Stackers, J-cradles, or Saddles?

What is the best rack accessory to buy for hauling either two recreational kayaks or two touring kayaks?

Stackers seem to be the least expensive, but how well do they work with touring kayaks? Are crossbar pads needed?

The J-cradles work for both types of kayaks, but are pricier. Can you fold them down when they’re not in use?

I might be able to mount two sets of saddles, but this also costs more, and wouldn’t they require longer crossbars that would stick out too far from the sides of the van?

Any advice appreciated!


I get two kayaks on a Dodge Neon
and my cross bars don’t stick out. My rack can’t fit 2 wide SOTs in saddles (could with J craddles), but 2 mid to narrow width SINKs fit great. With the next size cross bars I could get 2 fat SOTs up there flat.

You have a Van!!! How much room do you need?

Thanks for your response.
Here is what I was thinking: Yakima recommends 48" crossbars for the van. I assumed two 28" wide rec boats (min. total 56") would be too wide. But I think what you’re saying is the edges of the kayaks can extend beyond the ends of the bars? That would make sense…so, yeah, you’re right, saddles would work without longer bars.

are you sure?
most any car is wider than 48". I use 58(?) in bars from Yakima on an Escape. Same for a Taurus…I carry 3 yaks at a time alot…

J cradles are nice
but beware short people like me need step ladders to get their kayaks on top of the van.

Cross bar length
You’re right, it doesn’t make sense. But when I go to Yakima’s on-line “Rack Configurator” and select the Low-rider towers to go on the existing factory rails of a 2001 Honda Odyssey, it spits out 48" crossbars. I haven’t measured the existing factory crossbars, but honestly they do look to be a little less than 48". Standing at the back of the vehicle, it looks like the van’s width decreases significantly by the time you get to the toop of the roof. I guess its just the way they styled it(?).

Thanks for the advanced warning…
…I fall into that short person category also!

J Cradles don’t fold
Leastways the Thule Hull a ports I got for Christmas don’t. Big problem I see with the J Cradles is the amount of rise they add to the height you’ve gotta lift the kayak to get em on or off…The Off may not be a problem but the back on after a full day of flat water paddling…That’s why I made up the folding step platform that stores in the bed of the ranger. Someone on this site mentioned (it’s in the archives)that the stackers needed padding.

I use J-cradles because I find they are the easiest to load a kayak into by myself. I am tall so this might not work for everyone, but I am loading onot a jeep so if you have a short car it could still work. I put the nose of the kayak up into the front cradle, let it bear the weight, and then pivot the rear up into the rear cradle.

Stackers I think would need some padding for frequent use or long travel.

Forget the rack configurator
measure your van at it’s widest point. Your bars can legally be that wide. Get em wider and cut em down if you need to.

Thule told me I could have one of the saddles outside of the clamp to the factory rails. Thule may not authorize this configuration for your vehicle at this time and yakima Yakima definitely will not. (I take no responsibility for your decisions and make no recommendation, just point out my experience.) I can haul my 29 inch rec boat, and a sea kayak on saddles on my VW Passat. Did take some getting used to the long bars though, (ouch). Tennis balls slit open and forced onto the endsof the bars provide cushioning and visual markers.

I like saddles or J cradles for my composite boats.

Kayak Mounts

– Last Updated: Jan-13-04 5:19 PM EST –

McYak hit on the key disadvantage of the J-mounts -- the added lift height -- a real issue if you're lifting a heavy plastic boat after a day of paddling. I drive a Subaru Outback wagon so I also have a slightly higher vehicle to contend with.

Also, I think the Thule J mounts have insufficient padding -- I've dented the hull of my Perception Acadia because it slides deep into the mount and rests on a chunk of hard plastic. I've padded the cradles with pipe insulation and it did lift the boat some.

I'm switching to Yakima Hully Rollers and saddles. I'll use a folding step ladder or milk crate stand on when I set the nose of the boat on the rollers. I'm not sure how many yaks (sets of rollers) you'll be able to get on the roof of your vehicle, but get the wider rails and watch your head getting in and out of the vehicle. I'm over 6 ft tall and I've smacked my noggin on those rails a few times. They're really hard!!

Good luck and let us know what you decide to do.

Folding J Cradles
The more that thought ran thru my mind the more I kept asking “Why Not?”.Ditto for some for of a quick release that would allow the cradle to roll forword (toword where the loader was standing)and lock in place once the kayak/cradle was back upright…For the time being I’ll probably only use the Js for extended drives or where I have to load one kayak flat and one upright. The folding aluminum stand has been a Godsend tho(like a large milkcrate with a sort of cheese grater surface-so I don’t slip slide while loading-and lockable folding footbraces…bout 4" high when set up)

Definitely stackers
If you need to load two (or more) rec kayaks stackers are the easiest and probably least expensive way to go. They fold down when not in use and you don’t have to lift as high as with J-bars. Cradles are nice and in combination with rollers make loading easier, but depending on your vehicle and the width of the boats you may run into problems.

One caveat: I assume they are plastic boats. If they are not contact the manufacturer onthe best way to carry them. I don’t have a fiberglass yak, but I’ve been considering one and have gotten a lot of conflicting advice on “cradles only” vs. the side being the structurally strongest part of the boat.

Malone Autoloader (J Cradle)
I have been using a Malone autoloader J-cradle on my yakima rack. I have found that it is much easier to load solo than my Yakima Landsharks. The effective reach height is lower. My Landshark saddles are about 4-5 inches at the highest point of the bar. The malones are 2-3. For me, that little bit does help. Bottomline, some J-cradles require less reach than standard flat cradles.

I would highly recommend the Malone J-cradle over any hull-down carrier.

Been there, done that!

I’ve got a Yakima rack, started out with a kayak stacker to carry my Perception Corona and my daughters Catalina. I’ve carried many different types and lengths of poly boats using the stacker and never had a problem, even when “slightly” overloading the carrying capacity of the rack. I did pad both the rack bar and stacker bars with foam pipe insulation because the rack bars would leave very slight dimples in the side of the kayaks on very hot days.

I decided not to use the stackers with my “new” composite kayak. No definite reason for doing so, it just didn’t feel right, so I bought a pair of Mako Saddles and Hully Rollers to carry the glass boat.

One final thought…If I had to do it all over again, I would seriously consider buying a trailer to haul my yaks.

re: crossbar width
I have 78" crossbars on my van (current model Mazda MPV). It makes loading boats much easier, as the ends of the bars hang over the sides of the van, so you can lift straight up, without the body/arm extension. The mirrors are wider than the bars so it is, as far as I know, legal. I put soft, black rubber crutch tips on the ends instead of the Yakima caps, in case some tall person get too close. I’m 5’11", and I just clear them. The extra width makes the racks more versatile. And longer crossbars can easily be shortened to the perfect length for you, with a pipe-cutter or hacksaw.

My wife likes that the van with it’s wide bars is recognizable in parking lots, as otherwise, silver minivans disappear in a sea of look-alike vehicles.

I have a stacker
I have gotten a bar a little wider than what is recommended. That way I just have to lift it up and put it on the ends of the bars. If the bars do not extend the full width of your car then you will have lift with your body leaning over the car. Not a good thing. I have heard of people putting pvc extendors that slide on the ends of the bar for easier mounting. Have not tried it but sounds great.

My stacker is mounted about 11 inches from the one end of the bar. With the stacker the boat is mounted on its side (the strongest way to store a plastic boat). Because of this configuration you can only use the stacker for plastic boats.

I can get two full size plastic sea kayaks. I then put my fiberglass boat on foam blocks on the oppisite end. I use the monting supports as tie off pionts.

Ensure you check all mounting bolts periodically. With three boats you are challenging the rack system.

I have traveled on a 12 hour trip this way.

Good luck and happy travels.


short people like you…
just need a tall friend like me!

Stackers are OK
for recreational kayaks, but when you tighten up the straps you can get some minor oil-canning on the boat against the upright. I’ve got an Odyssey with Yakima’s 48" crossbars, but could go 10" wider easily to fit more boats or different system (J cradles or saddles). One caveat, Honda’s official weight limit for the Odyssey’s factory rack with aftermarket rack attached is only 75lbs, so be careful how much stuff you put up there. I routinely carry a Loon 111 and Perception Monterey 14 with no problems or apparent damage to the factory rack.

j-racks–how easy to remove/install?
I was considering a j-rack for use on my minivan, but it would have to be taken off before going into garage. Are the Thule &/or Malone reasonable to install/remove for each use?