Best kayak rack for truck


Above-the-bed kayak racks keep the truck bed free to use for carrying camping and fishing gear and supplies.

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Which kayak rack for trucks is best?

Kayak racks for trucks make it easy to transport your kayak or canoe safely, securely and easily. Some racks allow you to carry your kayak in the truck bed, some attach to the bed rails and other truck racks carry your kayak over the roof of your cab.

The best kayak racks are those that don’t interfere with how you use your truck. If you are looking for a top-of-the-line kayak rack that requires no drilling, take a look at the Thule Xporter Pro Aluminum Truck Rack.

What to know before you buy a kayak rack for a truck

A kayak is a specialized boat that is low to the water and is paddled by double-bladed oars. Most recreational kayaks are 10 or 12 feet long, but some are as short as 8 feet and others as long as 16 feet.

Bed racks 

Bed racks attach to the side rails of your truck. There are two sets of upright pillars with crossbars. The forward portion of the rack installs flush with the back of your truck’s cab. The rear part of the rack is installed back by the tailgate. The kayak sits on top of the crossbars. Bed racks are the best choice for long kayaks because the front of the kayak will sit above your truck’s cab.

Truck toppers

Lots of people with pickup trucks like enclosing their bed with a truck topper, also called a camper shell. The shell is usually made of aluminum or fiberglass and usually has windows and a lifting rear window panel. 

Topper owners need kayak racks that attach to the camper shell itself by means of bolts through the roof. Truck topper kayak racks are the simplest and least expensive of all. They have two crossbars mounted a few inches above the topper’s roof, one towards the front and the other towards the rear. Your kayak overhangs your truck’s cab in front and extends beyond the tailgate in the back.

Bed covers

Also called tonneau covers, a bed cover is essentially a very large lid that covers your entire truck bed. A bed cover is hinged up next to your truck’s cab and the handle is back over the tailgate. Like camper toppers, bed covers are usually made of aluminum or fiberglass. You use the same style of kayak rack you would with a truck topper and mount it the same way. 

Hitch racks

Hitch racks are temporary racks and the simplest type to install. Most trucks have a trailer hitch receiver. It is made of heavy-duty steel and the extension on your kayak rack slides right in and locks securely. 

The hitch rack itself looks like the letter T. The crossbar height adjusts, so it is at the same level as your tailgate. Hitch racks are usually made of steel or aluminum.

What to look for in a quality kayak rack for a truck


People who kayak regularly naturally gravitate toward truck racks they leave installed full time, avoiding the hassle of setting up their truck rack and taking it down every time they want to go kayaking. For a permanent installation, look for a kayak rack for your truck that doesn’t take up a lot of space so you can carry other items in your bed. 


Temporary racks are favored by people who don’t need to transport their kayaks very often. For infrequent use, look for a kayak rack that is easy to install and remove. An added bonus is a truck rack that folds down for easy storage.


Look for kayak racks that adjust so you can fit yours exactly to the dimensions of your trucks. 

How much you can expect to spend on a kayak rack for a truck

Simple hitch extender kayak racks cost less than $100. Well-made racks using the best materials approach $1,000.

Kayak rack for a truck FAQ

Which rack is better — permanent or temporary?

A. If you carry only one kayak, a temporary rack is a good choice because it is lightweight, inexpensive and easy to use. If you ever have a need to carry other long things, like ladders or lumber, a permanent kayak rack is a great choice.

Which is better — aluminum or steel?

A. Aluminum is lighter and steel is stronger, so choose aluminum for light loads and steel for heavy loads.

What’s the best kayak rack for a truck to buy?

Top kayak rack for a truck 

Thule Xporter Pro Aluminum Truck Rack

Thule Xporter Pro Aluminum Truck Rack

What you need to know: This rail-mounted kayak rack requires no drilling.

What you’ll love: The rack locks to the truck bed at all four corners. This kayak rack adjusts for bed length, width or height. This rack is designed with a wind diffuser that smooths the airflow for superior aerodynamics and less noise. The reinforced aluminum components have a carrying capacity of 450 pounds.

What you should consider: This truck track is a bit pricey.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top kayak rack for a truck for the money

TMS Utility Ladder Kayak Rack

TMS Utility Ladder Kayak Rack

What you need to know: This heavy-duty alloy steel rack is designed to haul long items that won’t fit in the truck bed. 

What you’ll love: This two-piece kayak rack adjusts from 5 to 7 feet wide. The kayak is carried above the height of the truck cab and does not interfere with the truck bed in any way. This simple rack can also be used for carrying things like ladders, lumber and pipes. This kayak rack attaches with bolts or C-clamps and weighs 50 pounds.

What you should consider: The height is fixed at 30 inches above the truck bed and is not adjustable.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Canoe Brand Kayak Extender Hitch for Pickup Truck 

Canoe Brand Kayak Extender Hitch for Pickup Truck 

What you need to know: This easy-to-install kayak rack adjusts two ways for a perfect fit for any truck.

What you’ll love: This lightweight kayak rack is made of heavy-duty rectangular steel tubing. The tongue extends 55 inches back from the hitch receiver. The rack is adjustable from 12 to 19 inches in height and 29 to 49 inches in width. All adjustments are made by quick-release clevis pins through holes pre-drilled in the tubing.

What you should consider: This hitch rack will only carry one kayak.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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David Allan Van writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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