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Saddles, Cradles, Stackers???

-- Last Updated: Jun-11-14 7:00 AM EST --

I'm still working to get my Prius set to haul 2 kayaks. I can fit 1 inside if it is just me, with about 2' hanging out the back.

I just bought a set of Yakima Q-Towers, 58" bars, locks and an SUP rack for $100 off Craigslist. It's like new! What a deal.

Now I need to decide what style accessory to buy to transport 2 kayaks on top. I'm 6'1" so I can reach the roof of the Prius easily. My kayaks each weigh 49lbs. They are Kestrel 120 Rotomolds.

It seems the stackers can be a pain to keep in position while strapping down. The J-Cradles seem the most natural position to set the kayaks down.

Any advice here? There are so many different models of these and I've read a bunch of the reviews.


  • Our stackers stay put OK
    We run the straps thru the stackers before putting up the boats, going to have to do that anyway with boats that wide, and the stackers don't wander around really. I might have to reach up and make one more vertical if a boat has gone up to with a lot of sliding is all.

    We tried saddles when we got the long boats. But we went back to the stackers because we found them to be more flexible and frankly less fuss in terms of strapping around and checking over a long drive.
  • Pros/Cons
    Stackers work well but make sure your parked on a level surface especially with round bars. I've taken off a side mirror with a kayak guillotine before. Glad it wasn't my foot in the kayak drop zone.

    If you go the J-Cradle system get the folding ones like the Thule Hull-a-Port PRO so you can fold the cradles flat when not carrying kayaks. This way your Prius doesn't have moose antlers when kayak-less. Perhaps not as much of a problem in CT than say N.ME. A Prius masquerading as a moose might look interesting to large wildlife.

    Ok, back to paperwork for me.

    See you on the water,
    The River Connection, Inc.
    Hyde Park, NY
  • Options
    Flat Land
    Here in Florida there aren't a lot of hills so it shouldn't be too bad. I'll see if I can find a good stacker unit. I also need to find the proper Q clips for my car and sell the ones these racks came with.
  • stackers
    Just never had the problem you described, IMO they're easier to load than j cradles. They weigh much less and tighten up once you tie a boat down.

    Congrats for seeking (and finding) a used quality rack at a great price, it shows other peope they don't have to pay thru the nose or settle for foam blocks on their car roof.
  • For my take:
    Saddles are the best. J cradles second and stackers last.
    If they are plastic boats, then J cradles first and saddles second.

    Jack L
  • Options
    Like most questions like this it seems there is no definitive answer. Some suggest stackers first and saddles last, some the opposite. On price alone, the stackers make the most sense. I believe the Malone Stax comes with contoured foam pads for the bars which is appealing.
  • Lowest cost
    As a DIY-lowest cost project that imitates a stacker;
    a trip to Home Desperate for some threaded black iron pipe, a tee for the top and a flange for the bottom. Attach the flange at the bottom and a pair of u-bolts through the bolt holes on the flange which will attach to the bar.

    Being that the appearance will be a bit rough some pipe insulation or other camouflage can be added. If anyone asks, call the style ferrous steampunk, or modern mad-maximillian, or coat the contraption with duct tape and get thumbs up from any SCA-ers that see you on the road

    Also careful about pivoting it downward as a chunk of iron pipe will not work synergistically with your cars paint job.

    I think it's time to go paddle.

    See you on the water,
    The River Connection, Inc.
    Hyde Park, NY
  • Options
    That would be the cheap way out! I'll keep an eye on Craigslist and Ebay. Still not sure whether to go stacker, J-cradle or saddles though. Seems to be no clear winner.
  • on round bars
    anything you mount will be challenging to keep from rotating. IMO a set of stackers presents greater capacity.
  • Think about this..
    the stackers allow you to hold the boat more vertically, and could allow you room for three boats up there. They offer very little surface area touching your boat hull and may allow the plastic to indent in the nice warm Florida sun.
    The J cradles support your boat on the edge, but with more contact area. Saddles mean your boats will travel horizontally, and take up the most room, but with 58" bars I doubt that's a problem.
    I'd go with saddles or cradles simply to better minimize the potential for dents.
    We've had no significant problem with round bars. Just keep things tightened up!
  • Expanding on TJ's note
    Marco Kayak Saddles - big broad felt lines for slide 'em up loading. Made in FL. Aero Bar model clamps on most crossbars up to 3.5" wide. As size does matter - for spreading g the load the 12"x20" cradle is especially gentle provided you don't go ape on strap tension. Taut is good, crushing force is bad.

    See you on the water,
    The River Connection, Inc.
    Hyde Park, NY

  • again - never had that experience
    -- Last Updated: Jun-12-14 12:31 PM EST --

    I know that was conjecture But I had both Thule stackers, and j cradles before the stackers. The cradles left indentations just as the stackers did. With each setup, I ended up fitting the cradles (or stacker upright and rack crossbar) with foam blocks. Again, without the foam they both caused indentations.

    Since I only need room for 1 or 2 now, I got rid of both and just use a rack with foam blocks profiled to fit the kayak deck.

  • Gadzooks!
    Sure be glad ah's a canooist. None o' all dat high-fellootin' stuff needed.

  • psst...here's a secret
    (kayakers really don't need it either. Just ask anyone who ships kayaks)
  • Saddles, Cradles, Stackers???
    We use two J cradles and throw two kayaks into the car (Chrysler Town & Country). However for our summer trip traveling Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine we were considering the stackers to carry all four. Searching Craigslist I found a 11X6 flat utility trailer for $200.00… Invested $50.00 in new lumber to re-deck it because it was used to haul lawn tractors. Problem solved!
  • I have used all 3 and for me, saddles
    are the best.Definitely the easiest to load and unload.
  • Agreed...
    -- Last Updated: Jun-13-14 7:25 AM EST --

    I used foam blocks on the bars when my daughter was paddling a kayak - worked fine. But if the option is cradle, stacker or saddle, I recommend stacker. Then you can bring your canoe friends along.


  • and
    you might even have been able to squeeze a bicycle onto one of the sides.
  • You missed one
    V-bars are hands-down the easiest to load and unload, under 5 minutes for one boat. I had saddles and absolutely could not deal with how long it took to get everything loaded and secured to my liking. Plus you can get two 24" wide boats loaded deck-up on a small car with a couple of inches between them. The downside is size, and to a lesser extent, weight. Depending on the design of the crossbars, they can be fiddly to remove from the car between trips too.
  • 5min? More like 30 seconds :)
    -- Last Updated: Jun-13-14 1:41 PM EST --

    V-bars are a type of "cradle", so cradles are still tops :)

    Unfortunately, for a fat recreational boat like the Kestrels, the V-bars might be a touch narrow. Plus, they lift the boat way too high above the racks, which I don't like.

    Saddles are the best option, IMO, in terms of being the most gentle to the boat (if properly installed and positioned). Stackers I use if I need to have 3 boats (1 on my saddles and 2 next to each other on the stackers). With stackers, it is also a good idea to pad the bars or you will get dents on the plastic boats and cracks on composite.

    J are my second choice after cradles - they keep the boats on the sides, which I don't like - I can't drive with my boat on my car in my garage when the boat is on its side, but I can in the cradles. This way, I park inside with boats on top without the need to unload them outside first.

    On a Prius, the roof line is curved, which with round Yakima bars does not matter, but with square Thule bars Js will be at an angle to each other, which is not good for the kayaks on top of them - they will rest on just the edge of each J...

  • Question for sprockets
    How did you keep your hatch tied down when transporting the kayak inside? From the inside or outside?
  • Load bar spacing matters when
    transporting kayaks on paddled bars, since many kayak decks are pointy just in front of the cockpit.

    Wider bar spacing allows flatter portions of the deck to rest on the padded bars. Manufacturer's trailers have wider bar spacing, so it works for them.

    Narrower spacing doesn't work so well when one in on the pointy part of the deck. This would be most sedans, such as mine, with a 36" bar spacing.
  • Options
    Tie Down
    I used a strap through the lift ring under the bumper up through the latch on the hatch. The kayak was wrapped in an old comforter. I wasn't driving very far so as long as it was snug it was fine. Worst part is the "door open" beep was constant. I need to get the local dealer to change the setting to one beep.
  • whichever way you go...when straps are
    to be used...try to grab the widest = less prone to create an indentation when tied down tight + vertical & 3D jostling over rough roads.
  • Have used all 3
    Saddles on rooftop, J-bars and stackers on trailer.

    Saddles are the most secure, if you get ones that fit the contours of your boat. Most PITA to initially set up, though. OTOH, the fussiness of setup is partly due to adjustability of angles to best fit the hull. With my system (Spring Creek saddles, Yakima bars, Towers, Landing Pads, truck topper tracks), I did the fussing only one time because the saddle-bar-interface with my topper's roof has a quick-detach fitting.

    Stackers are the easiest to initially set up, allow carrying boats on sides or bottoms or tops. Least secure contact, so be careful while the boat is not strapped.

    J-bars in between the above for setup ease, pretty good contact, could be very difficult to load on a roof (but not necessarily in your case). You have only one carry position: boat on its side. If this matters to you, you can scratch J-bars off the list. Also, I did not like either of the J-bar brand/models I bought.
  • Options
    Moving Along
    Thought I'd bump this to the top. Good discussion of pros and cons of each style.

    I've had a lot on my plate so I'm still putting this together.

    So far, I've swapped out the Q-clips for the models that fit my Prius, but I haven't installed the racks yet.

    I picked up a set of older 4 Yakima TLC Saddles on Ebay for about $45. Their in great shape. They didn't come with the straps but I'm sure I can figure it out.

    Any thoughts on these discontinued saddles?
  • Folding J-Cradles and Stackers
    I use Malone Stax Pro2 stackers when I carry more than two kayaks.

    I use Thule Hullaport Pro folding J-cradles when I carry one or two kayaks. The Hullaport Pros are pricey. (If I had to do it again, I would go for Malone folding J-cradles.)

    To me, it's easier to load/secure the kayaks on J-cradles and the folding feature keeps them out of the way.
  • congratulations and kudos
    ...to you for finding a used set, recycling and not paying the extortionary sum that the big two ask for their rack components. Well done!
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