What You Need To Know About Truck Roof Rack Systems

What You Need To Know About Truck Roof Rack Systems


One might think that it would be easy to choose a truck roof rack. But the truth is that there are hundreds of different truck roof rack systems out there, and the internet has removed many of the distribution limitations we used to face. Anyone shopping for a truck roof rack today has to sift through thousands of not-quite-right solutions and overpriced off-brand options before finding the right truck roof rack for them and their lifestyle.

Today, we’ll look at examples from big names like Yakima and Thule, a few choice options from smaller names, and even a few DECKED brand accessories that can be used alongside most truck roof rack systems.


What Is A Roof Rack For Truck Use Meant To Do?

A truck roof rack is a structure that mounts onto the top of the cab, the top of the truck cap, or directly to the bed rails, which allows you to strap cargo, bikes, canoes or anything else to the truck safely and securely. This can make it easier to haul an awkward load, and possibly even make the whole process more elegant.

Many truck roof rack systems are designed so that longer loads like canoes or ladders extend over the cab of the truck. These are often called “goal post racks,” and the resemblance to a football goal post is readily apparent. Others are identical to car-based cargo racks, and attach to the cab or cap just like a car’s rack would. Still others mount low on the bed rails, and provide a kind of “second bed” a few feet up over your actual bed.

In the end, a truck roof rack must be sturdy, and you should be able to attach and remove it easily. In a perfect world, it will even look nice.


The Truck Roof Rack Generally

A truck roof rack is one of the most useful accessories you can buy for a pickup truck. They let you carry quite a few things that would be awkward and/or dangerous without a rack. They just give you more options.


Category: Truck Bed Roof Rack

Now, there is an important distinction between a “truck bed rack” and a “truck roof rack.” In the purest sense, a truck bed rack would be a low-profile affair which mounts below roof level of the cab. However, there are plenty of truck roof rack systems which can certainly be called bed-mounted roof racks. For example:


Yakima Overhaul HD Truck Bed Rack

The Yakima Overhaul HD truck roof rack is suitable for heavy-duty uses. It is rated to carry loads of up to 300 pounds on the move in off-road conditions, and up to 500 pounds while driving on good roads. Because the Yakima Overhaul HD is adjustable, it can ride as low as 19 inches off the rails or as high as 30 inches. This lets it be used both as a truck bed rack and as a truck roof rack, as it can extend well above the cabs of most modern pickup trucks.  


AA-Racks APX25-E

AA-Racks APX25-E

The APX25-E from AA-racks is a traditional over-cab bed-mounted truck roof rack, suitable for canoes, kayaks, ladders, and other long, awkward cargos. It can be mounted on nearly any mid-sized pickup sold in North America. It sits a solid 28 inches above the rail, and the rack is 71 inches across. This is not counting the 38 inch over-cab cantilever.


Category: Truck Cap Roof Rack

Thule cartop cargo rack

A truck cap roof rack, also called a truck topper roof rack, or truck camper roof rack, is almost identical to a truck cab roof rack. The only difference is that it does not mount to the cab, but to a reinforced truck cap. Generally, only truck caps which are strong enough to bear a load will even come with mounts for a truck roof rack, but as they say, buyer beware. Make sure your equipment is strong enough before buying a roof rack for truck cap use.


Rhino Rack Aero Topper Truck Roof Rack

Rhino Rack Aero truck topper roof racks are known for providing as little wind resistance as possible while still making it easy to mount cargo boxes and equipment to the top of your truck cap. You can choose different mounting kits, including rail and pad mounted options, to give you the freedom and flexibility you need.


TracRac CarRac Truck Roof Rack

TracRac’s truck topper rack entry includes a pair of 65-inch crossbars, as well as all of the hardware you’ll need to mount them securely to your truck cap. These are made in the USA (in Fall River, MA), and come with a limited lifetime warranty. They are made of aluminum, and feature a durable powder coat finish. There is no stated weight capacity, as the real limit is the strength of the truck cap. Some drilling will be required to mount this unit on most truck caps.

Hauler II Truck Roof Rack

Hauler II Truck Roof Rack

The Hauler II is a great choice for a cargo rack to be mounted over a relatively weak truck cap. Because it's mounts extend all the way down to the truck bed rails, no extra weight is shifted onto the cap. It can therefore hold up to 1,000 pounds, depending on how it is installed. This is another made in the USA product, this time in Minneapolis, MN.


Category: Pickup Truck Roof Rack

Now, we’ve finally gotten to the type of truck roof racks which actually mount to the roof of your truck. This is surprisingly a rare option for mounting a roof rack on truck tops. A truck cab roof rack mounts to the top of your cab the same way a car’s roof rack mounts to its roof. Many of these systems can be combined with bed-based or cap-based racks as well.



Rhino Rack 2 Cross Bar Kit

Rhino makes several roof racks for pickup truck systems. The Rhino Rack 2 is designed to fit most double cab pickups, and to take advantage of that roof space it includes 1 full meter of track. The crossbars are low-profile and aerodynamic, and can hold a respectable 220 pounds. The track remains fitted, but the bars themselves can be easily removed. These crossbars are designed to be universally compatible with bike racks, kayak racks, and cargo boxes from other manufacturers.



Thule Evo WingBar Kit

The Thule Evo WingBar is a durable but light aluminum design which is available to fit a wide range of modern pickups, including the Nissan NP300. They are said to produce 55% less drag than competing truck roof racks. A pair of crossbars can support up to 220 pounds of weight.



Category: Kayak Roof Rack For Truck Use



Car with Thule kayak rack


A truck roof rack for kayak enthusiasts needs to offer a few things most racks don’t. Of course, it needs specialized equipment for mounting and holding a kayak securely without damaging it, but it doesn’t end there. Some kayaks are long and unwieldy beasts, and they need to either extend above the truck cab, mount to the cab itself, or extend beyond the truck bed behind.


Thule Hullavator pro


Thule Hullavator Pro Kayak Truck Rack

The Thule Hullavator Pro was designed as a car-mounted device, but it is popular as a kayak roof rack for pickup trucks as well. The beauty of the Hullavator system is that it provides 18kg of lift-assistance. That means a single person can finally mount a kayak on a car or truck’s roof rack in complete safety. The Hullavator provides 8 padded touchpoints to cradle a single kayak on the road, making it one of the gentlest kayak truck roof rack options as well.


Yakima OutPost HD Truck Bed Rack

The Yakima OutPost HD is a low-profile bed-mounted rack. This makes it a great kayak truck rack for long-bed pickups or for very short kayaks that can fit inside a standard truck bed. The Outpost HD is fully rated for offroad use, and its low stance helps to keep your truck’s center of gravity closer to the ground.


Thule Hull-a-Port

Thule Hull-A-Port Aero Kayak Truck Rack

The Thule Hull-A-Port Aero turns any Thule or Thule-compatible truck roof rack into a kayak roof rack. The specialized kayak mounts fold away when not in use, and the StrapCatch system works with the oversized rubber pads to protect your kayak in transport. The Hull-A-Port truck roof rack even locks to prevent theft of your expensive sporting equipment.



Category: Truck Roof Rack With Lights

The good old fashioned lightbar has never gone fully out of style, but why not combine it with the roof rack? Today, high power LED lighting systems can be combined easily with truck roof racks to give you the best of both worlds.


ARB Base Rack LED Slimline Roof Rack Light Bar

ARB’s Base Rack is a sleek, aerodynamically friendly solution which provides a very bright lightbar in a way that doesn’t interfere with use of the cargo rack. It is fully powder coated, and offers great heat dissipation – key to maintaining the longevity of the LEDs. The kit includes a 36 inch lightbar, brackets for mounting it below or in front of the truck roof rack, and all mounting hardware needed.



Lazer Lamps Front Runner Roof Rack Mounting Kit

This kit makes it easy to attach any Lazer Lamps brand LED light bar to a Front Runner brand Truck Roof Rack. It includes anti-theft mounting brackets, slide nits, and all necessary fasteners.




Category: Truck Roof Bike Rack

Thule bike rack

The truck roof rack gets used for a great many things, but rarely does someone decide to stick a pair of bicycles straight up on top of the cab of their pickup. Much more common is the bed-mounted bike rack, as you’ll see here.


Thule Insta-Gater Truck Bike Rack 501

The Thule Insta-Gater line of truck bed bicycle racks mount entirely within the truck bed, allowing you to move one or more bikes securely and conveniently. No bolting or drilling is required, and the Insta-Gater truck bed rack mounts without any frame contact. At around $280, it won’t break the bank, either.



Thule Bed Rider Truck Bed Bicycle Rack

Another great bed-mounted bike rack system from Thule, the Bed Rider is a great way to transport several full-sized bicycles in your pickup safely. The front wheel of the bike is removed, and the bike fork is clamped directly to the rack. The rack itself is made of durable, low maintenance aluminum. The entire set-up attaches to the bed without drilling or bolting.


DECKED Accessories To Use With Your Truck Roof Rack

DECKED drawer system

The DECKED Drawer System – Under-Bed Secure Storage And Organization

The DECKED Drawer System fits in over the bed of your truck itself, and will not interfere with the placement of any of the truck roof racks we’ve looked at today. Many of the truck bed roof racks we saw will actually mount on top of the DECKED Drawer System easily, as well.

DECKED drawer system and logging equipment


The core feature of the DECKED Drawer System is, naturally, the drawers themselves. Each drawer can store up to 1,000 pounds of tools or equipment in totally weatherproof security. Their locks are nearly unbreakable, and thieves would have to pry apart your tailgate just to get at the drawer locks.

This unique system actually increases the size of your bed, practically speaking. As the new raised bed extends above the wheel wells, you can actually use the entire width of the bed.




The DECKED Tool Box –Low Profile Tool And Gear Storage That Fits In Under Your Truck Roof Rack


The DECKED Tool Box fits behind the cab of pickups and working trucks of all kinds. As it rides low, you can access it easily even under a fully-loaded “goalpost” style truck roof rack. It is strong and secure, and just as weathertight as the DECKED Drawer System.  


We hope this guide has been helpful to you, and that you have a better idea what to look for in terms of a truck roof rack. We also hope you’ll put some serious thought into adding a few choice DECKED accessories to your setup. Remember, when you need to take your tools on the road, DECKED is always the answer.