Loading a Kayak by Yourself

by Sherri ~ March 16th, 2010. Filed under: Kayaking Equipment.

I spent 3 days at Canoecopia in Madison this past weekend and had the opportunity to look at a lot of products intended to help with solo loading and unloading of kayaks.  Knowing that there are many potential paddlers, particularly women, who are hesitant to get into the sport because they are concerned that they will not be able to handle these tasks alone, I would like to share some of these very helpful products.

Yakima "Hully Rollers"

Yakima "Hully Rollers"

Yakima "Showboat"

Yakima "Showboat"











For many years, Yakima has made the “Hully Rollers” which make loading a kayak from the back of the vehicle much easier.  Place your kayak behind your vehicle, lift the front end of the kayak up onto the rollers located on the rear crossbar of your rack.  Pick up the back end of the kayak and push the boat forward along the rollers until it is far enough forward that you can lower the front end of the kayak into the saddles on the front crossbar.  This system has worked very well for years, but as vehicles have become taller and spoilers on the back of the vehicle roofs have gotten in the way, new products were needed.  The “Showboat” is a roller system that telescopes backward over the rear of the vehicle allowing you to load the kayak in a similar way as the “Hully Rollers”.  After loading, the “Showboat” retracts back up against the rear crossbar.  The third option from Yakima involves loading the kayak up over the side of the vehicle.  This product is called the “Boatlaoder.” A telescoping arm fits inside the Yakima crossbar.  When you need to load your kayak, you pull out the telescoping arm and use it to rest one end of your kayak while you go to the opposite end of your boat and lift it up onto the saddles on your rack.  Afterward, you move the other end of your kayak from the “Boatloader” onto the other set of saddles before tying your kayak onto the rack.  When you are done, you just retract the “Boatloader” and lock it down so it doesn’t slide out while you are driving.

Yakima "Boatloader"

Yakima "Boatloader"

Malone "Telos Load Assist" kayak side loader

Malone "Telos Load Assist" kayak side loader













Malone is another company making rack accessories to assist in boat loading and unloading.  The “Telos Load Assist Side Mount Kayak Loader” allows you to load your boat onto a rack that hangs down along the side of your vehicle at about waist height.  Ratcheting arms then let you raise the boat up along the side of the vehicle until it is positioned for you to secure it into the saddles on your vehicle.  The “Stinger Load Assist” and the “Seawing Stinger Combo” work in a similar fashion to the Yakima “Showboat” except that the “Stinger” only works to load one of your kayaks.  The “Showboat” can be positioned so that it can be used to assist in the loading of two kayaks onto the top of your vehicle.

Thule makes the “Slipstream” which is a similar concept to the Yakima “Showboat” and Malone’s “Stinger Load Assist”.  The “Hullavator” is Thule’s amped up version of the Malone “Side Mount Kayak Loader”The “Hullavator” is sort of the gold standard of products made to assist self-loading.  The only problem is that if you can’t drive into your garage with a boat mounted on your car, you won’t be able to drive into your garage with an empty “Hullavator” on your car either.  The rack assembly sticks up as high into the air as your kayak does when it is on the rack.  Translated – you will need to remove your Hullavator every time you want to put your vehicle in the garage. (To be fair, this is not the only boat carrier that can have this issue.)  Thule also makes the “Outrigger II” which is almost exactly like the Yakima “Boatloader” except that it is made to fit inside the square Thule crossbars.  The “Roll Model” would be comparable to the Yakima “Hully Rollers” although more expensive.

Thule "Hullavator" - kayak lifted up and ready to tilt onto the rack

Thule "Hullavator" - kayak lifted up and ready to tilt onto the rack

Thule "Hullavator" viewed alongside the car looking forward

Thule "Hullavator" viewed alongside the car looking forward











Another method of solving the cartopping issue that is becoming increasingly popular is to stop putting your kayaks on top of your vehicle altogether.  There are several nice trailers made for carrying canoes and kayaks.  Yakima makes the “Rack and Roll”.  Slick Rydr makes the “Mut” series. Malone makes the “MicroSport” trailer.  Trailex is another company that also makes canoe/kayak-specific trailers.  All of these trailers are small enough and light enough to be pulled even by very small cars.  The boats never have to be lifted any higher than your waist, and your gas mileage probably won’t suffer as much as it does when you have boats on top of your car.  If you are concerned about storing a trailer, some of the trailers fold up for easy storage against the side wall of a garage.  This is not necessarily the cheapest option for carrying kayaks, although when you start adding the cost of a Hullavator to the cost of your basic rack it may not be that much more.  Trailers can also solve the problem of how to carry several kayaks for a family group.  You may not realize that many newer cars have much lower weight ratings for cartop racks (100-125lbs maximum including the weight of the rack itself) than older cars that had maximum weight limits for racks of 165 lbs.  This load limit means that you may not be able to carry 2 plastic sea kayaks on your car without exceeding the weight limits, which negates any warranty coverage from the manufacturer if a problem occurred.  (I also found my kayak trailer to be very handy when it comes to bringing home sheets of plywood and long boards from the lumber yard.)

Yakima "RACK and ROLL" trailer

Yakima "RACK and ROLL" trailer

Malone "MicroSport" trailer

Malone "MicroSport" trailer










Nowdays, there really is no reason that you should shy away from getting into paddle sports just because you think you may have to load or unload your boat by yourself.  There are so many helpful products out there in addition to the highly creative “do-it-yourself” methods devised with throw rugs and bath mats.  While there may be some up front costs that seem a little daunting, consider that most of these products are made to be moved from vehicle to vehicle.  Add to that the fact that the most expensive kayak is the one that never gets used, and it just makes sense to find something that will encourage you to get out and paddle more often.  If all else fails, join a club and meet some paddling friends.  You’ll never have to load your kayak by yourself again!

Cheers!

Sherri

9 Responses to Loading a Kayak by Yourself

  1. Ken

    Good information, Sherri. Another point: Some kayakers don’t think about garage door clearance when they buy a rack and the vehicle that goes under it. If you drive a van or SUV, the height of the vehicle’s roof means you’re in for a lot more work when it comes to loading and unloading, especially when you arrive back home and you have to remove the boats before driving into the garage. Low profile cars make life much easier for kayakers. For example, I’ve found that a small station wagon is ideal because I can drive into and out of my garage with the boats on top. (And with all-wheel drive, it can go almost anywhere an SUV can go.) An additional convenience is to install a hoist system like the Harken hoist in your garage to lift the boats off the car and up to the ceiling where they’re ready for the next outing. We have two side-by-side hoists, one for each boat. Makes it easy to get the boats loaded in a matter of minutes inside the garage.

  2. Sherri

    Believe me, I’m aware of the garage door clearance. I’m struggling to find a new vehicle that will be low enough to allow me to drive my car into the garage with a kayak on top. Very few vehicles nowadays are as low as my 1999 Corolla, and convertible top sportscars don’t make good cars for carrying kayaks.

  3. What about an inflatable kayak? | SherriKayaks

    […] However, if you are a women who has not kayaked before and you are thinking of an inflatable because you are worried that you can’t lift or transport a hardshell, I would suggest that there are many ways to deal with those two issues.  Many of the smaller recreational kayaks do not weigh all that much, and are not so difficult to lift up onto a roof rack.  Some of the smaller kayaks will even fit inside a minivan or truck bed.  There are also many gadgets that are made to assist people when having to load a kayak onto a roof rack by themselves. […]

  4. Amanda

    I have had both an inflatable (Sterns) and an Ocean Kayak Venus. I found the Venus is actually easier to cary to and from the car than my Sterns. The inflatables are still somewhat heavy and it takes a bit of extra time to inflate and deflate them. I have had a Thule Hulla Port Pro, but it was just to difficult for me to lift my kayak over my head and place it on top of my SUV. Thanks for the info .

  5. Kathleen

    I purchased a Malone Telos loader. My challenges are: (1) I have a very high minivan; (2) the hooks holding the kayak on the Telos are at about chest height; (3)my kayak weighs 55 pounds (Wilderness Tsunami 140) and I can’t get it up on the hooks in the Telos. Has anyone found a way to load and unload with the Telos on her own? I’ve tried one end first; sliding (more like scooching) it down; I don’t have the knee strength to lift it up to my shoulder. Any ideas? (I’m thinking pulley system at this point, which is ridiculous!)

  6. Sherri

    Kathleen, I have not used the Telos loader so I don’t have any good suggestions on what you can do to modify that system. However, I think that you could learn to lift your kayak if you were shown the right way to do a solo lift. You might surprise yourself on how much weight you can carry for short distances. Once the kayak is on your shoulder, you should have no problem dropping it into the hooks of the Telos Loader.

    This has given me an idea for a new video to post on my YouTube channel. Until I get that video filmed and edited, there is a video on YouTube by ExpertVillage on “Loading a Kayak On To Your Car”. It lacks some explanation, but the technique is good.

  7. Sherri

    I just published a new video on YouTube demonstrating a safe way to lift and carry a kayak by yourself. The video is also on the “Photo Gallery” page of this website. This is the method that I would recommend for Kathleen trying to get the kayak up onto the arms of the Malone Telos Loader. If you watch the video carefully, I do not need to use my knee to lift the kayak onto my shoulder, although it can be used to give it an extra nudge. You could also use a series of 2 boxes or stools. Get it up onto a low box, then onto a slightly higher box before bending your knees to get down and roll it up onto your shoulder.

  8. Mary

    Take a look at this kayak lift assist I found. It works great with little effort. I am 5 ft tall, 57 years old and I can now load my kayak by myself on my suv. My sister can do the same on her suburu outback. This is very easy to use.

    Flatrivercompany.com

  9. Jane

    Sherri, Thanks for the informative post. I usually paddle with my husband so loading isn’t much of an issue, but I occasionally have the itch to hit the water when he isn’t around. I’m going to look into some of these products. Thanks again, Jane

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