Best RV Racks for Adventure Gear
Mount bikes, boats, and kayaks to your RV and take them anywhere
A motorhome is your home away from home, and we’re all about bringing as many creature comforts aboard as possible. Although in this case, we’re talking about creature comforts outboard. That’s because we’re focusing on racks and carriers designed to transport bikes, kayaks, canoes, etc., on your motorhome or dinghy. And with paddleboards becoming the hot new trend, many are available to fit these as well. After all, if you’re looking to escape, you’re likely to do so near a lake or somewhere rugged, where a water-going vessel, skis, or bike for exploring the area would make the trip that much more satisfying and adventurous.
What you’ll typically find is that a dinghy vehicle’s roof racks have the most versatility, but with that may come a slightly heftier price tag. Hitch, tire and trunk racks were previously usually built for bikes, but some are expanding to include kayaks as well. Using a carrier or rack used to mean sacrificing access to the rear of the vehicle, but today’s technologies allow for a lot of tilting and folding of the hardware, thereby preventing any restrictions. Just remember to look in the vehicle owner’s manual for the maximum acceptable poundage the roof can handle.
With that said, here’s a look at some of the newest innovations as well as base units in the rack-and-carrier market.
RV Kayak Racks offers something growing in popularity: vertical racks for motorhome use. These kayak racks allow transport of up to two kayaks with bikes (or stand-up paddle boards or surfboards) on the back of a motorhome. There are adjustable custom-made kayak nose guards to protect the yak, and the rack itself has a powder-coated steel frame and stainless-steel hardware. The setup mounts to the motorhome via a standard Class 3 (or higher) hitch receiver. Models are available to deal with existing ladders or spare tires, and various attachments are available. The starting price is $1,199 at www.rvkayakracks.com.
Two-Bike Hitch Rack
Meet the XC Tow Mount two-bike hitch rack from Swagman. It’s designed for 2-inch hitch receivers and can carry any type of bike without having to remove the wheels or use tie-downs. The ratchet arms have a soft coating to protect the bike’s finish. You can get it for $215 from www.campingworld.com.
Four-Bike Hitch Rack
If you need a hitch rack for four bikes, this one from Swagman fits the bill. It’s designed for a 2-inch hitch receiver and, according to Swagman, all of its bike racks are tested for use on the rear of motorhomes. Plus, there’s a built-in anti-wobble device to cut down on vibration and rattles, and the arms fold down when not in use. It’s available at www.campingworld.com for $184.99.
Carry Two Bikes
The Dual Trekker Platform bike carrier (also called RBC048) from Rhino-Rack can carry two bikes using the vehicle’s hitch receiver. It has ratcheting arms that cinch down over the wheels, so there’s no contact with the bike frame. The Dual Trekker Platform tilts down so that you can access the rear of your dinghy vehicle or motorhome, and it folds up when it’s not needed for bikes. It fits 1¼- to 2-inch hitch receivers and includes a hitch lock. It is available for about $375 at www.rhinorack.com.
The Dart Cargo Basket can hold up to three bikes. Not using it? Fold it upright. It will fit any 2-inch hitch receiver, and it comes with a rise shank for more ground clearance. Skid and side plates and built-in license plate relocation holds are part of the package. You can also get an optional bike clip or LED/standard lighting system. It is available from ROLA for around $400 at www.rolaproducts.com.
Easy-to-Fold Bike Carrier
Thule’s EasyFold is a compact and simple-to-use bike carrier – and when we say compact, we mean it. The EasyFold can be stored inside your dinghy vehicle or motorhome. It can carry all kinds of bikes, including ones with a long wheelbase. It’s lightweight, thanks to aluminum and other materials. It has a removable ramp, fits 1 1/4- and 2-inch hitch receivers, and fully locks the carrier to the vehicle and bikes to the carrier. It runs about $700 at www.thule.com.
Spare Tire Bike Rack
The SR1 Spare Tire Bike Rack design allows for quick installation or removal. This bike rack system is fully adjustable, meaning it can fit most spare tires, and the support arms can be centered for side-mounted tires. It comes preassembled, ready for two bikes. It can be had from Sport Chalet for about $150 via sportchalet.com.
Ladder-Mount Rack 4
What could be simpler than using a ladder-mount rack on the back of your coach? The Stromberg Carlson two-bike rack is made of aluminum and attaches to any 1-inch diameter RV ladder (this rack will not work with 1.5-inch-diameter TopLine Phat ladders). Once the bikes are secured, the company promises a no-rattle performance. The securing pins can be pulled and the rack removed to provide access up and down the ladder. Retail price is $74 at www.campingworld.com.
RACKS & Carriers for Dinghy Vehicles
Big Load Hitch Mount
The T-Load hitch mount is ideal for securing big loads like a kayak to a roof rack (and allowing the job to get done by one person). The T-Load goes into a 2-inch hitch receiver and offers adjustable height positioning and the ability to tilt at a 45-degree angle. The kit includes a crossbar fitting and crossbar as well as a nonslip mat. It comes from Rhino-Rack and is available for $299 at www.rhinorack.com.
FullSwing and FullTilt Bike Carriers
Yakima’s FullSwing and FullTilt are hitch racks that have their controls for the arm/fold/mast title atop the unit. The FullSwing holds four bikes, while the FullTilt comes in models that can handle four or five. There’s a curved mast shape that prevents the bike from making contact with the dinghy vehicle, while fully padded arms ensure the bike doesn’t get scratched. You can position the bike anywhere along the arms since there are adjustable cradles, and there’s an integrated security system that locks the bike to the rack and the rack to the vehicle. Pricing starts at $399 on www.yakima.com.
No need to remove the front wheel – Yakima’s FrontLoader carrier will hold your bike as is. No tools or assembly are needed for installation, and it fits 20- to 29-inch wheels. There’s an integrated cable to secure the bike to the rack, and the universal hardware fits round, square, factory and aerodynamic crossbars right out of the box. It runs $179 at www.yakima.com.
Sometimes it’s a challenge to load a boat when you’re alone, but this canoe loader and rack device makes it simple solo. It’s made of heavy-duty steel and has a weather-resistant finish. It mounts to the hitch receiver (you need only basic hand tools to get things going). It’s available from Cabela’s for $110 at www.cabelas.com.
Locking Stand-up Carrier
This carrier is aimed at canoes and kayaks (as well as surfboards and paddle boards). It has a universal mounting system fitting square, round or most factory crossbars. There’s a floating strap system and ratcheting mechanism for easy loading and secure tightening, respectively. Board pads and a lock and keys are included. The Inno carrier can be had from Sport Chalet for $230 at www.sportchalet.com.
Paddleboard and Canoe Carriers
The SUP-Shuttle standup paddle carrier and Portage canoe carrier use the Thule FlipFit bracket that fits all Thule racks, round bars, and factory racks. The SUP-Shuttle allows for two boards, thanks to a dual loading system, and the telescoping design creates a custom fit for boards up to 34 inches wide. The Portage has gunwales with cushioned base pads for securing the canoe and ramped sides for no-brainer loading. The SUP-Shuttle runs $150, while the Portage is $120. Get them from Thule at www.thule.com.
The J-Cradle and Saddle Roller kayak carriers break down as follows: The J-Cradle has fold-down cradles – so, pretty much invisible when not being used – and SmartLoad slide-out arms are for easy loading of the vessel from the side. The Saddle Roller also uses the SmartLoad rollers, and it has adjustable padded saddles for any kayak size and shape. QuickDock means the carrier can be installed or removed fast, something the J-Cradle also employs. Get them for $299 each at Whispbar, www.whispbar.com.
Roof Basket for Bikes
The Vagabond has a two-bike capacity and a built-in skewer mounting system within the roof basket. It will mount to all factory and aftermarket crossbars. The Vagabond X model includes an integrated cable lock for gear and cooper plate decals, plus is in a special Gun Metal Gray color. Get the Vagabond for $295 and the Vagabond X for $489 from KÃ¼at at www.kuatracks.com.