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So How DO You Load That Kayak?

Today’s kayak parts market has a plethora of options that may be used to suit a particular automobile and/or storage situation to help you secure, load, and unload your beautiful piece of plastic. Many companies are focused on making your job easier, it’s up to you to weed through them and see which one will work best for YOU. I’d like to share a few of the devices I use to hopefully help you out, if you are about to decide of setting up your system, or wanting to redo it. This post is focused more towards cars and suv’s.

Here is my process I use to load my kayak from the rear of my vehicle. Take into consideration that I am 5’6″ tall and my vehicle is lifted by three inches.

Step 1

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Step 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crossbars
I had a factory roof rack with crossbars already installed on my vehicle. Excited to get my first kayak loaded up for transport, I built my system off of the factory rack, which may be ok to do, at first. The reason I say this is that most factory racks are built to only hold a certain amount of weight, and can start to bend and bow when loaded on, especially if you are piling on more than one kayak. With that said, I would recommend upgrading your factory crossbars or installing a set if you don’t have any at all. Yakima, Thule, and Malone seem to be the more popular, but look around, you may find something with another company that may suit your needs a little better, and possibly may be easier on your wallet.

You’ll want to take into consideration the number of kayaks you are wanting to load up, take a measurement of the width across the kayaks (side by side) and any additional space you may need for tie-downs and properly securing the kayaks. Think of the best way you’ll be able to load/unload and visualize this before going to buy your crossbars, which come in many different lengths. Will you put the kayaks side by side on your roof? Maybe one tilted to the side while one is laying down? Maybe both tilted on their sides? Maybe stack them on top of each other?

Square bars may aid in preventing your attachments from sliding around on the bar when pushing or pulling your kayak on/off the roof. I have noticed that I need to tighten the attachments that I’ll be talking about in a bit, after a few trips using round bars, as they only clamp to the bar and loosen after multiple loads/unloads. Oval bars usually keep wind noise at a minimum when driving at higher speeds, if you are picky in that regard.

When both of my kayaks are loaded side by side on my bars, there isn’t much room to drop the straps around with room to play without worrying about the straps possibly slipping off the ends in transit, and well, risk losing a kayak on the road. Within a few minutes of going to the hardware store, I purchased some clamps with quick links and it allows a solid point to slip my straps around to anchor to. For a few dollars, it’s been a great help so far.

After the kayak is on the roof, I can easily slide the belt webbing through my quick link and use it as a secure anchor point (up to 220lbs).

 

Saddles/Rollers/Keepers

This is where the wide variety of options open up for you and what you are trying to accomplish with your setup:

Saving Space
If you are looking to save space in order to load other things on your roof, you’ll probably want to load your kayak sideways. To do this some models may be Thule Stackers or Hull-a-Port carriers, Yakima Bowdown or Hullraiser, or the Malone J-Loader. You will need to most likely lift your kayak from the side of the vehicle and drop it into the carrier. If you have a lighter kayak this may be manageable with one person, two people no problem. If you have a heavier kayak, having two people would be recommended for this type of loading as you would have to lift the full weight of the kayak from the middle in order to put it equally across the carrier.

Similar products between Thule & Yakima.

 

Easy Loading

The Thule Hullavator assists in loading your kayak.

Thule makes a neat contraption called the Hullivator, which will lift up to 40lbs of kayak weight and help assist pushing up on the roof of a vehicle. At a price tag of $589.95 retail, it’s up to you if you want to spend the dough if you usually kayak solo and need the assist.

Similar to my setup: Yakima Hullyroller in the rear and Yakima Mako Saddles in the front.

I opted for a method to make my loading easier, over space saving, since I’m a pretty short dude, have a high roof, and fish solo a lot. My current setup is compatible for two kayaks side by side, which I load from the rear of the vehicle. On the one side there are Yakima Hully Rollers in the front and rear, which can roll once you put the kayak on them and pull or push, they also pivot in order to help cup and contour to the shape of the hull. This allows me to put the bow of the kayak onto the rear set of rollers, lift the stern, and push the craft until it’s fully on the roof and both sets of rollers quite easily. On the other side I have one set of Hully Rollers in the rear, and simply padding on the front bar and strap directly to the crossbars. I can load each kayak by myself and with minimal effort, both in about 10 minutes total including strapping down.

There are other assist accessories out which will allow you to put the bow of the boat on, saving your vehicle from scrapes and chips, and also easily load from the rear of your vehicle. The Thule Slipstream and Malone Seawing Stinger has an assist bar that slides out from the crossbars, use as needed, then slides back in and out of the way when not in use and in transit – this may be the way to go to to keep your vehicle new and also help you load that cumbersome kayak.

 

Thule Slipstream extends to assist in loading/unloading.

Malone Seawing has an extension that pulls out to stabilize the bow when loading.

 

Homemade
Why buy it when you can do it yourself, they say. Sometimes the market doesn’t offer the solution you need and a trip to the local hardware store may just be the place for those MacGyver like minds. Type in YouTube “homemade kayak rack” and be ready to see some eye opening solutions that people have created for their vehicles, bicycles and anything with wheels. I will leave you with this video off of YouTube, which I tried to mimic one day, but with my rounded windows on my vehicle, sadly didn’t work and would pop off.

 

 

I hope you found some of this information helpful, feel free to leave a comment or question! Thanks

 

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  • John N

    Don't forget the vehicle will have a roof load limit. It's possible US vehicles have a limit way in excess of European models but I'm not sure. My own VOLVO 940 has a 100kg (220lbs) limit of which the roofrack / sea kayak cradle and centrally positioned upright use just over 10kg (22lbs).