My new boat arrives next week (Q600X) and I need a new set of mounts. I have always used saddles, but the J cradle looks like it would be much easier to load. Would appreciate any thoughts you have on one over the other. Thanks
J vs Saddle
Both have their place and a lot depends on your vehicle and loading preferences.
If you have a SUV or Minivan you may find loading from the back is easiest and saddles/rollers work best.
A sedan with extended trunk or 4 door pickup without bed racks may make side loading easier so the J’s workout.
The “J” rack works without adjustment which can be a plus if you carry multiple hull styles or need to pop a friends boat on the rack for a shuttle.
If you have a low car with a flat roof pretty much everything will work.
Saddles vs J bar
It depends on who is loading the kayak. If it is one person it really doesn’t matter too much. If it is two people, then it is harder to load the J bar rack if one or both of those people are very short. As the kayak goes on it’s side it is harder to reach the ends and lift them over the J bars. If that is an issue for you, choose the cradles.
We did have to put fabric (we used neoprene scraps) over the pads on the Thule J bars because they were leaving black marks on the side of the kayak. The stains were hard to remove, but now with the fabric, things are fine.
We use both cradles and J bars and I have not noticed any issues in safety or security while the kayaks are being transported.
Saddles easier for one or short person
Check out the “I can’t get it up” thread, don’t recall if it was under Advice or Discussion. A couple of people found the J cradles to be fine, but more weighed in that saddles or even just the cross bars were easier for a single person loading.
Longer boats, I’d go with saddles
I have J-racks and they work great for plastic boats under 14’. For a sea kayak, which I’m looking at this season, I’ll be picking up saddles. In the sea kayaking group I’ve paddled with, NOBODY uses J-racks for their sea kayaks, which tells me something…
I initially got J cradles but exchanged them for saddles with my Yakima rack system. I have a pickup truck and it was hard lifting my kayak up high enough for the J cradles. They also tended to rotate. Not as much of a problem for two people to load, but definitely hard solo.
I use Yak Hully-rollers in the back and just push my kayak forward to load until it rests on the saddles. My kayak is a Necky Manitou 13 that only weights 45 lbs, so I can imagine that a larger or heavier kayak would be even harder to load on J cradles if you have a high roof like on a truck or SUV.
I have saddles on the SUV and J cradles on the wagon.
If the vehicle is high, like an SUV, saddles are best for a 2 person load because you can’t easily lift over the cradles. For a solo carry on an SUV, the Hullavator is really worth it. You don’t want saddles IMO if you have to lift the yak over a length of roof line before you can get them on the saddle. There are work arounds, but why bother.
I think that J hooks give better support, since the yak is supported on the seam, which is reinforced. I have had some gel coat cracks from the saddles with rollers.
On a low vehicle, I like the J-hooks, and can get 3 yaks on top. With one of those extension bars made by Thule and Yakima, it is pretty easy to load on the J hooks.
J hooks have been extremely improved with the fold down design - and not just because of aerodynamics when folded. It is easy to thread the straps first and then raise the J hook support. Otherwise, you may have to use a stool to thread the strap through the top of the J hook.
I have used both for the same yak, but 2 differant cars. The J racks were not suggested for the new car I bought. I found that they are both easy to load for my 14 ft boat. The only differance i can note is the effects of a strong crosswind while driving. The J rack made the boat a psuedo sail on top. The lower profile on the saddle just seems so much more aerodynamic.
Six of one and half dozen of the other
I have J cradles and saddles.
When I am carrying three boats, I use the J cradles because of space.
If I have one or two boats I use the saddles because I like the way the QCC’s nest in them.
If I have the J cradles on I sometimes am two lazy to change them out and will just go ahead and use them.
If it was me and just for one boat, I would get some good saddles.
Just my opinion though
With saddles you can just heave them up there.