The Casual Kayaker   -    Location reports of my flatwater kayaking

Hauling My Kayaks - A Little Do-It-Yourself

Having three kayaks at present, only two of which I carry on a regular basis, meant I had to come up with a solution (or two) for carrying them. I already had the ubiquitous closed-cell foam pads I used on my ZR2 Blazer roof rack to carry my duck boat when I first aquired it. Because of its width I had to have two pair of the pads. Then when my needs for hauling the duck boat changed, I built an enclosed boat trailer for that purpose. The story behind that can be found on my photography web site here.

My conceptualization design drawing.

The nearly completed trailer.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. This isn't about the trailer - well not just yet anyway. My Blazer rack with the foam pads I had were just what I needed for our first kayak, the Dimension Escapade. However, when we bought the other two kayaks, it meant I had to make more room. Even though I had two pairs of the pads, the Blazer rack was hardly wide enough for two recreational width kayaks sitting flat side by side. So, I had to put them on edge, and that meant some sort of J-rack. I quickly learned that a pair of J-racks, even on sale, would put the cost well over $250-300 once you add the special cross-bars they required. Time to get creative again.

At the store I found some J-racks meant for hanging kayaks on your garage wall, costing $30 a pair. I bought two pair. I added a few bolts, a bit of wood, and some water pipe foam insulation for a few dollars more, and created a pair of J-racks for the Blazer roof rack that works like a charm.

Finished J-racks before painting.

The two sets I bought were the only ones in the store, and they were different brands as shown in the photo below. One was Field & Stream brand, and the other was Easy Rider brand. I opened both boxes and checked them out to find they were, luckily enough, virtually identical.

The J-rack bars are U-bolted to a section of 2x3. Then a piece of 1x3 is bolted to the upper end of each J-bar to provide a surface to mount a simple V-hinge. The hinges hold the two sides together so the unit can spread the desired width on your roof rack. One 1x2 spreader spaces the upper ends of the J-bars to match the lower ends. I strapped some foam insulation on the "J's" with zip-ties, and then painted the wood to keep it from looking like a Jed Clampett contraption from a distance, and that was pretty much it. This was a rush project and I took no pains as I usually do to sand, round or finish the wooden pieces at all. I had to get this done so we could go paddling.

A view of the completed and painted J-rack assembly showing the 1/4-inch plywood bar clamps spun outwards to allow the assembly to be set onto the roof rack.

Here you see the hinge is bolted to the metal of the J-bar through the 1x3 wood pieces, as is the cross bar that keeps the top of the J-bars spaced apart to match the bottom spacing on the 2x3's.

This is another view of the hinge and cross-bar assembly at the top of the J-bars.

(The 2x3's are standing vertically in this photo) In the foreground you can see how the 2x3 is notched to fit the shape of my roof rack crossbars, which are flattened with a slight curvature like an airplane wing. It has a piece of water pipe insulation split and wrapped into the notch, then stapled into place. This keeps the wood from rubbing the paint on the crossbars. The foreground clamp is swung shut into clamping position. These swinging bar clamps are made from 1/4-inch plywood bolted on one end to the 2x3, and swings out to allow the unit to nestle onto the roof rack crossbar. Then it swings in under the crossbar to clamp it by inserting a bolt and wing nut. In the background you can see the other clamp is swung open.

In the bottom left you can see the wing nut on the bolt that holds the plywood bar clamp shut.

For most kayaks these J-bars are quite large enough. However, the bow of my Trip 10 Angler is much deeper than most recreational kayaks I've seen, and the curvature of the J's was a bit tight for the bow end. To address this issue, I simply bent the J just a bit, opening the curve about one inch more, which gave me room for the bow to seat properly. In the first photo of the whole J-rack assembly you might notice a red ribbon tied to one of the J's. This is my reminder which one is opened wider for the bow end of my Trip 10. After a couple of uses I noticed the J's were much deeper than other commercial J-racks, which made loading from the side a problem. I had to lift the kayaks very high over the J tips. I solved that by loading from the rear, sliding the kayaks into the J's on a pad laid on the rear window of the SUV. It avoided lifting the whole kayak at all. I just laid the bow up onto the pad against the rear window and pushed it from the end. It actually made loading easier. Eventually I also took the step of cutting about three inches off the tip of each of the J's anyway. I just popped the plastic cap off the end, cut it with a hack saw, filed it smooth and put the plastic caps back on the square pipe ends. This would have also taken care of the problem of the J curve being not deep enough for my Trip 10, as the only thing actually hitting the tip of the J was the cockpit coaming where the J went up so high. Still, opening the J curve a bit was also helpful. Bending the J curve wider is probably not something most others would need to do, but cutting off about 3 inches from the J tips would make side loading much easier if end loading isn't an option for you.

That took care of the issue of carrying two kayaks, but what about the third one? There was still more work to do. My solution was to modify my duck boat trailer, shown below.

The original trailer with rear doors open showing the camouflaged duck boat, trolling motor and shelf for paddles, etc.

After a bit of pondering, I decided all I would need was a couple of wooden crossbars added to the trailer so I could stack two kayaks inside it. This is the reason I limited myself to the size kayaks we bought in the first place. The inside length of the trailer is max. 10 feet 9 inches. I had to keep to 10.5 foot kayaks or less to fit inside. I won't go into details of making or installing the crossbars, as they were pretty simple affairs. A post on each side has a wooden dowel pin on top, and the crossbars have a hole to drop over the dowel pin. The bars lift out and set in easily. A little outdoor carpet is stapled on the bars for padding, and the top boat slides in easily enough. I route the cam buckle straps through eye bolts, with the blue strap tying both kayaks down at once, while the yellow strap on the nose of the lower kayak gives additional security for it. This was a very simple project once I figured out all the details.

Now I can carry 4 kayaks if necessary. Loading the trailer is easier than loading the rack, and it has plenty of storage space in the front for stuff like camping equipment and such. However, there are places where we want to paddle that have no room for a boat trailer to turn around. In that case I can opt for the J-rack. If I didn't already have the boat trailer, I would probably have gotten a light weight aluminum kayak trailer, but I decided it was prudent to use what I had. Besides, with them locked inside my trailer, they're safer, as well as being out of the sun and weather. Not a bad trade off.

"If you're not paddling, you're not getting anywhere."

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When I first began kayaking I found a most helpful blog by Tom Haynie that aided me greatly in finding and choosing new flatwater locations. His blog was infinitely more detailed and useful than anything I found on kayaking forums. I quickly resolved to share my own impressions of locations I've visited, including details I believe to be important and helpful, in hopes of providing practical information to others. I sincerely hope you find something useful and helpful here. (For more location reports visit Tom's blog at

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