Buying your first kayak is one of the best feelings a ‘yakker can experience. Now you have the freedom to get out on the water whenever you want, and in a kayak that fits you like a glove.
Realizing that you have no way of getting your brand new 14-foot touring kayak home--especially because it certainly won’t fit on the roof of your modestly-sized town car--can sometimes put a damper on that “new kayak” excitement. The silver lining to your newly-discovered transportation problem is that it’s a chance to buy an awesome new kayak trailer!
A good kayak trailer will allow you to safely transport, on average, between three and four kayaks, with some trailers having additional space for accessories, gearboxes, and even bikes, without needing a roof rack. To make picking your new kayak trailer as easy as possible, we’ve put together this kayak trailer buying guide and reviewed some of the best kayak trailers on the market.
Best Kayak Trailers For 2018
Malone Auto Racks MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package - Editors Choice
Kayak Trailer Buying Guide
Before you rush out to buy your shiny new kayak trailer, there are a couple of factors you should take into consideration, such as the weight, the tongue length, and the dimensions of your ideal trailer. Spending a few moments thinking about what specifications you need from a kayak trailer can save you potentially costly disappointment later.
There are two questions you need to think about when considering the size of your prospective new kayak trailer: how large do you need it to be in order to accommodate your kayaks, and how you are going to store it when you aren’t using it?
If you have multiple kayaks to move, or a tandem kayak, you will need a larger trailer to accommodate the additional weight and size. This is especially true of longer kayaks, such as sea or touring boats. Always have the measurements and weights of your kayaks handy when buying a kayak trailer. That way, you can compare them to the trailer’s dimensions before you order.
The flip side of ordering a trailer that suits your kayak’s weight and size requirements is that you will need somewhere to store it. As much as most of us would like to keep kayaking all year round, the vast majority of kayaks have an offseason, when it’s usually too cold to be out on the water. When buying a kayak trailer, think about where you plan to store it when not in use.
If you’re thinking of storing your trailer outside, you’ll need to find a model that is resistant to the elements. If you’re planning on using a garage or shed, measure first. No one wants to waste time dealing with a kayak trailer wedged into a garage when they could be paddling.
Length of Tongue
Connected to the size of the trailer is the length of tongue you’ll need in order to use your trailer to its full effect. The tongue measurement on a trailer is the distance from the axle to the trailer hitch. This is important. A short tongue will be very problematic if you plan to carry a particularly long kayak on your trailer. The kayak can end up bumping up against the back of your vehicle, or you may not be able to hitch the trailer at all.
This is another situation where measuring before buying can save you heartache later!
Not all kayaking spots are conveniently located next to a nicely paved road, and especially if you are a whitewater kayaker, you might need to do some backroad traveling before you can find the perfect ingress point. This is especially true for whitewater kayaking.
If you do find that you spend a lot of time pulling your trailer around backcountry or on bad roads, it might be a good idea to invest in a trailer that has a suspension system. If you don’t want to shell out the extra costs for suspension but are still worried about your kayak trailer on unpaved roads, then check the wheel size before buying. Some kayak trailers come with larger, chunky rubber wheels specifically designed to deal with a little off-road travel.
Construction and Materials
The materials your kayak trailer is constructed out of should also be carefully considered before you buy. Generally, kayak trailers are made from one of three different materials: aluminum, ungalvanized steel, and galvanized steel. Each has its own pros and cons.
Aluminum trailers have the benefit of being lightweight and easy to maneuver. Unlike ferrous metals, they won’t rust if exposed to the elements or salt water. The downside of aluminum is that it lacks the tensile strength of steel and is more prone to bucking if put under pressure.
Galvanized steel is stronger and heavier than aluminum, making it ideal if your trailer is going to see a lot of off-road usages. It also comes with a layer of zinc plating that will keep it from rusting. The downside of steel is that is increases the weight of your trailer fairly significantly, which is something you’ll need to take into account when buying a trailer suitable for your vehicle.
Ungalvanized steel has all of the benefits of steel, but without that crucial zinc coating to keep it from rusting if exposed to rain or salt water. The more cost-efficient trailers are normally made from ungalvanized steel, and while they are as strong as galvanized models, you will need to take precautions to protect them from the elements.
Kayak Trailer Reviews
The Malone Auto Racks MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package is our top pick for this list of kayak trailers because of its excellent combination of features, build quality, and durability.
Designed to safely store and transport up to four kayaks, the Malone Auto Racks MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package is constructed of galvanized steel to make it resistant to both the stresses of a bad road and the elements. It can transport up to 350 pounds and can be configured to carry kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, bicycles, canoes, and cargo boxes full of gear.
In order to accommodate kayaks of up to 19 feet in length, the Malone Auto Racks MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package comes with an extended heavy-duty tongue. It also features pre-fitted electrical, mechanical, and hub assemblies to make hitching your trailer as easy as possible. Once everything is packed up, the Malone Auto Racks MicroSport can transport them at speeds of up to 70 mph.
To put your mind at ease about its durability, the Malone Auto Racks MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package comes with a five-year warranty against defects, and they've even thrown in a spare wheel.
The Malone Auto Racks MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package is our choice for best kayak trailer, because it has all of the features a paddler needs. It’s durable, weather resistant, easy to use, and has enough space and saddles to accommodate an array of kayaks, bikes, and gear.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from the MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package, the Malone XtraLight Single Kayak Package with SaddleUp Pro is lightweight, with an easy to assemble T-Box design made from marine-grade galvanized steel.
Designed to transport one kayak of 14 feet or under, the XtraLight Single Kayak Package comes with Malone’s SaddleUp Pro kayak saddle to keep your ‘yak securely locked in place. It is designed to accommodate a wide variety of hull shapes, and the easy-to-assemble steel frame can hold up to 275 pounds.
If you are planning to head off-road to reach the perfect spot on the river, the XtraLight Single Kayak Package also comes with leaf spring suspension and 8-inch diameter high-speed wheels, making it able to handle both off-road and freeway driving.
The Malone XtraLight Single Kayak Package with SaddleUp Pro is ideal for a single kayaker with a ‘yak measuring 14 feet or less. It’s a good choice if you’re looking for a simple, lightweight trailer that can handle a wide range of road conditions.
Highly adaptable to accommodate a range of cargo, the Ruff-Sport Kayak Trailer can be configured to fit kayaks, canoes, bikes, SUPs, and cargo boxes. Its 64-inch crossbar also allows it to be fitted with a range of commonly available roof rack accessories.
Made from galvanized steel, the Ruff-Sport Kayak Trailer’s frame folds up and has an integrable locking mechanism. Its tongue also folds in for easy storage. If you need a larger trailer to take over some unpaved roads, then the Ruff-Sport Kayak Trailer comes with large 12-inch wheels fitted with springs. Ruff-Sport also suggests that the trailer can safely transport kayaks at speeds of up to 45 mph.
If you are looking for an adaptable kayaking trailer that can support a wide range of different cargo and accessories, then the Ruff-Sport Kayak Trailer is a great choice. Its galvanized steel frame is solid, but folds up for easy storage, and the sheer amount of cargo it can transport makes it ideal for a variety of situations.
The Right-on Trailer Multi-Sport Multi-Rack Kayak Trailer is the ideal trailer for anyone looking to transport a large number of kayaks, bikes, and equipment. It’s also a good option if you have one or more large tandem kayaks.
The galvanized steel frame comes with a second tier rack, allowing the trailer to carry up to six bicycles on top, and four kayaks on the bottom. Its 64-inch wide crossbar also allows it to be fitted with common roof rack accessories from companies like Yakama and Thule, allowing you to fit cargo boxes to easily transport your gear.
The marine-grade galvanized steel frame comes with a folding tongue that allows for easier storage. It should be noted, though, that the second tier does make this kayak trailer particularly high, so you will need to measure your interior storage spaces before your purchase to make sure it fits.
If you happen to be the happy owner of a large tandem kayak or a model fitted with a paddling system, or just want to take your bikes, canoes, kayaks, and gear away for a paddling holiday, then the Right-on Trailer Multi-Sport Multi-Rack Kayak Trailer is the kayak trailer for you! It might not have some of the great features of other kayak trailers on this list, but it can’t be beaten for sheer storage space.
The Yakima Rack and Roll 78 Kayak Trailer comes in a close second to our first place Malone Auto Racks MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package because of its great, lightweight construction and many handy features.
Although it only weighs in at 160 pounds, the Yakima Rack and Roll Trailer is capable of carrying up to 300 pounds of weight. Measuring in at 78 inches, the Rack and Roll is quite a bit wider than most of the kayak trailers on this list, giving you more options when it comes to transporting your ‘yaks, bikes, and gear.
Despite its wide size, the Rack and Roll is one of the easier trailers to store, with an internal mechanism that folds down the entire frame in a matter of seconds. The wheels and tongue of the Rack and Roll also detach, making it an ideal trailer for space conscious ‘yakkers.
Once you get down to the water, the Rack and Roll has one last awesome feature: a carry handle and large rubber wheels that allow it to be used as kayak trolley. If the Rack and Roll has any drawbacks, it is that doesn’t come with built-in kayak saddles. Its aluminum frame also won’t be up to as much harsh treatment as a steel frame would.
If you love the features of the Auto Racks MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package but need something that’s lightweight and easy to store, and don’t mind giving up a few of those features, then the Yakima Rack and Roll 78 Kayak Trailer is the trailer for you. It is light, sturdy, folds down small, and still manages to have enough space to transport a wide range of bikes, kayaks, and gear.
We’ve chosen to make the Malone Auto Racks MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package our choice for best kayak trailer, because it strikes a fantastic balance between durability, ease of use, and handy features.
It might not have the largest carrying capacity of any trailer on this list, but it does come with J-Pro2 J-style kayak saddles that make it easy to load and transport four kayaks of up to 19 feet in length. That’s more than enough for you average kayaking trip with friends.
Its solid, corrosion-resistant frame is made from marine-grade galvanized steel and can support up to 350 pounds. If you’re looking to get to the water in a hurry--and let's face it, we all are--the Malone Auto Racks MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package can get your kayaks there safely at speeds of up to 70 mpg, ideal for freeway driving.
Assembling the trailer itself is simple and easy, with all the complicated electronics coming pre-assembled. To put your mind at rest about potential faults, the Malone Auto Racks MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package is the only kayak trailer on this list to come with a generous five-year warranty.
Overall, the Malone Auto Racks MicroSport Trailer Kayak Transport Package has exactly what the vast majority of kayakers are looking for in a kayak trailer. It’s simple, easy to use, and makes transporting your kayaks down to the water a breeze, so you can spend more time paddling and less time packing.