to say I am very confident in the security of my boats when they are loaded. Its a rock solid rack.

Biggest pitfall-you have to remove the basket to take the top down, unless you are willing to undo the 4 screws that attach the top to the top frame behind the front seats. (yeah, its easier to remove those 4 little screws than it is to remove the basket. Trust me on this.)

I wanted to buy another rack, but the dealers wouldn’t guarantee me that they would fit on the 04. If I had an 03 or earlier, I would have had a huge choice in racks. :frowning:



I put a Thule rack on my hardtop
They sell rain gutters that require drilling holes to bolt down through the top. Comes with silicone - no leaks. :slight_smile: Been from Maine to Key Largo and back with no problems.

Thanks everyone!
Lots of good info! Now I’ve got to take a little time and look through some of these websites.

You didn’t say if you have a ragtop or not.

I’ve got a hard, soft and bikini top.

I have
a soft top on mine. That was what I meant by it being hard to get the top down.

Top Five

– Last Updated: Apr-23-06 3:00 PM EST –

I got a Top Five rack a little less than a year ago. It's okay, but far from great. It holds 2 or 3 kayaks fine, I stack them side by side. It is also strong enough to carry quite a load.

I've found 3 big disadvantages to it, though.

1. I've had a problem with rust which I feel is pretty unacceptable considering the price and their promises against it. The back brackets are really rusty already. I've only been using the rack for a year and some of that was spent in the Southwest where rust isn't a problem.

I've read some other complaints about rust on the Top Five racks. When I bought mine, Top Five wrote that they had fixed the rust problem. Obviously they hadn't and I wouldn't believe them any time soon if they say that they have again.

2. I contacted Top Five to see if I could purchase replacement brackets, but they never got back to me. Pretty lousy.

3. What they don't tell you is that to remove the top the side bow needs to be disconnected. It makes it kind of a pain to take the soft top down, and if you're not careful may do a little damage. You'd have to be an idiot to really ruin your top and hardware by doing it, but it's not as easy as they would like you to believe.

For the price of a new Top Five rack, the quality and customer service are pretty sad. And as far as having a rack that allows removal of the soft top, there are many other approaches to that and Top Five's isn't all that sweet.

If I had to do it over again I'd try one of the other racks advertised in Quadratec. Top Five is not the only game in town. Quadratec can be expensive so you might want to shop around. The Kargo Master rack above looks like it may be a good deal.

You’ll likely want one of the
body/ frame mount racks since I see you have all the tops. My 95 Hardtop has been hauling boats for 5 years or so. I bolted roof rails to the roof that I purchased at a salvage yard for $20.

Made my own brackets (feet) and cross rails. Total cost about $40.00. Yakima or Thule makes the same stuff, more attractive but more$$$

And I do understand, It is a JEEP thing!

Not the only show in town
As others have posted, KargoMaster makes a heavy-duty rack base (you’ll still need the kayak-specific hardware to go with it).

I got rid of my Wrangler but did some research on this subject before deciding to forego the whole thing (but I have a trailer).

Another possibility is to install both front and rear hitch receivers. Yakima and probably others make “goalpost” devices to fit in them. The advantage of this kind of system is that removing the posts from the hitches would be easy, so you don’t have to drive around with even more wind-resisting, noise-causing items when you’re not hauling kayaks.

I have a full size Grand Wagoneer

– Last Updated: Apr-25-06 3:38 PM EST –

Jeep means Just Emptied Every Pocket (at the gas station) I have a 1989 Grand Wagoneer, Very quiet, comfy, hauls kayaks great...but the gas mileage is AWFUL! Even worse than a Hummer H2!

I am surprised that Wranglers get such bad mileage...as small and lightweight as they are. It looks like Jeep could do something to improve the Wrangler's fuel economy.

There is a guy I see at the boat launch often who has a rack on a Wrangler with a soft top...not sure who made it though. the front part bolts to the windshield and the back part bolts to the sides of the body tub.

That’s easy to explain, the new Hummers have overdrive. The old Jeeps would go from 55mph to zero in a hundred yards just by letting off of the gas pedal, between the low gear ratio & lack of overdrive… Mine got about 100K out of the original brakes.

Olympic 4x4 rack
JC Whitney sells the Olympic rack that works with a soft top for $299. Free shipping.

I was going to go this route and decided to put a Thule system on the wife’s car instead.


This weekend I paddled and biked using my Lange rack on my wrangler. The bikes are very secure and my canoe doesn’t budge. It is $400 including freight and can be used with the top down, hard top or rag top. This thing is great.

Wrangler rack
I have a Top Five on a '94. Not happy at all. Poor customer service. Came with no instructions. The rack is kinda “cheap” quality. Rust in just a few months, And the rack wobbles like it’s straining to carry a full load with only about 70 lbs. Makes a lot of noise at anything above 25 mph.

The rear mounting is probably the weakest point. I would look for a continous rear mount.

I used a front light bar (less than 100 bucks) and a bed extender from Harbor Freight (less than 30 bucks) This was a more secure and made less noise ymmv

kayak rack
I saw your message about an easy solution kayak rack, but couldn’t figure out what it is. You said a trip to hardward store and 20 minutes, which sounds good to me since we want to take our 2 kayaks with us camping this weekend. Could you please give me more details and maybe the pictures you mentioned?


Susan Baker

Kayak Rack
I’ve been trying to find the best answer for putting 2 kayaks on my 98 Wrangler and just found this Forum. Thanks for the leads! I especially like the idea of front and rear “goalpost” set-ups into front and rear hitch receivers! How many of you have tried this, and is there a down side to this approach?

Thanks again!