Can 1 man load a canoe on SUV roof?

I am 5’5, not very strong.

SUV is a newer model 4 Runner, roof is taller than me.

And my kid is small 7 yrs old who I don’t count on.

type of canoe? kevlar,royalex,concrete?

Stilts! Elevator shoes! Buy a car!
Here’s what my father used to do well in to his 60s with a Plymouth Voyageur with integral roof racks. From behind the shuttlecraft he would teepee the canoe on to the roof. Then just push from the other end.

If you’re using foam blocks, or something else with friction, I don’t know what to suggest. Maybe put a 2X4 on the roof, use the same method as above and put the blocks on after the canoe is on top.

A concrete canoe. Hrm, that just might work.

…on the man and the canoe.

I can just handle loading our 42lb. Prospector on our 4Runner by myself - wouldn’t try it with anything much heavier than that. I could handle more weight if we were using the Escort wagon, since it’s so much lower. When we had far heavier canoes, we used to load them on the 4R (2 people) standing on plastic milk crates to get some height - a lot easier than trying to extend the canoe above our heads. And as another poster pointed out, there’s always the “stick one end up on the rear roof, slide the canoe forward” approach. If you experiment (and the truck’s paint can take it!), you’ll find a way.

Get a load helper and a rack from someone like Yakima. It extends out from the end of the rack. You carry the boat up, put one end on the extended end then, using a small step stool, lift the other end up on the rack. You can then slide the canoe fully on to the rack and tie it down.

If I can put my 80 plus pound…

– Last Updated: Nov-24-05 5:33 PM EST –

Old Town Disco on the cap roof of my Ford F-150 by myself than you should have no problem.
I am older than dirt.
What you need is a strong back and weak mind like me!
I do it exactly like the others say: portage it up to the rear. Put the bow against the rack and the stern on the ground, (like a teepee). Crawl out from underneath . Pick up the stern and slide it on. No sweat unless it is hot out !


Unloading is the trick
I take my 17’ grumman and carry it with the middle yoke on my shoulders up to the side of my Jeep Cherokee and then try to throw it up onto my rack. I have about a 90% success rate. The trick is trying to unload the canoe from the rack. It seems much harder to get under the boat and balance it while unloading. I normally lose my balance and end up falling with the canoe as the canoe tips fowards or backwards or slips off the rack. You might be able to get the boat up on your roof but beware of trying to get the boat off. Things get much harder unloading. I normally try to do it when no one is watching and try to pick a soft spot to fall with it.


you won’t be just dealing with loading/unloading from suv. You also will be getting canoe from suv to water and back again. Weight is critical. As your son gets older it will be less critical. I am 6’2, 210 pounds and pretty strong for my age, but I was very glad I went with 53 pound canoe as opposed to 78 pounder. All the difference in the world when carrying canoe up muddy bank, down trails etc… Now my son is bigger so next canoe will be larger, and dryer in the whitewater.

Sounds like I should buy a 55 lbs canoe
instead of a cheaper 70-80 lbs boat. Thanks.

Where are you going to …

– Last Updated: Nov-25-05 7:16 AM EST –

paddle it.
If you are not planning on dragging it up on rocky beaches or paddling in shallow rivers where it will scrape on rocks, and you can afford it, then by all means buy a light weight kevlar canoe.
I have a 17 foot Wenonah Jensen that weighs 39 pounds. It is perfect for two adults and a bunch of gear.


Same Situation
My son is 8 so he’s not a ton of help yet loading my 69 lbs. RX Prospector. I picked up a fulton canoe loader to help out. It fits into the receiver hitch mount and provides an adjustable T mount. Just adjust the height to your vehicle. I use it on a Toyota Tundra. Yoke the canoe up on your shoulders and set either end on the T. Bungee the canoe to the T and walk out to the other end and pick up that end. The T swivels so you just pick up the other end and walk it around so it rests on the roof on bars or in my case foam blocks. Voila. It took a while to get the process down but now it works great. I did put tie down straps under the hood and I always tie the canoe loader down because it isn’t a super tight fit. Once tied down there are no problems crusising at 75. Yes, bow and stern lines tied. Hope that helps.


Davit, you can
I too have a 4Runner, older (2001) and taller model, a heavy enough canoe (royalex) and load and unload it solo all the time. I don’t like or accept help as it knocks my balance off.

I’m taller than you and pretty strong but this isn’t a strength issue, it’s all about technique. I haven’t read all the reply’s 'cause I’m in a bit of a hurry but don’t want you stranded so here’s my two cents.

Use your legs, from your home you don’t have to use any strength at all. I balance my canoe on two old chair backs in my garage. I can easily position myself under my canoe and get the yoke positioned on my shoulders. Stand up and you are carrying your canoe. You’ll get the balance sooner than later. Walk to the back of your vehicle and tilt the nose up and walk the canoe right on top hand over hand. You’ve exerted yourself an absolute minimum.

Take it off the reverse and you’re ready to paddle (dumping it in the water with no strength or help might not be pretty but it’s very doable)

Hard part. Reloading. There is a ton of technique to getting a canoe on your shoulders from the river bank. Work on this in your front yard and be careful. I use strength here but on a windy day this is still a challenge and technique going to be your savior. Practice this, you’ll get it.



With so many gadgets for boating
it’s amazing to me that one has not yet been invented to lift the canoe on a car. It would be a simple device consisting of a couple of straps that you would lean your body weight into to lift the boat effortlessly.

What you can barely do at first
will become easy with good form and practice

The solution is easy…
…just start weight training at age 13!

If you have a high enough ceiling in you
garage, there are pulley and rope devices that help. other than that, the old heave ho of the bow from the yoke position to the back crossbar and shoving it up from the stern works well. I’ve got extra long yakima cross bars, so I can also use the same method from the side of the vehicle if I can’t get the rear crossbar back far enough. I’ve only carried my canoe on vans and an isuzu trooper, taller than your suv.

I could onto 1/2 ton pickup
I’m 5’5" and I used to load my 15’ Grumman canoe onto topper of my pickup by myself. I’d lift and lean bow end of canoe up onto back of topper (which was about 3" or so higher than truck cab) then lift and shove stern end. Both racks (homemade pipe ones) were on topper so I don’t think I had extra lifting of bow to get over front rack. Tying it down was more of a challlenge but I managed by standing on tailgate and open doorframe w/lots of stretching to reach. that was over 25 years ago and I was younger and had fewer aches and pain tho.

You could probably do something similar but I’d suggest protecting your SUV’s paint with scrap of carpet (foam-backed would stay in place while you lift and slide).

Good luck.


fulton canoe loader
I have a 5,4 and 1.5 year old, so I load my canoe

70 lbs by myself. jsut pick up the back, sit it on the T and walk around and tie down, can load and unload in about a minute. got mine at Bass Pro Shop.

fulton canoe loader
I have a 5,4 and 1.5 year old, so I load my canoe

70 lbs by myself. jsut pick up the back, sit it on the T and walk around and tie down, can load and unload in about a minute. got mine at Bass Pro Shop.

Yakima makes a boat loader which is a bar that fits inside the roof tube. When loading, you just extend it, lift the bow or stern up onto it, walk to the other end and with a small step ladder , lift the other end up on to the rack, go back to the front and slide the bow end over on to the rack and then push the boat loader bar back into the roof rack tube.I have a pick up with a topper on the back and my wife, who is your size can put her 50 lb kayak up and into it’s saddles. I would expect that Thule has a similar thing, of cousrse you would have to have either a Yakima or Thule roof rack.