Carrying kayaks on tall trucks

This question has been asked many times, but didn’t see any more recent posts so want to revisit this topic. Sure would appreciate any advice or pointers to products…

I can’t put the kayaks in the bed of my truck (I put other equipment there) so I need to put them on top of a truck rack. I can find those everywhere BUT what I can’t find is one that’s actually usable.

On my truck - which is NOT lifted (but is a 4x4) the rack is out of my reach even on my tippy toes and there’s no way I can get a 70lb tandem kayak up there.

Is there some system I’m not finding online?

I thought for sure there would be one where you lean the kayak up against the rear rack support and push/roll it up on - nope.

How do you folks with taller trucks carry kayaks up top?!?

Depending on exactly what your bed is storing, I have seen others use a series of steps such as a lowered tailgate to lift one end part way. Also, if you can still walk around in your bed, its not quite the reach from standing in the bed to securing on an overhead rack.
Doesn’t work for me as I have a shell/topper on the bed and the rack is above that. I’m able to stand the yak on end to get started on the aft crossbar of the rack then lift the lower end until balance point levels the boat out. Then walk around to side and open the door to grab the front and pull it up to position to lash it down. Not easy nor graceful, but effective.

We have a ‘15 Silverado Dual Cab 4x4, not lifted. I use Yakima racks that I’ve had forever on the roof of the cab. We load it quite easily by putting a kayak in the bed of the truck, pushing down on the stern, up goes the bow, push it forward onto the rack. If the stuff in the bed of the truck is at least where you can use one side of it, it works fine. That said, I’m 6’ tall and if I were shorter I think it would be more difficult.

I use a Thule truck bed rack with Thule Hulivators in the bed and a Yakima rack on the cab of the truck, Chev Z-71, 2500. . We do it this way because the travel trailer forces us to carry the boats far foward. However the Hulivators don’t really “hold” the boats well being built for something wider than our sea kayaks… So once the boats are lashed to the Yakima rack they follow the truck very stable where ever it goes. We once took the kayaks up a 4x4 -ish rough road in NC to see the very nice over look. Kayaks stayed put.

Our boats are about 60 pounds. The Hulivators boost 40# but it is enough. I use a step stool to reach the straps on the Yakima. Of course I need the step stool to get things out of my tool box on the back too.

They are real $$$ proud of the racks. My friends got a good deal on Amazon Prime.

I used Yakima bed racks on the other trucks. On the new 2500 the bars were 7 feet off the ground. I’m tall-ish but there is a limit. The Thule racks are adjustable up and down. Since they mount really on the edge of the truck and fold down the side there is room to carry another boat in the middle.

You might be tempted to mount your Hulavator on another company’s rack. I did and found it awkward so I converted to full Thule.

The tool box / Thule mount has special clamps for the Thule that have threaded holes for bolts through the tool box to the clamps.

A friend of mine also uses a Thule Hullavator on a Yakima rack on her pickup since she also uses a travel trailer when car camping. Expensive, but a good solution for tall vehicles, heavy boats, or solo loading.

A lot of people prefer the Yakima square bars over the Thule round bars as they are a lot less expensive then the newer aerodynamic bars and don’t let saddles or other rack accessories rotate on the bars, which seems to happen no matter how much you tighten things on the round bars. Most Thule and Yakima accessories with work on round or square bars…

Here you go. I’ve used the 130cm version for years so haven’t needed to go to this extent but being that you have a 70lb boat…

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Thanks everyone! Great advice on both technique and products. My budget dictates technique will be my solution. Image I didn’t even think of loading it partly into the bed then getting in the bed to work them onto the rack! Simple, and elegant and I guess since I’ve not actually put the racks on my truck yet - didn’t even occur to me.

Thanks all!

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Just be sure to protect the stern when leaning a boat on a vehicle to load it. I’ve done a lot of repairs where people have ground off the gel coat and more there. An old bathroom rug will often work.


technique. If you cant lift to the rear, carry a milk crate.
I built my rack but there is no reason what I did cant be modded to yours
pics on this thread Hauling Kayaks in a Pickup Bed?

We used the Rhino Rack Universal Side Loader to get our boats on top of the Jeep. You still have the problem of doing the straps up high though. A step platform should be about $50 at your local hardware store.

This year we upgraded to the Hullavators, wow, what a difference. We used to take 45 minutes for me to get both boats down at the launch. Now we both take care of our own boats so that’s halves it and also it’s faster. Once we were 13 minutes from ramp to in the water which included walking back to park the car!

Marshall - That’s a nice system. It’s amazing what manufacturers have come up with.

Thanks again for the continued ideas. We’re just beginners so I bought rather inexpensive Kayaks. If we continue to enjoy this, it seems I have MANY options to upgrade - some of which are lighter. Right now there are 3 of us: Me, my wife and my son. My wife and I alternate in the tandem with my son and we also take a single with us.


I assume there is no solid part of the vehicle to latch an Amagansett Roller Loader onto.

Ideas I saw w/o knowing your exact configuration -
Yakima rollers here, don’t know what your rear bar is here

Be aware that the Yakima Hully Rollers are a discontinued item. The rubber on the outside of the rollers turnes to bubble gum after a while when exposed to UV. They have been replaced by Yakima Hand Rolls which I would hope do not have the same problem.

However, if you can find a set of the Hully Rollers in good condition, you will save a lot of money and should get a few years out of them. Treating the rollers with 303 Aerospace Protectant® might extend their life.


Thanks for that update. I swear rack components for kayaks are acquiring the characteristics of computers and kitchen appliances. Just assume you will be tossing them out after a bit because they can’t be fixed.

Interesting…rarely took mine off in FLA…didn’t have that problem . Don’t use 'em as rollers any more they live on my canoe trailer.