favorite rack system for heavy kayaks?

I have a 55lb kayak. (Perception Acadia) and use J-bar mounts on my Honda Pilot.
I need to load the kayak by myself and have been having more trouble managing it. I recently slipped and dropped the kayak and dented my car.

I was wondering what are folks’ favorite mounting arrangements for dealing with heavy kayaks?

I am 5’11". 185lbs and 63yo


I did the same thing to my 98 F-150, ironically with my first boat, an Acadia.
I’m a few years older now and won’t try to load a boat on a rack by myself.
For most trips I use a lumber rack and slide the boats in the bed of my truck.

I would use some kind of rear-loading method. Lift one end of the boat onto the rear cross bar, the pick up the other end and slide it up there. There’s still the option of using part of the bar as a slider (I would cover that part with carpet) and another part for cradles or even for J-hooks with the open side facing toward the middle of the car instead of outward as is usually done. You already have the J-hooks so I would try that. With inward-facing J-hooks, it’s actually a very simple matter to slide the boat most of the way forward on the bars, then by pulling down on the tail end and to one side, the forward part of the boat can be shuffled into its J-hook, and then if you apply a twist to the boat, it drops right into position. Then just lift and shuffle the tail end of the boat to get it into the rear J-hook.

One thing this method would require is a rear cross bar that is close enough to the rear of the car for the slide-on loading method to work. I used to have a setup where my rear cross bar was not close enough to the rear of the car for slide-on loading, so I built an add-on bracket for that purpose, but that gets into the need for fabrication skills that most people don’t have, so see if there’s a way to mount a cross bar near enough to the back end of the car.

Oh, there’s also the trick of laying a bathmat at the rear edge of the car roof and sliding your boat on that, if your rear cross bar is not positioned to be useful as a loading slider.

There are side-loading methods too, which I’ll leave for someone else to describe.

Put your bath mat, towel, or carpet on the side of the car. Put an extension rod on the front horizontal rack. On my outback I’ve used the clothes hanger rod with a couple of straps to hold it to the bar. Lift the bow up on the extension. Then lift the stern up onto the rear rack. Then move the bow over to the rack cradle. Note that the kayak in the J bars is strapped to the horizontal bar on the car not the j-bar. It works better that way. (Mike my kayaking automotive engineer agrees with that)

Foam blocks or cradles mounted on the bars instead of the J bars work better. Pictures are from a truck I used to have. Method is the same.

This is a 17’ long 62 pound rigged out kayak.

I generally prefer the sliding over the back bar method………… Or to be truthful my trailer.

Jbars are good for mounting two kayaks on a narrow roof…………….

they can be more difficult to load than a flat loaded kayak. I generally prefer the slide from the back version with a roller, but you can load from the side one end at a time like the truck above. On the Outback we use the clothes bar from the back seat with a light cord connecting it to the factory mounted roof rack bar. Put cord/strap on the farthest end. See pic #3.

Bring the kayak in from he side. Lift the bow then the stern and then get it all in the proper position. Remove the extender bar.

Cradles work better than the J bars and are easier to load. But foam blocks with slots for the bars work as good and cost less.

Dog, pictured above, does not help.

Re two kayaks on a narrow car, V-bars work as well or better than J-bars, and the boats can be carried flat.
Loading is fairly easy, tip the bow of the boat up onto forward V-bar while on your shoulder, then lift the stern onto the rear V-bar. Works with both boats shown, the yellow one is 52 lbs. This does require a manageable roof height, i.e standard sedan height.

V-bars handle heavy boats well, with wide cradle separation (7 ft and 8 ft!) and good restraint at the boat ends. Mine are mounted on aero-style bars, which have a beefy profile and towers connected directly to threaded studs attached to the roof frame which is really strong. Bow/stern straps still called for, of course.

Just spend the money on Thule Hullavators and be done with it!

They make loading a heavy kayak ridiculously easy.

good suggestions thanks. I am not in love with bars. I may change over to saddles and some kind of roller system for loading from the rear.

I’ll ditto kfbrady.

@Rookie, did you get a new kayak?

I thought yours were Eddylines.

So, I changed cars and the new one is too tall to roll kayak up the back with a pool noodle-my old method to seat it in a saddle. My kayak is 49 lbs and too heavy for me to lift overhead. As I often kayak alone (I know-not the smartest-but if I waited for a companion I would never get out, and I am a PFD user), I finally bit the bullet and bought the Thule Hullavator. It helped that I sold some old equipment to finance it, as it is expensive, but I have not regretted it at all. I use my kayak far more frequently because it is so much easier to run the straps and load/unload.

Wifey and I have two Wilderness Systems Pungo 120’s, weighing about 50 pounds each. We used to battle trying to get them up on the roof of our 97 Ford F-350 crew cab. Between the two of us, we’d muscle them up with her standing on a small step stool. Not great in sandy conditions. So I came up with this ‘invention’, which is actually just a variation on a commercially available loading system - which costs much more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMHFHpaEYTQ

Finally though, even THAT became a hassle so we bit the bullet and went for the Hulivators. Not cheap, but boy does it make the loading and unloading a piece of cake. We recently upgraded our truck to a 2016 F-350 crew cab and installed the hulivators. It’s so easy to say “Hey, let’s go kayaking today”, and just go kayaking. We used to have to discuss if we REALLY wanted to go through the struggle of loading the kayaks onto the truck - but NOT NOW!

@kfbrady said:
@Rookie, did you get a new kayak?

I thought yours were Eddylines.

Yes, a new used boat. Still enjoy my Fathom LV but the Prana LV was one of those deals you can’t pass by. A demo that had traveled with the CD rep. Sat in one last year but had no intention of ever buying a 17-foot boat until I met this one. It weighs 48#, 16 ounces more than my Fathom.

Samba hangs around as a guest boat now.

BTW, Florence sure isn’t a very nice welcome to your new neighborhood. Scary stuff. Hope you’re far inland and on high ground. Still hoping it makes an abrupt change and heads back out to sea.

@Rookie, I just wanted to let you know that I am insanely jealous of you for getting that Prana!

We’re actually very close to the coast - off Hilton Head Island - but we got lucky this time and Florence will hit so far north of here that we’ll probably only get some fallout rain.

@kfbrady said:
@Rookie, I just wanted to let you know that I am insanely jealous of you for getting that Prana!

Lucky happenstance. It’s a really nice boat. And bulletproof, too. It can fend off pirate attacks on the Great Lakes. :slight_smile:

Good to hear you won’t take a direct hit from the winds, but be careful about that rain.

I’m just hoping our 2 CD Visions can keep the alligators at bay down here! :o

I have a 1974 klepper 17’ fiberglass tandem. It weighs 80+#. The only carrier to ever get is the Thule hullivator. Best invention ever. It is hydronic assisted lift as it folds down the side of the car. Strap kayak on and squeeze the two handles which will assist lift and tilt kayak to lay flat on top.
Check it out! Well worth the $

Thule Hullivator. Expensive and worth it!

@albireo13 said:
I have a 55lb kayak. (Perception Acadia) and use J-bar mounts on my Honda Pilot.
I need to load the kayak by myself and have been having more trouble managing it. I recently slipped and dropped the kayak and dented my car.

I was wondering what are folks’ favorite mounting arrangements for dealing with heavy kayaks?

I am 5’11". 185lbs and 63y


I solved the same “problem” many years ago. I had a minivan that would hold my kayak INSIDE - sorry, no passengers. That was what I told the salesman when I received the kayak as a gift - if it didn’t fit inside the van, there was NO sale. Luckily for all involved, it did fit and I have been yakking for 30+ years in the same kayak, an original 37-lb. Walden partially made from green soda bottles (hence the dark green color). It’s great for flatwater and photography! My dilemma recently, when I had to buy a new vehicle due to complete exhaustion of last minivan, was, do I buy another minivan or a very small, gas efficient car? Logically, at age 69, the answer would be the car, being retired & living in elderly housing and putting the kayak on the roof with old J=bars. However, I was leaning towards a minivan, having had one for years. Well, don’t you know what appeared? A 2017 minivan with low miles and plenty of room inside for my kayak!! I had the car salesman spinning in his chair! I came, I saw, I bought. AND, I can take somebody with me because of folding-into-floor bucket seats in the second row. Starting with the front passenger seat folded completely flat, the second row bucket seat stowed and the 3rd row bench seat stowed, I lift the kayak onto the back bumper and then lift & push from the other end into the van, close the back lift gate and away I go.
I know not everyone can buy a new vehicle for their kayak, but for me, the stars aligned magically at the right time! This solution has many advantages: being able to lock your kayak inside with all the paraphernalia, you can take a passenger and there’s still room for more stuff!