Car topping a boat...again

Hi there,

I know that this subject has been posted before, but I would like to hear some fresh opinions.

I need to find an easier way to load my kayak to the top of my SUV. I have been loading kayaks to a Ford Explorer with relative ease, but for the last year, since I bought an Expedition, it’s been more of a challenge, I’m always worried of dropping the boat.

I am thinking about either a Talon or a Hullavator, both should allow me to load the boat at chest level, with much more leverage and better grip.

Any inputs, opinions? By the way, although a trailer is a better way to carry boats overall I cannot store one properly (even the folding ones need more space than I can presently spare) therefore these are not choices for me.



I’ve got the Talon and love using it. It does just what you say, allows you to load the boat at chest level. That said, it’s not perfect. I needed to get extension bars even for my solo canoe. It’s possible but more difficult to put a second kayak up there…I used J-hooks on the lifters and the second boat has to be a kayak.

The Talon has been sold to Yakima and they don’t seem to be hurrying to put it out on the market. The product works but I’ve already had some problems with it. There are small set screws that hold the whole lifting unit square to the base and if it goes out of square you’ll be holding a boat up over your head trying to align two sets of tracks before you can push the whole thing back onto the car. The weight it can take really isn’t that much. I have put my 80 lb canoe on it and the lifters were overtaxed and the whole thing was moving too much as I lifted. Once in place, that amount of weight was no problem. So I guess the bottom line is if you really need to have the boat down lower (and I did) then this is one good way to do it but it’s not perfect.

On an Xterra
We load from the back with a towel. Just slides right up. I use a Yakima rack with foam blocks. The saddles, hully rollers etc… really do not work as well as those foam blocks with fiberglass boats. Another option is to get a “beater” car to carry your boats. I picked up an old Camry for my stepson’s eventual use but that one gets lots of use and the Xterra is taken out once weekly and will be a snow vehicle during winters.

Homemade saddles
I make my own saddles out of wood and boat carpet. The carpet allows the boat to slide. I load over the rear end on the Subaru wagon but the truck is another mater. I load the lower boat over the front on the 3/4T PU. I tow a 5th wheel and have to stack the kayaks. The upper boat is much tougher but I usually have help. I can load it solo by going cross bed and then transfering it to the upper rack. My boats are 16’ to 18’.

Yes, but still…

– Last Updated: Sep-14-05 1:18 PM EST –


I do the same, I put a towel on the back and slide the boat up on two foam blocks, one per rail, but for me this generates two problems:

1 - You have to allow the stearn of the boat to touch the floor while the bow is pointing upwards on the first stage of lifting it, this scratches the boat (it's a quite new Assateague, this is painful to do) I homemade a foam padding that I attach to the stearn before lifting, it's not perfect but it's been working. Some people uses the PFD, I think my PFD is too important/expensive for this use.

2 - My second problem is that sometimes the bow starts to sway to one side or another while I am pushing the boat up, this has been under relative control but in one occasion it almost went down (and I almost had a heart attack, you see, I am really attached to this piece of fiberglass…).

Then there is the problem of taking the boat down. I am 6'1" but still I have to stretch to pull it backwards and honestly, I end up never allowing it to touch the floor, meaning I am hauling it over my head, lowering it to my shoulder and then grabbing the rim of the cockpit and lowering it to the floor - a back injury waiting to happen.
That *&^%$#@$# truck is just too damn high. But on the other hand I can load a ton of people/gear in it; therefore it will be used for this purpose often. I am in the process of buying a car to my son and it will be MUCH lower than the Expedition, (a Toyota Matrix probably, if I can find a decent used one) but as I said, the truck will still have to be used to transport kayaks. That’s when this idea of a side loading gizmo came to be, my doubt is because I’ve heard a lot of complaints on these systems in past postings, and since these systems undergo upgrades I was hoping that I could hear something better about them at this point.

A couple of years ago a friend desired to cartop a small sailing dingy. Because towing a camp trailer he couldn’t tow a boat trailer at the same time.

A friend of his gave him an Eide self loading cartop system, which we were able adapt the boat to. It worked great. And the manufacturer was impressed that we were able to adapt a sailboat to go on the carrier.

Recently I’ve noticed in their webpage that they have a cartop system to load canoes…which may be able to adapt kayaks too.

You might check out their webpage…they have an animated illustration of how their systems operate. I believe both systems can be either hand cranked or motorized.

Go to ‘search’ and type in ‘Eide boat selfloaders’.

Purchased the rollerloader from the accs site here. Made my life so much easier. worth the xtra money it cost. It is cheaper than one trip to the Chiropracter. Well constructed and can be used as a kayak dolly down to the water. see reviews under accesories 10/10 from me.

Malone Gullwing
I recently switched from Malone Autoloaders to Gullwings (shameless plug #1 -> Thanks to Tim at Malone - Exceptional customer service!). I was going it alone for the first time due to my wife’s bed-ridden pregnancy (shameless plug #2 -> Margaret Ellen born 7/21/05 as THE most beautiful baby EVER!).

I found it very easy to load by myself with the gull wings and a small rug over the vehicle to protect it. To answer the stern damage issue, I use a large piece of mini-cell (actually an old exercise block step from the junk yard) to rest the rudder (RUDDER?!?!?!) end on (I cut out a large hole for it to sit in so as not to damage it). It slides along as I load the bow and then I switch to the stern to lift and shove on. It’s very easy on my back. And I have not dropped the boat yet (shameless plug #3 & #4 -> Necky boats and Wilderness boats are VERY tough and Wildy’s bounce quite high!) as I did many times with side loading by myself.

So give them a try and see what you think.

My demo of the hull lifting systems was less than impressive as they were so far apart and seemed to put an awful lot of stress on the roof system.


I have a Ford …
F-150, 4x4 with a cap on it which should be as high or higher than your vehicle and my way works great for me.

I have the rear bar as close to the rear of the vehicle as I can get it.

I have saddles on both the front and rear bars. They are the older Yakima ones, and I have glued indoor outdoor carpet to them.

I place the kayak on the ground to the rear and beside the vehicle, with the bow a few feet in front of the rear bar.

I pick the front of the yak up and over my head until it is higher than the rear saddle and then ,move it over and set it down on the saddle.

I then go to the stern, pick it up about waste high and slide it forward, and then keep sliding it up until I can let the bow down on the front saddle.

Once I know the balance point is beyond the rear of the vehicle, I climb up on the rear bumper or tailgate and slide it the rest of the way home.

I do two kayaks this way. and have loaded two heavy plastic ones for many moons this way.

If you have two people, (as I do with my wife some times). You can do it directly from the rear, by you being under the bow doing a push-up and forward with it while she is holding the stern about waste high. Set the bow on the cradle, and then go back and take over from the stern person and continue like above.

I am only a 160 pound weakling and if I can do it you should be able to



I’m 5’5"
and have a Saturn VUE…I have successfully solo-loaded a 'yak onto foam blocks on the top of the truck using the carpet method for the edge of the roof and the back of the boat on the ground, but it wasn’t easy.

I found something that helps a great deal: small plastic step stools that fold flat. They take up to 300 lbs (Yes, the mfr puts it in print, and we’ve come close to the max at times), and are about 1.5" thick when folded flat. They give about 6"-8" of extra height which is just enough.

I get them at Canadian Tire here in Cda, on sale twice this summer for $10.


Mako Saddle + Hully Rollers
I use a Yakima Mako Saddle with a set of Hully Rollers. I have an Xterra (height 74") with a 13.5 yak.

I tilt the boat up against the truck (with a blanket underneath), then tilt it further so it hits the rollers, and finally push it forward so it rests in the cradle.

After a long day of paddling, I would kill for a Hullavator, but it won’t fit on the Xterra rack.

Tag line and pad
Tie a tag line to the stern of the boat. Attach the other end of the tag to the rack. The tag line keeps the boat from sliping back so the length of the tag is critical. Place a pad on the ground where the boat touches. If you are on a ramp or incline always load and unload from the high side as there is less chance of slipage. I used to load and unload from a 4x4 PU with a shell this way.

You will like the Matrix…
…but if you cartop, you may like the Pontiac Vibe better. Same car (Toyota design, factory, and manufacture), only Vibes come standard with a rack. The Matrix only has a rack as a special-order item.

Got my Vibe a week ago and haven’t stopped grinning yet. Cartopped my kayak today on the Vibe for the first time (it’s been out a hundred times on the old car) and everything went great. Factory rack felt rock solid, except I will have to get used to loading from the back and not the side (old car had a trunk, which wasn’t practical to load from the back).

Holy cow, get the Matrix or the Vibe and your son is going to be one happy camper. I’m not even a kid and I’m geeked.

Cartops a kayak

Holds more cargo than a small SUV.

Holds linear objects up to 8 feet long INSIDE.

Multiple tie-down/tie-off points

Able to fit a full-sized washer or dryer INSIDE.

Available with ABS, AWD or 6-speed

Able to get 40+ mpg in a manual transmission (yee-ha!). The automatics only average 30-32?

I wish I could afford a second one to put in storage until the first one gives up. I’m pretty sure there won’t be anything like it in 2015 when I’m thinking of getting another car.

Oh, yeah, fishing was okay today. Zilch for an hour, then crossed the point and hit three LMB, lost three. Fighting mad for fall.

Anyhow, yes, the Matrix would be excellent.

I use a sideloader and a step stool to load my QCC 600 on my Ford Escape. It has worked very well.

Padding for stern end
I use a piece of heavy-duty rubbery puffy shelf liner to pad my stern on the ground - it also keeps it from sliding when I lift the bow up to the roof. I have a piece about 5’ long that I keep handy - and use it folded in half for extra cushion.



What boats did you haul with the Gullwings and did you experience any oilcanning problems?

my life
I love owning a 38lb. kayak and a sedan…

This works for me
Loading/unloading advice from a previous post…

The biggest problem loading/unloading by yourself is the danger of the kayak sliding off the roof during the process. I know; I dropped mine several times before I came up with the following idea.

I have a Plymouth Grand Voyager van. No roof rack. I use foam blocks with straps. The stern tie down straps attach to holes in the frame.

When unloading the kayak, I loosen the stern tie-down straps all the way [they pass through the stern carry strap]. Then, I lift up the stern a little while I slide one of those pool noodles under the kayak. Now, I carefully “roll” the kayak off the roof and place the stern on the ground. The loosened straps are just the right length to keep the kayak from sliding along the ground, and crashing to the ground. The kayak is now resting at an angle with the stern on the ground and the bow above the tailgate. It is now a simple matter to slide the bow off the tailgate and place the kayak on my cart. The entire process takes about a minute.

To get the kayak back on the roof, I “sort of” reverse the process. I position the kayak [on the cart] along the side of the van, angled with the stern lined up with the middle of the van. I attach the fully extended stern straps to the stern carry strap and move the kayak back until the stern lines are taut. Now, I lift the bow of the kayak and slide it up against the tailgate. It is now in the same position listed above, resting at an angle with the stern on the ground and the bow above the tailgate. I now position the pool noodle on the roof, lift up the stern, and “roll” the kayak across the roof. Remove the pool noodle and you’re ready to secure it to the roof.

Without using the stern tie-down straps to hold the kayak in position during loading/unloading, it would be nearly impossible to handle the kayak myself. With them, it is quite easy.

This works for me. And I suffer from three herniated discs. [Not from the kayak!]