Newbie transporting help

Hi there!
I just purchased two lifetime 10’ sit inside kayaks and I’m having a hell of a time transporting them. I could use some advice.

Our current set up is 4 J racks on top of our factory roof rack on a Dodge Durango (375lb load capacity). We strap them in on the J’s with the cockpits facing out away from each other and use a cam strap on each j hook and a stern line. I will be adding a bow line with hood hooks next time we transport.

Last week on our way home from a quick lake trip, going about 45mph someone informed us we were “bending” at the front of our kayaks. Sure enough when we pulled over the front of one kayak was trying to bend. Is this because I cranked the cam straps too tight in the middle? Would a bow line eliminate this issue?

Also the wind sounds through the cockpit are super sketchy when trying to travel at any speed higher than 40mph. It sounds like they’re going to launch right off the roof.

We want to take longer trips to some more scenic lakes and rivers but have to travel on a highway in AZ where the speed limit is 75 but locals do 80-90 :crazy_face: I am nervous to transport them at high speeds if they already try to bend at 45!

Our roof racks aren’t long enough to lay them both flat. Can you extend already existing roof racks?

I’ve watched one million you tube videos on how to properly tie them down but, it feels so sketchy transporting with the J racks. Ideally I’d like to extend our existing roof racks so we can lay them flat with the cockpit facing down.

Any other suggestions welcome!


What is the distance between your crossbars?

It is definitely possible that you overtightened the cam strap and caused the bend. By chance did you take a photo? Overtightening doesn’t really do anything wrong for the transporting (won’t make it more likely to fall off rack), but will damage the boat itself.

Just to be clear, you are using ones with toothed, spring-loaded cams, not ratchet straps? Very easy to overtighten if you have ratchet straps.

Optimal would be 2 straps around each kayak, and both bow and stern lines. If I was to take away just one, I would drop the stern line (but still use bow line). If I was only to use 2 attachments, I would use 2 straps around boats (so no bow and stern). I do sometimes use the 2 strap-only method for short trips when I won’t be going at highway speeds.

The sound you may be hearing might not be cockpit airflow, but might be strap vibration. A strap that is flat with the wind will often start vibrating in the wind. The way around that is to add a twist or two to the sections of strap that may be exposed to open wind (so the sections not flat against the kayak).

Just over 2 feet.

I unfortunately did not take a picture. We were notified of the slight bend by a driver on the road and immediately pulled over and tied the two kayaks together with extra rope we had and slowly drove home. The kayak was not damaged because we caught it early.

Yes, we are using cam straps with teeth and not ratchet straps. My husband initially bought ratchet straps and I watched a ton of YouTube tutorials and told him we could not use those lol. We use one strap for each j hook so 2 straps for each kayak and then we had a stern line because our Durango is dumb and has literally nowhere to tie down in the front. Even a hood loop is going to be tough as there aren’t any reliable places to attach a loop inter the hood.

The sound we hear is a deep whooshing sound and I swear it’s wind in the cockpit. But it’s strange because it only happens on our way home from the lake, not driving to it?

Look into getting replacement mounts & crossbars that are 70 inches or longer. Then you can carry hull up, flat on the crossbars. I prefer Yakima round bars that are 78" long padded with pool noodles

Some of the noise may be coming from your straps the wind can set up a vibration.
I would put a twist in straps exposed to full wind to reduce the vibration… Really it works.
Many new SUVs have short rails that really don’t give you room to space out the straps…
Don’t worry we will make this work… :sunglasses:

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FWIW, the Lifetime kayaks I have seen have had relatively thin construction. This combined with the current summer heat, especially in the hot summer sun (particularly if you are in the desert like your name suggests!) can lead to bending/warping of kayak hulls sitting on top of cars. Tight straps and end ropes add to the problem. Don’t leave this type of kayak on the car any longer than necessary and loosen the straps if you are going to be parked in the sun for more than a short spell.

I would avoid the Yakima round cross bars and go with either Thule extended square bars or Yakima or Thule extended aerodynamic bars. With the Yakima round bars, no matter how much you tighten them down, if you use saddles they have a tendency to roll if you load from the rear. I prefer saddles as being the most secure, but you can get away with the foam blocks that they make for carrying kayaks or even closed cell foam split pipe insulation or pool noodles on the cross bars. Tennis balls over the ends of the extended crossbars are a good idea if someone might walk into them.

Wide rec boats have a lot of wind resistance if carried on J-bars, especially with open cockpits and from crosswinds. It’s much better to carry them flat. Carrying them upside down reduces wind resistance even more, and will prevent the hull on a plastic boat from oil canning in hot weather or if strapped down to tightly. Always use bow and stern lines, and if carrying two boats cross them right to left. When traveling long distances we double all of the straps and tie downs for safety. Cockpit covers are really not necessary if carrying the boat upside down, but if you use then be sure to secure them with the included clip. They tend to go walkabout at highway speeds.

Check out the links in Kayak Racks and Loading for more information.


Strap noise is louder than you think.

I really do not understand why you can’t use hood loops. Mine are two sections of rope, one on each side, run around a part of the metal underneath the hood surrounding the engine compartment. I run them out under the hood with a secure knot in each. You don’t need someone’s manufactured thing.

If l understand correctly the front if the boat was bending just from the wind, not being pulled by a bow line? You can either pay thru the nose for secure cockpit covers to reduce wind, or try to carry them flatter.

Personally l would say stacker bars are a better idea than the damned Js. You could secure the boats more closely to each other plus to the rack.

What Rstevens said: your factory bars are not sufficient for carrying wide short kayaks safely. Invest in an aftermarket rack system (I prefer Thule as square bars hold attachments more solidly than the round Yakimas) with the longest crossbars you can get. I had 58" ones on my Volvo wagons, Santa Fe and Outback when I was carrying wider boats (but have shorter ones on my current car due to now having narrower kayaks and canoe).

And, as Rstevens says, carry them upside down and flat. This is especially crucial in your hot climate.

I have j-racks but ONLY use them for short trips carrying my soft bodied folding kayaks when they are set up. Those boats are longer and narrower than yours and weigh less than 30 pounds each. But I would never carry a kayak with j-racks at sustained highway speeds. Celia’s suggestion of a stacker ( a rigid upright bracket that goes in the middle of the rack between two boats) might be the cheapest option for now. It enables fastening boats side by side and even at an angle with more stability.

You have to forward to the 4:00 minute mark to get to the kayak mounting demo, but this shows how the Thule 830 stacker works with boats on their side. The side of the kayaks is less vulnerable to deformation from heat than the hull, too.

You only need one set of two stackers for two boats. So if you sell the two pairs of J-racks and you should be able to get the stackers. I actually got a set of unused stackers in the original box a few years ago on local Craiglist for $30. Most of my Thule rack components over the years have been used – people sell them all the time when they buy new cars and switch models.

Thanks for your feedback! We have a lot of plastic under our hood and in front of the car so we hadn’t attached a bow line only a stern. I will find a way to get one on there for our next haul. The kayak was bending from the pressure of the cam strap in the middle of the kayak and mild wind. The heat probably played a roll too.

We thought about doing the stackers but, the J bars were in stock so we bought those. Now I just want to lay them flat but, finding long enough cross bars To replace ours is proving to be pricey. :sweat_smile:

I didn’t even think about our high heat contributing to the problem but, that makes perfect sense! Thanks for your insight.

Good to hear back from you.
Somewhere under your hood there has to be a metal framework. Doesn’t have to be a part of the structural frame to be good enuff to hold for bow lines. My best points are actually well out to each side, over the outer edge of each headlight.

One thing, cross the bow lines to the other side of the car. So there is an “X” in front of you. I drive that way all the time, not an issue.

I just got enough coffee in to realize that you are talking about Js mounted on your factory cross bars. A lot of the folks on this thread have been using third party racks for so long that we forget the issues of dealing with car manufacturer stuff.

Hence… finding stackers to mount on your factory bars may be a challenge. Would that l had a dime for every nonpaddling car salesman or young sports store salesperson who sent people out of a car dealership with the J racks. They are often useless for rec boats or for smaller people/women trying to load solo.

One thing you may be able to do for now is to move the J’s closer together so that the boats are touching each other. Then you can add a strap around both. Will need a taller stepstool to give you more reach over the hood and that probably not charming on a hot day in the desert. But it would solve some of the securitization issue.

Check again under and behind the front bumper. Most cars have hooks or eyes for towing the vehicle. If using these, do not use open hooks to secure the bow lines. Use heavy duty carbiners or snap hooks. You don’t want a line coming loose and getting caught in a tire. Sleeve the line with vinyl or latex tubing to protect the grill and front of the hood.

Also check under the hood again. You undoubtedly have some non-critical bolts along the front sides of the engine compartment . You can use these to attach a hood loop. Just take a short piece of webbing strap and pierce the ends to form a loop and put the bolt through it. If you want to get fancy use a brass grommet. Or you can buy them rather cheaply here. Another option is here that requires no effort and can be removed when not needed.

For almost any add-on rack system not using both bow and stern tie downs voids the warranty. It can also endanger others in the event of an accident or rack system failure. In an accident the rack will almost always fail and come loose before the nylon straps holding the boat will break.

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I don’t know much about the Durango factory rack, so an aftermarket system may indeed be the best option. I know the OEM rack for my Outlander is all made by Thule and bolts directly to the roof. You might take a look at the ‘wing’ style of carriers, as the single-point mounting allows you to put them further ‘out’ on the bar. These are offered by Kayak Wing, Malone, Swagman, and probably others. Your boats are much wider than mine so you may want to try them on for size before dropping the coin. The Kayak Wing appears to have the better mounting system but I’ve not personally tried them. If I decide this style is the way forward for me I may invest in a set.

I recently picked up a set of the Swagman Exo Aero wing mounts because I scored a crazy-good deal. After 20+ years of hauling kayaks in many different configurations I thought I’d give this style a try, even though I was a bit skeptical. This style was attractive to me because I wanted to able to haul my side-opening Thule roof box at the same time. Yesterday was the first time I tried them and I’m favorably impressed thus far. They are much heavier-duty than they appear in pics, an while they seem to have some movement when you set the kayak on them, once everything is strapped and tied down they’re pretty solid. Having it sit further out made it easier to load the boat from the side, and to route the straps. Another benefit to having the boat further to the outside is that I could tilt my side mirror all the way up and watch the boat while driving (nice if you don’t have a sunroof).

The jury is still out on these as I’m a new user. I won’t say they’re great until I get a few thousand miles with them, but they may be worth looking at for you. I’ve only transported the boat about 75 miles so far with a maximum speed of 70 mph so my personal experience is limited at this point. I mounted them very far out for the initial run and all was well. I prefer to run the straps directly to the bar when possible, but as I mentioned, the wings are stronger than I expected.

Additional note: The hull of the boat can make a difference in which carrier type you prefer. You may be able to haul your boats upside down which some folks prefer, but it’s not an option with this particular boat because of the hull shape and rocker.


Ratchet straps ruin more boats than rapids. I like to use rope because it never fails. Rafting straps work okay if you secure the free end. Best to double them up. Use newer ones. Bow and stern lines to the bumpers are important, especially with longer boats. The photo above of the green kayak is the right way to transport a boat.

Thank you! I would ideally like to carry them this way. We have 2 ten footers. I snapped a few pictures before our last trip with the J’s. We were still unsuccessful finding anything to strap them on the front bumper. We used the metal hinge on the hood and had no bending issues.

Thank you! Took your advice and put the J’s closer together and added the bow line connected to the hood. We had no bending issues on our last trip this way but man I was still nervous haha! I really want to lay them flat but still haven’t found the right cross bars for our vehicle yet. It would be awesome if they had extenders that attached to the existing criss bars.

Many manufactures have extended bars, some up to 79". Thule has many in stock, especially the classic, and much less expensive, older style crossbars .