Kayak Hauling Advice Trailver vs. topp

I’ve got two 18’ sea kayaks that I usually carry around on the top of my car on some thule saddles. I’ve got two plastic 14’ boats I’d like to take on trips and am curious what the best way to transport them is. Could I squeeze them in between in one of those j-cradles (are they too long)? Or is it best to get a 2 or 4 boat trailer? Aren’t trailers a pain in the butt?

What do people prefer! thanks much.

I actually prefer a trailer. I think it is much easier to load and unload and is easier on the boats; they don’t have to be cinched down so tight and if you have the right setup, they can be better supported. My longest boat is 19’-2"; it has to be loaded in the center of the trailer.

I use my flat bead utility trailer for other things, but for hauling kayaks I have removable bunks that mount in the stake pockets on the perimeter of the bead. The bunks are constructed of 2x4 lumber and are very well padded for a soft ride. With the present configuration, I can haul three boats, but it would be a simple matter to build a double deck system that would haul six.

Stackers and long enough cross bars
Two boats on each side of the stackers, on their side, each independently tied to the stackers.

I prefer trailer
I picked up an old row boat trailer for free out of the weeds. Changed tires, greased axil. Took it to weld shop and had racks made now carry my two kayaks and canoe if needed. Total investment about $200. No lifting, better gas milage. Keep eye on boats with rear view mirror.

If you have no experience pulling trailer some practice in an empty parking lot is a good idea.

Parking can sometimes be a pain but with 18’ boats figure your not pulling off side of road to get in some whitewater creek too often.

Third Option

– Last Updated: May-22-13 9:59 AM EST –

You could just get longer cross bars and create room for all four kayaks on their sides, in J-cradles. Getting the two center boats in and out while the outer carrying positions are filled would be a bit awkward, but hardly a deal breaker. I don'te even remember the length of my home-made cross bars, but I'd guess they are about five feet. I can carry two solo canoes side by side, plus a kayak on J-hooks mounted out at one end of the cross bars. I'm quite certain that four kayaks would be easy to accommodate with room to spare. Modifying your rack to carry four boats will be a bit expensive, but cheaper than a decent trailer (unless you can make the necessary modifications to a cheap trailer yourself, but in that case you could save money on your roof rack for the same reason).

Actually, come to think of it, with longer cross bars you can most likely position the two kayaks on saddles side by side in the center, and then put a set of J-hooks toward the outside, one on each side of the saddled boats. You'll make much better use of space mounting the J-hooks out at the ends of the bars than you would be putting them between the saddle-carried boats. Not only can the boats on J-hooks lean inward and slightly overlap the space occupied by the saddle-carried boats, the boats on J-hooks don't need any cross-bar overlap beneath them toward the outside (the hooks can be mounted right at the very tips of the bars, if necessary).

Also got a boat trailer for free, modified it to carry multiple kayaks, canoes. It’s best when hauling the kayaks. What I do is put all the stuff, paddles, pfds, dry bags, small cooler, etc. in the kayak at home, then put a fitted cover on the boat. When I get to the put in I just dump the kayak off at the waters edge, take off the cover, park, and I’m ready to go. On the way home, all the wet stuff stay in the kayak, not in the car. YMMV

Top issue
With 4 boats you might be getting very close to what rack is rated to handle

If it was me.
I would use four sets of J cradles on wide bars.

Screwing around with a trailer just adds more problems.

My Yakama racks are in towers that I know won’t come off the roof, so I don’t worry about weight, etc

If you are confident in your rack system go for it. If not, get a trailer.

Jack L

Great replies!
Thanks much! Many of you mentioned jcradles, are they okay for longer boats?

J-cradles fine for longer boats
Many people use them for sea kayaks. I used to transport my trailered kayak on J-cradles. Ultimately I decided to use other supports instead because neither the Thule nor the Malone J-cradles were satisfactory in the long run.

However, if you do use them, they are much easier to load on a trailer than on a tall roof. Something to consider.

I prefer trailering to rooftopping, but I’m short and have a tall vehicle (that I like very much and don’t intend to switch from).

I carry 18 foot kevlar sea kayaks …
on them, and have been for years.

In the winter when we are down in Florida, they are on and off them for four months.

If you are only carrying one or two sea kayaks, the best method is with saddles, and if you can get the spacing so the saddles are under the bulkheads, that is even better, but if you need space, the way to go is with J cradles.

Jack L

j cradles take up space
Celia mentioned a more efficient option, the stacker. Plus you can fold them down when not in use.

these okay for long boats too?
They don’t seem to give as much support, are they still good for 18’?

In my experience, this solution works great if the cross bars are long enough…

as with other forms of support, not a problem if the cross bars are far enough apart.