Need Cartop Kayak Carrier Advice

Hello board members. I am a first time poster.

My wife and I are about to purchase our first kayaks. We have canoed for some 25 years previous to this.

We would like to transport our kayaks to paddling destinations via car-top method. We own a Chevy Lumina sedan and a Venture minivan. Neither vehicle has a rack on it. When going canoeing we have always used foam blocks, locking tie-down straps and ropes to secure our Grumman.

We would like to hear ideas from other kayakers as to products out there to car-top two kayaks with. Is there anything simple, with foam blocks and straps like our current canoe-carrying gear?

I’ve have seen equipment to carry one kayak, but we’d like to be able to get TWO on top of one vehicle, as it would be silly and wasteful to have to drive both vehicles just to take both kayaks paddling. Yes, I’m aware of real nice hardware rack “systems” by Thule, Yakima, etc., but would like not to have to spend a lot on something to carry our new boats, especially after just having laid out the cash for two boats and two paddles.

I thought a good way to get answers, or at least information, would be to pose our questions to the paddling community.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this post, and for any input, suggestions, or advice you may have to share with us!

Spring has sprung. . .Good Paddling!

Straight, Plain Crossbars…

– Last Updated: May-02-10 10:04 PM EST –

..are all we use to carry two or occasionally three kayaks. We pad the bars with taped-on foam, then secure each kayak separately to the rack with fore and aft straps. We also use bow and stern lines, and will double up the bow lines and cross one set kitty-corner when traveling long distances at speed on the highway...drop me an email if you want a photo of our setup...

We drive a Suzuki Sidekick and a Saturn SL1 wagon - we have a Thule rack, with the appropriate fit kit for each vehicle. Got the rack used for $50, the kits are about $100 each, Check out the cost of the fit kits for the Lumina and the Venture- then do a Wanted - Used Thule Rack classified ad...

The third kayak??? - we just sort of nest it atop and between the other two - for short distances, at low speeds...;->^))

Good news:
They have foam-block kits for Kayaks! The bad news is that, like a canoe, you can only do one boat at a time with this method. You can get a universal (cheep) roof-rack from wherever and then use two foam-block set ups on the racks. I have recently purchased a set of J-racks for my car. I thought that they were pretty much a gimick until the first time that I used one. I’ll never do the foam block thing again.

What are they all about?

Side of vehicle?
What about a device that carries the boats on the side of the vehicle, like the rack you’d use to hang them on the wall of your garage or basement, or like the rack on the side of an outfitter or kayak rental place’s trailer? Or maybe there isn’t such a thing. It probably would be a hazard to your visibility, unless boats were kept toward back of vehicle. Heck, it might not even be street legal! Just thinkin’ out loud here – looking for ideas.

Cheapest way possible: buy used thule or yakima racks off of ebay or craigslist, buy the correct fitkit for your car, and use the foam pads. There’s really no getting around the fact that you’ll need solid, safe racks - and if you buy used (like I did), you can get them cheaper and resell them for what you paid if/when you no longer need them. The lumina would be the better kayak hauler in my opinion because it’s easier to lift the yaks onto a car than a van. J-racks hold your yak at an angle and work well - especially for glass or kevlar yaks. If you have plastic it’s not that big of a deal. They are also over $100. It’s more important to get a quality, safe rack system that will work for years and not endanger other drivers. Good luck

Look for a rack on Craigslist
You can often find Thule and Yakima load bars on Craigslist for $75. First find out the length of the load bars and the type of feet you need (for gutters or gutterless roof).

Then you need something on the load bars to protect and hold the kayaks, depending on their quality and how picky you are about the finish.

At the very least, cover the load bars with foam pipe insulation. Use two straps around the middle of the kayaks. Each kayak needs to be strapped front and rear as well. You can make that easier by making a Y device to first join the two kayaks at the bow (or stern); that way you will only have one strap running down.

Adding other contraptions to the load bars to hold your boats depends on how you prefer to put the kayaks up. Personally I prefer cradles, like the Thule Glide and Set. I find J cradles hard to load. But if you’re two people you might not have a problem.

If you have relatively inexpensive recreational kayaks just the load bars might be sufficient to start with.

They are shaped like a "J"
and bolt onto the crossbars of the roof racks that you are going to have to buy. MODERN versions of the "J"s from Thule or Yakima can clamp on just about ANY type of cross bar. the OLDER versions are brand-specific. They make loading and unloading kayaks way easier than strapping them on with foam blocks.

Van top
I had a Venture van. I had the factory installed racks put on by my dealer. They were cheaper than any after market I could find. I bought 2 sets of yakima j racks that would fit the factory rack. they worked fine for me and my wife. I bought a folding one step, step stool and used my legs to help lift the kayaks to the roof. I could then toss the tie down straps over the car and lash the yaks down. I found the J racks easier to load than the saddles that I have on my new car.

the Bo Duke approach
You might have trouble using the doors of the car if you made a rack that hangs kayaks on the vertical side of the car/van. I’ve seen that done on an RV, but they’ve got more real estate to deal with. On your Lumina you’d probably have to crawl in and out of the windows. :slight_smile:

Basically, the short answer is - no. There isn’t a way to carry the kayaks on the side of your car. I do agree that it would be really easy to load though. There are some racks that lower the boats to the side of the car for loading/unloading, and then slide back up on top for transport, but those get into some money.

With enough ground clearance, what
about UNDER the car?

shop eBay also
I found a thule fit kit, posts and crossbars for under $150. Including shipping.