Kayak rooftop carriers

I have 2 kayaks I wish to transport on my 2012 Subaru Forester. I already have factory side rails and cross bars on the roof. What system would you recommend? Two cradles or one multi-kayak carrier? Any recommendations on the brand?

If you bike and ski along with paddling
Get Yakama, Thule, or Malone .

The various interchanging parts they have for each sport change out in a matter of minutes.

Cradles, (saddles) are easier on the boats then J cradles.

If you are only paddling once a month, just get el-cheapo foam blocks

My preference is Yakama, and I have saddles, J cradles, bike carriers/ bike wheel carriers, gunnel brackets and ski holders. Makes carrying all the toys very easy.

Jack L

What boats?
The factory cross bars may not be rated to carry the weight of two kayaks if they are heavier, say plastic and longer length. You need to check that.

That said, Jack speaks above of the more extensive options you have by investing in a third party system of towers and cross bars. Any of the major manufacturers he lists will use cross bars that likely have a higher bearing weight limit than your factory cross bars, and you can get more length, so the whole situation is better secured.

All of the listed manufacturers are good and have fit information on their web sites, to tell you what components you need by make and model of car. The one thing you may want to consider as to specifics is that J-racks can be more challenging to slide a boat into on a taller roof than something that can be approached from wider angles, like stackers or saddles.

Racks on Subarus and the like

– Last Updated: Jul-02-13 5:12 PM EST –

I've always used Thule square bars and components. I don't like the Yakima round bars though others swear by them (I would judge more kayak and canoe haulers use Thule, though). Currently I use Thule bars attached to the factory bars on my Subaru Outback and on a Hyundai Santa FE, which is more similar in height to your Forester. I do have J-racks but only use them with my super light folding frame kayaks and a replica skin on frame so they are cradled on their sides. For hauling plastic kayaks and canoes (and I usually have two on the roof) I just have plastic pool noodles wrapped around the bars with duct tape.

To load each boat I first loop a pair of long Thule nylon buckle straps around the crossbars and slide them to the middle. Then I lift the stern or the boat, hull down, onto the rear bar from behind the car then lift and slide it up and forward until it slides over the second crossbar. Then I roll the boat over until it is deck down with the cockpit (if a kayak) centered between the crossbars. Then I grab the ends of the first strap and run both over the boat and around both the cross bar on the outside and around the factory lateral bar as well and snug the buckle down. Repeat on second strap. Do the same thing on the other side of the roof to load the second boat. I always-always-always use securely tied bow and stern ropes from the boat ends to the hooks under the bumpers as well. Even if in a rush or a short distance low speed haul I will always put the bow line on so I can keep an eye on it while driving to detect if the boat or boats are shifting position.

The load ratings on the factory bars on Subarus say 75 lbs total for the whole rack, so I am usually over that but I would bet money those ratings are "cover our asses" conservative and I have had no trouble hauling boats like this for 10 years and countless thousands of high speed highway miles.

If I was going to carry two full weight canoes on a long windy highway trip, I would probably remove the bars and lash the canoes directly to foam blocks or pool noodles on the roof (said blocks fastened with straps around the inside of the car through the open doors). Niether of my cars has side curtain air bags so I can safely run straps across the inside headliner. My understanding is that securing anything to the roof that way can cause side curtain bags to explode during a crash and hurt the occupants, but I have no expert confirmation of that.

2009 Forester

– Last Updated: Jul-02-13 5:41 PM EST –

I have the 2009 Forester. In general I find the roof (as all the metal) to be very lightweight on the car that I am unsure I would ever go the foam blocks on the roof approach with the newer model of the Forester.

I initially had the factory crossbars and did have at least two 50-60 lbs kayaks on it with two J racks. It seems to hold alright but the real issue I had with it was the curve of the bars. It made it harder to position Js, bike racks, and cargo boxes on it due to the curve. I view their factory bar as being more for looks and the occasional load then a functional rack choice.

For base crossbars I prefer the Thule bars mainly as the square bars hold all kayak rack systems in place without twisting. If you ever go to place kayakers hang out -- lakes, kayak shows, etc -- you will see that any kayak rack on the round bars is twisting on the bar. Seems like some kayakers think this is ideal to have your rack twist down out of place but I view it as the grip wore out and you are one bump away from some roof damage. The round bars are great if you are attaching racks which secure to both bars, like bikes racks and cargo boxes, but with only a single attach point for kayak racks they will twist eventually.

I may have Thule cross bars but everything else I have is Yakima -- J, bike racks, and cargo boxes. Mainly because they offered locks on the Bowdowns and I had a good deal for a pack of locks. Both make great products overall.

I don't have a problem solo lifting at 60-70 lbs kayak over my head and then almost throwing it into the J rack. At 5'8" the J rack is bit higher than me on a Forester and I can just barely, with me on my toes and with a toss get it into the Js. Your height, ability to lift the weight and if you are going to have help are all going to matter. Js are the worse on a tall car and/or weak person. The stackers are bit easier assuming you have pretty short kayaks. The cradles and sliders are so much easier on a tall car or with a long kayak as you can just slide on from the back but you may not be able to get two kayaks on the roof that way.