Advice on roof racks needed

So we took the plunge and bought a 2012 Subaru Outback, and got J-racks to carry our Currituck and Capella. Our old shoulders took a beating the first time we loaded and unloaded the kayaks. The Outback was already pretty high and the J-racks made the lifting even higher. We want to go back to saddles. What kind of saddles fit the Outback racks AND are easily removable? We don’t want to leave the racks on all the time because it cuts down on gas milage. We already have Yakima Mako saddles that fit a round bar - could they be modified to fit the smaller, squarish bars on the Subaru? Or is there some way to attach the round bar to the side racks?


You may want to look into these racks:

I just installed one on my truck. At first i was concerned as they use bungees to hold my boats however I am sold on these.

They are not inexpensive at $200 per rack but are clearly the bestIhave ever owned and will last forever.

As you can see on their website they have three different models. i went for the standard model and removal is so simple. just loosen 2 nuts and in seconds you have a clean roof !

The nice thing is they can be switched from roof to roof without any problems.

I know what you mean about loading on a high vehicle.

I never thought i would be able to load onto the roof of the truck but the solution was as easy as a $30 3 step folding ladder from Home Depot

I place the bow into one of the V bars and than angle boat into the other V bar.

The owner of Good Boy Racks (Cliff) is readily available if you have any questions. He makes these racks as a side business and frankly they are by far the most efficient, cleanest looking and best racks i have ever owned.

I am surprised that the major companies like Thule, Yakima have not done something like this.

In my opinion the V bar system is far superior to saddles or cradles.

If I can offer any other information let me know.


Consider stackers

– Last Updated: Oct-20-12 9:29 AM EST –

You will first have to figure out what you can actually add to that rack - Subaru went way proprietary with that rack system. Or are you going to go all the way and get the towers from Yakima that are adapted for it, and will take a variety of mounts for boats?

Yes, you will need to flip the boat on edge by climbing up on a ladder, but like the saddles you can slide the boat up pretty loosely rather than having to wrestle into position in Jbars. Honestly, every time we have considered the things I looked at the overhead of getting a boat positioned to slide up into them and decided it was going to be much harder than our stackers.

I am 5'3.5", 130 or less pounds and (nearly) 61 yrs old. I am fairly strong and healthy for that age, but I am still not going to hurt myself loading a boat if there is a better way to do it.

We did try saddles and rollers by the way. They went back into the basement within a year and we hauled out the old stackers, two reasons. One was that the saddles were a constant PITA in long trips - they just took a lot more frequent adjusment of the straps etc than the stackers had. The other was that we wanted to carry more than two boats.

Yakima Railgrab
If you have the round bars from a Yakima system and want to use your old saddles, the RailGrab from Yakima will work with your Subie. Factory bars are risky even with one kayak, and I suspect two would overly-stress them.

You can get RailGrabs at any Yakima dealer. $165 for the four-pack.

Won’t work with the post-2010 Outback

– Last Updated: Oct-20-12 4:18 PM EST –

Long story hashed to death here - but there is a Yakima set of risers that will work with this rack to mount one of their units. Just out in the last year or so.

Or, they are limited to what Subie will sell them for their proprietary rack.

By the way, I don't suppose anyone knows why the photo I just caught on top of the Yakima site pictures white water kayaks in a desert...

I’m not familiar with stackers - could you post a link?

Thanks to everyone for the good suggestions!

Links here

– Last Updated: Oct-21-12 11:13 AM EST –

BUT - I am still unclear as to whether you want to just add the saddles or alternative directly to the Subaru cross bars (which these won't work for) or purchase the full independent system including towers and third party cross bars (for which these devices will work).

Both of these require that you go to the local home improvement store to buy some plumbing insulation to tape around the bars when using them for composite boats. Not a big deal.

The older ones that we have - still can be found if you dig around -

The current ones from Yakima, which work fine for sea kayaks except more of the bar is sticking up because long boats are narrower.

The older I get
the more I’m thinking trailer. They are expensive. Hard to store. There are other drawbacks. But, they fit most any vehicle with a hitch. Very easy to load. I’ve got Celia by a whisker on the age thing and unlike her my fitness level is awful. My wife is fit, but still - it is very hard for us. I just bought a new car and while most of the time I use my old truck I do like to be able to use the car as well. So, I am in the same boat as the OP. I’m going to think on it for the winter. But a trailer is calling me. If I get a trailer with Yakima cross bars I can use all my existing attachments.

I have Yakima J racks but use them
only when I have to because they are really hard to load.esp. on a Tundra. Malone makes J racks that are easier to get the boat into,but I prefer saddles. good luck.

Also consider the Roller-Loader
The one pictured in an article today on the front page of They seem pricey but they make it a lot easier to handle a long boat.

I have seen people make up their own version out of tubing and wheels from kid’s bicycles and trikes. That is wonderful. It is also something that I would never likely succeed at, so buying the thing is worth here.

Actually the real name are Marco Kayak Saddles. $135/pr. Should be just enough width on the Subaru crossbars to fit both boats hull down. There’s also a small modification if the outer edge of the saddle sits outboard of the end of the crossbar but I don’t officially know 'nutting about that but I can show you what I heard and did on mine to make it work if space is tight. Being that you probably have straps from previous rackification implements it puts the saddles $55/pr better than the Thule Set-to-Go/Hydroglide or Yakima Mako/Hully Roller combinations.

Family owned and made in USA to boot, which is not a bad thing.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY