Kayak Racks for Trucks

Kayak vehicle racks come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. There is a solution for every type of vehicle. The racks for cars and SUVs can be easy and are by far the most common, but truck kayak racks have to be made a little differently to accommodate the bed of the vehicle. Truck racks are quite effective at hauling your kayaks to their destination and the bonus of a truck is that the equipment does not have to be right in the same area as the passengers. This may seem like a small detail, but you will appreciate this factor on your trip back home with wet and sometimes smelly equipment. Here are some of the best solutions for hauling your kayaks on your truck.

Horizontal Bed Extenders

The bonus of a truck is that there is a considerable amount of bed space within the rear of the vehicle. Horizontal bed extenders utilize the maximum amount of space without having to worry about the overall roof clearance of a large truck. A horizontal bed extender hooks into the hitch of the truck and therefore is quite stable. The extender can be lengthened depending on the length of the boat. Longer boats and larger kayaks are perfect for this type of rack because there is little resistance from the wind. The racks can hold up to two kayaks depending on the length of the rear crossbar and offer the maximum amount of stability for hauling. The only drawback to such a device is that the added length to the truck can make parking difficult in tight spaces and sometimes, depending on where you live, you may have to attach a flag to the back of the boat to warn drivers of its existence.

There are a couple of high quality options to choose from, but my absolute #1 recommendation goes directly to Lund 601021 Hitch Rack Truck Bed Extender. An average rating of 4.7 stars (over 200 reviewers) on Amazon is enough to back me up.

Key features:

  • Rated 4.7 out of 5 on Amazon
  • Heavy-duty parts
  • Additional 7 inch ground clearance
  • Adjustable side wings
  • Flag and red reflective tape included

Runner-up: Darby Extend-A-Truck 944

Vertical Bed Extender

The thought of their precious kayak hanging out of the back of the truck can make some motorists a little uneasy. Trucks can already be quite cumbersome to drive and when the bed is extended, it can only get a bit more difficult. The good thing is that there are other kayak truck rack solutions that are just as stable, but a little less cumbersome to use. The vertical bed extender works in much the same way as the horizontal version with the ability to hook directly into the hitch port. The main difference however is that the weight of the kayak is distributed between the vertical extender and the cab of the truck. It requires a single cross bar and/or foam pad previously installed on top of the vehicle’s cab. The stabilizer bar is braced at the back corners of the bed of the truck, so it is quite stable. The vertical bed extender is remarkably easy to install and that fact makes it the perfect solution for anyone looking to kayak on the weekends, but maintain their usual truck appearance throughout the week.

If I had to pick one bed extender above all others, I’d go for a sturdy Thule’s model Thule 997 Goal Post.

Key features:

  • Very stable and sturdy even while bearing considerable weight
  • Anti-sway design for stable, more secure transport
  • Adjustable to various truck cab heights
  • Compatible with all Thule rack accessories

Runner-up: Darby Extend-A-Truck 944 4-Feet Truck Bed Extender

Utility Rack

Unlike the two previous options that are temporary and therefore can be installed and removed at any time, the utility rack is a more permanent solution. It is bolted directly to the truck bed in two parts for maximum stability. Where both the vertical and horizontal bed extenders allow for one or two kayaks to be hauled, the utility rack allows for many boats to be placed and hauled to their destination. This is the best solution for the avid kayaker due to the durability and the overall strength of the system. Unlike the two previous mechanisms, the permanent nature of the utility rack means that there is far less wear and tear on the device because there is not the constant need to install and uninstall the device.

Utility racks have the added bonus of being more versatile than just for hauling kayaks. You may appreciate these extra features if you find yourself camping and in need of a place to dry equipment or even throw a tarp up to get out of a pop up rain shower. The versatility of the utility rack is truly remarkable compared to the other two options and for anyone looking to make kayaking more than just a hobby, this is the solution. It may not be as convenient as other devices to remove, but the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks to the system.

Final Thoughts

When shopping for the perfect kayak rack for your truck you will be presented with many different options, but no matter the brand, color, or even the design of the device, these three options are virtually the only designs out there. Take the time to examine your individual needs before making a purchase. For those that prefer the ability to keep their truck as it was intended for most of the time, the vertical and horizontal extenders may be adequate, but if kayaking is part of your life and you need the permanent solution, the utility rack is the kayak rack for your truck.