Family Road Trip - Best Kayak Rack For Jeep Wrangler [A Buyers Guide]

Best Kayak Rack For Jeep Wrangler [2024 Buyers Guide]

When you take your kayak out for a spin on the river or ocean, you want to ensure it’s safe and secure. A kayak rack is a great way to keep your kayak safely attached to your Jeep Wrangler while on the go. 

There are a few different kayak racks that work well with the robust Jeep Wrangler, depending on your needs and budget and if you have a soft or a hard top.

In this post, we’ll go through each type of kayak rack and help you make the best choice by giving you our top recommendations.

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Different Types of Kayak Carriers (With Recommendations)

There are several common styles of kayak rack that can work with a Jeep Wrangler:

  • J-Style Hook Carrier
  • Horizontal Carriers
  • Vertical Carriers
  • Lift-Assist Carriers
  • Soft Carriers
FRT - Jeep Wrangler

Let’s take a closer look at each type, why it might suit your Jeep Wrangler, and kayaking needs best, and the leading brands for each style of kayak rack.

J-Style Hook Carriers

J-style kayak racks, also called j-cradles, are the most popular kayak racks in the world: they’re easy to use and convenient. In addition, J-style kayak racks can be easily folded down when you’re not using them. 

They preserve the hull shape of your kayak and allow you to carry one or two kayaks on your roof. J-style kayak racks usually have two arms supporting the kayak in an upright position and load straps across the top to keep it secure. 

The wide-open-mouth J-style design allows you to load and unload your kayaks from the side of the vehicle easier.

The downsides of using J-style kayak racks are that they can be more expensive than other racks and take up a maximum of two kayaks at a time. 

Our top recommendation for the J-Style Kayak Rack for the Jeep Wrangler is YAKIMA – JayLow J-Style Fold Down Rooftop Kayak Carrier. It is high-quality and reasonably priced.

Horizontal Carriers

Horizontal kayak carriers are the most basic type of carrier and very versatile in that they can accommodate a variety of hull shapes. 

This kayak rack typically has large, cushioned, flexible pads that conform to the kayak’s shape and help protect it from damage. 

Most horizontal carrier has two independent pivoting saddles with an angle-setting lever, which allows you to adjust the angle of the carrier to best fit your kayak. 

This carrier is also easy to install and fits with most crossbars. The load capacity ranges from 75 to 85 pounds.

Our pick for the best horizontal kayak rack for the Jeep Wrangler would be the Rhino-Rack Nautic 570 Series Kayak.

Vertical Carriers

If you have limited space on your car roof rack, vertical kayak stands (sometimes known as kayak posts or stackers) are ideal for transporting more kayaks. 

They’re also relatively easy to use and store, allowing for high-capacity kayak carrying without too much space. 

Lift the kayak and place it against the post or the neighboring kayak. Unlike the J-Style hook carriers, vertical kayak racks can hold up to 4 kayaks.

However, they can be less stable than other kayak racks, so it is important to strap your kayaks down after loading them onto the rack. 

Our suggestion for the vertical rack is the Thule Compass Kayak and SUP Carrier, which is perfect for the Jeep Wrangler factory roof rack.

See also the Best Cargo Box For Jeep Grand Cherokee

Lift-Assist Carriers

Lift-assist kayak racks are designed to make it easier for the person loading a kayak. These come in many different designs and styles, but some have additional attachments that offer more help with loading. 

J-style racks, for example, typically have an extra arm that helps support the kayak as it is being lifted. 

On the other hand, rolling systems allow the kayak to be rolled onto the rack before it is lifted into place. 

These systems can benefit heavier kayaks or those with limited upper-body strength. 

Ultimately, choosing the right lift-assist kayak rack will depend on the individual’s needs and preferences.

One of the major drawbacks of this type of kayak rack is the cost; these racks can be quite expensive.

My suggestion for a lift-assist carrier is the Thule Hull-a-Port Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier. It Includes bow and stern tie-downs for transporting one kayak.

Soft Roof Rack

A soft roof rack is the cheapest way to carry a kayak and is ideal for budget-minded people.

This system typically consists of two foam pads that fit onto the roof of your Jeep and two or more tie-down straps.

The soft roof rack installation is effortless and doesn’t need any tools. In addition, it can be installed without a roof rack.

First, place the lift-assist carriers over the car and strap them in place. Make sure that the strap with the buckle goes through the driver’s door. Next, tighten the straps inside the car very tightly.  

The major disadvantage of this rack is that it isn’t as durable as a hard-shell roof rack, but it is much less expensive. You can easily buy it for under $100.

My suggestion for a soft roof rack for your Jeep Wrangler is HEYTRIP Universal Soft Roof Rack Pads, which can be used with or without a roof rack.


Here are some frequently asked questions related to kayak racks.

What Is The Best Kayak Rack For Jeep Wrangler?

It depends on what you need. But we’d recommend the J-Style Hook Carriers as the best kayak rack for Jeep Wrangler due to its versatility and popularity.

Are Kayak J Hooks Universal?

Yes, kayak J hooks are universal. It can fit any crossbars: round bar, aero bar, and square bar. You do not need any tools to install them on your crossbars. The hooks screw on and tighten down using all the included hardware when you buy them.

Can You Fit 3 Or 4 Kayaks On A Roof Rack?

Yes, a roof rack can typically hold 3 or 4 kayaks. However, it’s essential to check the weight limits of your car and roof rack to ensure they can safely carry the kayaks. You may also want to utilize a stacker roof rack like this one to carry up to four kayaks at once.

Are Soft Roof Racks Any Good?

Soft roof racks are a popular option for carrying kayaks and other items on the roof of a car. They are easy to install and often do not require drilling or screws. However, they can be less stable than other types of roof racks and may not be suitable for heavier items.

How Much Weight Can Soft Roof Racks Hold?

Soft roof racks can typically hold up to 170 pounds. However, the weight your soft roof rack can hold will also depend on the product itself, based on the manufacturer’s recommendation.

How Much Weight Can The Jeep Wrangler Hold On Roof?

The maximum load the Jeep Wrangler can hold on the rooftop is around 150 pounds. This weight limit includes the crossbars and your kayak carrier.

Our Verdict: Best Kayak Rack For Jeep Wrangler

So, which is the best type of carrier for your Jeep Wrangler? That depends on your needs and what you’re looking to get out of a car carrier.

If you want something versatile that can be used for different items, a J-Style hook carrier might be the best option.

If you need a carrier that will hold heavier items or are looking for a more permanent solution, then a horizontal or vertical carrier may better suit your needs.

And finally, if you’re looking for an easy way to transport light items without installing a roof rack system, a soft roof rack could be a perfect choice!

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© Family Road Trip 2024

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