Thule vs Yakima Kayak Racks Review

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If you are a paddler, you will know how important it is to have a kayak roof rack. Kayaks are 10-ft long and even your pickup truck has no room enough to house during transport.

Having the right kayak rack for your vehicle can make your kayaking trip easier and safer. No need to think about positioning and repositioning it. Just mount it and forget it.

Your coolest rack can be hauled by the perfect kayak rack. But, with so many of them in the market, how do you know it is the right one you need?

We have narrowed down the search to two of the most reputable names in the kayak rack industry – Thule and Yakima. These two brands are like the Nikon and Canon of cameras or Samsung and Apple of mobile phones.

Sweden’s Thule and Washington’s Yakima have dominated the hauling industry. And, just like picking a camera or a mobile phone, your decision should be based upon what you need it for and how you want it to work for you.

With all the features these brands are offering you, how do you know which one to go for? As we go along, we will give you an idea by comparing their products based on buying factors any buyer should consider.

Thule and Yakima Kayak Racks

Thule and Yakima are premium manufacturers of transporting tools. They have both been in the business for some years now. Surely, they have perfected the art of manufacturing high-quality racks for various items of different scenarios.

Pronounced as too-lee, Thule is known for rack systems that have stylish designs. These systems host features that makes you thank heavens that the engineers from Thule thought of designing them that way. Along with its sophisticated looks comes a costly price tag.

Their racks usually cost twice as much as their Yakima counterparts. But, it doesn’t mean you are just paying for aesthetics. As you use their classy racks, should you have decided to shell out an extra dollar or two, you will see that beyond aesthetics are features that are worth every penny.

Yakima doesn’t put as much effort on its appearance as much as Thule does. But, that doesn’t mean they’re not at par when it comes to performance. Yakima is generally budget-friendly and interestingly, they are easier to install than Thule’s. Despite its lower price and the effortless installation, they still get the job done.

Another added feature that is available in almost all models is its built-in bottle openers. You will see them concealed on the arms of the racks. Definitely helpful when you just want to celebrate your long drive with a cold beer.

Which is the Right Kayak Rack for You?

Transporting a kayak can be made convenient, easy, and safe by kayak racks. They take your mind off from thinking your paddleboat flies off at driving speeds. With a lot of kayak rack models that these two giant brands have, where do you begin in finding the one for your kayak?

Take a look at a brief comparison of Thule and Yakima below to start off.





Roof-mounted (horizontal and vertical orientation)

Roof-mounted (horizontal and vertical orientation)

Number of Models Available



Available Accessories






Deciding which kayak rack to picks involves several considerations to weigh. Choosing one, especially between two reputable names is never. Let’s discuss each need of a kayaker to know which gear meets those needs.

Vehicle Roof Setup

Before anything else, inspect your car to know what your racks will be working with. Is there anything on the roof? Any side rails, factory or aftermarket crossbars, or is it bare?

If your roof is naked or if it has side rails fitted, inflatable or foam pads can be a solution to transport your kayak. This is due to the gear having nothing on top of the car to mount to. If there are crossbars, whether they are aftermarket or factory, then you may go with sophisticated racks that are specially designed to carry kayaks.

Number of Kayaks to Carry

Now that you know what you have on your vehicle, next is to consider the number of kayaks you need to haul. Are you planning to carry up to 2 kayaks? A double kayak roof rack can work. But, if more than a couple of kayaks, you would need a stacker.

Rack Fitting

Most vehicle manufacturers now consider car owners’ need to haul their things over the roof. Thus, they have supported roof rack fits from both Thule and Yakima. Consider the following when getting a rack that will fit perfectly with your vehicle’

  • Weight Limits. Ideally, they should be able to support the most amount of weight. Almost all racks have the same limit, so finding one that is over the other is a good thing.
  • Bar Spread. Pick a rack that positions its two crossbars far apart from each other. This allows them to carry longer loads. As a rule, the larger the bar spread, the better.
  • Accessory compatibility. As with most products, once you choose a brand, the accessories work best if you stick with it. Take note that, you also need to consider the kayak you are transporting. Many times, the same brand accessories don’t work well with what you are transporting.

Looks / Physical Appearance

There is no good or bad option for this part. However, keep in mind that as you add racks to your car, it changes the way it looks. While you want to make sure you will be transporting your kayaks safely and securely, you also do not want your vehicle to look funny with a gear that is out of shape.


As with most items you buy, if you see that the features are the same, the next to consider is the price. Will you be paying more than the other even when they work the same? Read and find out what others are saying. Then, decide which one is worth your hard-earned money.

Kayak Rack Comparisons

Thule Hull-A-Port Kayak Carrier vs. Yakima JayHook Kayak Carrier

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Both kayak racks are J-Style cradles and allow you to transport one kayak safely on your roof rack crossbars. They are compact and don’t take too much space on your roof allowing you to carry other gears with them.

Materials and Fabrication

The simplicity of Thule’s Hull-A-Port Kayak Carrier is what most kayak enthusiasts will appreciate. Its simple and sturdy design handles highway speeds with no issues. The steel tubes are strong enough to keep kayaks in place with assistance from the rubber pads that keep them from getting scratched. The mounting hardware, as well as the arms, have the all-surface corrosion resistance protection. This is special protection considering your need to always be around the coastal areas.

Don’t take Thule’s Hull-A-Port Kayak Carrier’s simplicity as a weakness. This kayak rack holds tightly and securely. It has a lot of padding around. They are also compact with its small design. With that, it allows you to either use two of them or have extra space for other baggage.

Yakima JayHook Kayak Carrier manages to keep up too. This J-Style carrier can carry one kayak upright, giving you enough space for another kayak rack or for other things you need to bring. It is simple, sturdy, and reliable and can carry any type of kayak.

Its padded metal arms will keep your kayaks from getting scratched and damaged. They fit aftermarket as well as some factory-style crossbars. One cool feature is its plastic sheet that goes around and attaches to anchor points. This makes sure that while your kayak is strapped, what holds them down doesn’t scratch up your car.


Both Yakima JayHook Kayak Carrier and Thule Hull-A-Port Kayak Carrier use tie-down straps to fasten kayaks into place. The difference is, the previous uses ratcheting bow tie-downs while the latter use tie-down straps with padded buckles.

Aside from the ratcheting bow tie-downs that Yakima uses, 2 load straps with padded cam buckles help holding the kayak down. Thule Hull-A-Port Kayak Carrier, on the other hand, offers adjustable padding to let you modify according to the cradle contact points of your kayak.


These two kayak roof racks are easy to install and put away. Thule Hull-A-Port Kayak Carrier has a quick on/off hardware that makes it easy to be set up and put down. Its package includes brackets and hand knobs to tighten around the crossbars so that in seconds, with some simple steps, you are ready to load your kayak. After a kayaking trip, a simple pull of a lever lets you fold it down, so they don’t rip off by the garage door.

Yakima JayHook Kayak Carrier has hand knobs that let you clamp and unclamp cradles to and from crossbars. They are quick and easy to install in any crossbar styles without the need to use any other tools. There are easy release handles on each one. These allow the top rack to fold down when not needed.


Thule Hull-A-Port Kayak Carrier

Yakima JayHook Kayak Carrier


round, square, elliptical, aero and most factory crossbars

round, square, aero, elliptical, and most factory crossbars


1 kayak up to 36″ wide
Works with composite and plastic hulls

1 kayak

Carrying Capacity

75 pounds

80 pounds

Carrier weight

13.6 pounds

13.3 pounds


Limited Lifetime

Limited Lifetime

Thule The Stacker vs. Yakima JayLow Kayak Carrier

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These two models carry more than one kayak at the same time. But, one of them carries more than the other. No doubt about their efficiency and what they can do but let’s check further which is worth choosing.

Materials and Fabrication

Thule The Stacker has a fold-down steel design with a non-scratch outer coating. Its durable and sturdy build allows 4 boat capacity with help from Thule’s proven universal mounting system. The Stacker is optimally sized to leave room space for other things to bring. For the finest hauling experience, if you were to carry multiple kayaks, position the stacker more towards the center of your roof rack, and bring a kayak one on each side of the stacker.

Yakima JayLow is low maintenance but allows you to carry up to two boats at the same time. Fully assembled out of the box. It is made of lightweight aluminum with a silver powder coat finish. This helps with resisting corrosion considering you will be spending too much time by the sea.

The integrated cam levers help JayLow’s upright arms in stabilizing the kayaks being transported. You may use J-style for 1 kayak or adjust it vertically to fit 2 kayaks.


Yakima JayLow Kayak Carrier uses tie-down straps as well as bow tie-downs to secure 1 boar up the roof. Need to load another kayak, additional straps may be bought separately. The integrated ramps allow easy loading of your kayak from the side of your vehicle. They should be secured and protected by padded bases and cushioned armed from scuffs and scratches.

Yakima offers a more sophisticated security system; however, they are sold separately. This is Yakima’s 2 Same Key System (SKS) cores and keys may be used with another Yakima gears you may have.

The Stacker from Thule pretty much has the same tying down solutions. This also uses tie-downs and straps. And, if more kayaks are needed to be hauled then additional straps and tie-downs should be bought separately.

The arms and the mounting system are all designed with rubber-protective padding. These go over each cam buckles to protect not just the kayak but the vehicle too. It has an upper bridge design that makes tying down boats effortless.


Thule The Stacker offers the ultimate in carrying performance by allowing up to 4 kayaks to be transported at once. But, how easy is it to use? Easy. Place the front part of the carrier to the load bar, take out the bolt, wingnut, and bracket, slide the bolts through the holes of the carrier, and thread the wingnut to the bold. Won’t take more than ten minutes as it is the same process for all the other brackets. That is if you need to carry more than 1 kayak. The stacker also features a quick on/off hardware, so you can remove it quickly when not needed.

While it won’t take 10 minutes for The Stacker to get installed, JayLow won’t let itself be beaten. Its simple clamp-on installation on crossbars won’t require any tools and won’t take more than 5 minutes. Just clamp them up and you are good to load that kayak up there. JayLow’s package includes adapters to keep saddles from sliding on round bars. Need to put them away after a kayak trip? Its padded arms fold down easily when not in use.


Thule The Stacker

Yakima JayLow Kayak Carrier


Thule square, Rapid Aero and AeroBlade load bars; Yakima bars; and most factory installed luggage racks

round, square, aero, elliptical, and most factory crossbars
Minimum crossbar spread: 24″


up to 4 kayaks

up to 2 kayaks

Carrying Capacity

1 Kayak: 75 pounds
2 Kayaks: 150 pounds
3 Kayaks: 225 pounds
4 Kayaks: 300 pounds

1 Kayak: 80 pounds
2 Kayaks: 110 pounds

Carrier weight

7.1 pounds

12.8 pounds


Limited Lifetime

Limited Lifetime

Thule vs Yakima – Who Makes the Best Kayak Rack?

Believe it or not, one of the most common causes of kayak damage is not by using them but by transporting them. On your way to your kayaking adventure, its safe for you to keep your mind off worrying whether they will fall off or slip. We do not want any liability issues from our kayaks falling off, damaging other properties. This is the importance of having a kayak rack.

A good kayak rack is a good investment. Beware of the cheap ones.

The two brands that we have compared are top carrier brands that share many features. But, they also have differences, which distinguish them. They have key features that make them stand out and noticed. After years of being in the business, they have mastered anything needed to make a perfect kayak rack.

Supposedly, confining down our choices from the many brands of kayak racks to these two makes it a breeze to choose. However, the features that they have and the key characteristics they showcase makes you just want to buy them both.

Try to keep in mind the considerations we’ve listed in picking the right rack that will work for you. Yes, the features that sell them off are good but think hard if you need them. Are they necessary for your trip? Or you can go on without them?

Based on the items we have reviewed as well as researches done regarding these two names, we’ll go with Thule Kayak Racks. Their reviews from online retail stores averages at 4.1 out of 5 stars versus 4 out of 5 stars for Yakima. Yakima gets the job done while keeping their price tag cheap. Thule, on the other hand, shows you every bit of reason why you spent your money on them. From aesthetics to security features, Thule has got them covered.

This comparison should have prepared you with more familiarity with these two brands. Hopefully, it helps narrow down your choice to the best one. The one that fits just what you need.

Check out other articles on Thule vs Yakima Bike Racks, Thule Force vs Yakima Skybox, and Thule vs Yakima Ski Racks!

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