Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Kayak Carrier Review

Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack

There’s a very good reason why someone like you goes looking for a quality kayak carrier from a well-known manufacturer. Often, it’s due to a love of kayaking. You already know you’re going to get out on the water on a fairly regular basis. So you’re seeking a capable carrier that’s worthy of carrying your prized kayak and will stand up to years of use.

In this Malone Downloader review, we’re going to take a closer look at this sleek, low-profile, folding J-style kayak carrier that has become an increasingly popular option in the market.

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Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Features

Overview of the Malone Downloader

The Malone Downloader kayak carrier is an all-in-one roof rack system that stores any kayak vertically, on its side. It’s the built-in loading ramps that provide substantial assistance in getting the kayak up on top of the rack and into position. Of course, the ultimate solution is to use this roof rack with the Malone Telos system to further help you with the process of loading and unloading.

It’s a J-style kayak carrier with full down mechanism to minimize overhead clearances when the carrier is not in use taking you to or from the shoreline. It features Malone’s patented Jawz technology mounting hardware – which is designed to fit most round, square, oval and factory installed cross rails.

No tools are required and you can assemble and install the Malone Downloader in a matter of minutes. Included is a ratchet type strap to secure the kayak, paddle board, or surfboard to the Malone Downloader. These loading straps are 12 feet long and are of the cam style with buckle protectors – to protect both the hull of the kayak and the car. Malone also offers a limited manufacturer’s lifetime warranty.

Quality From a Well-Known Brand

Malone has a lot to offer in its quality line and the Downloader is no exception. It comes with extra padding to protect your kayak and all the hardware you need to set it up correctly. And the Downloader features a universal design – which means that it should fit virtually any car’s roof rack or crossbars.

The Malone Downloader ships with both 60 mm and 70 mm mounting bolts, so it can be made to fit a wider variety of crossbars. Having two sizes of hex bolts to fit a variety of thicknesses on the crossbars, gives you some options, so you can pick the bolts that provide the best fit for your vehicle’s roof rack.

Roof racks that are thicker than the standard size may require longer bolts. Those provided are for typical rails. But if they don’t fit your roof rack, there’s a quick solution waiting for you at your nearest hardware store. You should also be able to find the right size hex bolts for any rack at any Home Depot or Lowes store in your area.

What’s really nice about the Downloader by Malone is that it folds down easily (hence the name) when you’re not carrying your kayak. So there’s no need to remove your Malone Downloader from your car top once you’ve set it up.

Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack
Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack

Light yet Strong

And – it’s one of the lighter kayak rooftop carriers on the market, weighing in at just over 12 pounds. Surprisingly, considering its light weight, it’s remarkably strong and rigid to support numerous styles and sizes of kayaks.

Each J-cradle on the Malone Downloader folding J-style kayak carrier measures as follows: the width is 6 inches, while the length tops out at 17 inches. As for the height – it measures 19.5 inches in total when deployed. When this unit is folded down, the total height adds only about 6 inches to your vehicles clearance. So it shouldn’t be a problem getting into your garage – or any parking lot with a height restriction on vehicles entering.

There is a slight issue you should be aware of, however. When the racks are folded down, you’ll get a little bit of air noise. It’s most noticeable when traveling at higher speeds. You can hear the air – but it’s not the annoying whistling that you get from some racks.

Weight capacity measures in at 75 pounds. That seems about average for most of the car top kayak carriers available these days.

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Aluminum Makes a Difference

Interesting to note is that Malone uses aluminum for the framework of the Malone Downloader. Therefore, it’s corrosion proof by default. It’s also a big reason why they were able to keep the weight down to just 12 pounds. Even treated steel tends to rust eventually. So this was a brilliant move by the engineering team at Malone and the aluminum seems just as strong and stable as anything built from steel.

Built To Last – With Replaceable Padding

If you’re been transporting kayaks to and from the water for long, you are likely already aware that the first thing to wear out on most carriers is the padding. You can always duct tape it on to help hold it in place. You can even patch it up somewhat as the cradles begin to lose this protective layer.

But Malone does what few manufacturers do. They acknowledge that no padding is going to last forever. And therefore they offer replacement padding as an option. That’s right. You can get replaceable padding for the base and frame, so your downloader will always provides maximum protection for the hull of your kayak. You’ll appreciate this added protection- particularly if your kayak is new and in good shape.

Another excellent design feature Malone provides on the Downloader is the molded strap bales. These things make it a whole lot easier to tie down any kayak or canoe and keep it firmly in place on top of your vehicle.

Built-In Boarding Ramp

Built right into the Malone Downloader is an angled boarding ramp. The purpose of this feature is to make for easier loading and unloading of any kayak – even the most unwieldy ones. It’s a simple, decidedly low-tech feature. But it makes all the difference in the world and saves you from struggling with a beast of a kayak just to get it into place on your vehicle.

Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack
Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack

Optional Lift System Makes It Easier Than Ever

Another terrific advantage of having a Malone Downloader is that it’s fully compatible with the optional Telos Kayak Load Assist System. Telos is a brilliant design that helps you get the kayak from the ground to the top your vehicle, without having to lift it solely on your own. Sure it will cost you more money. And it’s not necessary to get the full benefit of the Malone Downloader. But if you want the ultimate kayak lift system – this is it.

As soon as Kayak season comes around, it’s time to install the Downloader. The built-in fold-down feature means that (in most cases) you can leave the rack mounted for the entire kayak season. It only adds a little extra height so you should be good to go for fitting into any area with a low height restriction.

A Standout In the Field

What stands out most about the Malone downloader is the boarding ramp that makes it easy to load the kayak from the side of the car. Once you’ve got it into position, the deep trough helps holds boat in place while you tie it down. Also, the fold-down design for low clearance situations is very handy. So you can install the roof rack on top of your car once per season and generally use your vehicle for any use, unimpeded.

It is the taller upright frame of the Malone Downloader that’s designed to hold larger boats securely in place. The bale built into the top of the uprights is a game-changer, in our opinion. It helps you to more easily strap your vehicle down without fumbling, by holding the tie-down straps in place before you lift the vessel into position on the J-cradles.

It’s fully equipped – right out-of-the-box. But if you’re thinking of accessorizing, we recommend the Telos loading system as it works perfectly with the Downloader.

Is This The Best Kayak Carrier Available?

Many kayak enthusiasts consider the Malone Downloader to be the best J-cradle kayak carrier on the market. Its design fits most kayaks perfectly. But you can use it for other equipment too like paddleboards, windsurfing boards and snowboards – for example. If we had to name one advantage that sets the Downloader apart from others is the Jaws design feature that allows you to fit the J-cradles of the Malone Downloader to virtually any type or size of cross rail.

Also, Malone ships the Downloader fully equipped with both a bow and stern tie-down attachment for added stability. With many roof racks sold these days – bow and stern straps are not included. Mind you – they’re not ratchet tie-downs. But they’ll still get the job done. Since it’s a necessary component in our opinion for a safe and secure load, you would to buy these tie-downs as a secondary purchase – with many other carriers.

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What’s In The Box?

  • 2 Downloader J-Cradle Roof-Mounted Kayak Carriers
  • 2 Malone Jawz Kits with Mounting Hardware
  • 2 Cam Buckle Straps for Securing Your Kayak to the Vehicle
  • 2 Bow and Stern Safety Lines
  • 1 Instruction Manual

And going a bit further, let me tell you the The Telos lift system sure makes life easy when used with the Malone Downloader. In fact, I’m willing to bet that a significant number of Downloader buyers also opt for the Telos system too. It comes with two detachable ramps that quickly clip to the holes on the Malone Downloader racks where the straps are positioned. Once connected, each ramp has a separate ratchet. So you simply push up one end of the boat and then the other – until the kayak is lifted to a comfortable height for you to position it into place.


  • Each J-cradle measures 6 inches x 17 inches, x 19.5 inches high.
  • Weight – 12.2 pounds
  • Load Capacity – 75 pounds

The Good (What Buyers Like Most)

It seems heavier duty (more solidly built) than other folding styles of kayak carriers

We’re pretty sure this is due in part to the tubular heavy duty steel construction used on the Downloader. You would expect a leading manufacturer in the field to give you a solidly built product – and that’s exactly what you get here. It gives you a confident feeling, knowing that you’ve got one of the best products in the category.

The protective nylon sleeve on the rack is nice touch (presumably it will help keep the extra padding in place)

Malone gets the details right. Their customers tend to pay attention to the little things. We suspect that this addition as standard equipment came as a result of customer feedback.

This kayak carrier connects to the car’s rails quite easily – and firmly

It’s the Jawz design on the Downloader – exclusive to Malone – that’s responsible for the near universal fit to any cross rails. These Jawz are contoured to hold round, oval, or square rails. Chances are pretty good that it will fit just as easily and quickly on your car. The only potential problem is a non-standard rail. But in that case – all you need are a different size of hex bolts – something you can pick up locally.

It seems to be one of the sturdiest roof racks

If there’s every a time in your life when you don’t want to cheap out and opt for a questionable product – it’s when you’re flying down the highway at 70 mph with a full load of cargo on your roof. (You feel safe and secure with the Malone Downloader).

Built-in ramp helps you slide the kayak up into the cradle

This smart design feature really does help you push the kayak up and into the saddle. This clever design feature allows you to more easily slide the kayak on and off. Malone isn’t the only manufacturer to do this. But their ramps are among the best.

This carrier is easy to install

If you’re like me, you hate wasting time. Wasting time is wasting life. The open water is calling and it’s time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. The last thing you want is to spend hours burning daylight as you struggle to assemble your carrier. That won’t happen with the Malone Downloader. It’s quick, easy and ultra secure. You can get the job done in a matter of minutes. Load up and get on your way!

The folding mechanism works really well (so you can leave the rack on your car all season long)

We personally love this feature. Kayaking is mostly a weekend pursuit for us, as I assume it is for a lot of people. So during the week, we need a rack that doesn’t provide any obstruction – whether we need to go downtown or to the local mall. Both limit the height of vehicles that can enter. Having the option to fold the rack down sure comes in handy.

Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack
Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack

Kayaks can be loaded single-handedly with the Malone Downloader

This is a big advantage. If you need a partner to help load your kayak onto your car, chances are, you won’t get in as much kayaking as you would ideally like to. With Malone, it’s the lip on the front of the j-cradles that are most helpful when loading your kayak. When you haven’t got that worry – and you like going out solo – you have complete freedom. You can get out there and enjoy yourself – on your schedule.

The provided strap retainer is easier than most

And this one actually does what it’s supposed to do. It holds the strap in place when loading the kayak. You can always add the strap after the vessel is in place – but having it right there at the right time makes life easier.

The padding seems just about right

Once again Malone demonstrates its knowledge of what the marketplace most wants. The padding provides ample protection. But over time, that padding gets worn out. But Malone doesn’t leave you in the lurch. No-no-no. They make replacement padding available – so you can simply replace the part as needed – instead of the whole system.

Malone provides outstanding customer service

You shouldn’t have any problem when you purchase a Malone product. But if you do, it seems that there’s always someone ready and willing to help you in a prompt and professional way. We only wish every company operated this way!

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Wind noise appears to be minimal

Whenever you’re hauling a load on the outside of you’re vehicle, it’s usually going to sound different inside, than it does when you’re not hauling. The biggest culprit is the tie-down straps fluttering about. But here’s a quick fix: simply twist the straps instead of having them sit flat. This alone can help reduce sound vibration to a large degree.

The Not So Good

  • In fold-down position, the rack adds about 6 inches of height to the vehicle (a little too much for some – although it shouldn’t be an issue on most vehicles and in most situations)
  • Carries the kayak on its side (some prefer the look of a flat riding vessel)
  • With wide, rounded cross bars, some customization may be required to secure loads (probably the exception rather than the rule)
  • Bow and Stern straps are tie-downs (ratchets would have been better)
Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack
Malone Downloader Folding J-Style Universal Car Rack

The Verdict

If there’s any question in your mind when you get right down to it, your safest bet is always to go with a proven brand name. In this case – one brand that is worthy of your attention is Malone.

If you’re looking for a quality, universal car carrying system, the Malone Downloader makes a stellar choice. It’s compatible with virtually every cross rail and car rack that’s out there. And it makes for a quick loading or unloading of your kayak – even when you’re venturing out on your own. When you do go solo, you’re sure to appreciate the angled lip feature that makes it easier to load and unload the kayak, while protecting your car at the same time.

If you’re a serious kayaker, you want a product that can serve you for years. And that’s what you get with the Malone Downloader.

If you’re not sure how much use you’ll get out of your kayak rack, you can opt for a cheaper option, like the JDM Auto Lights 2. But if budget is not so much a concern, and you still have your doubts, another very good option is the Yakima Jaylow.

About the author

    Martin Tripodi

    Software Engineer, husband, father, and avid enthusiast of outdoor activities! Total fan of great quality and functional gear, spends part of his free time researching and compiling loads of information in the form of guides, product recommendations and reviews.