best carrier for two?

We’re new to owning kayaks, having only rented on our travels up to now. We’ve decided to look hard at buying two kayaks to take with us on our motorhome trips, to be carried on the roof of our 4 door Jeep Wrangler. I already have a Thule roof rack, but am trying to decide what kind of carrier to put on it.

The kayaks will be SOT, probably about 30" wide and in the 55 to 65lb range. Theoretically, I’ll always have help loading and unloading since my wife or someone else will be along if we’re using both boats. The rack cross rails are 58". Can I get two 30" wide boats up there flat? Would it be best to carry them hull down or hull up assuming they will fit?

Is it easier to load into J racks than flat? Would the J racks be any more or less secure than carrying flat?

I’d appreciate the benefit of your experience.


Yes you can carry them flat

– Last Updated: Feb-10-12 1:32 PM EST –

As long as you have a decent distance between the front and rear bars, the locations where the boats contact the bars will be considerably narrower than they are at the center. Thus, the middle of each boat can overhang the overall width of the bars without the bar-contact point of each boat doing so.

Securing kayaks to plain bars is a pretty sketchy operation without a number of anchor lines going this way and that. Yeah, people do it, but when you grab the end of a boat that's tied that way and wiggle it around, it's pretty free to wander. A set of cradles or J-hooks would greatly simplify anchoring the boats in place, and they'd be very secure. If you go with the J-hooks, boat width won't be a problem because each boat will be turned mostly on its side. Cradles or J-hooks are extra $$ though, but totally worth it in my opinion, even if it were only for the ease of use (I have very low patience for doing things the hard way, especially when the easy way is a much better method. So I wouldn't mind the extra expense, but not everyone sees things that way).

Oh, as to upside-down or rightside-up, I'd go with upside-down. One drawback to putting a plastic boat directly on the cross bars, even with foam padding, is that they often develop serious dents as they sink into the bars in hot weather. Better to dent the top than the bottom, as far as affecting paddling performance. Use of cradles or J-hooks pretty much eliminates the denting problem too.

Get the J-cradles
I carried kayaks on a couple different vehicles before buying some J cradles. Took awhile to get boats tied down and secure, never went the same way twice, fiddling around with different lengths of line as the thunder clouds loomed overhead and an audience of bystanders watching you pull and repull and repull again.

Now I got J cradles, worth every penny.

SOT On Roof
I find carrying my SOT on J racks difficult. The width makes it tall and suseptable to buffeting by truck blasts. It is also unweildy to load and unload. Consequently I use my j racks only for my sit ins.

I load my SOT upside down directly on my truck cross bars. Bungied down and held with bow/stern tie downs on long rides. It is much easier to load and unload. I put some small carpet pieces on the contact points so as not to have plastic/metal contact. Works great. I travel thousands of miles per year without any problem.

I am not a motor home nor an SOT
owner but wonder how well you can see things going wrong on the Jeep. I assume you are towing it.

Can you see if straps loosen? If not I would personally feel better with J cradles.

Not sure about the airflow in back of your setup.

I appreciate the comments. I think we’re going to rent or demo a couple of boats to try them out before we buy, (leaning towards Tarpon 120’s right now) and that will give me an opportunity to try loading without the J racks. If that doesn’t go well on a short drive, then I’ll know I need the racks I guess.

I will be towing the Jeep behind the motor home on long trips, and I can see it with the camera, but as to whether or not I could tell if a strap was coming loose, or whether or not I’d notice it in time to fix it, I can’t say. Yet . I have no idea what the wind is like back there either, other than the Jeep gets real dirty when I drive through rain, and the camera will cloud over with water so I know there’s a pretty good reverse rolling burble.