Two Kayaks on a 2015 Toyota Rav4??


I am hoping someone here can help me. I own 2015 Rav4 XLE and I just purchased a pair of 9.5 ft Kayaks for my wife and I. I have explored options for kayak roof racks, and all the options are starting to intimidate me. I am looking for the best rack I can get to hold both kayaks. I want them to be secure and easy to load. I’d rather not have a bunch of lines and straps all over the place, so the fewer places I need to tie down the better.

My Rav4 only has the the two bars running the length of the roof. I am assuming I will need to purchase crossbars to attach to the existing bars, and then on top of those crossbars attach kayak mounts. I am new to this so any suggestions would be very helpful and greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your help…


"Bunch of lines and straps"
Part of owning a kayak is learning to attach it securely to your vehicle so it doesn’t detach and become a lethal object traveling at 70mph. For that you need two straps across the middle at one at each end.

No one enjoys loading a kayak and dealing with all those straps. But it’s not optional, it’s necessary.

Your assumptions are pretty much correct
You will need bars to run across the existing rails on your car.

Check out the Thule and Yakima websites and you’ll see plenty of options.

I carry two longer kayaks on Thule Hullavators on my Santa Fe. They are an expensive option but are probably the easiest solution to use short of a dedicated trailer. Don’t worry too much about straps. You will need 4 per boat for a totally secure fit, but with cam straps they are very easy to use; I can have two boats loaded by myself in less than 10 minutes.

Malone universal fit cross bars
Malone cross bars in the 50" size are relatively cheap on Amazon and will hold two kayaks flat on top. I use cradles on my car, but you can also use J bars or even surf board pads.

As the others have said, straps on basically a mandatory. Once you become familiar with the process, it takes less than five minutes per kayak to safely secure boats on top.

I like Thule cam straps, as they have a rubber shield around the end that prevents scratches to your paint.

I have an older Rav4
Use Yakima rail grabbers and Yakima round bars. Very sturdy. I can easily carry two long boats side by side, your 9 foot boats are most likely wide enough that J bars would work fine. Straps are an integral part of the whole!

Kayaks are wide?
9.5’ kayaks are generally wide kayaks. Very likely you wont be able to put them flat on the roof. Using J-cradles to put them at an angle, or stackers to put them on their side, may be needed.

I have the same vehicle
and i just set it up to carry two Kayaks, one rec kayak and one longer and narrower sea kayak side by side. My vehicle came with the factor rack but it also came with the factory cross bars. I removed the factory cross bars. I installed Yakima Rail Grab towers and 58" cross bars attached to the factory rails. It is a very good and secure fit and gives enough width for my two kayaks without sticking out to far from the roof line. You could go wider but I see no reason to go narrower. I am very happy with it. I also installed two sets of Yakima Sweet Roll Saddles. I am also very happy with the saddles.

The issue you have to consider is how difficult it will be to load and unload. My system requires two people as a practical matter. I load from the rear. One person places the bow in the rear roller saddle. The other person pushes the kayak forward into the front saddle. It works well after you get the hang of it.

The rav4 has a large wing affair on the back that gets in the way and makes the typical one person roller load from the rear difficult. I am still working on that because I would like a way for one person to load. My next attempt will involve placing a towel on the wing in an effort to protect the wing while setting the bow on the wing for a moment before moving to the rear and lifting and sliding the boat into the saddles. I am also looking at a supplemental roller and pad available at Oak Orchard - see link - So it is a work in progress.

it’s either straps and ropes, or

Roller loaders
The design of the roller in your link doesn’t make sense to me. You can clearly see that the kayak is touching or will touch the spoiler before it gets to the roller.

I tried the Thule roller loader and found it useless for that same reason.

After trying a modification to the Thule loader (longer arms) and another device, I finally made something simple that works: Cut a rectangle of any type of foam and roll it up so the roll is about 8" in diameter. Tape it together. Then roll a towel around it (because the kayak won’t slide on foam). Run a strap around the hatch to secure the foam where you want it. The strap will make an indentation in the center of the towel, which helps to center the kayak. I drive with this thing on the car and it says put.

agree, and also…
I agree that Thule (my own preference) or Yakima cross bars are the way to go, and probably J-racks for such short wide boats. J-racks (with their padded slings) do make it easier for solo loading as you can tilt up one end into one sling and then use the supported end to lift and pivot the other end into the second sling.

One thing nobody mentioned so far is the advisability of tying the bow and stern of both boats to the bumpers of the vehicle. Some people may argue that it is not necessary or is only needed for high speed highway drives but I disagree. The problem with many of the newer vehicles is finding places to attach ropes or straps under the front and rear of the vehicle so you will have to investigate that. My older Subarus and Volvos had nice chunks of metal with holes for hooks or even steel loops but my new Mazda has the typical wrap around plastic body trim that makes it hard to find reachable attachment points – I’m going to have a shop attach some galvanized eye bolts underneath the front for that purpose and am adding a trailer hitch to it that should provide solid connection points in the rear.

The wind load on kayaks atop cars are substantial and they can quickly shift or even be ripped off the roof if not secured diligently.

Once you’ve got a system set up and keep all the straps and ropes tidy and in a small duffel in the car, you will find that loading and strapping down the boats is a quick and automatic process that will only take you minutes.

A couple things that help are to loop the straps over the crossbars or j-racks BEFORE you lift the kayaks onto the structure. It is a hassle to reach around and over the boats to get the straps on after they are set in place. Also, get looooong straps, at least a few feet longer than will wrap around the boats and rack, and tie off the excess by looping and wrapping it around the car factory rack. This provides additional security and the longer straps are easier to pass over the boats while loading.

Also, pick up one of the little single step folding stepstools (you can find them in the housewares area of any department or discount store for around $10) and carry it in the car, especially if you or your paddling partner are shorter than 5’ 8". Very helpful for getting straps on or giving yourself a leg up loading from the side.

Some of the wide kayaks stackable
one on top of the other.

I don’t know what kind the orig. poster has, but that would be another potential configuration.

Well of course…
…you need to to secure the bow and stern of each boat. Waterbird and I kind of suggested this - she more strongly than I - but I agree we didn’t make it 100% clear. And I certainly do this every time I take my kayaks out.

Originally I cut four pieces of thick steel (maybe 6" x 2" x 1/4") put a bend in each and drilled two holes in each. I found spots where I could mount them to the chassis underneath my Hyundai Santa Fe and they worked well. But as you say, newer cars have these large wraparound plastic body pieces front and back and I quickly got tired of crawling around on the muddy ground at a launch site looking to attach bow and stern lines. So, I bought two Thule Hood Loop straps for $10 and found a place under the car’s hood to attach them. At the back, I simply took two 2 foot lengths of 3/8" braided rope, tied loops in them and looped them to D-rings in my SUV’s trunk. I just pull them out and close the hatch on them when I need them. From then on I just use loop-to-loop connections for the Thule bow and stern line on each boat. Everything is super sturdy and tucks away neatly in seconds.

Amagansett Roller Loader
My Outback has the wing out back. It is safe with this roller loader, the wheels are enough of a diameter. It does cost more than some of the others.

Just have solid stock bars and either
Yakima and Thule have rock solid footings = the foundation is THE most important item. That’s where all the weight from the top meets the weight of the Rav4. From there you’re homefree…

rack paddlers

if this works with your rack geometry try it…

buy a short step ladder from Wal

install an outrigger…or

attach a DIY outrigger.

place bow on outrigger, stern on cardboard from Wal and or short durable blanket

stand on ladder, lift bow into factory saddle…

go to stern stand on ladder lift stern into saddle.


Front rope holdown spots
come on people… put loops of strap material from under hood screw or bolt areas on fenders for secure front end tiedown situations…

tie down solutions

– Last Updated: Jun-03-15 5:05 PM EST –

I was thinking maybe racing tow straps. You connect these to the underbody or bumper frame, and cut a hole in the fender cover to extend them through. Some ideas:

Then you just tie your rope tiedown to the loop. Depending on the car, a good shop ought to be able to do this for one hours' time. After that you're set.

Or, if you already have a metal tow loop or hook, you can extend a strap from it, like this:

not always that easy
Trying to find exposed metal or reach the framing around bumpers or undercarriage on newer cars can be a real pain.

Have you ever been driving down a highway and had the hood fly open on a vehicle? I have. It’s a real treat. Don’t think I want to tie my kayaks off to something that is relying on the hood release spring for tension and retention. I considered using them (the “slam it in the door” loops) for the stern tiedowns, but I have also had cars where the wagon rear hatch popped loose while driving. Plus on long trips I want to be able to open the back hatch and the hood without having to re-attach the boat rigging.

Call me a curmudgeon, and ya’ll are entitled to hang em however you please, but I want my boats guyed to the frame of the car, not the skin.

I have never had a hood fly open or a rear hatch pop loose. But I’ve only been driving for a little over 50 years.

The Thule “Hood Loop Straps” (not the “Quick Loop” slam in the doors straps) don’t rely on the hood release spring for retention. They protrude from the sides of the hood not from the front lip, and even if the hood did fly open, they would still provide adequate support for the bow lines. Actually, if my hood did ever pop open, the kayak bow lines wouldn’t exactly be my first concern. And the straps are securely bolted to the upper suspension supports, hardly the “skin” of the vehicle.

Similarly with the stern lines, the hatch does retain them but even with the hatch door loose, the lines would still provide function as they are firmly secured to the trunk floor.

If you secure your tie downs to the undercarriage you will find that the ropes abrade the paint on those plastic bumpers. I used about a foot of tubular foam pipe insulation, available from any hardware store, threaded on each rope to prevent that. You’ll also find that the front lines particularly will try to find a way to move around the slippery plastic and into your wheel wells. Of course this will de-tension the lines significantly and if you use S-hooks they will probably detach and flap around. In any case, fouling by the tyres or front suspension is a distinct possibility so keep your eyes on those front lines.

Depending on the design of your car and the length of the boats you are carrying you’ll probably find that even with the stern lines attached to a tow hitch you’ll still not be able to open the rear hatch enough for useful access.

And while you’re at the hardware store invest in some knee pads to use while you are fumbling around on a gravel parking area trying to attach those lines way under the vehicle. Been there, done that.