Roof Racks - J-style or Hull-down Cradles?

Jurfie

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Hey all, looking for some advice.

I'm picking up a new roof rack later this week for my soon-to-be-shipped new kayak and am trying to decide between a J-style and hull-down cradle. I'm going with a Rhino Rack Vortex rack (it is the only brand that makes a roof rack for my car), and I plan to stick with their cradle for the convenience of buying everything together. My car's roof is low and I'm 6'-6", so loading and unloading will not be an issue.

J-style: https://www.rhinorack.com/en-ca/pro...k-carriers/folding-j-style-kayak-carrier_s512

Hull-down: https://www.rhinorack.com/en-ca/pro...ers/nautic-580-kayak-carrier-side-loading_580

I initially chose the hull-down style when I placed my order, but now I'm second-guessing my decision (as I often do) and wondering if a J-style might be better. I'd love to hear your thoughts: which do you prefer and why?

Thanks! :cool:
 

CPS

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I usually use a similar style to the hull down one you listed. I usually paddle solo and it makes loading easy for me. But my car's roof is about in line with my collar bone. For taller vehicles it probably doesn't work.

I really only like J cradles for transporting multiple kayaks.
 

a_c

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Dec 23, 2014
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Well I just went through something similar; it was an expensive lesson.....

I was outfitting my brand new vehicle last year, and I thought J racks would be the way to go (mostly for space). I realized very shortly after that it was a real chore to load that style when you're on your own (and I'm tall). With the boat on edge you need to get it up just that extra bit higher, not an issue with two people, but these days I'm mostly loading solo, so it really didn't work very well. My car is a Subaru Forester, not super tall but tall-ish, and that didn't make it any easier.

So after that debacle (two brand new Thule Js, with locks @370 apiece tax in, sold them for 200 each) I went with a Thule hull down version for a short time. It was better, and I much prefer the way a boat sits on the four 'cradles' vs on its side. It still didn't really improve my handling and loading to a great degree, so at the end of the day I did what most of us end up doing.....

....and bit the biscuit, bought a Hullavator, and paddled happily ever after.

The End.

Moral of the story: I should have bought a Hullavator years ago. Best purchase ever. Buy one - you'll never regret it.
 

AM

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I’ve gotten by for 25 years with good old foam blocks, so I’m not really convinced of the need for any add-ones like cradles. However, I’ve had the opportunity to try both systems you are considering and I prefer hull-down, as it keeps your profile low, which is helpful in cross-winds and on ferries.

The only value I see to the J-cradle is if you have short bars and want to carry 2 boats or a cargo box. But most bars will carry 2 boats hull-down with no problem. Of course, carrying 3 boats is something that many want to do, but they are likely exceeding their rack’s published weight limits in doing so.

Cheers,
Andrew
 

Jurfie

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Great feedback as usual folks, thanks so much! I think I’ll stick with the hull-down cradles I initially selected.

@a_c as much as I think a Hullavator would be handy, my pocketbook already took a beating with a new kayak, 2 paddles, all the ancillary gear and the rack; it’s been a long time coming to finally get my own boat, I think I‘ll let it recover a bit before considering one! :laugh:
 
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Jurfie

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Well don’t leave us hanging — what’s the boat and where are the photos?!;)
A Sterling Grand Illusion in Carbon/Kevlar layup. It is the only boat that I’ve tried that I can sit in butt first and then bring in my legs (that doesn’t paddle like a barge). I had it built to my specs, which included moving the foot braces forward an inch to accommodate my longer legs.

No completed pics yet as it’s not yet done, but it’s close to being ready to ship!

5B6F0E5D-2E80-4CE5-95C1-8383367C6096.jpeg
 

AM

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A Sterling Grand Illusion in Carbon/Kevlar layup. It is the only boat that I’ve tried that I can sit in butt first and then bring in my legs (that doesn’t paddle like a barge). I had it built to my specs, which included moving the foot braces forward an inch to accommodate my longer legs.

No completed pics yet as it’s not yet done, but it’s close to being ready to ship!

View attachment 12552
:D:D Yowza!!
 

Tongo-Rad

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Feb 14, 2019
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Victoria
For hull-down racks, ones that have rollers on the rear rack can definitely make loading/unloading even easier if you're on you're on, especially with the aid of a simple door carpet mat to slide the kayak up and down over the roof/back window corner. There are a few types on the market, like the Yakima SweetRoll pictured here:

sweetroll.jpg
 

CPS

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I've used both and actually find the side loading style easier with short vehicles. But those rollers work great. I especially like the addition of a piece of carpet (I like bathroom mats).
 

cougarmeat

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Sep 17, 2012
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Bend OR USA
I have side-by-side cradles for a two-boat carry. But once in a while, it's nice to accommodate three. I had gone with two J's, I could probably fit a third boat between them.
 

Tangler

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Nanaimo, BC
I have the Rhino rack setup but with the sliding pads at the back (they suck).
If you are planning on using the side loaders as demonstrated in the catalogue you may wish to consider treating the rubber in some way so that they don't degrade in the sun and end up leaving black streaks on the hull of your pretty boat...
 

Jurfie

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SGIs, BC
I have the Rhino rack setup but with the sliding pads at the back (they suck).
If you are planning on using the side loaders as demonstrated in the catalogue you may wish to consider treating the rubber in some way so that they don't degrade in the sun and end up leaving black streaks on the hull of your pretty boat...
Good to know; what would you recommend - 303 Protectant?

BTW, I ended up with the side loading hull down cradles, and so far I’m pleased. The rack is rock solid and the included cinch straps hold tight. The bow and stern straps are way longer than I need; I’ll probably cut them shorter once I figure out the ideal length.

But hoo-mang, it whistles like a sunovagun with the boat up there! With and without the bow and stern lines, and with a twist in the straps. I still have to add the little rubber insert strips into the empty part of the T-slot, but I don’t think that’s the issue. I just turn up the music…:whistling::cool:
 

Tangler

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I have used 303 but I didn't start until the rubber had already degraded so it is not that effective.
It will probably work better if you use it from the get-go to prevent degradation in the first place.
 
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