Advice for getting heavy boat atop SUV

I was happy when one of my best friends finally bought her own kayak, thinking we’d be able to go out more often. Problem is, she is 5’ 6", has a Honda Pilot, and bought a Tsunami 145 which, at 56 lbs, is a bear to load. One of my boats is an old Dagger Magellan, similar weight, but that’s the reason I drive a Volvo wagon: easy to load for us short people. Also she has weakness on one side due to an injury from a car wreck years ago.

Bottom line, it takes both of standing on folding stepladders to load the d@mned thing on the basic Thule rack and we look like two monkeys wrestling a whale – not pretty. And she absolutely cannot load it herself. Her garage is too low to suspend the boat and drive under, a further complication is her driveway is a downward steep gravel slope.

I’ve been scouting options – seen the “Kayak roller” thing for $160 that looks like half of a kiddie wagon. Does it work? Any other suggestions? Anything we can rig ourselves that won’t cost over $100? I’m very handy, got lots of tools and can fabricate pretty well – have access to custom welders. She really can’t afford a $250 Thule add-on.

Any tips would be welcomed. I suspect this is a problem for many smaller folks. Tis why I stick with the low-profile wagons and skin-on-frame boats under 35 lbs for 90% of my paddling.

the way I see it
is this discussion is already ongoing in another thread.

Also how are you loading it?

– Last Updated: May-22-10 4:42 PM EST –

if you load bow first with the stern resting on a pad and have a pad on the roof like a life jacket... you only need to lift 25 lbs at a time and then slide the boat onto the roof. You might ask your local kayak shop or someone in a club to show you how.


– Last Updated: May-22-10 4:51 PM EST –

"I'm very handy, got lots of tools and can fabricate pretty well -- have access to custom welders."

Say! Ye anywhere near Joisey? Ah' waars a Tilley hat an' kin lift heavy objects.


try this …

– Last Updated: May-22-10 5:48 PM EST –
this SUV roller fits in the door crack between body and gr8 ! or have someone build you one. Just make sure you take it out after use and don't try to open door with it'll dent the door frame ! I know ..been there ...done that. only other option I know off is the expensive commercial roller loaders by Yakima or thule.
PS: there's a video on OOC's home page of the SUV roller in action.

Whole heck of alot easier to load on a trailer.

Bill H.

I have a high profile SUV and a plastic touring yak that is heavy.

I use a roller attached to the roof rack and a step stool that my husband made for me. He used left over wood from a project and built the step stool at exactly the correct height that is needed for me to get the yak up on the roof.

In addition I spray the bottom of the yak with water and hose down the kayak rack, this makes the yak quite slippery and loading is a snap.

My experience with the roller loader

– Last Updated: May-24-10 8:59 AM EST –

I am guessing that you are talking about the [oops - Amagansett] roller loader? This has worked quite well for me with a station wagon, 16 ft plus composite boats and older style stackers that allow me to drop the boat onto the cross bars on it's hull (deck facing up). It isn't the world's fastest loading job, but I can get two boats up by myself. I then roll the boat up on its side to get it lashed.

The trickiest part is getting a boat lashed down that wants to fall back forward rather than lay nicely against the stackers once I have it up on it side. We have a couple that do that - so I set up a couple straps loosely to stop it from falling off before I finish the lash down.

If you shift any of these parameters - shorter boat, loading onto J-bars, less slick hulls or taller vehicle - I am not sure how that affects things.

Amaganset Roller loader
Do you mean this one? If you paddle Lake Arthur on Mondays we go there (today) I have one you can take a look at and see if it would work for her. I haven’t used mine but am keeping it in case i need to use it in future. Apparently another lady uses this to load her boat also.

Yup, that’s the one
Me bad with names… I corrected my post above.

You’ll also need knee pads and/or a blanket to protect the stern from getting scraped up if doing this alone, since you will be propping the front of the boat into the loader or at least against the rear of the car for a moment.

What keeps the pads in place when windy?

…are great but their is the initial cost, licensing, maint., storage room when not in use, and as anyone who travels narrow back country dirt roads knows…there’s no such thing as turn-around room w/ trailer attached. Low’s Lake access in NYS is such a place…hardly enough room to drive a vehicle down the road much less turn it around @ the end.

I just rigged something for my needs…

– Last Updated: May-25-10 4:47 PM EST –

I went to Home Depot and bought a piece of 3/4"x3/4" angle iron about 4' long ($6 and change). This fits perfectly into the Thule rectangular bars after removing the plastic end plug. I slide the angle iron in about 1.5' and then slide a piece of pvc pipe over the exposed angle iron to protect my boat. From there, I place the bow of the boat on the pvc pipe and can slide the kayak up on to the rack. I have enough strength to get the boat on the rack but with this tool but it is much easier without worrying about throwing my back out (bad back!!).

This tool is somewhat like the Thule Outrigger for a fraction of the price. It does have to be removed when its not needed, unlike the Thule piece that slides into the roof bar, but for the price you cannot beat it.

I will take some pics and edit this post shortly.

you should be able to design
something using bicycle tires and1/4 to 1/2 inch steel tubing. seems like a person with your skills could pull it off fairly easily for less money. as far as loading it once you roll it to the car; we have a canoe loader which prob. could be used for a yak. it’s a t bar that swivels so all you have to do is get the end of the yak onto the t bar. that’s not much weight to lift overall.then you merely swivel the thing in place and tie down. the t bar mounts to a trailer hitch on the back of the vehicle. i will say however, i agree with the trailer idea as easiest.

Wow! Thanks, folks!
Some great suggestions – going to try yours, Swimman. Cheap and I can always use the angle iron for something else if it doesn’t work for her. Some of the other tips unfortunately won’t work in this situation: she lives in the mountains and has a steep gravel driveway (like a 15% grade) – no room for trailer and even using step stools is hazardous.

FatElmo: sorry, babe, yer a bit far out East o’ the Pike fer me. And I’m a Filson “Tin” hat gal (“you might as well have the best”)-- so it’d never work. :slight_smile:

Try this
Either move your bars over about 8-10 inches or get a longer crossbar so that you can put ONE of the saddles outboard of your towers. If you are right handed, extend on the driver side of the vehicle.

This allows you to be in a position that is more directly under where you are trying to put the boat. You can put the front end of the boat on the front saddle and then lift the back end onto the rear saddle. It also makes it much easier to load your boats by yourself or with another person just hoisting up onto both saddles because you are lifting just straight up rather than up and way over.

Consider the obverse?
How about acquiring a canoe/kayak you can lift?

That’s the obv(erse)ious answer
Part of a boat buying decision is getting one that you can get to and from the water. By yourself.

If you really, really can’t lift, lever or slide a 56 pound boat on standard vehicle, then you’ll never use the thing for its intended purpose

She bought the wrong boat. Sell it and get a 20 pound SinPC.

carpet runner
Place a length of hallway carpet runner down the windshield and over the hood. Lift the stern up onto the hood and slide up onto the rack.

Works for a person I know, but different vehicle.

Does the carpet blow around in the wind?
I tend to chose to paddle the kayak over the canoe when the wind is blowing too much for it to be fun in the solo canoe, but that’s also the conditions that blow rugs around.