Yakima JayLow Kayak Rack Review (Best Kayak Rack on the Market?)

If you’re looking for an easy way to transport your kayak, you should look at the Yakima JayLow kayak rack. This rack is designed to make getting your kayak from point A to point B a snap.

This article will provide a comprehensive review of the Yakima JayLow kayak rack. We will cover all of its features and benefits and help you decide if it is the right choice.

The Yakima JayLow kayak carrier is a popular option among kayakers, and for good reason. It is a high-quality product that is sure to meet your needs.

Yakima has been designing high-quality, innovative products for years. Keep reading for more information about the Yakima kayak roof rack, including specs, features, and pricing.

Yakima JayLow Kayak Rack Summary

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Transporting kayaks is not the easiest, especially if you don’t have the right equipment. People resort to “interesting” methods to get their kayaks to the water. Some folks strap pool noodles onto their car and toss a kayak on top.

Hey, that can work if you don’t have far to go.

But if you are looking for a durable, easy-to-use rack system, the Yakima JayLow kayak carrier is an excellent option. In addition, the cradles come pre-assembled, a blessing for those not so mechanically inclined.

With the Yakima kayak rack, you can carry one or two kayaks with each pair of JayLow kayak cradles. And each pair of cradles can support up to 80 pounds for a single kayak or 110 pounds when you transport two side-by-side.

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In addition, the JayLow cradles fold down flat when you are not using them, and they have an integrated ramp for easy loading.

We will talk about all of the functionality of the Yakima kayak roof rack in this review.

Yakima JayLow Features


The Yakima JayLow has become the kayaker’s go-to choice for durability and reliability. The kayak carrier is a durable kayak cradle made of high-quality materials designed to last.


The cradles have an integrated ramp that makes it easy to load your kayak. You can press your kayak against the cradles for support while you push the kayak into place. The ramp is made of hard black plastic.

The only issue I have with these ramps is that they can leave scuff marks on the bottom of the kayak. Most of the time, I don’t have to press the kayak against the ramps. Instead, I set the kayak directly in the cradle, so scuff marks are not an issue.

The bottom of the cradle is made of a hard rubberized material (light gray), giving the JayLows a soft base that helps keep the kayaks from slipping and cushions your boat to prevent scratches.


The arms are made of strong anodized aluminum and are wrapped in foam to help keep your kayak from sliding and scratching during loading and transport.

Loading kayaks on a carrier with smooth surfaces can be a nightmare. Despite attempts to steady the kayak with your hands, it still slips, and it is frustrating to secure and balance the kayak (or kayaks) on a slick surface. So, the durable foam cushion on the JayLow arms is a welcome addition.


The clamps, which make up the base of the JayLow, have a pair of heavy-duty “jaws” with hard rubber pads that attach nicely to various crossbars. I have the Yakima CoreBars, which are a set of aerodynamic crossbars.

The heavy-duty clamps grip very well to these aerodynamic crossbars and work with Yakima and other crossbar brands. The clamps are easy to use, with a durable knob that tightens the JayLow to the crossbars.


Yakima JayLow cradle on a Yakima roof rackPin

The JayLow kayak rack fits a variety of Yakima crossbars, factory crossbars, and others. It’s a good idea to check directly with Yakima to ensure the cradle will fit your crossbar setup.

The J-cradles come with adapters to fit round bars. So you can attach the JayLows directly to various crossba configurations.

I have the Yakima CoreBars, and the JayLows attach directly to these crossbars. The clamp on the base of the cradle has a knob that is easy to turn and cinches the JayLows snugly to the crossbars.

Besides fitting on different styles of crossbars, the JayLow cradles are versatile. For example, you can carry a single kayak in the cradle or transport up to two kayaks with each pair of cradles.

Each arm of the cradles has a locking mechanism. You can set the arm to lock in place at an angle to carry a single kayak. The arms can also lock in a vertical position (90 degrees), so you can stack one kayak on the cradle and another behind the arm.

So, if you have two sets of cradles, one for each side of your crossbars, you can transport up to four kayaks, which makes the JayLow very effective and efficient at hauling kayaks. Of course, you need to have wide enough crossbars to accommodate four kayaks, and the kayaks can’t exceed the maximum carrying capacity of the cradles or the crossbars.

In addition, if you have a kayak trailer with crossbars, use the JayLows to transport kayaks that way which is so easy because the kayaks are lower to the ground, so you don’t have to lift them overhead.

The JayLows also fold down when you are not using them, so you can park your car in the garage without taking the cradles off each time you use them. The cradles also have a locking mechanism so you can lock the cradles to your crossbars. It’s especially helpful if you have Yakima crossbars since the SKS locking system only requires one key for the towers and JayLow cradles.

Easy to Use

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The Yakima JayLow kayak carriers are fully assembled and ready to use out of the box, which is not only easy but great for folks who are not mechanically inclined. You can pop these cradles onto your crossbars in a matter of minutes.

Each pair of cradles includes bow and stern tie-down lines and heavy-duty straps for the kayak’s body.

To attach the JayLows to your crossbars, unlock the red lever, fold the arm back to find the position that works for your kayak, lock the red lever in place, and tighten the cradles to the crossbars. You can adjust the angle of the cradle arm after the cradles are secure on the crossbars. It’s easier to twist the knob to attach the JayLows to crossbars is the arm is upright.

Depending on how tall the roof of your car is, tightening the clamp to the crossbar be a bit of a shoulder workout.

In addition, the Yakima JayLow Kayak Rack folds down flat when you are not using it. This is great when you park your car in the garage. You don’t have to worry about ripping the rack off the roof of your car.

What You Need

If you already have crossbars on your vehicle, make sure the JayLows are compatible. But, depending on how your vehicle is equipped, you may need different accessories.

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If your car has a naked roof (no factory crossbars), you will need base clips and crossbars for your JayLows. You may need to add roof rails to your vehicle, or a complete roof rack system. If your car doesn’t have a roof rack already, it can be pretty expensive to add a quality roof rack like a complete Yakima system.

Who Is the Yakima Jaylow Kayak Rack For?

The Yakima JayLow kayak carrier is an excellent option for anyone transporting long distances or who wants an easy way to transport kayaks.

The JayLows are durable and easy to use and come with all the necessary straps and adapters to safely transport your kayaks.

The JayLow cradles come fully assembled, all you have to do is attach them to crossbars, and you are ready to haul your kayak. I like to say there is minimal assembly required 🙂

Who Is the Yakima Kayak Roof Rack Not For?

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The JayLow kayak rack may not be for everyone. For example, the JayLow kayak rack may not be for you if you have a super heavy kayak.

The JayLows are designed to carry a kayak up to 80 pounds or two kayaks totaling 110 pounds.

Some fishing kayaks are really heavy. Other kayaks have pedal drive or rudder systems, so a J cradle might not be your best friend in these situations.

If you are transporting a lot of kayaks, you are probably better off with a kayak trailer.

How to Install a Yakima Jaylow Kayak Rack

Yakim JayLow kayak rack is very easy to install. All you need are crossbars on your vehicle. Then, you slide the base of the JayLows over the crossbars and tighten them up.

Yakima JayLow also come ready with the SKS (Single Key System), so you can lock your Yakima gear up with one single key. Although the cradles are equipped for locks, the locks are sold separately.

Yakima JayLow Warranty

The JayLows comes with a limited lifetime warranty. I can tell you from my experience that Yakima has excellent customer service. 

First, I couldn’t get the key for the JayLows to work with my Yakima base clamps. So I called Yakima, and they sent me new locks for all my gear.

I also had an issue with the coating on the crossbars. The coating was cracking, which can lead to the metal underneath rusting. I called Yakima, and they sent me new crossbars. 

I am impressed with Yakima as a company.

One More Thing

Depending on what kind of car you have and how heavy your kayak is, it can be challenging to hoist your kayak onto a roof rack.

By nature, kayaks are awkward and can be heavy to lift. If you have a small passenger car, the roof is not as far off the ground as an SUV.

I have a mid-sized SUV, and it’s not easy to lift a 63-pound, 12’3″ kayak up there by myself. I invested in a Yakima BoatLoader EVO to help me out. You can check that out here. This extends the length of the crossbars to help with loading.


How Do You Strap a Kayak to Jaylow?

Strapping a kayak on a JayLow is pretty straightforward. You can read my complete guide here. I recommend running the straps through the arms of the JayLow first, then setting your kayak on the base of the cradle.

Then loop the straps over each kayak and underneath the base of the crossbars. Then you cinch the straps tight. Be sure to tie down the bow and stern of the kayak, also.

Are Kayak Roof Racks Safe?

If you make sure that your kayak is strapped down properly and securely, kayak roof racks are safe to use. Make sure your kayak doesn’t exceed the weight limit of your kayak roof rack. Also, be sure you tie down the bow and stern.

How Do You Attach Two Kayaks to a Roof Rack?

With the Yakima JayLow arm in the 90 degree (upright) position, you can attach two kayaks to the roof rack. One kayak in the cradle and the other on the back of the cradle arm.


The Yakima JayLow kayak rack is a versatile and easy-to-install option for transporting your kayaks.

The Yakima JayLows come fully assembled, so all you have to do is attach the cradles to the crossbars on your vehicle, and you are ready to go.

With their limited lifetime warranty, customer service from Yakima has been stellar when I contacted them about issues with my products.

If you want a convenient way of hauling one or two kayaks at a time, then this might be just what you’re looking for.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.