Kayak Racks---a short review.....

Just wanted to give an update on a previous post I made. I answered the question for myself.

I had asked about various carriers for sea kayaks and which was best. I had been using various methods but had not decided on what was best.

Well, here it is from my experience. I have a truck with camper shell and 16 foot glass boat. I tried three different methods: mako sadles, mako saddle and hulley roller in the rear, plain old round foam pad on the bars with straps and no carrier.

Here is what I found:

  1. Worst: Hulley roller set up. Sorry guys, but this is a gimmick. They are no better for loading and unloading than the plain Mako saddles with felt surface attached. Boat slided just as easily on the mako saddle. Plus, I had a few mishaps with the hully rollers. First, I dropped my glass boat off the top of my truck while unloading. I was sliding the boat back and it slid off the rollers and bounced off the ground. Not good for glass! Second, I had the boat actually partially blow off the rollers on the highway. Winds were really high—30mph and I was driving highway speed. Wind blew the boat off to the side of the hulley rollers causing a very unstable position despite tight straps. That was the end of the hully rollers (thanks ebay)

  2. In the middle is the set up with the 2 pairs of mako saddles. Boat slides up fine onto them (I have a truck with camper shell and load boat from behind). Boat is supported on the sides while loading and unloading (prevents boat falling off top of truck). They hold the boat okay, but set up wobbles a lot and requires bow and stern tie downs. Overall: okay system, but…

  3. Best set up hands down: foam pad on the bar. I bought the Yakima bar pads (whatever they call them) for $25 a pair or you can make your own. Boat slides on and off easily. Strap it down like you were strapping down a canoe. Rock solid. Don’t need bow and stern tie downs. Cheapest option. Does not clutter the top of your vehicle with crazy looking attachments. Simple to take off your bars if you need to put on a bike rack etc.

    Bottom Line: The mako saddles and hully rollers really don’t do anything for you but cost you a lot of money. Just use foam and you will be much happier (provided that you don’t have a hull shape that is a deep v etc. that requires the use of some sort of cradling—then use the Mako Saddle set up).

    I am sure I will have many who will disagree but this is my experience.


Finding the same thing myself
Although I have not gone to the extents you have to actually buy and try a lot of solutions out there, I can’t help but wonder about simplicity. I have a Plymouth Voyager with a factory rack. I had some foam pads from my first kayak and, although they are really too wide for my new kayak, they still worked for it - and worked VERY well.

I started looking at J cradles and slowly came to realize I saw them mostly on smaller SUVs and cars that do not have much width on top for 2 boats. And they also meant more of a lift for me since I would have to raise the boat over the lower lip of the J bracket. Since I didn’t need to stack or angle mount boats, I went to looking at saddles. They seemed like the most stable of all systems. Then I got to wondering what the difference was between the saddles and my low-tech foam blocks.

And now I hear from you that there could even be some “wobbling” issues and it is making me more convinced to just go with the foam blocks. They hold the kayak solid as a rock, and are the least expensive.


Foam Over Cross Bars And Stackers
are what I used to transport touring, surf and white water boats, or any combo of these. Been doing this with no problems for a couple of years now.


hull or deck up?
On your foam bar pads, do you transport hull or deck up?

For what it’s worth, i’m using Malone autoloaders and now am trying their gull wing model thanks to Tim @ Malone. I’ve only tried it once so far.


Deck up
Not sure if you were asking me, but I transport with the deck up. I suppose if I knew it was going to sit for a while on top of the vehicle and it was going to rain heavy, I might flip it over so rain water would not accumulate. But with a little rain I would still leave it deck up.


was actually asking bowler but it’s ok
i figured it was deck up but just wanted to see what others were doing. I never had much luck carrying on padded bars except deck down/hull up. my boats must be too v shaped to do it otherwise. i like my rack options though…

Deck up…
I transport deck up.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention that I also have the Yakima Hull Raisers (J cradles). They worked okay, but were to high for me to use on a truck. May work better on a car. These were quite secure, but still no advantage over the foam, and they are very bulky/cumbersome to have on the top of your car when you don’t need them.


I disagree with the deck up option. I’m no aeronautical engineer, but it would seem to create much more drag to have the cockpit up.

Secondly, living in Florida, the afternoon monsoons we deal with would add a lot of weight to your vehicle quickly.

Aside from that, foam blocks are very effective. I found that I can make a wider crossbar for my roof rails inexpensively, eliminating the need for “J” bars to hold the boats. Doesn’t look too bad either…


I wonder
Would a cockpit cover take care of the drag problem and the rain accumulation? Or would such a thing rattle in the wind and be more of a pain? Just curious.


Cockpit down…
may be a problem with composite boats. The layup is thinner on the deck where it would be in contact with the bar. I would be afraid that the pressure might crack the glass or gelcoat.


Variation of foam over crossbar

– Last Updated: Jul-19-05 1:03 AM EST –

Our trailer has 2x4's for crossbars, which we wrapped in carpet padding and indoor-outdoor carpet. Kayaks can be lashed onto those, which is what we did with a Storm and a Squall for several years.

But I did get denting in the Squall's hull. We should have made some hull-shaped pieces of wood and bolted those to the 2x4's, then padded THOSE pieces.

After I built my wood kayak with its sharp keel and hard chines, I built a set of wood cradles with angles to match the hull under the bulkheads. The cradle flats are padded with 1/2" minicell foam. I lash the flat-bottomed cradles next to the crossbars and strap the kayak to the crossbars. Works very well.

Then I sold the Squall, bought a Tempest 165, and vowed not to let it get dented. So now I have a "new and improved" version of the first set of cradles--based on those but with adjustable-angle cradles. (The T165 sat OK on the old cradles but I could see the minicell pads on them had compressed differently than they did with the wood kayak, so figured denting *might* happen if I kept using them.)

The cradles hold the kayaks more securely than the padded crossbars do.

Deck Down
don’t overtighten and use stern and bow tie downs. I only need to do this with the Montauk. My SOF and Greenland has a flat deck and is very secure with the cockpit between the cross bars.

My ww boats and surf boats go on hull bottom down since they are planing hulls and rest well on the crossbars.

The only time I put kayaks on their sides is when I transport 3 or more boats. The single pole stackers help a lot with doing this.


I use the Makos with the felt pad, they do wobble but they are TIGHT, the makos flex, as for the Foam bar pad, the ONLY problem with that is if your hull isn’t a slab shape, where as the Makos will accommodate all shapes. as for the BOW & stern line required I only use a Bow line, mainly just so I can keep an eye on the boat, via the line. I also find just by un snapping one side of the Mako strap I am able to secure and un-secure the boats much faster. All you do is snap the strap in place over the boat and tug it tight. No weaving and winding the straps all over the boat. For the Bow line I purchased one of those ratchet rope pulley things from wally world for a few bucks, I tied a loop around one end, and just loop & thread it around my grill guard and hook it to my boat and tug, takes about 5 seconds, Works great for me, and both of my set ups, on the truck shell or on my trailer. As for rain in the cockpit, that’s what cockpit covers are for.

I have the Yakaima Kayak Stacker, it is great except, you can not put two kayaks on there by yourself to easily. Plus since you lay the kayaks on their sides, i have experienced ome trouble with them shifting around a lot. This coming weekend will be my first use with it on a trip over 40 miles, i will be going 300 miles, should be interesting.

Make Sure To Use Bow/Stern
tie downs when you load more than a couple of boats on the sides. Because they do shift around.


stacker with the foam
bars is really your best investment.

If I had my roofrack money to spend again, I would get a thule setup with a stacker.

Just curious----you said that the only time that you put th boats on their sides is when carrying 3 or more. In that case, do your stackers serve a purpose when you transport only one or two boats?

I do actually have a set of stackers, but have not yet used them. Only have them for carrying multiple boats.



Foam & Thule Stacker = can’t be beat
Thule Stacker off Ebay… $30

4’ block of foam from NRS… $35

1 hour garage time + 2-3 good beers to custom cut foam to hull & rack… $3

ROCK solid fit.

Gentle on the boat hull.

Won’t scuff your finish.

Easily removeable.

Flexibility to stack boats vertically.

Do the math, go w/ foam.

Yep sing
Same gig for twenty years. No issues.

Single Pole Stackers Stay On The Rack
when I carrying one boat, I put it on the crossbars, push it against the stackers, loop the straps around the stackers and then over the hull and tie down to the crossbars.


PS. Watch for underground garages. Damaged my the roof area over the windows of my new car within the first month. DOH!