Can You Put A Kayak On A Soft Top Jeep?

Can You Put A Kayak On A Soft Top Jeep?

If you own a soft top Jeep, transporting a kayak can be a challenging task. Unlike hard tops, there aren’t as many options available for carrying a kayak.

However, transporting a kayak is still possible, as long as you do it right. Whether you want a DIY option for short distances or a more reliable method that will allow you to transport kayaks for long distances, we’ve got you covered.

The short version: Yes, you can put a kayak on a soft top Jeep, but a better long-term solution would be to get a roof rack designed for soft top Jeeps. You can also use a kayak trailer.

Read on to learn more.

Transporting Kayaks on Soft Top Jeeps: What’s the Problem?

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Tying down a kayak to a soft top roof isn’t as easy as it might sound. Kayaks can be pretty heavy.

While hard top roofs are able to sustain the weight of most canoes and kayaks, soft tops are a whole other story. They are not designed to carry heavy loads at all, and putting a kayak on top without taking the proper precautions can be disastrous.

The biggest risk is damaging your soft top. It could easily break under the weight of your kayak, especially if you are traveling for long distances.

If that happens while you are driving on a highway, it could be pretty dangerous. The kayak can fall down and cause an accident.

Even if the soft top doesn’t break, it might not be able to securely hold the kayak in place. The kayak can shift around during transport, which could destabilize your vehicle.

You basically have two options. The first is attaching it to your soft top directly, but this is only ideal for short distances (traveling locally) and if you have a lightweight kayak.

The other is getting a roof rack. It is of utmost importance to buy a roof rack that is designed for soft top Jeeps and not for hard top vehicles.

Here, too, you have options. You can opt for a manufactured roof rack or make a DIY one; this guide will cover both options.

Attaching a Kayak to a Soft Top Jeep

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If you have a safari type of soft top or some sort of soft top that can hold some weight, you can load the kayak directly onto the top. Ideally, though, you would need some sort of rack in the front of your vehicle to partially sustain its weight.

A light bar is usually pretty easy to install and can hold the weight of many kayaks.

Ultimately, it depends on the strength of the soft top and whether it has any sort of supporting frame. It also depends on the weight of your kayak.

Remember, in addition to the actual kayak weight, the soft top will have to sustain the downward force of the kayak being tied down with ratchet straps.

When you tie it down, use soft ratchet straps. Avoid those with metal buckles, because they can damage the fabric of your soft top.

Even if your soft top does not collapse from the weight of the kayak, the constant wear and tear could damage it if you consistently transport a kayak this way.

That is also why you shouldn’t put the kayak directly on top of the soft top without something in between. The material the kayak is made of can be pretty harsh to the fabric and wear it down, leading to things like leaks when it rains.

One idea is to put a soft blanket under the kayak. Another option is using foam for padding and protection; either option is good.

Some people will even use foam pool noodles, although there is a greater risk of your kayak slipping if you use them. So, make sure to secure it tightly if you use pool noodles.

You can position the foam on the center roll bar. Also, secure the kayak with the ratchet straps by tying them through the window; you should also secure the front and back ends of the kayak to ensure it doesn’t slide off.

That applies if your soft roof is up. If it is down, you can tie the kayak to the roll bars directly.

Creating a DIY Soft Top Roof Rack

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Creating a DIY roofrack for your soft top isn’t actually as difficult as it sounds. What you will need is a rack in the front to support your kayak in the front and something in the back as well.

 

This video by Repair Shed shows exactly how to do it. In addition to a light bar in the front, he installs a bolted rack to uphold the weight of the kayak.

In the back, he installs a truck bed extender with a rack to hold up the weight of the kayaks on the other side. Ratchet straps and hooks are used to secure the kayaks in place.

This method allows you to maintain the usability of your soft roof rack; you can keep it open or closed.

Roof Racks Designed for Soft Top Vehicles

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If you are interested in purchasing a kayak rack, there are a few of them made specifically for soft tops. While they aren’t as common as regular roof racks designed for standard vehicles, you still have options.

Let’s take a look at the best soft top Jeep racks. I will also cover those made for Ford Broncos, which are pretty similar to Jeep Wranglers in design (people often refer to those as Jeeps colloquially) and may be modified for Jeeps.

Hitchmount Rack

The Hitchmount Rack is the #1 option for people with Jeeps looking to transport a kayak on a soft top.

It’s a small family-owned business. It is also veteran-owned, and it is made in the USA, so you are supporting veterans and US innovation when you purchase the Hitchmount Rack.

It is a complete system that comes with straps, pads, a vehicle load warning flag, and all the hardware you will need. Assembly takes just 10 minutes, and the package comes with helpful instructions on how to put it all together.

It attaches to the trailer hitch of your Jeep, and you can easily remove it from the hitch whenever you don’t need to use it.

In addition to Jeeps and Broncos with soft tops, it does support those with hard tops as well. Also, its lower base has six inches of adjustment to make room for spare tires and bumper systems.

The Stabilizer Spacer Kit that comes in the newest version of the Hitchmount Rack provides room for your spare tire and bumper system as well as your vehicle’s backup cameras.

The kit has crossbars that are 42” long, fade proof rack pads, and heavy polypropylene straps. The straps are made in South Carolina, while the 12 gauge steel is from Ohio and the powder coating from Georgia.

It supports a load length of up to 12 feet, and it has a 140 pound load capacity, which is plenty for your kayak. If your kayak is longer than 12 feet, you may still be able to use it, but you might face some stability issues if you don’t add another rack to support the extra length.

The best part is that it takes just 10 minutes to put the whole thing together once you receive it. Once it is assembled, you can remove it or put it back on your vehicle in a matter of less than five minutes.

If you love to cycle as well, don’t worry, they’ve got you covered. There is a bicycle carrying attachment that allows you to carry two bicycles.

Alternatively, you can use this attachment to carry your camping gear or your wet kayaking gear after a long day of kayaking.

GOBI Racks

GOBI Racks sells a wide range of racks for Jeeps as well as other brands, like Ford. There are racks for soft top Jeeps, including both four-door and two-door Jeeps.

Whether you have a Jeep Wrangler TJ, Jeep Wrangler JLU 4XE, or even a Grand Cherokee, you can find soft top and hard top racks.

Since there are many options available, I suggest you browse the Jeep racks it sells. Make sure you select the right model and year of your vehicle.

Raket Designs

Raket Designs sells a number of roof racks. The BakRak Rear Tower System, in particular, is perfect for soft tops.

It was originally designed for four-door and two-door Ford Broncos from 2021 and onward. If you use it with a Bronco, no modification will be needed at all.

The reversible design gives you a basket and flat surface option.

The design is customizable, so with a little work, you can fit it to carry your canoe or kayak.

22 Winty

The 22 Winty is a uniquely patented soft top roof rack designed to carry surfboards, kayaks, and other outdoor equipment. It tilts backward, allowing for easy loading/unloading and easy access.

It also gives you flexibility and allows you to retain the versatility of your soft top. You can use it either when the top is deployed or when it is not; you can even deploy it after installing the rack.

The 22 Winty was designed and created by an entrepreneur called Tom Rossiter. It all started when he went on a skiing trip with some friends back in 2021 but had difficulty finding a place to store all his gear.

The 22 Winty was only tested on a Ford Bronco with a four-door soft top and a 35-inch spare tire. On such vehicles, you can install the Winty 22 without making any sort of modification to the body.

On other vehicles, some modifications might be needed.

It was tested to hold a load of up to 80 pounds (which should be enough for your kayak) and can withstand driving speeds of up to 80 miles per hour.

If you have a long kayak, you might need to add a front rack or a light bar to carry the extra weight.

Note that since it’s pretty much a one-man business, you might have to order in advance, depending on stock availability. Always check the website for updates.

Tips for Transporting a Kayak on a Soft Top Jeep

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After having installed your kayak rack or putting your kayak on the soft top directly, it’s important to drive safely. Here are some tips for transporting a kayak on a soft top Jeep.

Check for Stability

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Ensure that the kayak is securely strapped down. This can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t have a compatible roof rack but are instead strapping the kayak right onto the soft top.

In that case, you would want to weave the straps through the windows. Don’t forget to attach straps to the bow and stern handles, if you have any, and attach it to your light bar or anywhere you can on the front and back of your vehicle.

Soft tops won’t offer the same kind of stable platform as hard tops, so you have to ensure everything is properly tied and secured before heading out. Do a quick test by pulling on the straps; if they don’t budge, and you can’t move the kayak, you can head out on the road.

Drive Slowly and Carefully

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It’s best to exercise extra caution when driving with a kayak on a soft top. For example, avoid making sharp turns, as it could destabilize the kayak.

Drive smoothly and avoid sudden stops or jerky movements. It will keep the kayak in the right place.

Soft tops are more susceptible in the wind as well and can be affected by wind resistance.

Try to avoid heading out in heavy winds; besides, windy weather is not great weather for kayaking in the first place (understand safe wind limits for kayaking).

Also, make sure that not only the kayak is securely strapped down but that the soft top is properly deployed and secured as well.

Wind deflectors and fairings are an option, as they can reduce wind resistance.

One thing worth noting is that while soft tops may cause more noise in the wind, this noise isn’t really a problem. While it might be annoying or a bit scary, it doesn’t signify danger.

Use Soft Tie-Downs

Many kayak straps feature metal or plastic buckles. While these are often cheap to manufacture, the reality is that they can damage the soft top of your vehicle and even scratch your kayak.

Instead, I would opt for soft tie downs. Soft tie downs are made of nylon, polyester, or other soft materials and will not damage your soft top.

It is often easier to adjust the tension and tightness of soft tie downs as well, and unlike metal buckles, they won’t rust after being exposed to the rain.

Alternatives for Transporting Your Kayak

If you have a soft top, you have fewer options when it comes to kayak transportation. Yes, you could place it directly on the soft top, but it’s not recommended as a long-term solution but rather for short distances.

While there are kayak racks designed for soft tops, you might find them expensive, or you might have trouble finding a good rack for your specific model.

There are alternatives to using a kayak rack, though. Here are some other options for transporting a kayak if you have a soft top.

Get a Kayak Trailer

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Kayak trailers are awesome if you don’t have room on the top of your vehicle or have a soft top. You can attach the trailer to the back of your vehicle and bring it with you everywhere.

You won’t have to worry about limitations in terms of deploying your soft top. You also won’t have to deal with unloading the kayak when you get home, as you can simply detach the trailer and leave it in your garage or shed (just make sure to use a kayak cover to protect your kayak).

Get an Inflatable Kayak

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Inflatable kayaks are perfect if you have limited storage space. You can deflate them and put them in the carrier bags they usually come with.

You can then put them in your trunk or back seat. They are lightweight but still offer excellent performance, although you will need to carry a pump with you as well.

Get a Folding Kayak

Folding kayaks are also great. They fold in two or three, so you can put them in the back of your Jeep or in your trunk.

They often come with straps that make them easy to transport on your shoulder. They are lightweight and can last for many fold cycles with minimal degradation.

Despite what people think, folding and inflatable kayaks are both safe to use. Inflatable kayaks, for example, usually have multiple air chambers.

That ensures that even if a puncture occurs, you will not sink.

Conclusion

Even if you have a soft top, don’t let it hold you back from transporting a kayak.

Putting it directly on the soft top is a possibility but also a bit risky and not recommended unless you only need to do it a few times and are traveling short distances (locally).

For longer distances, get a roof rack designed for soft tops.

Alternatively, get a kayak trailer or opt for an inflatable or folding kayak.

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Can You Put A Kayak On A Soft Top Jeep?

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Peter Salisbury

Pete is the Owner of KayakHelp.com. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of KayakHelp.com. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.

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