Paddle Board Rack or Kayak Rack for Toyota 4Runner – What to Consider Before Buying
Canoe, Paddle Board & Kayak Carriers for the 5th Gen 4Runner and a general overview on the Dakine Aero Rack Pads
For those of you who are frequent visitors to Trail4Runner.com you might recognize my name when you read an article, however, you might not know that kayak fishing is one of my other passions. I have always enjoyed fishing from a young age and kayak fishing has led me to some unbelievable scenery and unbelievable places.
Just as my 4Runner can get me to crazy places on land, my kayaks get me to some really awesome places on the water, and just as I enjoy sharing information on 5th Gen 4Runners on Trail4Runner.com I also enjoy sharing information about kayak fishing on my personal website, www.texaskayakfisher.com.
Kayak fishing can be a lot of fun, but the tricky aspect can be transporting my kayak or paddleboard to the water’s edge. This isn’t as hard as it might seem to some of you though. There are many different ways to transport kayaks, paddleboards, and canoe’s, but for the sake of this article, I will be focusing on a cost-effective yet safe and reliable way.
Depending on what type of options your 4Runner came with you might have to get some extra gear, such as the cargo bars for your roof rack. I have a 2017 TRD Off-Road 4Runner with the factory cargo bars attached.
If you don’t have cargo bars on your 4Runner you can simply purchase the factory cargo bars. There are many different canoe, paddle board & kayak transportation options out there, such as Dakine, Yakima, and Thule. Many of the options will work with aftermarket roof racks as well.
Canoe, Paddle Board & Kayak Systems
- Dakine (You need 4 pads): Check Today’s Price
- Yakima J-Cradle: Check Price
- Thule J-Cradle: Check Price
- Don’t forget straps (what I use): Check Price
How to Choose the right System?
In order to transport my kayak or paddleboard there are a few main aspects I try to always incorporate:
- Safety – I do not want to have a large object flying off the roof of my 4Runner on the highway.
- Simplicity – I like a setup that I can utilize in a very simple manner.
- Speed – No one wants to spend a long time loading and unloading when you could be out on the water.
- Noise – Noise can be dreadful on longer trips.
So just how do I accomplish all of the above – quite simply.
Dakine Aero Rack Pads
You will see some people simply strap items directly to the roof rack. Although this is possible to do, it will be noisier, less safe, and could potentially damage whatever you are transporting up there. A little bit of padding on your roof rack can drastically cut down the noise that is transferred to the cabin.
Padding also allows for a much better seating of your kayak or paddleboard as the padding really conforms to the shape it is forced against. Lastly, padding provides a point of contact with much more friction in comparison to the bare cargo bars. You do not want your kayak or paddleboard sliding around on your roof so friction is very good in this case.
I started off utilizing pads that could be found on weight room equipment for knee flexion and knee extension. These pads worked great, as I got them for free and they could withstand the abuse from the kayak or paddleboard.
The problem with these is that unless you stumble across a weight room that is giving them away, they can be hard to find. On top of this, they don’t fit the aerodynamic roof rack cargo bars on the 4Runner. This is an important aspect to focus on.
There are typically two types of roof rack bars – round and aero.
Round is simply in the shape of a circle, but aero is much flatter and in the shape of an oval. The factory cargo bars on a 4Runner are aero style. This said, pads which have a circular hole do not work too well. You need something designed specifically for aero style roof racks.
After researching many different options, I decided to go with Dakine Aero Rack Pads. You may also need a set of straps to get the job the job done.
They come with two in each pack and are 18” long each. Two of these pads on each cargo bar fits quite well on the 4Runner. It is important to get the aero pads and not the regular, as aero are designed for the type of cargo bars found on the 4Runner.
In order to transport most kayaks you will need four of these pads, so two packages since there is two to a pack. If you are transporting just a paddleboard you might get away with one pad on each cargo bar, but I would suggest having two on each cargo bar.
How the Dakine Aero Rack Pads Work
The operation is quite simple, yet secure and effective. These pads come with Velcro on the bottom which you can use to secure the pads to the top of your roof rack. They work very well.
The only suggestion I would make here is that you close the Velcro towards the back of the vehicle so there is no chance wind resistance will open the Velcro, instead the wind will be constantly forcing the Velcro shut. You can place two pads on each cargo bar pretty effortlessly and they fit like a glove. Although these pads look neat on the 4Runner’s roof rack I wouldn’t suggest leaving them on top.
If someone realized they were easily detachable you might walk out to your car one day to find your pads gone.
This said, it is probably wise to take the pads off anytime you are not with your vehicle.
How to Position Your Kayak or Paddleboard
Now that you have your Dakine Aero Rack Pads on your 4Runner you need to mount your kayak or paddleboard. I try to position my kayak or paddleboard so that there is equal length extending past the back wing of the 4Runner and extending forward of where the windshield meets the front of the roof.
If you happen to have an opportunity to slide your kayak or paddleboard forward so that the nose is pointed slightly downwards I would try to do so, as this will allow the wind to push your kayak or paddleboard down on your 4Runner instead of up in the air. Something to pay attention to is that your kayak or paddleboard is in the middle of the roof rack and pointing directly in line with the front of your 4Runner.
When you have a crooked paddleboard or kayak on your roof you will have much more wind noise and also present much more surface area that will in hand cause more stress on your roof rack and potentially lead to your kayak or paddleboard flying off the roof. The key thing to remember is just to keep it balanced front and back and side to side. A note on positioning your kayak or paddleboard is to watch out for the antenna mounted towards the rear of the 4Runner’s roof.
How to Secure Your Kayak or Paddleboard to the Roof Rack
There is no point in having good roof rack pads and your kayak aligned perfectly if you don’t strap it down. There are cam straps and there are ratchet straps. Although cam straps would most likely never cause a problem and are easy to use, I recommend using small ratchet straps for a little more secure setup.
Placement of the straps is best done furthest apart from one another. Make sure when you place your strap over the top of your kayak or paddleboard you don’t have any twists in the strap. This puts more stress on the straps and also will put more pressure on your kayak or paddleboard where the strap is touching. As for how tight you should strap down is a hard thing to validate quantitatively.
There really isn’t a way to give a certain psi to tighten to or anything like this, you just have to do it by feel. I like to get my straps tight enough so that I can barely move the parts of the strap that are in open air…once again, I mean very barely move.
Tighter is better than looser here, but at the same time have peace of mind because you don’t have to cinch down your straps as tight as you might think. It is always better safe than sorry though, so tighten your straps up pretty snug as long as you are not causing damage to your kayak or paddleboard.
After You Unload Your Kayak or Paddleboard
When you get to the water’s edge all you have to do is place your ratchet straps and Dakine Aero Rack Pads in you 4Runner until you return to load up your kayak or paddleboard, it’s as simple as that. If you feel like you are in a safe area you can leave the Dakine Aero Rack Pads on top, however, do so at your own risk as someone might get tempted to take these for themselves.
Thoughts on Watersport Carriers & Dakine Aero Rack Pads
This method of mounting a kayak, paddleboard or canoe to your roof rack is simple, effective, and safe. The only real downside is that you have to be strong enough to place your kayak or paddleboard on your roof (or have someone around to assist you) and also that you cannot open your rear liftgate with a kayak or paddleboard on top.
The Dakine Aero Rack Pads work very well and stay in place extremely well. Pair these pads with some quality straps and your choice of kayak or paddleboard and you are good to go. In some final words just remember to always check your setup twice. You could cause some serious damage to a vehicle behind you so be sure you have your kayak or paddleboard secured on your roof rack.
Be safe and you can use this method to take your kayak or paddleboard anywhere your 4Runner can take you to.
Cross-posted from the Rack article on Brenan’s advice:
We have a 2017 4Runner that we wish to carry two Hobie Pro Angler fishing kayaks on. They are 12′ and 14′, weigh a total of 250 lbs, and combined are about 75″ wide.
What would you recommend? (Is it even practical?)
Thanks! Mac and Belinda
Mac and Belinda,
I personally do not have much experience with transporting two kayaks on my roof rack, only a paddleboard and a kayak (of which these can be stacked on top of each other). The only thing that comes to mind is something like a Thule Hull-a-Port. It might be best to purchase a small trailer. I’m sorry I don’t have a good recommendation for you.
Clint, thanks for posting! As an avid whitewater kayaking, going about three times a week, I am loading and unloading kayaks a lot. Two things I’d mention:
1. I use cam straps. With ratcheting straps, it’s way too easy to overly tighten and deform your kayak. The fishing kayaks are thicker plastic, so maybe that’s why you’re not having issues, but I’d really recommend cam straps if you’re doing whitewater and/or live in a hot climate.
2. I always go through a loop on my kayaks with at least one of my straps, if not both. In your pictures, the rear strap could’ve gone through that grab loop. While the kayak may shift some (as it won’t be as widely placed as you have it, it’s guaranteed not to come off even if the strap loosens.
A buddy and I built a kayak rack for my 4Runner that sits on my Gobi Rack. The sides extend/telescope to hold six kayaks and be the width of the mirrors or collapse to hold 4 kayaks and be the width of the Gobi/standard roof rack. Vertical supports on the passenger side are removable so that I can still get into garages. I can now do six kayaks and six mountain bikes (with my Northshore rack) at once.
Thank you for your comment. I completely understand using cam straps versus ratchet straps. I live in Texas, so summer temperatures are consistently around 100 degrees. This said, I have chosen to utilize ratchet straps knowing that cinching them down too tight could damage my kayak. I have not had an issue with my Jackson Kayaks (which are incredibly rugged so this probably helps me) as far as deformation. I simply prefer ratchet straps over cinch straps for there security, although I do take a risk of over tightening. As far as the extra security of running the straps through a loop or grab handle on the kayak, I absolutely agree. I used to have a piece of rope that attached to my tow hooks in the front of my vehicle that ran through the front grab handle. I eventually stopped using this as I thought having two ratchet straps in place would be plenty. I agree it is always better safe than sorry though, so I am definitely going to look into running my straps through a loop of some sort. Thank you for your help.
Wanted to ask…. are the 10’ straps long enough, or do I need the 14’? Borrowing a kayak from a friend, so want to make sure I take good care of it.
Gabriel, you should be fine with 10′ long straps.
Thanks for the thorough review of the pads. This will work with my preferred method of using the center mounted stacker type mounts which allow you to load anywhere from 1 to 4 kayaks with only one type of mount. Like the Yakima BigStack or the Rhino Rack.
What about 2 kayaks?
I typically do not carry two kayaks, and if I do, I do not utilize this method. However, I bring a kayak and a paddleboard a lot and the way I do this is by placing my kayak on my roof rack as discussed in this article. In order to bring my paddleboard I will place two Dakine Aero Rack Pads on top of my kayak and then place my paddleboard on top of these pads. You just have to make sure you have long enough straps to accommodate the extra length required by the kayak and paddleboard stacked on top of each other. For two kayaks I would suggest looking into an aftermarket roof rack that has extended cargo bars. This will allow for two kayaks to be placed side by side (assuming both kayaks aren’t too wide). Another option is looking into a small trailer, possibly even one designed for hauling kayaks.