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Best option to carrying option?

Racks to transport kayaks come in a variety of styles and choosing the right one can often be confusing when you don’t know where to even begin. The differentiating factors between the different styles of racks often boils down to the style of kayak being transported i.e.: Sea Kayak, Fishing Kayak, etc. As well as the orientation of the kayak during transport. When choosing the best rack to transport your kayaks, we always like to start with the style of kayak and go from there. But first let’s introduce you to the most common kayak rack styles if you are not familiar with them.

Kayak Rack Styles

The three main styles on the market are J-cradles that transport the kayak on its side to save space for other equipment on the roof. The next most common style would be Hull Style Saddles that transport the kayak laying flat. This style can be more stable during transport, however it takes up more crossbar space than the J-Cradles. The last common style of kayak racks is the Lift-Assist Kayak Rack. This style can come in many shapes and sizes. We’ve gone into more detail in a separate how-to article dedicated to discussing Lift-Assist Kayak Racks in detail and we recommend taking a look at that as well if the description of who this style is for sounds like you. Lift-Assist Kayak Racks are best suited for those who may be on the shorter side, or for folks with a rather tall vehicle. Individuals with back, shoulder, or arm injuries in the past would appreciate this style as well.

Which one is for you?

Now the question is…which one is for you? Here is our straightforward way to help you choose. We will start with the standard recreational kayaks and work our way up the ladder. For folks with pretty traditional looking kayaks in the 25 - 45 lb range that you may have purchased at your local outdoor box retailer then all styles will work just fine. If you would like to carry two or more kayaks we would recommend the J-Cradles as they allow for the most usable space on your vehicle's crossbar system. If you know it’s just going to be yourself majority of the time, and you often just meet up with your kayaking buddy in the parking lot. Hull-style Kayak Saddles can be a great option for you. We find this style to be a bit more stable during transport compared to J-Cradles as the weight of the boat is lower. This style also offers the ability to load the kayak from the rear of the vehicle as opposed to from the side, and sometimes features sliding/rolling assistance to make that rear loading process easier for the user. For kayakers with a very heavy kayak, or a sit-on top fishing kayak exceeding 50 lbs. We would most definitely recommend the hull-style saddles over J-Cradles, and if you have a boat 70 lbs and up we would point you in the direction of a fishing kayak specific saddle set such as the Yakima BigCatch for example, or a Lift-Assist Kayak Rack. For folks with any of the injuries previously mentioned, or any of the heavy kayaks previously mentioned, we will hands down recommend taking a look into the Lift-Assist Kayak Rack category. Many of these options take the stress of lifting the kayak off your shoulders, and can be a game changer for those who may feel like they’re getting pushed out of the sport due to the process of loading and unloading the kayak. One foot note we’d like to mention, these Lift-Assist Kayak Racks often require a certain crossbar style and can have compatibility issues with certain vehicle types. Instead of guessing on a Lift-Assist Kayak Rack that sure doesn’t come cheap, we invite you to reach out to our Rack Experts! We can be reached by email at, or by phone by dialing 1 (800) 272-5362. We have lots of knowledge on the subject and would be more than thrilled to assist you during the research process!

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