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Boat Trailer vs Roof Rack



  • yeah, that's why I mentioned it...
    -- Last Updated: Dec-31-12 4:41 PM EST --

    ... earlier parts of the discussion as being the type of trailer that would work well, as far as ride quality goes. It's also why the post you made the reply to only dealt with cheap kit trailers and "standard" trailers.

  • "Drawback" versus inexperience
    All the questions about how to load a heavy boat onto the roof do NOT indicate a drawback of cartopping. They only indicate that most people simply can't figure out how to do things the easy way, or how to build or modify their racks. I loaded an aluminum jonboat on top of a full size van so many times when I was a teenager, and back then I weighed 130 pounds and was NOT at all strong. That boat was far heavier and more awkward to handle than any kayak that was ever made, but it was easy because the method used was sensible. Loading it onto a full-size van was a bit harder than loading onto something like a station wagon (again, both vehicles had proper rack modifications), but even loading onto something like a station wagon is actually EASIER with that kind of boat (or a canoe) than loading onto something down around waist-high.
  • Wheel Bearings and Failures
    From what I can tell, wheel-bearing failures usually involve neglected trailers, especially the neglected ones that also have their axles submerged in water at times, as is the case for normal boat trailers. I've met a lot of people who tow various kinds of trailers, but still haven't met someone who's had a wheel-bearing failure. Anyone who's mileage is not extreme, or who comes even close to following Pikabike's advice if their mileage is high, shouldn't have anything to worry about.
  • And how much of the "drawback" of traile
    ... is also due to inexperience?

  • What drawbacks?
    -- Last Updated: Dec-31-12 5:26 PM EST --

    That would depend who you talk to so one might know what "drawbacks" you are even talking about. Since your reply is directly to me, maybe I need to clarify for you that I never said anything against trailers in general. None of the specific negative issues I've mentioned have anything to do with trailers as a whole, and all can be avoided by making different choices (except for the example of trying to turn around on a narrow dirt path, and except for the fact that a good trailer costs many times more than a good roof rack), so I think you might be looking to argue against a point that I never made.

    Maybe you were talking about the loading-height issue? Well, it's true. If you have a canoe on your shoulders, it's a lot harder to squat way down to set one end on a low rack than it is to simply step out from beneath it after setting one end on a roof rack, especially if it's a heavy boat. Also, it's also a lot harder to roll it off your shoulders and into your hands to set on a low rack than to simply set one end on a roof rack. It's not that low-loading is THAT bad, but it is harder, so I only mentioned that in response to all the folks who think that low-loading is universally easier. That "universal truth" isn't the case for all kinds of boats.

  • Its been a good discussion
    but did we lost the OP..did I miss what sort of hatchback is involved?

    trailering COULD make more sense in the case of odd rooflines or the hatch banging against the boat and not being able to be fully opened.

    We all have our systems and have shared what works for us. But I daresay none of us have experiences with all cars.

    I know when I swap cars there is always a period of having to think it out.

  • you're unique
    in your difficulty of loading onto low decks.

    When I suggest you count the number of threads about loading boats, they're ALL about loading to high roofs, not low ones.

    Seems it's universally accepted that loading onto low deck is a no-brainer. But you seem to find the opposite. So perhaps you ought to look into "figure out HOW..." to do it?
  • He is not unique
    it IS hard to load onto a low deck when there is a higher load bar in the way.

    Is this all a battle of egos?
  • sort of depends
    If two people are handling the boat, it is relatively easy to load onto a low pair of crossbars even if there is a boat above.

    Working alone, it is a bit trickier, but with most racks one stem can be swung in and supported on a crossbar while the other end is lifted and pivoted in to the other.
  • Probably a casd of not being clear
    -- Last Updated: Jan-01-13 5:37 PM EST --

    IF you are carrying a canoe on your shoulders by yourself, and IF you've got a rack that you can lean the boat against (THAT issue is the only reason people keep asking questions about what should be an easy process), THEN there's nothing easier than simply stepping out from under the boat, followed by lifting less than half its weight using your hands (the initial overlap of boat onto rack means more than half of the weight will be taken by the rack when you pick up the other end, in case that needs to be explained to you, and the amount you lift becomes progressively less as you slide the boat onto the rack, too). Why would squatting down low, or dropping the whole canoe into your hands, be easier than simply walking out from underneath it?

    Once again, I'm not saying it's a huge deal, but if you can't picture in your mind (since it appears yoiu haven't carried and loaded a canoe by yourself using this method) how simple it is to simply walk out from underneath your boat and then lift only a fraction of its weight, I don't know what else I can say.

    Working in pairs, as Pete points out, loading onto a low rack is definitely easier, and in that case it's true even if there are no higher cross bars in the way, but this wasn't a discussion about two people cooperating to load a boat.


    Okay, it's hardly worth saying more, but this idea that I'm so "unique" in finding the "step our from underneath" method so effortless can be refuted easily. You know those brackets that used to dot the north country canoe trails by the hundreds? The ones that people used as a means of easily resting while on the portage trail, or just to make it easier to get into and out from under the canoe? Well, how high were those racks? About three feet, or about seven feet? Well, there ya go. They made 'em that way to make it easier, not harder.

  • Yakima Rack N Roll vs. Malone MicroSport
    How does the Yakima trailer compare to the Malone?
  • But, if moving the boat around on a cart
    ......loading onto low bars on a trailer would be easier.

    That's how many people would be moving a heavy boat between the vehicle & launch.
  • In that case, yes. (nm)
  • Roof Racks AND Trailer
    We used to have Thule J cradles on the top of our Jeep for 4 kayaks.

    But we're old and fat, and getting older, so we upgraded to 2 Hullavators which are awesome. But only 2 fit on top of Jeep.

    We've ended up getting a huge amount of dog sports gear for my service Newfoundland who is also my kayak buddy and water rescue dog.

    So in order to take all our stuff with us to his many activities we just bought a Pulmor Trailer. It has a 2" back receiver hitch for our bike and dog scooter racks, plus bars on top which we will Thule outfit for our 2 shorter recreational kayaks. The 2 longer ones will ride atop on the Hullavators. Eventually we'll get sea kayaks and a dog specific kayak (not made yet).

    This trailer was way too expensive but it fits our needs perfectly, easy to see out back window and a really nice easy smooth ride.

    Here's a picture of it our 1st day when we picked it up from U-Haul (was shipped from Colorado and we're in Oregon):

  • Huh?
    The OP was asking about kayaks.

  • True enough, but ...
    -- Last Updated: Jan-02-13 11:22 PM EST --

    ... at the risk of repeating myself, the discussion DID take off in the direction of advantages of trailers versus roof racks "in general", which is no sin because side discussions ARE permissible. Anyway, I'm sure canoes were mentioned somewhere along the line, and all I did, in side-discussion format, was to address the kind of blanket statement I've seen here before, that lower is always better. Hey, if you want to get picky about adhering to the original topic, most of the thread strayed off topic because the original question wasn't about effort at all. The original question was about feasibility, and with few supporting details. We did find out that the paddler is male, and he gave no indication that he's small or weak, and the car being used has a roof that's almost as low as they come. So, who inserted the idea that loading on the roof would be unnecessarily difficult?

    Anyway, the poor OP never came back, and probably wouldn't paddle with any of us now.

  • Looks like Chewbacca paddling the kayak
  • ok I'll weigh in
    If one has a two-door hatchback, which allows little in the way of bar spread, one has to decide whether to:

    1. Add a rack extension,

    2. Add a hitch extension,


    3. get a trailer.

    Both 2. and 3. require fitting a hitch receiver.

    So in my simplistic flawed logic, in the case I provided it's either a rack extension, or a trailer...presuming you can get a trailer at a good price.

    If your hatchback is at all attractive a trailer will "ugly it up" less. Its also much easier to remove, but harder to store.
  • Options
    Hands Down
    Its Malone all the way. USA made versus China import. Better warranty. Great customer support. All in all no contest.
  • Options
    either or...
    i have a 15.5 pelican canoe and an F-150 with a rack in the bed i haul it on. it over hung on the tail gate too much so i bought the rack. i usually am at a landing which is easy to load and unload, but it can cause me looks from people with trailer rigs waiting to launch or take out. i have to unload, the load my gear and takes longer. when landing i have to unload my canoe then load it then strap it down. a trailer would be nice and easier physically, but then comes tags, registration, maintenance and so on. i've thought about making a dolly rig so i can just park and unload my canoe, then load it by my vehicle and use the dolly to walk it to the water. then i have the problem of what to do with the dolly. if loading and unloading from the roof isn't too much physically, i'd say it's best. no flats on the trailer or bearings wearing out on the highway. no extra registration costs.
  • Options
    Harbor Freight trailer
    -- Last Updated: Jan-05-13 8:44 AM EST --

    I bought a 4x8 folding trailer from Harbor Freight for under $250.00. After adding a treated plywood bed, putting a hitch on my Equinox, trailer registration, wiring, etc, I have less than $500.00 into it. I mounted my car-top carrier (for the camping gear) to the bed and built a treated 2x4 rack to carry the boats. It's a heck of a lot easier to load the boats on the trailer than it is to lift them up onto the roof racks, especially after a long day of paddling. I can also tell you that a kayak will take a side view mirror off of a car like a guillotine if the wind catchs it before you get a strap on it. The boats and gear stay on the trailer (tarped) all season then everything, including the trailer, goes into the garage for the winter. I even have room for the bike rack on the back of the car, with the trailer attached. My friends tell me it looks like the Beverly Hillbillies going down the road but, I don't care. Turning around, parking, or increased tolls have not been an issue. It's definatly an option worth exploring.

  • love my trailer
    Bought a utility trailer for ~$400, plywood floor added, 2x4 racks installed with simple foam pads on top. Racks are spaced to support the bulkheads.

    The leaf suspension is definitely too stiff; bouncing on bumpy roads and train crossings occurs. But my boats are plastic, not composite, so no damage has occurred. And the foam pads are quite thick, so they are a kind of suspension anyways.

    Loading onto a 2 foot high platform is a pleasure compared to hoisting the boats onto a rooftop. My back thanks me every time I avoid deadlifting the boat up to shoulder height. Mileage is better, too.

    Rarely, I'll use the roof rack, like on long roadtrips. For those, the ease of parking in gas stations, restaurants, and crowded hotel parking lots makes the roof rack the winner. Plus I think of the trailer as another thing that can breakdown on the roadside. I wouldn't want to be struggling to replace a failed bearing while en route far from home.

    Another disadvantage of the trailer is that mud, dust and grime can come off of your towing vehicle's tires and onto your boat. I've had to wipe off the boat before entering the pool, and had to pressure wash the boat after driving down dusty gravel roads. Felt like cleaning my old dirt bike. Might get a cover to wrap the boat in.

    Despite the problems, I much prefer the trailer and use it whenever I can.

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