Which J bars are best

I am getting ready to purchase some folding J bars. The most common choices are the Thule 835 pros and the Yakima Bowdown. Any opinion of which is best for full size sea kayaks would be appreciated. Alternate suggestions will also be considered.

Why J-bars?
Just wondering if you have tried actually loading a sea kayak on J-bars - or saddles, rollers or stackers.

The reason I ask is that loading, especially if solo, can be a good bit easier or harder depending on the type of support and the specifics of the car. It is not correct that J-bars are always easier, something car salesmen tend to spout who don’t actually paddle themselves. I think they do generate more money for the dealership though.

We have a good little collection of rollers and saddles, which might someday have a use again but for the moment sit in the basement. We tried them out and eventually found that the older style stackers worked better for us. It is worth messing around with your boat and the various systems if you can find some willing paddling friends before investing your money.

Have you considered
Malone folding J racks?


I actually like these better than Yakima or Thule and at a lower price.

folding vs. non
A height challenged friend likes the folding ones better because she can get the strap on in the folded position.

I use yakima because they are quick and cradle my relatively fragile surfski well.

I’ve got a collection of saddles and rollers in my basement as well, ready to donate to someone who just likes to drive around with kayak racks on their car.

If you are going to carry several get stackers and just pad the bars.

PVC pipe tape over pipe insulation or foam blocks works well and doesn’t leave a residue on your boat as duct tape will as it ages.

Bowdown can open beer
Besides having a bottle opener one nice feature of the Bowdown is the front of the J’s acts as a slide which can help at times getting the hull onto the J’s, especially if you have a high roof or are using a extending bar to help you load.

The folding is also nice if you are short or have a high roof. I would really struggle getting the straps on the J otherwise.

Otherwise, I feel the Thule and Yakima are about the same. Malones are probably OK but they use a lot more plastic and I feel that Thule and Yakima already use too much as it is.

I have non-folding Malones
that are 10 years old, have been on my car the whole time, and they are tough as nails. Love ‘em. I also have a 15 year old set of Yakima plastic saddles - same story, been on the car the whole time, still work great.

Not sure about folders’ durability, but solid carriers are good and tough.

Why J bars
I also have the collection of saddles and rollers but I have a new car that has a low roof line and I plan to lift the boat right into the saddle. Also I have a relatively low garage and like the idea of a folding system. For the record I have never had a issue with my Thule saddles and load the boats by sliding from the rear or lifting with a helper.

Onto the J-bar…
is likely what you meant, yes?

Yeah, a lower roof makes the J-bars a bit easier to manage. The saddles we had were Ok for loading by the way, but they were a PITA for transport and we were happy to leave them behind when we wanted to start carrying more than two boats. We never had to tighten down our stackers during transport as much as we did the saddles.

J cradles
Malones–easier to install, easier to load, less wind resistance, lower cost.

As a ‘shorter person’ (5’2") it is hard
for me to get a boat on the ‘J’ loaders we have. Vehicle is a 2004 Ford Explorer.

We bought a set at a boat show and when we used them it took both hubby and I to put a boat on it.

Personal height is something to take into consideration prior to investing in any carrier.

BTW, we ended up purchasing two “Hullavators”.

They work fantastic for this ‘vertically challenged’ person.

Hubby has set up a way to install them, when needed, onto our kayak/canoe trailer.