"Small" pickup and sea kayaks? Rack options?

Wondering what the rack options are for longer sea kayaks (14-20 foot range) on something like a Ford Ranger? Just get something like a ladder rack?
I dislike shopping for a new vehicle nowadays because it often entails buying a new rack as well.

Will you have a topper or no topper?

Looking at no topper right now.

Having driven many sizes and models of “company car” pick-up trucks (I was a construction manager for 25 years) and hauling long stuff like ladders, scaffolding and 10’ to 20’ bundles of material, I would say an open ladder rack is the most versatile, and, in some ways, easiest to load because you can climb up into the bed once the boats are up there and more easily reach the straps.

My ex boyfriend had an '04 Ranger with a cap and we put a Thule rack on the cab and the rear of the cap to carry kayaks and canoes. That worked okay, and we carried a small folding step-stool to enable getting the straps situated.

BTW, regarding replacing racks when you change vehicles: I have never paid full price for any Thule components. People sell them all the time when they buy a new car. Only cost me $150 for a “like new” full set up for my 2015 Mazda CX5 when I bought it – guy in my area had one on Craigslist that he had just taken off the exact model of car. I have bought them on Ebay auctions as well, usually for 50% or less of new list price.

I had Thule racks with extra wide bars
and folding J cradles on my previous crew cab GMC Canyon. The spread wasn’t great but it was adequate. I regularly carried 17’ sea kayaks.

A friend at the YMCA got a Yakima pick-up bed rack for his new Tacoma and seems to love it. He can take the whole rack off the vehicle easily and it has a nice long span with aero bars. I’m jealous of his rack even though I’m totally happy with the set-up on my vehicle.

If you have a double cab, roof racks on the cab are preferable because the boat will be more centered on the truck.

I have Thule Xsporters that I use when the cap isn’t on the bed. They are pricey and well made. They have a groove in the bar for mounting Thule accessories, and you can get a lot of wind noise unless you use a special strip to plug the groove. That’s my nit on them, but they are very strong. I’ve seen two trucks where the drivers caught the rack on something immovable, and they ended up with bent bed rails on the truck while the racks were unscathed.

My truck is a Taco w 6’ bed, so the xsporterbars end up with about a five foot spread. Trucked a 19’ sea kayak, no problem. One thing to watch for with canoes is if the boat has high stems or a lot of rocker, the bow can hit the roof. The xsporters are height-adjustable, so I can lower the back bar a notch, angling the boat and raising the bow above the roof.

I had xsporters, then sold them when I got a cap for the truck. But I sometimes take the cap off to go do truck stuff. Imagine my horror when I realized that with the top off, I couldn’t go boating. So, I bought a used pair of xsporters off craigslist. They can be hard to find, but I got lucky.

~~Chip

I use Thule truck bed racks with Hulivators. I mounted a Yakima roof rack on the cab to hold the front of the yaks. We have to carry forward to clear the new trailer.

On the old truck I used Yakima Truck bed towers. I didn’t need the third since the kayaks could be carried farther forward.

The bed racks allow me to carry lumber, ladders and canoes that roof top racks might not as easy.

Have you considered a trailer? Much easier loading and unloading and not vulnerable to being ripped off the roof.

I recently picked up a Ranger that has become the kayak truck. I found a Thule exporter on Craigslist for a great deal and that’s what I’m using. I love it and if you don’t need the rack they are easy to remove. So much nicer loading and unloading than my F-250 4wd with a camper shell! Our kayaks are 16&17’ long and no issues at all.

Home made works. A friend of mine welded together a “T” that mounted to the trailer hitch on my old Toyota truck. A crossbar over the cab and I was good to go.

You can mount a hitch on both the front and rear of the truck and put goalpost supports on them. That would give you a very long spread, if needed. I’ve seen this done with doubles and other long boats.

@Rex said:
Home made works. A friend of mine welded together a “T” that mounted to the trailer hitch on my old Toyota truck. A crossbar over the cab and I was good to go.

I can do that on my truck, but I’ve got an 8’ bed, so the bars end up about 10’ to 11’ apart and that’t too far for a lot of boats.

@Yanoer said

I can do that on my truck, but I’ve got an 8’ bed, so the bars end up about 10’ to 11’ apart and that’t too far for a lot of boats.

  1. We’re talking 17 to 20 ft boats. Eight feet is good Ten works but is a little far.
  2. Just cause the bed is 8 ft doesn’t mean the rack distance “must” be 8 ft.

@Overstreet said:

@Yanoer said

I can do that on my truck, but I’ve got an 8’ bed, so the bars end up about 10’ to 11’ apart and that’t too far for a lot of boats.

  1. We’re talking 17 to 20 ft boats. Eight feet is good Ten works but is a little far.
  2. Just cause the bed is 8 ft doesn’t mean the rack distance “must” be 8 ft.

If there’s a topper, one rack on the hitch and one on the cab, then the distance on my truck must be at least 10’

Thanks everyone for the replies!

Going to stick with my old car for a bit, but good to know all the options.