Best way to transport composite kayaks?

For the well being of the kayak, structurally speaking… what is the best way to transport a fiberglass and/or Kevlar Kayak - on it’s side with J-Bars, or on it’s Hull with a glide type system?

Here is what the P&H owners manual that I have says:

That’s great info, thank you. That said, most of these types of carriers have minimal paddling on the tall piece, and little or none on the bottom where the side of the kayak is resting - which was why i’m asking, and they do state “well padded”.

I was personally told by Nigel Dennis that inverted (i.e. deck down) is the preferred/best method to transport NDKs and most composite kayaks.

That being said, for short distances, hull down is usually easier.

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I prefer hull down in cradles. Easier to load and unload.


I have a Hullavator, so my Kevlar Prana is carried hull down.

I don’t understand the P&H recommendation. What’s wrong with placing the kayak hull down on padded saddles?

The way I understand what the P&H manual says is that it is fine to place the kayak hull down on well padded saddles. I think they are just cautioning about carrying a kayak on flat roof rack bars that do not have adequate padding.


It does say that their kayaks should be always carried in well-padded carriers OR on their edge. To me, that says hull down on padded carriers is recommended. The fact that the picture right below this statement shows a kayak on edge distracts from the actual recommendation. GregofDE has it right.

Structurally speaking, it’s worth mentioning V-bars as an option. The padded V-bars are aligned with the hull surface and can be adusted to sit at structurally desirable locations. Also, the longitudinal bar flexes in use akin to a leaf spring, protecting the hull from some of the shocks while driving.


Hull down with foam v blocks either under bulkheads or where the keel has a sharper angle. The foam distributes the load and an angled keel adds rigidity. Bulkheads are best though if your crossbars can extend that far apart.

Either one should be fine, I would think. It seems to me that composite kayaks are generally quite strong (mine certainly is). You wouldn’t want to honk down really hard on the bow or stern safety lines but I’m not sure even that would cause a structural problem (but please don’t rely on that it’s just a guess!).

Good soft padding (kept clean of sand and whatnot) should keep the gelcoat from being scuffed or scratched at the tiedown areas.

Plastic kayaks can deform over time or in hot weather, taking on a distorted shape, but composite ones don’t really have that problem.

One thing about the J-bars: there is something about them that seems to cause certain cheap Chinese rack bars to fail catastrophically. I think they put more torque on the rack/roof bars than ordinary saddles (or Hully rollers) do.

How do you load it? Is it a glide system from the back, or do you load yours from the side? Does the deck rigging get in the way? What roof rack system do you have?

I think I once saw an aerodynamics comparison but cannot remember where. I think you can get more lift in the front with one method compared to the other. I have a Hullavator and, regardless, would find it difficult to lift my 17ft boat to the roof of my SUV regardless of orientation. Hull down at least allows for some sliding if you have to load independently.

As someone else mentioned, the NDK website says to go hull up, but that’s not very practical if your car is tall and the cradles are designed for hull-down orientation. Most of the cradles I’ve seen are a little skimpy on padding. The Hullavator, depending on your hull shape, could offer little padding where it’s needed most. Lots of threads about that. I’m scratch-obsessed, many are not and carry there boats with a lot less padding.

Hey everyone,
I actually reached out to P&H about this, comparing two styles of Thule Roof Rack systems, the J-Rack Hull-a-port XT’s and the Dockglide system.

This is their response.
I do see more composite kayaks being transporter in their hulls with a support system, but I’ve heard before about kayaks being more structurally strong on their side.

Good answer.


According to John and Sue, of Collinsville Canoe & Kayak in Connecticut (Sue’s brother owns Swift Canoe & Kayak manufacturing in Canada) the best way is hull down on a glide type system. However, it’s very important to position the glides so that the pads are engaging the bottom and the sides of the boat (the bilge) for support.

I’ve transported them in all of those configurations. I haven’t carried any of my boats in J-Carriers on top of a vehicle for years due to the amount of side wind they catch, which causes twisting. As long as the hull or deck is well supported/cradled, and the supports are near the bulkheads, I’m happy.

My hands-down favorite way to transport kayaks on a rooftop is my Goodboy V-bar carrier. Very adjustable to set the V-bars near the bulkheads, and rock solid. I use their Slippy Socks on the rear V-bar so I can slide the boat into place. The V-bars are deep enough that you don’t have to worry about the boat slipping off sideways. Depending on your choice of V-bars and the shape of the deck, you can haul the boat deck-down if you prefer (though this doesn’t work as well with highly-rockered boats. You can often mount the main beam of the system under your crossbars for a lower rack.


Can you ask them what type of glide/saddle type system works best for this recommendation? Seems all the ones I see are designed to be used with Hull down (Thule/Yakima etc).

How is this for wind noise when there is no kayak in it? Or do you remove it when not in use?

They use the Thule, hull down. Just make sure the pads are positioned on the bilges…partial contact to the side of the boat, partial contact on the bottom of the hull.

Not bad at all. I remove the V-bars (single pin each) and put the included rubber caps over the tube when not in use.

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