I’m a female with not great upper body strength and am getting a sea kayak - 17’, 62 lbs.
I have a factory J Rack on my Subaru Outback.
The Outback is the newer body style and is taller than its prececessors at 5 1/2 ’ from ground to crossbars.
Need advice for simple way(s) to be able to load the kayak onto the J Rack by myself.
** I saw the old thread discussing the 2"x2" boards with the hooks. Not sure that’s the best solution, so other ideas are welcome.
I’m a female with not great upper body strength and am getting a sea kayak - 17’, 62 lbs.
I’m your size and here’s my take
I’m female, 5’ 5" with an older Outback with J-racks, also had an 850 Volvo wagon and a Hyundai Santa Fe (probably closer to your car height) with the same rack setup. I had a Dagger Magellan, which was around 62 lbs and 17’ 4" so I know the drill you are facing. Honestly, I won’t carry kayaks that heavy on the J-racks, especially on an Outback where the bars have to be so close together. I did it on the Volvo but there was at least another foot or two of spacing there AND it was lower. But regardless of car height, anything over 40 lbs goes flat on my Thule bars, with shaped foam blocks cradling it if hull-down and directly on the bars if hull-up.
To load the Magellan I would lay an ensolite foam pad or piece of carpet draped over the rear rack bar and the top edge of the rear of the car, then place the kayak behind the car with the bow towards the tailgate and lift up the boat’s nose. Depending on the kayak model you can load it deck up or hull up (if the stems are not too high I think they ride more securely deck down). pPull it until the nose rests on the rear rack, make sure it is stable, then walk to the stern and lift it and shove the boat forward until it is on both racks.
You CAN get a long boat into the J-racks by angling the bow into the front rack then walking to the stern and lifting and shoving it, but it’s really a bear and if you are not strong and confident enough you can lose control of the boat and damage it, the car and yourself.
The best suggestion is to get yourself a lower car or a lighter boat. I have no trouble loading my 30 lb 18’ skin on frame or 35 lb 15’ folder on the J-rack, even on the Santa Fe. But my 15’ 44 lb plastic kayak was about the ultimate extent of what I could safely load alone on that car, and I am fairly strong and experienced with balancing heavy loads.
In fact, I found the Santa Fe such a pain for loading ANY boat, regardless of weight, that I bought a 2002 Outback. I can even solo load our 85 lb. canoe on it, using the slide onto the bars from the rear method.
I’ll be interested to see what others weigh in with on this. As I said, I don’t trust J-racks with heavy boats nor does the process feel safe to me in loading them.
Can you pick the bow up and put it on the rear J cradle, with the stern on the ground with a rug, (or equal) under it.
Then go to the stern, pick that up and slide the boat forward and onto the front J cradle.
Don’t use the J rack
I have a 2013 Outback. If you are loading just one kayak, use the factory bars, get some surfboard pads and use them. Put a foam pad on the back of your roof put the bow on the pad then lift onto the roof rack then pick up the stern and slide it on. No need to dead lift your whole kayak. There is now a modification posted on the Outback users group so you can use Yakima landing pads on a 2013 and put on a decent rack with saddles. I have not tried it yet but will post here when I have seen how well it works.
Note Added: Be careful pushing down on the roof when loading ... as noted elsewhere in posts, in the new models the metal is very thin, and you can dent in your roof.
Thanks for the advice. Since you are an Outback owner, do you have a place in the back to secure the stern? I seem to only have the front tow loop to secure the bow.
loop in rear
There is a steel loop back under the bumper on the opposite side from the tailpipe. I have also managed to hook various pieces of metal under the car by reaching in with the hooks – I use the lines with the cams to tighten them. I’ve been considering welding something under there that would provide a more handy and centered fastening point.
Roller Loader and Lose the J-Bars
Here's a link to the device - it has gotten pricier but it is well worth it. I can load anything I have tried so far onto a car with this. Get the boat behind the car, lift the front end onto the roller loader and grab cockpit and perimeter lines to slide it up. Reverse coming down.
Agree with the the others above - the J-bars are a giant pain in the butt to try and load a sea kayak onto alone. Anything flat (padded crossbars) or sideways (old-fashioned stacker) is better.
By the way - I am average sized female and over 60 yrs old (though I still can't figure out when that happened).
I ended up
getting two Thule Outriggers. Pull the front one out fully, rest the bow on it. Pull the back one out about halfway, pick up the stern end and lift it up and over onto the rear outrigger. Don’t let go, and test and make sure it’s balanced before you move (with my boats 13’ and under this is not hard). This does not require you to lift your boat over your car, which is typically the hard part (the reach). Plus, you’re only lifting half of the boat at a time.
Next, I have a small step stool that I use for reach. I just pick up the whole boat by the coaming, flop it into the J cradles. It’s not hard to do because at this point the boat is already at height, and only a foot away at most from the cradles. It’s only a lateral move.
Of course, if you need to finesse it into the cradles one end at a time, that’s not hard either from this position (this is what my wife does).
Thanks - I just ordered the RollerLoader and 2 soft cradle blocks. Fingers crossed that this is the ticket. And I know what you mean on the “not sure when that happened”…I’m right behind you!
I agree with Celia on the Roller-loader
I have one and it works great, even though hubby has since purchased a couple of Hullavators for us, which are super easy to use. I still use it on occasion when I’m going on a day trip and don’t want to bother my husband with putting the Hullavator on the top.
The Roller loader can be used from the front of rear of a vehicle.
Good luck in your search.
skip the J racks
My advice is to skip the J racks for solo loading and use a different means of carrying your boat when alone.
Loading - I like Yakima’s boat loader:
Using it does require you to have the Yakima cross bars.
Using the boat loader and a small stool, I can load on a much taller vehicle - Honda Odyssey without too much difficulty. I prefer having help to lift the boat but have no problem doing on my own. With boat on shoulder, I walk to the boat loader and lay the bow on the bar and then walk the boat forward until 1/3 of the boat is on it. Place the stern on the ground and then go and pick it up and slide it the rest of the way and onto the cross bars.
they work for some things
I do feel that J-racks have some utility. With a slender and light kayak, like my folders and skin-on-frame, they are super easy to solo load and put less stress on the hull fabric and skeleton frames since the weight is on the side and chines. But these are boats that weigh less than 35 lbs, that I can easily lift over my head.
Also discovered that a J-rack is great for hauling bundles of electrical conduit and plumbing pipe.
Celia, I completely agree – when did this age thing happen?? (I’m coming up on 63 in June, argh.)
BTW, belated apology for my “butt call” to you a few Saturdays ago. Finicky cell phone, deep pocket, random jostling, hands tied up wrangling construction materials … Didn’t realize it was you I had disturbed until several hours later when I checked the call history. Hope all is as well as can be up your way.
anyone use the “kayak stacker”?
From either Yakima or Thule? Seems to me a better solution than J cradles, as it puts part of the load directly on the crossbar and part of it on the upright bar. Less bulky, more room on the rack if you want other fittings or capacity, and you can fold them down.
I use the stackers with a very long roof line AND bow lines always, sometimes stern lines.
Stackers are perfect
We picked up rollers and saddles when we got our first composite boats, thinking they'd be better than our original stackers we'd gotten with the plastic boats. I am not even sure that lasted a season. We had a moment when we had to get three boats up there anyway so we put the stackers back up. By the end of that trip we realized that we had spent way less time fussing with them at stops than we had been finding with the saddles and rollers.
As soon as we were home, my husband found another pair of the older style (upside down U shaped) stackers on EBay for the second car. And it is a lot easier to pop the canoe up there, with the stackers folded down and out of the way in the middle, than with saddles and rollers in all the wrong places.
I see more j cradles than stackers
Not to sour anyone’s j cradle purchase, but I can’t imagine why a stacker setup wouldn’t be at least equal.
Stackers more seen for WW boats now
At least that’s what I see around here. And in their defense there are J-bars that will fold flat - we have a couple of them living in the neighborhood. Car manufacturers push them when they sell add-on equipment… it isn’t surprising that there are a lot out there.
But car salesmen rarely think well about sea kayaks, or carrying up to four kayaks or kayak plus canoe… or any of the other kinds of things that we found are where stackers shine and everything else requires massive adjustments.
J-racks and mirrors
I know of at least one mirror that was knocked off a vehicle when someone was attempting to load a kayak front first and went to the rear and picked it up. The kayak slid off the front J-rack and took the mirror with it to the ground. No, it was not mine.
Are you totally committed to J-racks
and the 62 pound boat?
Several friends and I all have Malone SeaWings and we are all petite women. One drives a RAV4 and the rest drive sedans. Each of us can load our boats without help, using a rug or bathmat to protect the car, and shoving the boat up from the back.
But none of our boats weigh over 45 lbs.
I tried J-racks but couldn’t load them by myself without taking out the mirror. They were easy to load with two of us, but I go solo a lot.
Tall SUV, heavy boat, J-racks: sounds like a “perfect storm,” to me–but I am wimpy and have a bad back.