Top Horizontal (Saddle) Kayak Racks Explained in this 2023 Guide

yellow canoe mounted to horizontal saddle roof rack

I've been transporting kayaks and racks in my day job as a white water instructor over the last 7 years. You might be wondering: why horizontal kayak racks might be the ultimate choice for my kayaking needs?

Let me share with you the ins and outs of horizontal kayak racks, also known as "saddle" racks. You can supercharge your kayaking experience with these innovative racks that will make transporting your kayak a breeze as horizontal racks has some great advantages over other types of kayak racks.

If you want to skip to our top recommendations for horizontal kayak racks, click here.

What is a Horizontal Kayak Rack?

A horizontal kayak rack, which is sometimes called a “saddle” rack, allows the kayak to sit on its hull during transportation. Therefore, the kayak sits flat on the roof of your car.

Due to the design of the rack, it has the most surface area contact with the kayak compared to other types of kayak racks.

This makes horizontal kayak racks extremely sturdy.

Horizontal kayak racks are typically loaded from the rear of the car by pushing the kayak into place.

Some racks even include a roller that sits along the rear of the car to make this process easier. Other horizontal kayak racks with lift assistance may load from the side of the vehicle.

Also check out: A Guide to Lift-Assist Kayak Racks

Advantages of Horizontal Kayak Racks

There are many great advantages that horizontal kayak racks have over other types of racks.

One of the biggest reasons people choose horizontal kayak racks is their compatibility with a wide variety of kayaks.

Horizontal kayaks often fit kayaks that are too large for other types of racks, such as j-racks. Most models are even big enough to fit canoes!

Another advantage of horizontal kayak racks is their aerodynamics. Since the kayaks sit flat and close to the vehicle’s roof, it reduces resistance against the wind. This helps increase gas mileage.

Additionally, horizontal kayak racks contact a large area of the kayak’s hull, holding it securely. This also means the kayak’s center of gravity is lower and in the center of the rack, further increasing its stability.

Disadvantages of Horizontal Kayak Racks

There aren’t many disadvantages of horizontal kayak racks, but there are a couple.

One of the disadvantages of this type of kayak rack is price. Although they aren’t very expensive, they are still generally more expensive than J-style kayak racks, which are the most popular type of kayak rack.

It’s also very important to consider that a horizontal kayak rack will take up more space on your roof than other racks. Other types of kayak racks, such as j-racks and vertical racks, stand kayaks up on their side, this allows cargo to be placed between the kayaks if you have 2 loaded.

With horizontal kayak racks, there won’t be much space left over on your roof after loading 2 kayaks. Even with 1 kayak on your roof, there won’t be a ton of space, especially if you have a small roof.

Horizontal Kayak Racks: Pros and Cons


  • Very sturdy and secure
  • Aerodynamic design for increased gas mileage
  • Some models offer lift assistance


  • More expensive than other types of kayak racks
  • Takes up more space on the vehicle’s roof

Should I Buy a Horizontal Kayak Rack?

Horizontal kayak racks are best for those looking for the most stability out of a kayak rack. Due to the way this rack cradles the entire hull of your kayak, it keeps it very secure and stable during transportation.

A horizontal kayak rack is also best if you’ll need to fit large kayaks or a canoe.

Most horizontal racks are compatible with a wide range of kayak and canoe sizes, making this perfect for those who own large kayaks.

How Much Do Horizontal Kayak Racks Cost?

Although horizontal kayak racks are not the cheapest type of kayak rack, they are relatively inexpensive.

Most horizontal kayak racks (without lift assistance) cost between $50 and $250.

The price for kayak racks in this range varies depending on the stability of the rack, quality, and special features.

While kayak racks on the lower end of this range of simple and get the job done, more expensive models are high-quality and may over easy-load systems.

Also check out: How Much Do Kayak Racks Cost?

Best Horizontal Kayak Racks

Choosing the best horizontal kayak rack is no easy task. With so many different brands, prices, and features, it can be difficult to pick the perfect rack. To help you make your decision, here’s a list of our top 3 best horizontal kayak carriers!

1. Thule Dockglide – Best Overall Horizontal Kayak Rack

The Dockglide by Thule is a flexible kayak carrier that is easy to load and unload.

thule dockglide kayak rack system

It features felt-lined rear saddles that allow you to glide the kayak into place when loading from the rear of the vehicle.

You can adjust the angle of the saddles; therefore, this rack is compatible with kayaks up to 36 inches wide and 75 lbs heavy.

People who purchased the Dockglide were very impressed by how easy it is to load by themselves. They also said it was easy to install the rack.

Additionally, people found the Dockglide to be very durable and sturdy. Although the Dockglide works with most crossbars, some people reported it did not fit theirs. Be sure to double-check the Dockglide’s compatibility with your crossbar system.

The Thule Dockglide is a great option for those who find themselves loading their kayak by themselves. This is the biggest advantage of the Dockglide over other kayak racks. Its stability and solid construction also make this rack a great choice for a horizontal kayak rack.

Click here to view the current price.

2. Malone SeaWing – Best Value Horizontal Kayak Rack

The SeaWing is one of Malone’s most popular racks. The SeaWing was designed to be easy to install and compatible with many different kayak sizes, including sea kayaks.

horizontal kayak rack kit

The SeaWing holds a kayak up to 70 lbs. It has a low-profile design to help the rack clear garages and other low structures, so you won’t have to worry about leaving it on your roof.

The rack is easy to install and doesn’t require any special tools. It also features Malone’s “JAWZ” mounting hardware to make this rack compatible with many different types of crossbars.

The Malone SeaWing is also compatible with the Malone Stinger Load Assist Module and Telos Kayak Load Assist to make loading your kayak easy and stress-free.

People who purchased the Malone SeaWing said it was very secure, even at highway speeds. Most people had no trouble installing this kayak rack.

Although, some people reported that some parts were low-quality, such as the straps. These people recommended replacing the included straps with more durable straps.

Overall, the Malone SeaWing is a great choice for those with sea kayaks or large kayaks. The outstanding stability of the SeaWing means you won’t need to worry about safety on a long trip.

Additionally, its compatibility with load-assist systems makes this rack great for those not capable of lifting a large kayak on their own.

Click here to view the current price.

Bottom Line for Horizontal Kayak Racks

If you're in the market for a kayak rack, look no further than horizontal kayak racks, also known as "saddle" racks.

These racks offer numerous advantages over other types of kayak racks, making them practically a best seller for outdoor enthusiasts. With their ability to securely hold your kayak in place, ease of use, and quick installation, horizontal kayak racks are a must-have accessory for transporting watercrafts.

So, what sets horizontal kayak racks apart from the rest?

-They provide excellent stability and support for your kayak. The horizontal design allows for even weight distribution, ensuring that your kayak stays in place during transport. This is especially important when navigating rough terrain or traveling at high speeds.

-They are very versatile. Saddle racks can accommodate a wide range of kayak sizes and styles, making them suitable for all types of watercraft. Whether you have a sleek touring kayak or a sturdy fishing kayak, a horizontal rack can securely hold it in place.

-They are very easy to use. With their simple and intuitive design, you can quickly load and unload your kayak without any hassle. This means less time spent fumbling with straps and more time enjoying your outdoor adventures.

Now that you know the benefits of horizontal kayak racks, it's time to choose the best one for your needs.

After thorough research and analysis, we have compiled a list of our top recommendations for horizontal kayak racks. These racks have been carefully selected based on their durability, ease of use, and customer reviews.

To see our top picks, click here.

In closing, horizontal kayak racks can be your ideal choice offering stability, versatility, and ease of use. These racks are fairly affordable and offer a superior solution for kayak transportation.

Bill Nikolaou
I live for wild rides on rivers, and have passion for digital marketing. With 7 years of experience in white water guiding, I've transported more gear than most folks will in a lifetime. Need a reliable rack or carrier? I got you covered!