J-hooks or yak cradles?

-- Last Updated: Jun-19-08 10:49 AM EST --

Why one over the other? Is it simply preference? I currently have the j-hooks and am thinking of replacing them because I dont like the fact that I have to put them on and take them off all the time. I would like something I can just leave on my rack all the time... what say you?

yes, it’s preference
j-bars will hold the boat better, since yaks are stronger on their chines (sides). Get the fold-down ones (from Thule OR Yakima) if you don’t like them sticking up when you’re not using them. You can also fit more boats on your roof rack when using j-bars since they will take up a lot less space then when laying flat.

saddles are great too - good if you have low clearance issues (like a garage). And you can mix & match them with rollers to aide in loading the boat.

my advice: since there are SO many options out there for roof racks - go to your local kayak shop and have them help you figure out which system will fit your needs, and your BOAT the best.

I have both.
The reason:

  1. With J cradles I can carry more boats. A set of J cradles on each side for a yak each, and then either a canoe in the middle or another yak on the saddles in the middle.

  2. If I were just carrying two Kayaks or one kayak I would strictly use the saddles.



Same as JackL
I use saddles if hauling one or two boats, for ease of loading. With J-cradles I can get 4 kayaks on my minivan.

Overheight On Ferries
In B.C. anything over 7’ in height is charged A WHOLE LOT MORE to go on the B.C. ferries. J-hooks may mean the difference in putting your vehicle over-height.

I’m thinking they’re also not quite as streamlined/may make more wind noise.

But I do agree they’re probably better on the hull, and you can certainly fit more kayaks for a give width, using the j-hooks.

My question is: is there as strong a connection to the racks as there is with the saddles? Some of those j-hooks look a little flimsy.

got both
one side is J-rack, the other is cradle(I bought them 2 years apart) I prefer the J-rack as it seems to hold the boat more securely—may be just an illusion but it does feel snugger.

No, saddles hold the boats better…
…since they’re much more rigid, conform to the hull shape and don’t allow the boats to flex around as much. Additionally, they create a lower profile in cross winds and don’t put as much stress on the crossbars.

How much
will the J hooks hold? I have both, but I use the j hooks just for the single otter. We have Old Town tandem rec kayaks and I have been using my ex’s for the past couple of outings. I didn’t feel like digging through the garage to find the other saddle set up and I was going to put one tandem on the j hook and the other on the saddles, but I didn’t know if the tandem would be too much for the j hooks. The tandems are 75 lbs each I think. They are Thule hooks and I they are going on a Dodge Intrepid.

I had blocks but switched to…
J brackets. We now have a kid and two dogs riding in the 4Runner with us. We need to keep our Thule box on the truck year round to haul all of our gear. We have the Js and box mounted directly to the factory bars. When the box is open the Js have to be folded down (I think we have the Hull a Port). But seeing that the boat is the last thing on and first thing off when we drive to Cape Cod it hasn’t been an issue.

I would listen to advice someone gave earlier. Go to a boat/outdoor shop and talk to a sales person. There are so many options out there and everyone has different needs. I’m sure they can find a combo to suite your needs.

On most boats, but…
our Thule cradles just don’t ‘hug’ our pygmys well at all.

Malone Gullwing/seawings rule!
a somewhat flexible cradle system that is bombproof…

fits all kinds of boats without worries…

the flex inherent in their material is great for a little shock absorbing along the road…


the j hooks should be fine.

Another Option - Stacker
Lately I’m using an old Thule stacker and Chesapeake bar pads, carrying one or two sea kayaks. I will try carrying three shortly (two boats sandwiched together on one side). This set up is cheap and quite secure - but more subject to headwinds.

I can’t tell for sure how it is for gas mileage - my guess is that the Thule Set-to-go and Glide combo gives a little less air resistance with the boats on the car. Of course, they have more air resistance with no boats (stacker folds down).

Almost all of the staff at the kayak tour outfit where I work also use stackers.


second the malone j hook
1 on one side, one on the other, a third kayak on cradles in the center. to carry 4, try a stacker

It depends on which “generation”…
…of cradles you have. Some work better with hard chines than others.