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Help with lifting a kayak onto a J rack


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With risk in asking a question that may have been discussed previously, I need some advise on how to lift a 17ft sea kayak onto my car roof by myself. The weather will be very nice tomorrow, and I would like to try a little paddling session nearby. If I could only lift my kayak... I had a very difficult time last week (on another great day), just to fail at lifting the kayak onto my car's J rack. That was the end of my trip before it even started. What do you guys/gals do - any tips and tricks are welcome. Just for information, my car is a Subaru Outback.

Thank you,




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I would go one further.... Skip the J's and if you are using either Thule/squares or Yakima bars (they are both stronger than the Subaru cross bars), then simply buy the padding for the bar and secure to the roof.  The J's are what is making the job so hard... You have to lift up and over and it is tough.    The J's require a lift up higher than your shoulders and then while up, you have to move the boat away from your body...  

Things to do - use a very sturdy step stool strategically placed against the car and walk up the step stool so that the boat is now above the J hooks so you are dropping the boat down onto the hooks.

If you don't mind buying something that would make your life much easier, get a load bar - I have Yakima round bars and if you pull the load bar out, it gives you a place to rest the bow and then you can do what Mike suggest above, place the stern in the J, then the bow in the other.  


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1. Shoulder and triceps exercises for the long term.

2. If you can lift the kayak onto your shoulder tilt bow (stern) into Jhook in front of you to take half the weight and then tilt stern (bow) into Jhook behind you.

Edited by leong
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I have an Outback 2016 and here is my solution, which for economy makes use of the Subaru factory bar system (this differs from year to year so it may not apply to your Outback, but perhaps you can adapt this plan). It's very similar to the Yakima load bar, except that doesn't mount on my factory bars.

- I moved the rear factory bar to its rearmost position

- I use a pair of Thule kayak mounts that fit cleanly on the factory bars since they're sort of like Thule aero-bar size. The front one has rubber grips, the back one has felt pads (you can also get one with rubber wheels). With this system, you load the kayak from the rear. So the problem reduces to getting the bow sitting in the right place before pushing it over the felt pads into its final position... and it's easy to lift the bow by itself... BUT the Outback has this annoying projection that sticks way out over the rear window and prevents you from stabilizing the bow on the pads...  Therefore...

- I also bought a Malone K-Rack Load Assist (one source is http://www.prolineracks.com/malone-mpg353-k-rack-kayak-lift-assist.html). This has suction cups and can be attached just in front of the rear window. It provides a superb resting place for the bow, which can easily be lifted up while you stand behind and to one side of the car. Then you work your grip down the decklines to the stern and push while the kayak slides up on the Load Assist holder, and let it down onto the pad/grip combo.

It sounds complicated but this whole rig cost a lot less than Thule bars and a Hullavator, which I'm not sure will even mount on the new Subarus (but they are sweet!).

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Thanks for the tips. JoeB, my car is the same as yours - a 2016 Outback. I opted for the J rack because it was the only factory approved kayak carrier, with adapters that fit the cross bars. Do you mind telling me what exact model Thule kayak mounts you have? It sounds like this can be the solution for me. J racks are tought for one person. 

Thanks again

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Nick, I have the Thule 883 "Glide and Set". Here's a link to the EMS page for that product: http://www.ems.com/thule-883-glide-and-set/19596200012.html?emssrcid=PPC%3AgooPLAs%3A149576170365custom3normal%26brandthule&adpos=1o7&creative=79867308525&device=c&matchtype=&network=g&gclid=Cj0KEQiA08rBBRDUn4qproqwzYMBEiQAqpznsy14yta9KSWMnaNyF1IpKUpUPmNp0bLLNUcbAFM_lDsaAjq38P8HAQ

Cath suggested the Seattle Sports boat roller.  This is quite similar to the Malone K-Rack in that it is mounted with heavy suction-cups and normally I would say a roller loader is better than something over which the boat must slide.

However the K-Rack's geometry is significantly different, in that it juts rearward from the suction mounts by 4-5 inches . In the case of the Subaru I feel this may be crucial because it takes the contact point with the boat closer to that annoying rear "lip" on the Subaru rear hatch. Due to the Subaru design one cannot mount these products on the rear window as intended (because of the glass curvature), nor on the rearmost piece of sheet metal on the roof (because of the groove where the hatch opens). So this rearward offset is quite important.

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