There are a few reasons to invest in a kayak roof carrier, besides the obvious need for your ‘yak not to slide off the car in traffic and pummel the vehicle behind you. One is to protect the paint job on your car— even if it isn’t shiny and new, scratches and dings can affect resale value and invite rust, leading to cosmetic and maintenance problems down the road. Another is to keep your expensive kayak, canoe, or stand up paddle board safe while you, say, pop into the store for supplies or grab a cold one after ending a gnarly run.
It can feel a little overwhelming, though, trying to narrow down all your options and pick the perfect kayak roof carrier for your gear, your ride, and your budget. There’s so many different styles of roof racks. You can take the cheap and easy route with foam blocks and a simple webbing/ratchet system, all of which can be had at a big box store or outdoor retailer. That’s fine in a pinch or if you’re trying to wrestle your rig onto a rental or bum a ride from a friend. If you plan to be on the water frequently though, or you’ve recently upgraded to either pricier gear or a new car, you probably want more protection and a more permanent solution.
Many cars these days— especially trucks, SUVs, and station wagons— come equipped with roof bars. They’re good for everything from hard-shell cargo pods to bike racks to ‘yak racks to ski racks…whatever you need to tote, as long as it’s within your car roof weight limit. If you don’t have bars already or feel you need an upgrade, that’s where a roof rack base system comes into play. A good kayak roof carrier will be designed to work with what you have, and should either be compatible with your factory rack, or specifically designed for certain models and dimensions.
The other factor to consider is how to you want your boat to ride. Depending on the size and dimensions of your kayak or canoe, and whether you’re carrying one boat or two, you’ll want to select cradles that will let you either mount your boat to the car in the same position you’d put it in on the water, or mount it so it sits on its side. The Inno INA450 Two Kayak Carrier, for example, utilizes a J-cradle style to hold two ‘yaks side by side without overhang. The Inno INA452 Multi Cradle, on the other hand, is a saddle-style mount that lets the kayak ride flat.
Once you choose what style cradle will best suit your needs and find a rack that fits your car with the right style mounts, you can start to pick out accessories. Bar end hooks, for example, are extrenders that give you extra room for hanging towels, wetsuits, or water shoes off your roof rack to dry. A locker system, like INA445, replaces the webbing and ratchet you’d usually use to fasten your kayak to the rack with a floating strap system with a built in lock, so you don’t have to worry about your kayak or paddle board wandering off.
You can even buy extra cradles to take your one or two kayak roof carrier system to a three or four kayak roof carrier system, depending on the length and width of your vehicle. A kayak lifter like the INA453 will help you pivot the kayak off your car and gentle slant it towards the ground, even if you’re trying to wrangle your gear all by yourself without an extra set of hands.
Essentially, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed by all your options if you know how roof racks work and what job each possible accessory is designed to do. Once you know the dimensions of your car, your kayak, and how much gear you need to carry, picking a kayak roof carrier system becomes a matter of cost, quality, and ease of use. It certainly feels good, too, knowing you don’t have to rough it with a few moving blankets or pool noodles and some sketchy rope, either. For safety’s sake, and to maintain your gear and vehicle for as long a lifespan as possible, a kayak roof carrier is a must have for water sport enthusiasts.