Loading a Heavy Kayak on J Hooks

Hi, we just started kayaking as a family and need to use J hooks to get the three on the top of the van. The problem is that my husbands kayak is pretty heavy (87lbs) for me to help him get it up there. What is the proper procedure?

we are trying to figure it out. do you sort of lift it, sideways, and the roll it into the j hooks? my husband was thinking slide it from back to front but the guys at the shop were very much against that idea. i think it puts too much pressure on the van’s roof rack. we have GOT to figure this out or i’m going to wind up with a concussion soon. LOL… every freaking time we get that sucker lifted and then wham, it flips and smacks me in the head. then i’m stretched as far as possible trying to flip it back on its side, not drop it, and get it in those hooks… help!!!

Claudine :slight_smile:

Ummm… 87 pounds?
That is one whompingly heavy kayak! I’m very curious as to which brand/model it is.

Sorry, I don’t use J-Hooks. I have a homemade flat rack over top of my Ford Ranger. I can’t personally attest to any of these products, but here is what I found by Googling “kayak rack loader”






Ok, I’m done looking for product I don’t need! Hope that helped.

Remember to Google, Google, then Google again!

Let us know when your hubby stops beaning you in the head with his massive kayak!

Keep on paddling!

Not sure what kind of rack you have,
but the way we do it:

This is on the roof of a full size pick-up with a cap on the back.

I have Yakama bars with Thule J cradles and I have a hole drilled in the bar with a bolt holding the cradle so it won’t roll.

I have them located near the outside of the bars.

I get on one end of the kayak and my wife is on the other end.

I put the bow of the kayak up over my head and place it on the J cradle.

I have a four foot step ladder that I keep folded and lean it against the side of the truck under the J cradle (I have it padded so it won’t scratch the side of the truck).

Then while she is holding the stern, I go up the ladder and she pushes while I pull the yak and slide it forward, keeping it at an angle with the bow up in the air(at this point it is just sliding on one J cradle).

When it reaches the point where it is too high for her to keep pushing, I tell her to let it go, and I let the bow down on the front J cradle.

I then keep pushing it forward on both cradles until I have it centered.

The four foot step ladder makes it nice and easy to attach my cam-lock buckle straps too.

I also carry a third kayak or a canoe in the center of the truck top, and that gets slid on from the back in similar fashion, but instead of using the ladder, I stand on the tail gate to slide it forward.

Our two present kayaks are lighter than yours, but we used to do it with two heavy plastic ones the exact same way.

I am guessing that the two of us probably have twenty or more years on you guys too.

Good luck and



good instructions
With a van the hard one is the center kayak. I’ve done this a lot with a VW bus and ended up with two options:

If you want to use J cradles, put them facing out on either site and load as suggested by Jack. Another way to do it w/o the ladder is for your husband to get the bow up and then come to the rear (you) and get the stern up. Do this for the second kayak. Then, instead of a J cradle, use a hully roller for the center kayak so you can just slide it up from the rear. Someone will have to clamber around on top to finish the tie downs.

The other way, which is what I do currently is to use a stacker offset to the driver’s side. Use a hully roller (w/o front mounts) to slide the kayaks on to the top of the van one at a time (someone has to be on top) and stack them up against each other. Depending on the kayaks they can go hull to hull or hull to cockpit. Have carried 4 kayaks this way (with strong bow/stern tie downs) no problem.

Hope this helps,


Helium float bags…

…well, it COULD work.

Just sayin.

Something that helps.
Yakima makes an extender bar that slides in the standard crossbar. You slide it out and put one end of the boat on it, then lift the other end.

87 lbs…? With the dog in it?..
Unload your equipment before you load the boat.

Paddle easy,


Load carrying capacity on the rack?
On our Mazda MPV van the rated capacity of the factory rack was only 100lb! On my Yakima bars it is 120 lb if I recall. 3 kayaks would exceed that and I would not be too comfortable…

Sounds like time to get a lighter kayak -;). Or a step ladder or stool or trade the van for a lower riding Subary -;). Or trailer?

I know what you mean though. My kayaks are near the 50 lb mark and they already feel heavy-sh and present a challenge for my wrists even though the weight itself is not prohibitive for me to put up alone.

footstool or folding two step ladder

Yakima Extender…

(copied from above response) looks pretty simple yet effective.

It may help
to turn the kayak upside down when lifting. This makes kayak narrower so it clears the ends of the J/s easier. Starting upside down leads to a more natural rotation into the final position.

If you have round bars it may also help to rotate the front J down(toward back of car). This effectively widens the opening and makes it easier to slide one end of the kayak onto that J at an angle. Once that end is up and forward into position it is easier to lift the rear end up on the rear J in the normal position. Then you can rotate the front J back to its normal position. If you have square bars forget this. I use the rotation method to load the kayak solo starting with it in the shoulder carry position to get the front end up on the rotated J.

Good luck.


Load from the rear, facing inward

– Last Updated: May-21-08 4:15 PM EST –

I put carpet on the rear J-cradle so the kayak slides easily from the back. There's no other way I can get boats on top of my GMC Jimmy by myself.

The other part of the trick is to load the kayak so the deck faces inward. A rounded or V-hull against the long part of the J-cradle makes the kayak sit too vertical and thus the tendency to fall off the vehicle.

Decks tend to be flatter than hulls, so the kayak will lean in at more of an angle. Decks also are more structurally rigid than hulls, so the pressure from the J-cradles is less likely to indent the kayak. But try to avoid having the hatches on the cradles; pressure on the hatch rim may cause it to leak eventually.

If you have a van there will be plenty of room between the J-cradles for another boat on edge.

And no, I haven't had a problem with bows and sterns touching when two kayaks are on J-cradles facing each other. Just position them so the ends are offset.

3 boats …
… go get a trailer and custom fit carriers to your hulls , quit busting your back !!