Roof Rack Help!

Hello fellow paddlers!

I’m in need of some advice on a new roof rack system for my kayak. I currently have a crappy crossbar system with a J shaped kayak carrier. I’m looking for something that will be easier for me to slide my kayak on and off of because even with the J shaped carrier laying flat I have a hard time getting it up and onto the roof. My car is an SUV with side rails on the roof. If anyone has suggestions on the best cross bars/ and or rack system I’d really appreciate it!

Thanks in advance!

Albeit w/ a Yakima crossbar setup, the Yakima Boatloader EVO

was a game changer w/ regards to loading my 88 lb WS Tarpon 135T atop our Jeep Grand Cherokee by myself (w/ JayLow J-cradles)

We’ve used Yakima Lowriders on our vehicles that have roof rails for many years. Same set of Lowriders from our '01 Montero Sport to our current Highlander, with a LOT of miles on a Tahoe in between. They incorporate the now defunct round Yakima bars and can be found quite inexpensively on Ebay. Easy to take on and off, can be used with saddles, J cradles, or pads.
On an SUV, we found saddles loaded from the rear of the vehicle to be our preference. Putting terry cloth buffer pads on the saddles helps the boat slide and avoids scratching the gel coat. Lift the nose of the kayak into position, lift the stern and push.
I hope this helps.

Stackers or glide pads/rollers and saddles easier than Jbars for solo load. In fact just about everything is - it seems that there are legions of hearty young men out there who love to sell rack systems without having a clue about using the things.

So just about anything you go to that uses either of these will be easier. I prefer Yakima or Thule for assured robustness, but Malone also has fans. Any of these three is considered to be solid and reliable, something you need to care about when going down a highway with a projectile on hour roof.

Here’s a derivative of the commercial systems that I made with a tent pole, a ridge pole and a pool noodle!

Those bars aren’t defunct, they’re just out of style. Aero bars are cooler and have more profit opportunity for the manufacturer and retailer.

Some months ago we replaced our J cradles with the kind that have felt pads on back to slide the boat on. It works pretty well.

Correct. I just received a pair of “Classic” round bars ordered from REI.

I prefer the old style square Thule cross bars with Yakima saddles. It seems that no matter how much you tighten things on the round bars, they eventually will rotate when loading from the rear. Almost all older Yakima saddles and other products can be used on round or square bars. The Thule saddles had an angle adjustment that I hated. Again, no matter how often you tightened the angle adjustment, it would come loose and fall flat.

My Yakima Showboat 66 (rear roller system) has been a game changer for me. I am 5ft 6 and my kayak is 25kg. I can load it confidently on top of my tallish SUV myself, something I was unable to do easily with a side loader. The roller slides in and out telescopically and to a certain extent, from side to side, which is helpful if you need to load two boats.

Hi Kelisea!

Thanks for the advice. What type of crossbars and saddles/pads do you use with your rear roller system?


@SaltWaterBlood I have Rhino Vortex cross bars (aero style) and the cradle is a Rhino Nautic 580. The only thing I am going to change is swap out the rear saddles for a cradle/roller or angled pair of rollers (such as the Yakima Sweetroll). The saddles are very grippy which is good for the front pair but a little too much friction for the rear.

While I have not tried this myself, it looks like a very clever and low cost option.

Note that this company also makes a J style rack with a load assist option that is also very interesting, but fairly pricey.

Good luck.