Tips and Techniques for Effortless Kayak Loading

Are you passionate about kayaking but find it challenging to load and unload your kayak? Whether your kayak is heavy or you’re a smaller individual, this task can be quite daunting. As an avid solo kayaker myself, I understand the struggles of figuring out the best way to transport my kayak without any help. Thankfully, there are various techniques and gear options available to make this process easier, allowing you to focus on the joy of paddling.

Loading and Unloading Your Kayak Unassisted – No Gear Required

If you prefer not to invest in additional gear or simply don’t have access to it, there are still effective methods to load and unload your kayak without much difficulty. One popular approach is the “hoist and roll” technique. By propping the front of your kayak against the roof of your car, you can easily lift the bottom and slide it onto the roof. To prevent scratches, consider using a towel or utilizing inexpensive tools like pool noodles or the Seattle Sports Suction Boat Roller Assist.

Loading and Unloading a Kayak From a J-Rack

Transporting a kayak with a J-rack can be more challenging, especially when handling it solo. However, with a bit of practice, it is entirely possible. My personal method involves propping the front of the kayak against the front door closest to the J-rack. By leveraging the door and using a step stool for additional height, I lift the back of the kayak and slide it onto the car, directly into the J-rack. To prevent scratches, I recommend using towels to line the sides of your car until you become more comfortable with the technique.

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DIY Options for Kayak Loading and Unloading Assistance

If you enjoy tackling do-it-yourself projects, you can build your own support system to assist with loading and unloading your kayak. For this project, you’ll need two long PVC pipes, two metal brackets, and two PVC tee pipes for stability. By attaching the brackets to one end of the PVC pipes and hooking them onto your car’s roof racks, you can create a stable structure. These pipes will serve as guides for loading your kayak onto the bottom and sliding it up to the top. For shorter individuals like myself, having a step stool nearby can provide additional support.

DIY project image

To see a visual demonstration of this DIY project, check out this video UpStreamPaddle.

Gear to Simplify the Loading and Unloading Process

If DIY projects aren’t your forte, there are several pre-made gear options available to assist you with loading and unloading your kayak. While these devices may come with a higher price tag, they are worth considering, especially if you frequently kayak. Let’s explore some top recommendations:

1. Thule Hullavator

Considered the gold standard in kayak load assist gear, the Thule Hullavator is a popular choice. This device allows you to load your kayak on the side of your vehicle at a comfortable height. Once securely strapped, the Hullavator assists you in pushing the kayak from the side of the car onto the roof. With its user-friendly design, even individuals of shorter stature can use it without the need for a step ladder.

2. Yakima Showdown

The Yakima Showdown offers a similar loading experience to the Hullavator but is often available at a slightly lower price. Like its counterpart, this roof rack allows you to load your kayak on the side of the car. However, some users may find it slightly more challenging to slide the rack all the way up, especially when dealing with heavier kayaks. If you are physically capable or have a step stool for assistance, the Showdown can be a great alternative.

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3. Malone Telos

Unlike the previous options, the Malone Telos consists of two metal bars that attach to your car’s roof rack. These bars can be adjusted gradually, allowing you to notch your kayak closer to the top of your car. Once in position, use a step stool to slide the kayak into your preferred rack. The Telos offers a more affordable solution compared to the Hullavator and Showdown, with prices ranging from $450 to $600.

4. Kari-Trek Easy Load Roof Rack

Although challenging to find in the United States, the European brand Kari-Trek offers an exceptional solution for transporting multiple kayaks on a single vehicle. This roof rack slides from the top of the car to the side, allowing you to load multiple kayaks at chest/stomach height. After securing your kayaks, slide the roof rack back onto the top of your car. Should you encounter difficulty with this step due to the weight, a step stool can provide the necessary assistance.

Kari-Trek Easy Load Roof Rack

While all these options are undoubtedly an investment, it’s important to consider the frequency with which you load and unload your kayak. If you calculate the cost per use, the value may outweigh the initial expense.

To learn more about kayaking or find other informative articles, visit our website UpStreamPaddle.

So, whether you prefer a DIY approach or opt for pre-made gear, there are numerous options available to make loading and unloading your kayak a breeze. Enjoy your kayaking adventures with the added convenience and support these techniques and gear provide!