Nothing helps you beat the heat on summer RV adventures like getting on the water for a paddle. Unfortunately, transporting kayaks on an RV isn’t easy if you’re unfamiliar with RV kayak racks.
Many RVers opt for more portable, compact options like inflatable paddleboards or folding kayaks. However, those aren’t an option for everyone. Not to mention, they simply don’t perform the same way a traditional kayak does.
So let’s explore some RV kayak racks to help you bring kayaks on your next waterfront camping trip.
Types of RV Kayak Racks
There are several different types of RV kayak racks to choose from. We’ll go over how to choose the right one for your RV later on, but here’s a general overview:
Kayak Trailers for RVs
Kayak trailers pair well with motorhomes, and you’ll find models that carry a single kayak or multiple kayaks side-by-side or stacked together. The main benefit of a kayak trailer is the ability to separate the trailer from your RV. Some are even light enough to move a short distance by hand once detached.
Roof-Mounted RV Kayak Racks
Roof racks are a little less popular for RVs due to the issue of height clearance. If your RV is already 13 feet tall, mounting kayaks on top probably isn’t an option.
However, shorter towable campers, such as the Coleman Rubicon 1200RK and the Forest River NoBo 10.6, are designed to offer roof-mounted storage. Many class B campers are also short enough to accommodate RV kayak racks on the roof.
If you have one of these RVs, consider the following RV kayak racks:
Each style below requires crossbars, so let’s start here. Many crossbars are specific to vehicles and the types of factory-installed rails they come with. RVs like the NoBo 10.6 have crossbars as a standard feature, which is rare in a towable RV.
Installing crossbars on your RV can require installing crossbar mounts into your RV roof in appropriate locations. Then, you’ll need to apply the proper RV roof sealant around the mounts to weatherproof your work.
Water damage can create expensive repairs if you don’t seal your roof properly. So we highly recommend contacting a Camping World RV Service Center to inquire about RV improvement services before attempting a DIY crossbar installation.
Cradles, V-Style, T-Style, and J-Style RV Kayak Racks
If you have crossbars on your small camper or class B RV, you can always strap a kayak directly to the crossbars. However, utilizing cradles, V-style racks, T-style stackers, or J-style racks allows you to secure multiple kayaks.
Depending on the rack type you choose, you can free up additional roof space for a cargo box, an awning, or other roof-mounted RV accessories. You must ensure your choice matches the round, square, or oval-shaped crossbars on your vehicle’s roof.
Vertical Kayak Rack for Your RV Bumper
These RV kayak racks allow you to transport kayaks vertically. Most are hitch-mounted designs, but you may also find options that mount to a rear RV bumper. These kayak racks are generally suitable for motorhomes, travel trailers, and 5th wheels.
How to Choose a Kayak Rack for Your RV
Let’s look at the important factors to consider when narrowing down your RV kayak rack options:
Mount Type and Location
There are three primary locations for mounting a kayak rack on your RV: the hitch, bumper, and roof.
Hitch-mount RV kayak racks can work with motorized and towable RVs. They’re often the quickest and easiest option to install and can easily be removed if your next camping trip doesn’t involve a waterfront destination.
Most hitch-mount racks require you to transport your kayaks vertically. The length of your kayaks is important to consider before installing a vertical RV kayak rack. They can’t be longer than the height of your RV, or they’ll add to your overall height. You also lose the ability to tow anything behind your RV with a hitch-mount kayak rack.
Bumper-mount RV kayak racks can also work with motorhomes and towables, but they require a bolted installation to the RV’s bumper. Most will require certain clearance between the bumper and the RV’s frame, so you must ensure compatibility.
Most bumper RV kayak racks also require vertical kayak storage, requiring the same important considerations about how they’ll add to your RV height clearance. However, some bumper-mount kayak racks allow you to retain the use of your hitch for towing a vehicle behind your motorized RV.
Pro Tip: Consider your RV’s design as well. For example, bumper and hitch-mount racks may not work if your RV’s main entry door is on the back of the unit rather than on the side.
Roof-mount RV kayak racks are generally only suitable for short travel trailers and class B camper vans. You may occasionally find them on other RVs, but roof access and height clearance make storing kayaks on taller RVs either a hassle or, in some cases, impossible.
The benefits of roof RV kayak racks include the retention of a hitch for towing and better weight distribution to ensure safe towing. However, loading and unloading roof-mounted RV kayak racks can be much more difficult.
Kayak trailers are another option for motorhome owners. In theory, they could also be towed behind a short travel trailer or fifth wheel. Still, you’ll need to be careful not to exceed maximum vehicle length restrictions wherever you travel.
Kayak trailers make it easier to load and unload kayaks while eliminating the issues of height clearance. This means they’re a great option for owners of longer expedition-style kayaks.
However, most kayak trailers are more expensive than other RV kayak racks. They also increase your overall length, decreasing your RV’s maneuverability and impacting the number of campgrounds that can accommodate you.
Another factor to consider is how many kayaks you need to transport and the total weight of those kayaks. If you plan to store any kayaking gear inside your kayaks in transit, you’ll need to factor that weight in when selecting an RV kayak rack.
Most bumper or hitch-mounted RV kayak racks carry 2-4 kayaks. A kayak trailer may allow you to stack multiple kayaks together if you properly secure them with tie-down straps.
Regarding roof-mounted RV kayak racks, you’ll find options for a single kayak and stackers that can accommodate up to four kayaks. The latter, however, is rare for RVs due to the roof space required for other RV features like air conditioners and roof vents.
The materials used in a kayak rack’s construction will determine durability, carrying capacity, and weather resistance. Aluminum racks are the most lightweight, and aluminum isn’t particularly susceptible to rust and corrosion.
If you’re looking for something more durable, stainless steel is the way to go. Stainless steel RV kayak racks also hold up well in the elements. Their only downside is that they’re usually a bit heavier than aluminum racks.
In addition, consider the amount of padding a rack provides. Ideally, you don’t want your kayaks bumping or rubbing directly against any metal as you travel.
What Other Kayak Accessories Do You Need?
The type of RV kayak rack you choose can impact the additional accessories you’ll need to transport your kayak safely. Here are a few to consider:
- Straps and tie-downs. Cam straps are our preferred option, but ratchet straps can serve the same purpose.
- Anchor rope. Designed for anchors but can also be useful for tying down the bow and stern of a kayak on a roof rack.
- Cable lock. For securing your kayak rack and/or kayaks when your RV is unattended.
Of course, you can also explore Camping World’s kayak selection if you don’t have your personal watercraft already.
Once you have your kayak racks mounted and your kayaks loaded up, it’s time to hit the road. Here are a few resources to help you find beautiful locations for your next RV-based paddle trip:
- RV Campgrounds Near Dreamy Florida Freshwater Springs
- 5 Waterfront RV Campsites to Visit This Summer
- 8 Amazing Waterfront Campgrounds
Do you have any questions about RV kayak racks? Let us know in the comments below.