How to Load Kayak on J-Rack By Yourself

How to Load Kayak on J-Rack By Yourself? Well, it depends on the size and weight of the kayak. Some are just too heavy for one person to lift off the ground.

You will not find it challenging to load a recreational kayak that only weighs 25 pounds onto a J-rack.

You can use different methods to load your kayak on a J-rack by yourself. What we will discuss in this article includes loading from the side, from the rear, and using PVC pipes. Read on for detailed steps on how to do it!

How to Load Kayak on J-Rack by Yourself

Kayak on vehicle at a beach
Kayak on vehicle at a beach | Credit: Jupiterimages /

Loading a kayak on a J-rack is possible by yourself, but it will depend on how much your kayak weighs. Are kayaks heavy? The response can be a yes or a no. A recreational kayak is the lightest, weighing about 16 Kg (25 pounds).

These are not heavy and can be loaded on a J-rack by one person effortlessly.

Tandem kayaks and fishing kayaks are the heaviest, weighing 27 Kg (65 pounds) and 54 Kg (120 pounds), respectively. These are challenging to load on a J-rack by one person, especially the latter.

The kayak’s weight depends on its size and the material used in its construction. Do not attempt to do it yourself if it is too heavy to lift. You better ask for help than risking aging your kayak or scratching your car.

Three methods for loading a kayak on a J-rack by yourself exist. Some include loading from a side, rear, and PVC pipes. You can use any based on your preferences or what is available. Let’s get into the details of each approach.

Method 1: Loading from a Side

Get all the apparatus and equipment needed to load a kayak on a J-rack. Consider a cam strap or a ratchet strap for fastening the kayak on the rack.

Secondly, consider bringing a step stool if you are not tall enough to put the kayak on the roof rack. The extra height provided by the step-stool should make it easier for you.

Lastly, position the kayak on the side of the J-rack. It will save you time when it is actually time to load it up. And for this method, you will need one extra towel to prevent your car from accidental bruises.

Sport utility vehicle with a kayak
Sport utility vehicle with a kayak | Credit: Jupiterimages /

The best way to load your kayak on a J-rack is face-up. So, ensure it is in this position before you continue with the following steps:

  1. Set the kayak on the ground with its edge against your shins.
  2. Slowly slide the kayak onto your thigh.
  3. Slowly move the kayak to your head.
  4. Place the kayak on top of the cradles. You may need to step on the stool to gain more height if you are short.

Also, you can perform these steps with a partner if your kayak is relatively heavy. Try to find someone of the same height as you are.

Method 2: Loading from The Rear

This method of loading a kayak on a J-rack is simpler than loading it from one side. It is the solo paddler’s favorite choice. Consider it if your kayak is relatively long and heavy.

This approach allows you to reposition the kayak on the J-rack by pushing it forward or backward.

kayaks on the top of the car in the mountain
Kayaks on the top of the car | Credit: Voyagerix /

You can load a kayak on a J-rack by yourself using the following steps:

1. Set the kayak on the ground face up. It is the best position for loading a kayak on a J-rack from the rear.

2. Ensure the kayak is lined behind the car’s bumper and place a pad below the kayak’s stern. The pad or pads protect your kayak from potential damage as you load it into the J-racks channel.

3. Securely set the kayak’s bow with the J-racks before considering the next step. That reduces the risk of the kayak sliding down when carrying out the next step.

4. Lift the stern while pushing forward and rotate the kayak to set the gunwale into the channel for the J-racks. It becomes easier to slide the kayak forward when the gunwale fits into the J-rack channel.

Method 3: Use PVC pipes

This is the best method for DIYers who want to use less force to lift their kayaks off the ground. It is, by far, the simplest and easiest method of loading a kayak onto a J-rack by yourself.

You need two long PVC pipes with brackets fixed on one end. With everything set, you simply slide your kayak up to the roof of your vehicle and into the J-racks channel. Find out the detailed steps from this video tutorial.

How to Secure Kayak on J-Rack

You need additional accessories to secure your kayak onto the J-rack. That is to restrict its forward or backward movement as you accelerate or decelerate. You also don’t want it to fly away when cruising at highway speeds.

The extra tools and accessories you need include the following:

You should set your straps on the roof of your vehicle before loading the kayak onto the J-rack. There is no harm if you already have the kayak on the car’s roof. You can still wrap the strap around the longer side of the J-rack. Use the following steps to secure a kayak on the J-rack:

1. Start by wrapping the ram strap around the metal bar of the longer side of the front J-rack and let it fall at the back of your car. Do the same for the rear J-rack, but now, let the strap fall towards the front of your vehicle.

2. Bring the straps up and pass them over the kayak and towards the shorter side of the J-rack.

3. Run the strap along the car’s roof, passing through the J-racks’ crossbar to act as a fail-safe mechanism and sturdily hold the kayak.

4. Position the clasp on the straps about half the width of your kayak and insert the non-clasp end to allow you to tighten the cam strap.

5. Hold one side of the kayak and shake it from one side to ensure everything is secure.

6. Golden Tips:

  1. Ensure you always pull the straps towards you to tighten them. Reverse the orientation if that’s not the case.
  2. Use a cable lock to add security to your kayak to prevent possible theft if you don’t trust people around you.

Pros and Cons of Using a J-Rack

Usually, a kayak is not the only thing you want to transport for your adventure. J-racks are used to hold the kayak while giving more room for other items you want to put on your car’s roof.

There is nothing much to say about this type of roof rack. Consider other alternatives if it is not the best for what you want to carry.

Leader Accessories Folding Kayak Rack 4 PCS/Set

Alternative Ways to Transport a Kayak

You don’t need a J-rack to transport your kayak to the destination. There other alternatives that you can explore, and they include the following:

Other roof rack options

Thule Hullavator Pro Rooftop Kayak Carrier


How do you load the kayak on the J rack by yourself?

You can load a kayak onto a J-rack by yourself. To do so, support the kayak by lifting it up to your knees and proceeding to your head. That makes it easy to push it to the top. Secure it using cam straps once it sits on the J-racks channels.

How do you load a kayak on an SUV J rack by yourself?

You can load a kayak on an SUV J-rack by yourself, just as you would on any other vehicle. But since most SUVs are tall, you may need a step-stool to gain the extra height to reach the top. Just follow the steps outlined in this article to accomplish it.

Should a kayak be transported upside down?

Yes. The standard rule is to transport the kayak face down where applicable. Most kayaks are designed to be able to rest on the shoulder or head when upside down. It also ensures you don’t accidentally damage the kayak when transporting it.

Do you need to tie down the front and back of the kayak?

Yes. Tying your kayak at the front and the back restricts its yaw or sideways movement when cornering. So, you should at least strap it at these two points.


You don’t need support to load your kayak onto a J-rack if it is not heavy. Use any methods described in this article to do it and be ready for the next adventure. It is crucial to follow every step and strap it on the J-racks.

You can even add strap locks to prevent theft.

Thank you for your time at Windpaddle. We appreciate your time and invite you to explore the website for related content. Also, kindly share this article with fellow paddlers to spread the information. 

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