best roof rack pads for kayaks [Answered]

Best Roof Rack Pads for Kayaks

Kayakers need a reliable and secure way to transport their kayaks to and from the water, and roof rack pads are an essential component of that process. Roof rack pads provide a cushion between the kayak and the car’s roof, ensuring the hull remains scratch-free, while also adding a level of protection to both the kayak and the car. However, finding the right roof rack pads can be difficult due to the variety of types available. This post aims to help kayakers select the best roof rack pads for their specific needs by providing tips, options, and detailed reviews of some of the top roof rack pads on the market.

Types of Roof Rack Pads

There are two main types of roof rack pads for kayaks: foam and inflatable pads. Foam pads are the most common type and are typically made from closed-cell foam that is water-resistant and durable. They come in a range of lengths and widths, making them versatile for various kayak sizes. Inflatable pads, on the other hand, have become increasingly popular due to their ability to be deflated and stored easily. They are typically made from PVC material that is lightweight and durable, but are slightly more expensive than foam pads.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Roof Rack Pad

When choosing a roof rack pad for your kayak, there are several factors to keep in mind:

  • Size: It’s essential to choose a roof rack pad that fits the width and length of your kayak to ensure that it is adequately protected.
  • Thickness: The thickness of the pad will determine how much cushioning it provides. Choose a pad that is thick enough to protect the kayak’s hull from dings and scratches during transport.
  • Durability: The roof rack pad needs to be durable enough to withstand frequent use and exposure to the elements. Look for pads made from high-quality materials and with good reviews from previous buyers.
  • Installation: Consider how easy it is to install and remove the roof rack pad. Ideally, the pad should be easy to install and remove to ensure a hassle-free transport process.

Top Roof Rack Pads for Kayaks

Here are some of the top roof rack pads for kayaks:

  • NRS Deluxe Kayak Carrier Kit: This kit includes two foam pads, two straps with bumper hooks, and two tie-downs to secure your Kayak. It is easy to install and fits most roof racks. The durable foam pad is water-resistant and abrasion-resistant, ensuring that your kayak is protected from damage.
  • Thule Hydroglide XT: This roof rack pad is designed for easy loading and unloading of kayaks with its unique pivoting felt-lined saddles. It provides excellent cushioning and protection for your kayak with its thick, water-resistant, and abrasion-resistant padding. The Hydroglide XT fits all Thule rack systems, round bars, and most factory racks.
  • Yakima KeelOver: The Yakima KeelOver is a roof rack pad that accommodates kayaks with a traditional keel shape. The adjustable saddle and rollers make it easy to load and unload your kayak. It fits most roof racks and is very easy to install. The synthetic felt pads are gentle on your kayak and provide great protection.

Alternatives to Roof Rack Pads

If you’re on a tight budget or looking for an alternative to roof rack pads, here are some options:

  • Pool Noodles: Pool noodles are an affordable alternative to roof rack pads. They can be cut to the desired length and can be placed on the roof rack to cushion and protect your kayak during transport. However, they may not be as durable or long-lasting as foam pads.
  • Towel Racks: Towel rack straps are another affordable option. They can be used with or without foam pads and are easy to install. However, they may not be as secure as other options and could shift during transport.

Related: Why Does My Kayak Fill with Water? Find Out Now!


What is a roof rack pad?

A roof rack pad is a padded cushion that is placed on top of a car roof rack to protect the kayak or other gear being transported.

What are the benefits of using roof rack pads?

Roof rack pads provide a soft and protective surface for your kayak to rest on during transportation. They also help to prevent damage to the car roof and the kayak, as well as reduce noise and vibrations.

What type of roof rack pad should I choose?

The type of roof rack pad you choose will depend on your personal preferences and needs. Foam pads are affordable and easy to install, while inflatable pads provide a more customized fit and are portable.

What factors should I consider when choosing a roof rack pad?

Factors to consider include size, thickness, durability, ease of installation, and compatibility with your car and kayak.

How do I install a roof rack pad?

Installation will vary depending on the type of roof rack pad you choose. Generally, foam pads are simply slipped onto the crossbars, while inflatable pads may require inflation and securing with straps or clips.

Are there any alternatives to using roof rack pads?

Yes, alternatives include using pool noodles, towel racks, or even yoga mats to cushion the kayak during transportation.

How do I care for my roof rack pads?

It’s important to clean your roof rack pads regularly to prevent mold and mildew buildup. Simply wipe them down with a damp cloth or mild soap solution and store them in a dry place.

Can roof rack pads be used on other types of gear besides kayaks?

Yes, roof rack pads can be used to transport other types of gear such as surfboards, SUPs, and canoes.

How long do roof rack pads typically last?

Roof rack pad lifespans can vary depending on the quality of the material and how frequently they are used. Generally, they can last anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Can I use multiple roof rack pads to increase cushioning?

Yes, using multiple roof rack pads can provide additional cushioning and protection for your kayak during transportation.

Real experience

I was excited to take up kayaking as a hobby, but getting my kayak to the water was always a struggle. I struggled to secure my kayak on the car roof rack and was always worried about potential damage to both the car and kayak. I eventually decided to invest in some roof rack pads to make the transportation process easier and safer.

After doing some research, I selected the NRS Deluxe Kayak Carrier Kit. It offered a thick foam pad that was specifically designed for kayaks, making me feel confident that my kayak was secure during transportation. The straps were easy to install and adjust, and I was able to quickly load and secure my kayak by myself.

The first time I used my new roof rack pads, I noticed how much quieter my car was during the drive to the water. The roof rack pads had reduced the noise and vibrations that usually accompanied the transportation of my kayak. Plus, when I arrived at the water, my kayak was still in perfect condition, without any damage or scratches.

Since then, I’ve been using my NRS Deluxe Kayak Carrier Kit for every kayaking trip, and it has never let me down. The roof rack pads have held up well over time and have protected my kayak during transportation in all kinds of weather conditions.

Thanks to my trusty roof rack pads, I can now focus on the fun of kayaking without worrying about the difficult and potentially dangerous task of transporting my kayak.

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When it comes to transporting your kayak, having the right roof rack pads can make all the difference. A good quality roof rack pad will protect your kayak from scratches and dings, making sure it stays in top condition. When selecting a roof rack pad, it is important to consider important factors such as size, thickness, durability, and ease of installation. The NRS Deluxe Kayak Carrier Kit, Thule Hydroglide XT, and Yakima KeelOver are some of the top roof rack pads available on the market.

If you’re looking for a more affordable option, pool noodles and towel rack straps are alternatives to consider. Whatever option you choose, remember to prioritize the safety and protection of your kayak during transport.

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