Looking for a good way to secure 2 kayaks to a 2011 Subaru Outback

Dear Board,

My wife and I have a trip planned to NH in late May. With gas prices rising I’d like to throw 2 kayaks on the Outback and not have to use the truck.

I know that the roof racks are rated for 135 pounds. We have two kayaks that weigh 125 pounds combined. That’s close to the limit, but I’ve seen Outbacks with 150 pounds or more of canoes on top.

Amazon has a post type mount that mounts to cross bars and has foam pads to secure the kayaks. It’s made by Malone, so in theory it should be good? But when Malone J cradles retail for the same price I get sort of worried?

With that in mind, can anyone recommend a set up that will allow carrying 2 kayaks that won’t cost an arm and leg? Specific brands and the best place to purchase will also be welcomed. We’ll be driving hard roads from home to the house we will be staying at, so Baja approved is not a qualifier we need.


Tim Murphy

Harrisburg, PA :grinning:

Is this the version of the Outback with the factory cross bars that pivot out of the way?

I use a foam block set and a set of J-racks for two sea kayaks on the top of the Outback. The switch blade rack aft is moved to the aft location. If you use J - bars remember to tie the boat and J-rack to the cross bars and not just to the J-bar.

Malone is about as cheap as good goes.

I will load picture when I find it.

AND look here the foam block set is on sale for $8.66 at West Marine, 3-20-21. ATTWOOD Kayak Car-Top Carrier Kit | West Marine

Peter, yes it is the one with the swing away cross bars.


Tim Murphy

Harrisburg, PA

The cross bars that come with are not likely strong enough, so I wouldn’t use them.

But the solutions that will work likely will give you sticker shock, to the point where it may be cheaper to just drive your truck.

The best solution is that someone (likely Yakima or Thule, sorry don’t know) makes an adapter which fits in where the swing away arms attach (the arms are removed and this bolts into the same place). You then add cross bars and the kayak mounts onto this. Being bolt on to roof, it is the most secure option.

I’ve seen others who add a cross bar and mount over (as in above, not using) the factory rack. I think these use the door clips. I don’t trust these as much as when I can bolt a roof rack right into a roof mount.

No matter what you use, definitely use bow and stern lines. These will reduce the load on the rack (most of the load is sheer load from winds, not weight load of items pushing downward), and be a backup should the rack fail.

Dear Peter,

Thanks for the in-depth response. I did have someone from the paddling.com site alert me to the location of genuine Subaru J-cradles on Craigslist. Looking at the ad it looks like the set up does in fact replace the factory swing out bars with solid bolt on bars. If I can get more information from the seller confirming how they work I may go that route?

Additionally I have a set of Malone square cross-bars about 60 inches wide that I previously used on the roof of a Chevy Avalanche to carry two kayaks. I imagine I could adapt them to the Subaru over the existing factory rack? I liked how they carried the kayaks. They were easy to secure and held solidly in all conditions. What I didn’t like was they were secured to the roof with pass through webstraps that went through the driver’s and second row door jambs above the windows. Like I said they worked great, but in rainy conditions the web straps acted like wicks and transferred water into the cab of the truck!

I’ll keep watching the board for suggestions. I tend to agree with the idea that using the factory swing away bars might not be the best choice for a 500 mile drive. I know I could get to the state park down the road with them, but Interstate travel at 70 mph might be dicey. If I can get the Malone cross bars to work on my Outback that might be the best and cheapest choice since they are already bought and paid for!


Tim Murphy

Harrisburg, PA :slight_smile:

If you can fit the Malone 60" bars on the factory rails, that would be the cheaper way to go. Malone probably makes a kit for attaching the crossbars to factory rails. With a 60" bar you could probably use standard saddles and still fit two kayaks flat and side by side with putting one or both of the saddle pairs outside the factory rails. What were you using with the Malone crossbars?

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Dear rstevens,

I had a Fish Eagle Talon 12 and a Native Slayer 12XC on those racks on my Avalanche. The Talon 12 rode in Malone J cradles, and the Native rode flat on the rack.

I’m a big man, but I’m old and tired of reaching to the sky to load things. I’m going to dig the racks out of the garage tomorrow and just test fit them on the Subaru.


Tim Murphy

Harrisburg PA :grinning:

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Yakima Lansing Pad (need to look up the Outback year for the correct size), Skyline Towers and HD, Jetstream, Core or round bars.

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The girlfriend had a 2011 Forester. We took our boats to water once with the standard rails. Those rails flexed almost like sail battens, and I built our boats, the heavy one weighs 34 pounds.

Both Thule and Yakima make adapters to fit your rail. I would recommend Thule, though they are more expensive. The Yak things I have used have plastic in places I would rather see meta, so, in the long run the Thule ends up being cheaper.

I got the Yakima Skyline towers and 50” Jetstream rails for my 2011 Outback. They worked GREAT and are far stronger than the standard folding rails. I highly recommend the upgrade.


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Dear Jake,

I bought a set of Malone crossbars that fit the factory rails when they are in the stowed position. I haven’t had a chance to test fit them yet, but if they fit and seem secure I already have a set of Malone J Cradles that I used on another vehicle, so I’ll only need one more set.

When I think about how far we’ve come i think we haven’t come far at all. When I was a kid I rode to Quebec from Pennsylvania on summer time fishing trips for 800 miles in an open bed pickup truck with ladder racks on it, and two 14’ boats on top. I rode next to two engines and a couple of gas tanks too. Nothing ever happened to me or any of the gear i rode with.

Today, you can buy a 30,000 vehicle and still need to spend 500.00 or more to carry 2 kayaks. YMMV, but that definitely ain’t progress to this kid!


Tim Murphy

Harrisburg, PA :slight_smile:

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