I Could Use Some Good Advice

My wife and I have been kayaking for many years, using singles and a very large tandem. Recently we replaced our Honda Pilot with a Yukon XL— a much taller vehicle.

Any suggestions on roof racks that would provide some ease of loading? We had been using J-hooks for the two singles, or when taking out the tandem, we’d rest it flat down on foam blocks. (This is an old Perception Jocasse that weighs approximately the same as a small aircraft carrier.)

Any advice on j-hooks versus saddles or just any suggestions to help out a couple 64-year-olds? Thanks much.

I have an old Land Rover Discovery that we use for hauling our kayaks around and in order for my wife and I to easily load the boats on its very high roof, I had to buy Thule Hullivator racks.

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Thule Hullavator. While $$$, cheaper than medical bills for bad backs and the ease of loading will keep you paddling into your 80s and beyond.


I have a handmade tandem kayak that is 20 feet long and 3+ Ft wide it weighs about 100 Lbs. I load it by myself, The trick is to load it sideways, in other words slide it onto the roof from the side of the vehicle so it is laying across the roof then simply rock it as you turn it facing forward, center it and tie it down. If you don’t have roof racks running lengthwise on the vehicle I suggest laying a piece of carpet or a towel to protect your paint.

Hullivator if you can afford it, stackers or glide pads using something like the Amgansett Roller Loader if you can’t. Longer bars than probably with the Jracks to give you more single room on aiming the boat.

ANYTHING but Jracks. I shake my head every time I see a relatively new car with those things. I load boats that are a third of my weight solo on what have become increasingly tall roofs. Jracks would never have worked for me in shorter cars, let alone the last decade as the cars got taller.

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Second the Hullivator! It has actual gas struts that take up to 40lbs off the boat weight IIRC. The only downside other than the price is has a load limit of 75lbs and will only do kayaks.

I have the Yakima ShowDown which will fit on any brand bars, do 80lbs and also SUPs whilst typically being cheaper. It doesn’t have the gas struts however, so you are not getting any help with the weight other than from the mechanical advantage. The Yakima website is pretty egregious in how it describes it with the whole “helps gently raise” and “takes up to 45% of the boat’s weight” etc. I can fairly easily lift an 80lb boat with it so it does make a huge difference but if I were doing it again I would do the Hullivator!

Google Photos

Had 4 Yakima Mako saddles. Switched to Mako saddles with the rollers in the back after a few years. Funny thing is I had them for 8+ years and never used them. I got them when I bought my Solstice GT in the deal. Bath mat with rubber to start it off on vehicle. Then a small step ladder. I can pop it up their myself really. Mat on ground too. It’s 100 lb. empty. Me 68 stubborn and dumb.


I only have one side loader on my car since my bars aren’t long enough for two. That means if I have to put a second boat on there I am using my old J racks. I paddle alone :slight_smile:

Some pics of the Yakima Showdown in use, it’s a good rack but it’s not a Hullivator:

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I’ve posted this before so it’s not “new news” here. I made wood bars that connect the ends of my Thule bars. I slide the kayak up from the side on those bars and then pivot 90 degrees. Removeable upright posts help guide the kayak as I push it up and pivot.

My vehicle isn’t as tall as yours, and my kayak is lighter. But the concept might still work for you.



Nice idea!

A drawback of the side-load and pivot method is that you can’t have tall cradles as those would interfere with the pivot process. But a benefit that comes with the low cradles is that you can spin the kayak at an angle to get the hatch open. My cradles are vee-shaped foam blocks that I covered with a carpet “shell”. They’re held on with ball bungees.

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Wouldn’t it be great if they made a rack that was a “Lazy Susan” and it had a pin you could drop in when it was facing straight? You could then put your hold down straps on when it was turned and you wouldn’t be working over the car. You could load/unload it at 90 or any angle depending on the parking situation. Then you could have a deep V cradle as the cradle would revolve with the boat.

It wouldn’t be hard to build. Maybe we should call a patent lawyer.

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I picked up a used galvanized boat trailer and converted it into a canoe/kayak trailer. I can load the boat easily at below waist high to the bars. I can then load them with gear. When i get to the put in I can back the trailer into the water and slid the boats off. Time to go home I back it down in the water and slid the boats back on. I wear a dry suit when it’s cold and just wade in when it’s warm. If there is no way to launch with the trailer, I just get close and unload the boats onto a small cart. This is a back saver. I really like the trailer. It can carry 3 kayaks.

I always loop my straps over the cross bars BEFORE I load the boats. I never have to “work over the car.” Which is a good thing since I’m only 5’ 4" with short arms and seem to grow shorter each decade. Since I’ll be 71 in a couple of weeks I’ve been officially a “little old lady” for some time now and solo load 90% of the time.

I use 15’ straps and lay them out towards the hood and and trunk/tailgate of the car. Once the boats are on the rack I just have to walk to the front and rear of the vehicle and toss both ends of the straps over each boat, pull the free ends until the buckles are in a good position and fasten them through the near side of the Thule rack and, in my case, through the Mazda’s lateral factory bars to which the Thule is clamped.

Once all the buckles are snug, if I am feeling lazy, the excess strap lengths just get slammed in the closest car doors. For a long highway trip I will instead wrap the ends multiple times around the rack and secure the ends in a tight knot.

Trying to clamber over and reach the bars behind the kayaks once they are on the rack is a giant pain and one I can always avoid with this method.

That is the same method I use and also the 15’ for the canoe and 12’ for the kayak. I haven’t thought of leaving the tails in the car. I will be adding that to my bag of tricks.

In fact my DIY rack the cross bars stick out past the support so i don’t even have to disconnect the loop. Now that I have the door trick I can unload the boat stick the straps inside and lock the car while canoeing and the straps will be ready to go when I’m done.

I rounded off the ends and painted them blaze orange as I don’t want anyone smacking their head into them. :canoe:

I’ve seen homemade extended rack ends with day-glo orange or lime green rubber dog-toy balls or tennis balls fastened onto the ends – always think “what a good idea!”. I think I still have dents in my skull from where I used to regularly bang into the 60" Thule bars I had on my old Volvo wagon.


Thanks everyone for your help. We finally made a make-shift load assist using two inch pvc pipe attached to a couple of ancient Malone stack carriers. And it worked, the boat slid up into the saddles easily without the need of a second person on hand. Necessity is the mother of something or the other…