I drive a fairly compact, midsize crossover — a Subaru Crosstrek. It’s a car known for great safety and great mileage. But great trunk space? Not so much. The useable roof space is the same. I have standard crossbars, and have employed a lot of roof racks over the years in order to capitalize on what I can transport. There’s only so much room in the trunk, though. And a kayak, well, that absolutely won’t fit.
However, I live in a big city, in a really urban neighborhood. I park in a low-clearance garage — 6-foot nil. I also park in a lot of public garages if I’m in the city. So, having anything installed on my roof always requires some sacrifices.
But that might not be the case anymore during the summer months, thanks to the Küat Class 4 Kayak Rack.
In short: The Class 4v2 Kayak Rack ($199) offers a ton of features, succeeds at surviving long drives at highway speeds, and doesn’t have any really annoying design quirks. And when you aren’t schlepping around a boat, it folds down neatly out of the way. Finally, it comes at a pretty unbeatable price. If you are looking for a not-giant, easy-to-install, easy-on-the-wallet roof rack for kayak transport, look no further.
- Materials Powder-coated black or gray metal, co-molded rubber straps, locking mount, pull lever, T-channel flush mount kit (optional)
- Dimensions/size 23.5" x 7.6" x 5.8"
- Capacity 1 boat/kayak
- Max weight limit Up to 75 lbs.
- Verified weight 13.9 lbs.
- Colors 2
- Locks Yes, keys included
- Folds Yes
- Rack hold up against heavy use, dirt and rain
- Good for highway use
- Easy to install
- Really great price
- Folds down for garage clearance
- Rack also locks to car (huge perk for city dwellers)
- Lots of excess strap tail
- Key lock is hard to reach depending on where you are standing near rack
Küat Class 4v2 Kayak Rack Review
The last few gear items I’ve really fallen in love with have also been the ones that performed the best and came out of true necessity (like this pack). This kayak roof rack is the same.
Firstly, yes, this is a J-style kayak rack. However, it does fold down into itself — both a unique and highly functional feature. When it comes to racks overall, my take is that Küat is coloring within the lines here, not reinventing the wheel.
That being said, the “unique” folding feature of the cradle not only works when folded (sturdy when secure and locked to the vehicle). But it also really works well when in use transporting, deployed into traditional J-style.
Simply put, Küat accomplished a pretty innovative new look and approach to the J-bar cradle we all know and use. I’d argue that just out of the box before even using it, the Class 4 Rack boasts a whole lot. It installs so easily and quickly, the kayak roof rack itself is secure (two options for mounting), it locks, and the folding feature is useful.
Of course, this is GearJunkie, so I also put it through the wringer. This “new” take on a kayak rack passed the four major tests I expect out of a roof rack, kayak or no kayak: applicability in real-world scenarios (weight limit, etc.), durability, user-friendliness, and transport at speed (very crucial when you are hauling a potential projectile like a kayak).
Finally, I’ll also dive into the quality of accessories/attachments: the cradle fit, included straps, locking mechanism, etc.
Most Important Takeaways From Testing
I used this rack several times in the spring, and several times this summer, through July-August. I made sure to test the rack with two different brands and models of kayaks. Both of them were whitewater boats but slightly different in size, shape, and weight.
The weight limit on the rack is 75 pounds max. My boats rang in between 45 and 58 pounds, well within the limit. Honestly, if I had a front tow hook on my vehicle (which shockingly I don’t!), I would’ve tested the rack with heavier weight (a tandem sea kayak).
As is, I have no way to attach bow or stern straps to my vehicle. That’s a bummer and also factors into my requirement for a secure roof rack.
Another important note: I also tested the rack’s compatibility with one boat and two. Obviously, this J-cradle rack only holds one boat. But, I was able to fit another kayak secured with tie-downs next to it on my fairly narrow roof.
I also measured the dimensions of the rack and would’ve been able to fit two Class 4s with room to fold open and lock into the cradle position if need be. So, regarding compatibility for one or two boats on my vehicle (a Subaru Crosstrek) and any that are larger: the Küat Class 4 wins a mark.
A Low-Clearance, Leave-Installed Kayak Rack
Finally, I drove around with this rack on my car for over 2 months straight. That included daily city driving, parking in various places, testing in various weather, and the most crucial test: driving at speed.
I tested the Küat Class 4 Rack for over 2 hours at highway speeds (60-75 mph), and tested it for over 4 hours on bumpy dirt roads. After all that driving, I can safely say that I trust it. And, hopefully, this review helps you trust it, too.
The Küat Class 4’s hallmark feature is still that folding function. For low clearance, security in a city, and convenience, it gets full marks. I tested the rack in three different parking garages around town, with the lowest clearance at 6 feet. Many trucks without a roof rack can’t even clear that.
Küat Class 4 Rack: Straps and Tie-Downs
All in all, the included straps did a great job at securing my kayak. The teeth on the straps’ ratcheting function (also called cam straps) worked well, the hinge was tight enough, and the metal and strap components held up to use and grit over several months.
The included straps work just fine to secure a kayak to the cradle; however, I am used to carrying my own set of various length 1-inch NRS ratchet straps, so I tested it with these as well. Included with the class 4 are all the straps you need: two center/body ratcheting straps, and a bow and stern strap.
One note: For anyone who doesn’t currently use a Küat rack, it’s worth taking five to read the instruction manual provided. Especially if you want to make sure all straps are correctly secured.
Finally, my only qualm with the straps: on all four, there’s excess length, maybe to accommodate girthier boats. However, the two kayaks I tested the rack with are both pretty standard.
Will they flap in the wind if not tied down? Yes. Are they easy to secure if you know how? Yes. Overall, I do wish they were a tad shorter by 1-2 feet; that would still leave room to tie down the strap ends or daisy chain them.
The Küat Class 4 rack in my opinion offers a lot in terms of security — both when the rack is transporting a kayak — and when not in use. It’s definitely an upgrade from Küat’s Class 2 rack. I unfortunately never used or owned the Küat version 1 Class 4, so I can’t compare minor changes Küat made between those models (Class 4v2 stands for “version 2”).
However, in testing on highways, backroads, in low-clearance places, and at the river — the Küat Class 4 has performed extremely well. I plan to continue testing it through the next spring and summer paddle seasons for long-term durability.
Especially factoring in this rack’s convenient folding feature, the value is quite impressive. I couldn’t ask for much more from a rack that comes in under 200 bucks.
Overall, I highly recommend this capable, compact-when-folded cradle kayak rack.