Saddles, Cradles, Stackers???

-- Last Updated: Jun-11-14 7:00 AM EST --

I'm still working to get my Prius set to haul 2 kayaks. I can fit 1 inside if it is just me, with about 2' hanging out the back.

I just bought a set of Yakima Q-Towers, 58" bars, locks and an SUP rack for $100 off Craigslist. It's like new! What a deal.

Now I need to decide what style accessory to buy to transport 2 kayaks on top. I'm 6'1" so I can reach the roof of the Prius easily. My kayaks each weigh 49lbs. They are Kestrel 120 Rotomolds.

It seems the stackers can be a pain to keep in position while strapping down. The J-Cradles seem the most natural position to set the kayaks down.

Any advice here? There are so many different models of these and I've read a bunch of the reviews.

Our stackers stay put OK
We run the straps thru the stackers before putting up the boats, going to have to do that anyway with boats that wide, and the stackers don’t wander around really. I might have to reach up and make one more vertical if a boat has gone up to with a lot of sliding is all.

We tried saddles when we got the long boats. But we went back to the stackers because we found them to be more flexible and frankly less fuss in terms of strapping around and checking over a long drive.

Stackers work well but make sure your parked on a level surface especially with round bars. I’ve taken off a side mirror with a kayak guillotine before. Glad it wasn’t my foot in the kayak drop zone.

If you go the J-Cradle system get the folding ones like the Thule Hull-a-Port PRO so you can fold the cradles flat when not carrying kayaks. This way your Prius doesn’t have moose antlers when kayak-less. Perhaps not as much of a problem in CT than say N.ME. A Prius masquerading as a moose might look interesting to large wildlife.

Ok, back to paperwork for me.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Flat Land
Here in Florida there aren’t a lot of hills so it shouldn’t be too bad. I’ll see if I can find a good stacker unit. I also need to find the proper Q clips for my car and sell the ones these racks came with.

Just never had the problem you described, IMO they’re easier to load than j cradles. They weigh much less and tighten up once you tie a boat down.

Congrats for seeking (and finding) a used quality rack at a great price, it shows other peope they don’t have to pay thru the nose or settle for foam blocks on their car roof.

For my take:
Saddles are the best. J cradles second and stackers last.

If they are plastic boats, then J cradles first and saddles second.

Jack L

Like most questions like this it seems there is no definitive answer. Some suggest stackers first and saddles last, some the opposite. On price alone, the stackers make the most sense. I believe the Malone Stax comes with contoured foam pads for the bars which is appealing.

Lowest cost
As a DIY-lowest cost project that imitates a stacker;

a trip to Home Desperate for some threaded black iron pipe, a tee for the top and a flange for the bottom. Attach the flange at the bottom and a pair of u-bolts through the bolt holes on the flange which will attach to the bar.

Being that the appearance will be a bit rough some pipe insulation or other camouflage can be added. If anyone asks, call the style ferrous steampunk, or modern mad-maximillian, or coat the contraption with duct tape and get thumbs up from any SCA-ers that see you on the road

Also careful about pivoting it downward as a chunk of iron pipe will not work synergistically with your cars paint job.

I think it’s time to go paddle.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY


That would be the cheap way out! I’ll keep an eye on Craigslist and Ebay. Still not sure whether to go stacker, J-cradle or saddles though. Seems to be no clear winner.

on round bars
anything you mount will be challenging to keep from rotating. IMO a set of stackers presents greater capacity.

Think about this…
the stackers allow you to hold the boat more vertically, and could allow you room for three boats up there. They offer very little surface area touching your boat hull and may allow the plastic to indent in the nice warm Florida sun.

The J cradles support your boat on the edge, but with more contact area. Saddles mean your boats will travel horizontally, and take up the most room, but with 58" bars I doubt that’s a problem.

I’d go with saddles or cradles simply to better minimize the potential for dents.

We’ve had no significant problem with round bars. Just keep things tightened up!



Expanding on TJ’s note
Marco Kayak Saddles - big broad felt lines for slide 'em up loading. Made in FL. Aero Bar model clamps on most crossbars up to 3.5" wide. As size does matter - for spreading g the load the 12"x20" cradle is especially gentle provided you don’t go ape on strap tension. Taut is good, crushing force is bad.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

again - never had that experience

– Last Updated: Jun-12-14 12:31 PM EST –

I know that was conjecture But I had both Thule stackers, and j cradles before the stackers. The cradles left indentations just as the stackers did. With each setup, I ended up fitting the cradles (or stacker upright and rack crossbar) with foam blocks. Again, without the foam they both caused indentations.

Since I only need room for 1 or 2 now, I got rid of both and just use a rack with foam blocks profiled to fit the kayak deck.

Sure be glad ah’s a canooist. None o’ all dat high-fellootin’ stuff needed.


psst…here’s a secret
(kayakers really don’t need it either. Just ask anyone who ships kayaks)

Saddles, Cradles, Stackers???
We use two J cradles and throw two kayaks into the car (Chrysler Town & Country). However for our summer trip traveling Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine we were considering the stackers to carry all four. Searching Craigslist I found a 11X6 flat utility trailer for $200.00… Invested $50.00 in new lumber to re-deck it because it was used to haul lawn tractors. Problem solved!

I have used all 3 and for me, saddles
are the best.Definitely the easiest to load and unload.


– Last Updated: Jun-13-14 7:25 AM EST –

I used foam blocks on the bars when my daughter was paddling a kayak - worked fine. But if the option is cradle, stacker or saddle, I recommend stacker. Then you can bring your canoe friends along.

you might even have been able to squeeze a bicycle onto one of the sides.

You missed one
V-bars are hands-down the easiest to load and unload, under 5 minutes for one boat. I had saddles and absolutely could not deal with how long it took to get everything loaded and secured to my liking. Plus you can get two 24" wide boats loaded deck-up on a small car with a couple of inches between them. The downside is size, and to a lesser extent, weight. Depending on the design of the crossbars, they can be fiddly to remove from the car between trips too.