Best Kayak J-Racks in 2023: Why People Love Them

yellow kayak mounted to thule j-rack vehicle roof

With over 7 years working as a white water guide, I've relied on J-rack style carriers to transport my personal kayaks.

J-Style kayak carriers, also known as j-racks or j-cradles, are the most popular type of kayak carrier. J-cradles make it easy and efficient to transport kayaks. These carriers are the go-to choice for kayak enthusiasts, and in this article, I'll provide you with all the information you need to know about them.

If you want to skip to the best J-style kayak carriers in detail, click here:

Before we dive in, let me give you a sneak peek of our top recommendations.

These carriers have been carefully selected based on their performance, value, and affordability.

Yakima JayLow Best Overall

Malone Downloader Best Value

TMS Kayak Carrier Most Affordable

Whether you're a seasoned kayaker or a beginner looking to explore the waters, this article will equip you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision.

What Is a J-Style Kayak Carrier?

J-style kayak carriers are a popular choice for those looking to transport up to 2 kayaks in their vehicle. They are shaped like a “J” and angled at approximately 45 degrees. This allows the kayak to sit securely inside the rack while making it easy to load by hand.

Once the kayak is loaded into the j-cradle, straps are wrapped around the kayak to hold it firmly in place. It is easy to load the kayak onto the rack since the open end of the cradle is facing outward.

Most J-style kayak carriers fold down when not in use. This increases aerodynamics, gas mileage, and overall appearance.

J-racks are also great because they use rooftop space efficiently. Since the kayak is held at an angle, rather than flat on the hull, there is additional room to allow cargo to be stored on the roof. This makes j-racks perfect for long trips.

Advantages of J-Style Kayak Carriers

There are several advantages to choosing a J-style kayak carrier to transport your kayaks.

The biggest advantage of a j-rack over other kayak rack styles is the easy-to-load design while maximizing space and stability. The short end of the j-cradle makes it easy to place the kayak on the rack, while the long end holds the kayak upright (at approximately a 45-degree angle).

Space is maximized by positioning the kayak at this angle since you can carry cargo underneath the raised end of the kayak. This configuration also allows you to fit 2 kayaks on most vehicles.

Most j-racks fold down when not in use. This allows you to leave them attached to your vehicle without significantly reducing gas mileage.

J-style kayak racks are also great because they are affordable. They are the 2nd cheapest type of kayak rack, costing approximately between $100 and $400.

Disadvantages of J-Style Kayak Carriers

There are not many disadvantages to using a J-style kayak carrier. This is why J-style kayak racks are so popular because it fits most people’s needs.

The main disadvantage of j-racks is the limited capacity. Since this type of kayak rack will only fit up to 2 kayaks, people who are looking to carry more won’t be able to use a j-cradle. This is one of the biggest reasons people choose another type of kayak rack.

Besides the limited capacity, some J-style kayak racks are fixed, meaning they won’t fold down when not in use. Although, this can be easily avoided by purchasing a folding J-rack for a slightly higher cost.

J-Style Kayak Carriers: Pros and Cons


  • Inexpensive
  • Aerodynamic
  • Secure and stable
  • Easy to load
  • Extra room for cargo


  • Maximum capacity of 2 kayaks
  • Cheaper models won’t fold down when not in use

Should I Buy a J-Style Kayak Carrier?

J-style kayak racks are great for most people because of their affordability, simplicity, and stability.

J-cradles are one of the cheapest types of kayak racks, which is one of the biggest reasons for their popularity. Even though they’re cheap, they are secure and stable. They are simple to use and easy to load.

If you’re looking to transport your kayak only a handful of times for short distances, you can purchase a less expensive J-rack. However, if you’ll be using the rack a lot or be transporting your kayak for long distances, it is recommended to invest in a more expensive j-rack for extra stability.

Overall, you should buy a J-style kayak rack if you’re looking for an easy and efficient way to transport up to 2 kayaks.

How Much Do J-Style Kayak Carriers Cost?

J-style kayak carriers are the 2nd cheapest type of kayak rack. Their affordability is a large reason for their popularity.

J-style kayak carriers typically cost between $100 and $400.

Less expensive J-cradles are simple and straightforward. They often don’t have many special features and may be constructed out of cheaper materials. For those who don’t kayak much, it might be worth it to choose a J-rack on the lower end of this price range.

More expensive J-style kayak racks are worth the price if you’ll be using it a lot or taking it on long trips. J-racks towards the upper end of the price range may have special features, such as load-assist systems, increased padding, higher-quality construction, and more.

J-style kayak carriers are affordable and fit the needs of most kayakers. You should compare different models at various price points before purchasing in order to make the best decision.

Best J-Style Kayak Carriers

There are a lot of options to choose from when purchasing a J-style kayak carrier, therefore it can be tough to decide between all the features, reviews, and prices. To help you make your decision, here’s a list of our top 3 best J-style kayak carriers!

1. Yakima JayLow – Best Overall J-Style Kayak Carrier

The Yakima JayLow is a versatile, folding kayak rack. It is one of Yakima’s top-selling products and is a popular choice for a kayak rack.

yakima jaylow kayak racks

The JayLow will hold a kayak or canoe up to 80 lbs or 2 kayaks under 110 lbs (total weight). That’s right, the JayLow can carry up to 2 kayaks at once!

The system allows you to convert this j-rack into a vertical kayak rack, increasing its carrying capacity to 2. This is one of the biggest advantages of the Yakima JayLow.

It is also compatible with Yakima’s SKS locks, but they are sold separately. The JayLow includes heavy-duty straps and tie-downs, therefore you shouldn’t need any extra hardware after purchasing the rack. Additionally, it is capable of folding away when not in use, increasing clearance and gas mileage.

People who purchased the Yakima JayLow were very pleased with the rack. Most people said that it was very easy to install and use. Although there are many great things said about the JayLow, some people experienced issues.

The main problem people had with the Yakima JayLow was a whistling noise caused by the rack when driving at highway speeds. Most people fixed this issue by covering screw holes on the bottom of the rack with tape.

With its versatility, durability, and ease of use, the Yakima JayLow is our top choice for the best J-style kayak carrier. Our favorite feature of this rack is the ability to convert to a vertical-style rack, allowing it to carry 2 kayaks at once. The Yakima JayLow is clearly a kayak rack that is safe, easy to use, and will get the job done.

Check it out on Amazon

2. Malone Downloader – Best Value J-Style Kayak Carrier

The Malone Downloader is a folding, universal J-style kayak rack. It is Malone’s most popular kayak rack.

malone kayak rack system

The Downloader allows you to transport a kayak or canoe up to 75 lbs.

It features a small loading ramp to make it easier for the kayak to slide into position. Malone’s “JAWZ” mounting hardware allows this rack to fit crossbars of all different shapes and sizes.

People who purchased the Malone Downloader said it was easy to install and use. They reported that the rack was very sturdy and well-built, especially for its price. The loading ramp was useful to many people since it made it much easier to load the kayak. People also said that the rack did not make any whistling noise when in the folded position.

Although the Downloader’s universal design is great, it appears to have trouble properly attaching to some aerodynamic crossbars according to a handful of users. Some people said it still fit aero crossbars but wasn’t as secure as it should be.

The Malone Downloader is a tremendous value for the price. The rack is easy to use, secure, well-built, universal, and convenient. This makes the Malone Downloader our 2nd best choice for a J-style kayak carrier.

Check it out on Amazon

3. TMS Kayak Carrier – Best Affordable J-Style Kayak Carrier

The TMS Kayak Carrier is a universal J-style kayak rack known for its cheap price.

This rack is a popular choice among those looking to save money on a kayak carrier.

TMS kayak rack system

This kayak carrier holds 1 kayak up to 75 lbs and is 36 inches wide.

It’s simple, basic, and doesn’t have any special features, which is partly responsible for the low price. Although it’s basic, it gets the job done.

Most people who purchased the TMS Kayak Carrier said it worked well and surprised them considering the low price. Although, some people experienced issues.

People said that the straps included with the rack weren’t good enough, some saying they were too short or cheap. You’d be better off using your own straps with this kayak rack.

Many people also said the installation instructions were almost useless, although the rack itself wasn’t too difficult to install.

Overall, the TMS Kayak Carrier is the best option if you’re looking for an affordable J-style kayak carrier. Although there were some complaints from people who purchased it, it’s nothing uncommon for a product with such a low price.

We recommend this J-style kayak rack if you’re looking to save money on a rack and have a lighter kayak. We wouldn’t recommend loading this rack to full capacity just to be safe. This rack is also great for those who won’t be using it too often.

Check it out on Amazon

Bottom Line for J-Style Kayak Racks

J-Style kayak carriers, also known as j-racks or j-cradles, are the go-to choice for transporting kayaks with ease and efficiency.

If you're in the market for a kayak carrier, look at the top recommendations below:

- Yakima JayLow: This kayak carrier takes the crown for being the best overall option. With its reliable design and sturdy construction, it ensures a secure and hassle-free transport for your kayak.

- Malone Downloader: If you're looking for the best value, the Malone Downloader is the way to go. It offers excellent quality at an affordable price, making it a great investment for any kayaking enthusiast.

- TMS Kayak Carrier: For those on a budget, the TMS Kayak Carrier is the most affordable option. Despite its lower price point, it doesn't compromise on quality and provides a reliable solution for transporting your kayak.

J-Style kayak carriers are the most popular choice for transporting kayaks.

Whether you're a seasoned kayaker or just starting out, investing in a reliable kayak carrier is essential for a smooth and enjoyable kayaking experience. So, evaluate your options, consider your needs, and make an informed decision to enhance your kayaking adventures.

Happy paddling!

Bill Nikolaou
I live for wild rides on rivers, and have passion for digital marketing. With 7 years of experience in white water guiding, I've transported more gear than most folks will in a lifetime. Need a reliable rack or carrier? I got you covered!