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 and paddleboards, 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 also many different aftermarket options out there, such as Yakima and Thule.
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 noise that is transferred to the cabin. Padding also allows for a much better seating of you 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 very well. You need something designed specifically for aero style roof racks.
After researching many different options, I’ve decided to go with Dakine Aero Rack Pads. 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.
How the Dakine Aero Rack Pads Work:
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 being 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. 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. This will 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 to keep it balanced front and back and side to side. When you are positioning your kayak or paddleboard, remember 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 will also put more pressure on your kayak or paddleboard where the strap is touching. It is hard to validate quantitatively just how tight you should strap down. There really isn’t a way to give a certain psi to tighten, so you have to base it off of how it feels. I like to get my straps tight enough so that I can barely move the parts of the strap that are in open air. Tighter is a little better than looser here, but at the same time, you can have peace of mind because you don’t have to cinch down your straps as tight as you might think. Although, it is always better safe than sorry, so tighten your straps up pretty snug. Just make sure 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.
This method of mounting a kayak or paddleboard 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). The other downside, is that you cannot open your rear lift gate with a kayak or paddleboard on top. The Dakine Aero Rack Pads work very well and stays in place extremely well. Pair these pads with some quality straps and your choice of kayak or paddleboard and you are good to go. Lastly, 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 for your 4Runner can take you.