Best Kayak J Hooks

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In the market for a new set of kayak j-hooks? In this blog post, we'll share with you our thoughts on the best kayak j-hooks currently available on the market.

Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, read on to find out which brands and models we recommend, including our top pick, the Thule Hull-a-Port Pro XT. We’ve also put together some information on what to look for. 

Top Picks:

11 Best Kayak J-Hook Racks

1: Thule Hull-a-Port Pro XT Kayak Rack (best overall)

  • Weight: 12 pounds 8 ounces
  • Number of kayaks: up to 2
  • Suitable for: most vehicle crossbars

The Thule Hull-a-Port Pro XT is a pro version of the regular Hull-a-Port rack. These durable dual-position J-hooks can be ideal for carrying one or two kayaks. The maximum carrying weight is 130 pounds, making this a good choice for heavier solo kayaks, such as fishing kayaks.

A great feature of these J-cradles is that they have a universal mounting system that’s designed to fit all types of crossbars up to 80 mm wide. This means it can work with a variety of vehicles.

The J-hooks are padded to help protect the hull of your kayak and there’s a built-in StrapCatch for convenience while loading.

The Hull-a-Port Pro XT comes with tie-down straps for the bow and stern, with buckle bumpers, so you can safely secure your kayak to your vehicle.

The J-cradles also fold down flat when not in use.

Pros

  • Ideal for a heavier kayak
  • Universal mount
  • Tie-down straps included
  • Folds flat

Cons

  • Not cheap

2: Yakima JayLow Kayak Carrier (runner-up)

  • Weight: 11 pounds
  • Number of kayaks: up to 2
  • Suitable for: cars and SUV crossbars

The Yakima JayLow is probably one of the best-known J-style kayak carriers. It’s designed to work with most vehicle crossbars and can be ideal for both standard cars, SUVs, and minivans.

It can carry up to two kayaks if the kayaks are relatively small and lightweight. But it can be better suited to carrying just one kayak with a maximum weight of 80 pounds.

It comes with heavy-duty straps, including bow and stern tie-down straps. It also features an integrated ramp to make loading your kayak a little easier. Additionally, there’s a convenient cam lever to let you adjust the position of the J-cradle.

These J-cradles fold down to reduce the overall height of your vehicle when not in use.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Straps included
  • Folds down flat
  • Great for small, lightweight kayaks

Cons

  • Not for long or heavy kayaks

3: Malone Auto Racks Foldaway-J Folding Kayak Carrier (best value)

  • Weight: 10 pounds
  • Number of kayaks: 1
  • Suitable for: most vehicle crossbars

This Malone Foldaway-J Kayak Carrier offers excellent value along with durability and a limited lifetime warranty that guarantees material performance and craftsmanship.

These J-style hooks are designed to carry one kayak and are compatible with a range of roof rack bars including factory bars. This rack also comes with two lengths of mounting bolts for easier installation on your particular crossbars.

The J-cradles are padded to protect your kayak from scratches and the cradles fold flat when you’re not using them. This carrier system also includes load straps and tie-down straps.

This carrier is only suitable for kayaks up to 75 pounds so it’s not the best option for heavy fishing kayaks.

Pros

  • Straps included
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Two lengths of installation bolts
  • Folds flat
  • Great value

Cons

  • Not for heavy kayaks

4: Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack 4 PCS (best for capacity)

  • Weight: 24.2 pounds
  • Number of kayaks: 2
  • Suitable for: square, factory, and aerodynamic crossbars

The folding kayak rack from Leader Accessories can be a great choice for heavier kayaks or two kayaks. The rack includes four J-cradles so you can carry two kayaks. Each set of two cradles can hold up to 150 pounds, so this can be a great option for hauling two fishing kayaks on your car.

It works with a range of vehicle crossbars but it is not compatible with round bars.

A good feature of this rack is that it can be used to haul other gear, including surfboards, paddleboards, canoes, and snowboards. So it can be a versatile rack if you like to do a lot of different outdoor sports.

It also comes with tie-down straps included. The padded cradles also fold down for convenience.

Pros

  • High load capacity
  • Includes four sets of J-hooks
  • Folds flat
  • Tie-down straps included

Cons

  • Doesn’t work with round crossbars

5: TMS J-Bar Kayak Rack (best budget)

  • Weight: 8 pounds
  • Number of kayaks: 1
  • Suitable for: most vehicle crossbars

The TMS J-Bar Kayak Rack is an affordable J-style kayak carrier that can be ideal if you’re looking for J-hooks on a budget. This can be a good option for recreational kayaks up to 36 inches wide and weighing no more than 75 pounds.

It has a universal mounting system so it’s designed to fit most crossbars. The J-hooks feature foam padding and a rubber base pad to give your kayak extra protection while being loaded and transported.

This rack is also designed to carry paddleboards and canoes as long as they fit within the maximum weight and width requirements. It comes with straps and mounting hardware.

Pros

  • Affordable J-hooks
  • Great for recreational kayaks
  • Universal mounting system
  • Can carry canoes and SUPs

Cons

  • Doesn’t fold flat

6:  Rhino Rack Folding J-Style Kayak Carrier

  • Weight: 14 pounds
  • Number of kayaks: 1 (2 with extension piece, sold separately)
  • Suitable for: most vehicle crossbars

This Rhino Rack Folding J-rack can be an excellent option to haul your kayak on your roof rack. It can also be used to haul canoes. It’s designed with a universal fitting system to fit various types of crossbars.

However, you may need to purchase additional mounting hardware to install the rack on your particular crossbars. It should fit most aero bars with the existing hardware.

This is a strong set of J-hooks that can carry a kayak weighing up to 99 pounds. There’s also the option of purchasing an extension piece (sold separately) to let you carry a second kayak using the same cradles.

The cradles are padded for protection and they also feature a paddle holder. The J-hooks can be folded down when not in use.

This rack includes tie-down straps.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Folding J-hooks
  • Extension available (not included)
  • Can also be used for canoes

Cons

  • May require additional hardware

7: Thule Hull-a-Port Aero Kayak Rack

  • Weight: 15 pounds
  • Number of kayaks: 1
  • Suitable for: Aero crossbars

The Thule Hull-a-Port Aero is designed to work with most Aero crossbars. It’s made to work specifically with the Thule WingBack T-track (sold separately) with built-in, tool-free mounting hardware for easy installation. You may need to purchase additional hardware for other types of crossbars.

These are durable J-cradles that benefit from rubber padding to keep your kayak protected from abrasions during travel. The design can also help to minimize noise while your vehicle is moving.

The cradles can be easily folded down when not in use by using the conveniently placed front release handle.

Another great feature of this rack is that it has an anti-theft design that secures the carrier to the crossbars and comes with locks included.

Pros

  • Noise-minimizing design
  • Aero bar compatible
  • Folding J-cradles
  • Theft-resistant design

Cons

  • May not work with all crossbars

8: Yakima BowDown Kayak Rack

  • Weight:
  • Number of kayaks: 1
  • Suitable for: most vehicle crossbars

This Yakima BowDown Kayak Rack features tool-free installation and can be installed on most types of crossbars, including factory and aero bars.

It’s a durable rack with a SteelCore construction of a steel tube frame for added strength.

It also benefits from having an integrated ramp system to make it more comfortable to load your boat. Another handy little feature is the built-in bottle opener, so you can open your beverage at the end of the day.

The BowDown can be a good choice for recreational and touring kayaks weighing up to 80 pounds. It could also be used for lighter fishing kayaks. The cradles fold down so you can leave them installed while not in use without them adding too much height to your vehicle.

Pros

  • Durable steel construction
  • Tool-free installation
  • Integrated bottle opener
  • Folds flat

Cons

  • Can be noisy while driving

9: Thule Compass 4-in-1 Kayak Rack

  • Weight: 20 pounds
  • Number of kayaks: 2
  • Suitable for: most vehicle crossbars

This Thule Compass 4-in-1 kayak rack can be a great choice if you’re looking for a versatile set of J-hooks. This kayak rack can carry both kayaks and SUPs, with space to carry up to two of each. However, you can’t carry a paddleboard and a kayak at the same time with this rack.

The rack has a generous capacity of up to 130 pounds, which can make it an ideal rack for carrying a fishing kayak.

It’s designed with a universal mounting system so it’s made to fit a range of vehicle crossbars with the benefit of having a no-tool installation.

This comes with two sets of load straps with buckle bumpers and bow and stern tie-down straps. 

Pros

  • Carries kayaks and SUPs
  • Protective rubber and foam padding
  • High load capacity
  • Universal fit

Cons

  • Expensive

10: BougeRV Kayak Roof Rack J-Cradle

  • Weight: 16.4 pounds
  • Number of kayaks: 2
  • Suitable for: most vehicle crossbars

This BougeRV J-cradle rack is designed to carry up to two kayaks with a maximum weight capacity of 150 pounds. This can make it a good choice for a single heavy fishing kayak or two recreational kayaks.

The sturdy J-cradles feature a rubber base and padded uprights to help protect your kayak during loading and traveling. The cradles also feature paddle holders.

A handy feature of this rack is the sliding base. This means you can adjust the width of the base to accommodate different sizes of kayaks. It can also be folded flat and used to carry a very wide kayak or a paddleboard.

Four tie-down straps are included.

Pros

  • Ideal for heavy and wide kayaks
  • Folds flat
  • Sliding base
  • Paddle holders

Cons

  • Straps are not the best

11: Malone Auto Racks Downloader Kayak Carrier

  • Weight: 12.2 pounds
  • Number of kayaks: 1
  • Suitable for: most vehicle crossbars

The Malone Downloader can be a good choice for carrying recreational or touring kayaks. It has a load capacity of 75 pounds so it might not be the best J-rack for heavy fishing kayaks.

A good feature of the Downloader is that it’s compatible with the Malone Telos XL Load Assist Module (sold separately) which can make it even easier to load your kayak onto the rack.

This is a durable set of folding J-cradles that feature corrosion-resistant aluminum construction for strength while reducing overall weight.

The foam padding on the J-cradles has replaceable acrylic fabric sleeves. The rack also comes with two lengths of bolts for easy installation and a universal fitting system.

Pros

  • Folding J-cradles
  • Corrosion-resistant construction
  • Compatible with Telos XL Load Assist (not included)
  • Two lengths of mounting bolts

Cons

  • Not for very heavy kayaks

Are J-Hooks Universal To All Cars?

The short answer: No.

J-hooks are not universal to all cars, as it will depend on the type of roof rack you have already installed on top of your vehicle. 

Some J-style carriers will have a universal mounting system, which is designed to fit most types of crossbars. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it will fit all crossbars. Some products may also require you to purchase additional mounting hardware to fit your particular crossbars.

There are various types of crossbars, including aerodynamic, square, and round, so it can be important to know which type you have before you choose your J-hooks.

Remember, these J-hooks require crossbars on your vehicle. Unless your vehicle comes with factory crossbars installed, then you’ll likely need to purchase a set of crossbars that are suitable for your car.

The length and width of your roof will decide which roof rack and crossbars will fit your vehicle. You may also need to consider the mounting options and whether or not your vehicle has side rails installed.

If you have a tall car, such as an SUV, you may want to consider J-hooks that fold down so that you can still drive into your garage when the cradles are not in use.

How Do You Load Kayaks Onto A J-Rack?

Step 1: Lift your kayak

You may need help from another person to lift your kayak onto the J-rack, particularly if you have a tall vehicle.

Start with your kayak sitting alongside your vehicle so that it’s close to and parallel with your vehicle. Lift the kayak up on its side so that the seat or cockpit is facing you and the bottom of the hull is facing the side of your vehicle.

Alternatively, you could use a kayak loader.

Step 2: Position your kayak

Lift your kayak onto the J-cradles so that the center of the hull is positioned midway between each cradle for balance. The bottom or back of the hull should be positioned flat against the back of the J-cradle.

Video: How to PROPERLY Load Kayak onto J-Cradles

Step 3: Secure your kayak

Once your kayak is safely in the J-rack, it’s time to strap it in and tie it down. Using your cam straps, tie down the kayak to the J-cradle by looping the cam strap through the top of the J-hook. Do this for each J-hook.

Each strap should go across your kayak so that you can reach it on the other side of your vehicle. Now that the straps are on the other side, secure the straps to your crossbars by cinching the cam strap so that it’s tight. This should be done for each strap.

Tie the ends of the straps so that they’re not loose.

You can then further secure the kayak to your vehicle by using bow and stern tie-downs on the front and back of your vehicle.

Do I Need A Load-Assist Rack?

One of the downsides to using a J-style kayak carrier is that it can be difficult to load your kayak if you’re by yourself. Heavy kayaks can make it even more difficult to load them safely.

If you think you might struggle with lifting your kayak onto your roof then a load-assist rack can be beneficial.

Load or lift assist racks can be particularly useful for taller vehicles, such as SUVs and minivans, as they can allow you to lift the kayak to a lower, more comfortable height. Some can also let you secure your kayak to the rack more conveniently at the side of your vehicle instead of on top of your roof.

There are different types of load assists, with some, such as the Thule Hullavator Pro, offering to do the heavy lifting with gas-assisted struts that can take the weight of your kayak as it’s loaded onto your roof.

The Yakima Showdown rack can also be a good load-assist option for SUVs.

How Should You Secure Your Kayak To The J-Rack?

Your kayak should be secured using cam straps, or buckle straps. The straps should be looped through the upright end of your J-cradle, with both ends of the straps over the top of your kayak so that you can reach them from the other side.

The buckle end should be shorter than the non-buckle end so that you don’t scratch your car with it when you throw it over the kayak.

The straps should be flat against your kayak, not twisted. Grab the longer (non-buckle) end of the strap and loop it underneath the crossbar. Then bring that same end up to meet the buckle, thread it through the buckle and pull it tight to secure.

This should be done for each J-cradle.

For added security and prevention against theft, you might want to consider locking your kayak to the roof rack. This can be done using a cable lock through a point on your kayak and securing it to the crossbars and J-hooks. 

Can J-Racks Be Used For Other Things?

Some J-racks are designed to be used for other items, such as paddleboards, surfboards, and canoes. But many J-hooks will tend to be designed to hold kayaks only. This can be due to the position or shape of the J-cradle, which may not be suitable for other items.

If you’re looking for a J-rack that can be used for other things it can be best to check the specifications of the particular model of J-hooks you’re interested in.

Folding J-hooks can be useful if you plan to load a kayak or SUP onto your car frequently, as it means you can fold them flat on your roof when they’re not in use and don’t have to take them off to reinstall them for each trip.

Non-folding J-hooks may be ideal for you if you plan to remove them each time to free up your roof rack for other gear such as a roof box or cargo box. You may find with most J-cradles, you can still use the free space on the other side of your roof rack to store other gear.


Rack Up! (Conclusion)

We think the best kayak J-hook rack is the Thule Hull-a-Port Pro XT because it’s strong, durable, and can be great for carrying two kayaks or a single heavy fishing kayak. It also conveniently folds down against your roof rack for clearance.

A good runner-up is the Yakima Jaylow with its up to 80-pound capacity and integrated load ramp for easier loading. This one also folds down so it can be a good choice if you want to keep it on your roof rack even when it’s not needed.

Not all of these J-hooks will be compatible with all roof racks, crossbars, and vehicles, so remember to check in advance the types of fittings you require for your specific crossbars or vehicle. Keep in mind the weight capacity of the rack and make sure it will be suitable for your particular kayak before you choose.

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