Rack cradles for Upside-down Kayak

I like to keep my kayak cockpit-down on my vehicle. It’s obvious that the right way to carry the kayak is upside down, right? If you want to debate that, let’s not do it here—please start a new thread.

When solo, I would like to be able to slide the boat on from the rear of the vehicle. I have been unable to slide the boat on upside down with my current Thule saddles. What saddles work best for upside-down loading?

Padded bars, side load. Yakima makes stops that I use for canoes that are great for a flat decked kayak.

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Yup I gave up on using saddles about 10 years ago. I load from the rear bottom side down on the padded rack and flip it over. If I have two boats I usually have a friend to lift and flip coming from the side.

For long haul transport I compared using a padded rack and saddles and their was a significant improvement with just the padded rod. Also side wind effects were much better too. I now carry all kinds of water craft ( canoes, kayaks, surf kayaks, waveskis, SUPs), wallboard, plywood too. The padded bars are much more versatile.

Regarding saddles specifically, the Malone Sea Wings are wider and flatter than most. I’ve hauled kayaks in them upside down and they worked fine, though actual boat shape makes a difference.

You didn’t mention the type of kayak you have or the material it is made from. For me in the world of tough plastic kayaks and canoes all that is needed is flat cross bars. My bars are not long enough to haul 2 canoes or two kayaks side by side so I made wooden extension bars that clamp to the cross bars I have. The wood surface offers more than enough protection and a solid surface to flip the kayaks if needed and strap them down. Two cam straps around the belly of each boat and another two cam straps bow and stern and I’m good to go anywhere my little car will take me.

you ask a question then say no comments?

Anyway I can’t think of any rack that for 95% of kayaks that you can slide up on there decks with combings.


I’ve been loading my composite, CD Solstice from the side onto custom made blocks of closed cell foam. It works great once the boat is loaded, more secure than on Thule cradles. It’s just a tricky move to get the boat up there.

I’m going to try the Malone wings. I’ll definitely be able to roll the boat over in the wings. My uncertainty is how well I’ll be able to slide the boat up on the wings—hopefully it’s not too sticky.

The Thule Glide N Set consists of flattish felt pads in the rear and L-shaped rubber cradles in the front. I think the system I use would work for the kayak either rightside up or upside down. I bought two use sets of GlideNSet, cheap on Craigslist. I use the L-shaped front cradles for both front and rear. Reason: The kayak can slide off the flat pads because they pivot. I dropped kayaks in the driveway a couple of times like that. Important modification: I put socks over the L-shaped cradles so the kayak can slide easily over them. Works great. Holds the kayak securely while loading.

WB- seems like a good idea. I have two Thule slip and slides, so I could try it. I haven’t ordered the Malone wings yet.

With the Thule set up, issues with the flat, slider pads are that if you put them close together to catch the bow while sliding the kayak up, then once the boat is up the sliders end up in the middle of the kayak hull, where the hull has less strength. If you spread the sliders to where they underlie the chines of the loaded kayak, then you are sliding the bow up on the bar between the sliders. Using the L saddle in the back, I can position them close together to catch the bow while sliding up the boat. Those L saddles can be set so they are almost flat, and would extend across most of the boat.

For upside down carrying, I think the issue will be the same for rolling the boat over—deck rigging may hang up in the front L bracket. Nevertheless, I’m going to give it a shot. I won’t be loading a kayak for a week or two, but when I do I’m going to try it.

Thanks for the idea.

I found it hard to center the keel on the rear felt pads because of how they pivot. The kayak would slide down between the pads and go crooked. Using the fixed front L-shaped pads on the rear overcomes this problem to a certain extent. Also, I don’t know if you can see in the photo, but I wrap the bar with a thick towel held on with duct tape to make sure the keel isn’t contacting the bar. Maybe not a problem with rotomolded, but with thermoformed and fiberglass yes.

If the L pads are placed along the sides of the kayak they don’t need to be flattened. They should follow as closely as possible the shape of the side of the kayak. I run the straps directly over the pads to further tighten them to the kayak and prevent side-to-side movement.

You might be able to avoid a problem with the deck bungees if you lift the stern so it’s mostly the bow contacting the pads. If your bungees are recessed, as on the Delta, that might help also.

I tried the Malone wings and found that the angle didn’t resemble the shape of my kayak and I returned them. I don’t think they work well with a sharp keel, maybe better with a flat-bottomed kayak.

For me, the biggest advantages of carrying the kayak deck down would be avoiding rain in the cockpit and better aerodynamics. I sure hate to get out of the car in an unexpected rainstorm and try to put on the cockpit cover (not easy). Also, deck down protects the deck from UV damage. It does create a loading challenge but you can probably figure out a way to make it work.

You might want to consider closed cell pre-split foam pipe insulation. It costs only a few dollars for a 6’ length. Although the split edges are pre-glued, a few nylon tie-wraps will further reinforce it. It won’t absorb water like a towel will. Constant contact with water like from a wet towel , especially salt water, might corrode the crossbar.

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