Kayak roof rack for aging parent

I’m looking for a kayak roof rack system for my father’s Ford Explorer. He kayak fishes solo a lot but at 80 years old, with arthritis in his shoulders, he is finding it difficult to lift his kayak onto his basic roof rack by himself. I’d like to buy him a new one for his birthday and am looking at the Thule Hullavator but would like to know if there are other options out there to consider.


Malone attachment???
*** I have nothing to do with this company

*** I do not currently own this product, but am seriously considering it

Take a look at:



Difference between the Malone

– Last Updated: Jul-31-16 1:38 PM EST –

and the Hullavator is the OP's 80-year old dad will still have to lift the entire weight of his kayak to the roof.

The Hullavator uses gas-assisted struts and lifts 40# of the boat weight.

Don't know how much his fishing kayak weighs, but if it's really heavy another option is a lighter weight boat. Eddyline makes one that weighs 45#.

Rhino Rack T-Loader

– Last Updated: Jul-31-16 1:25 PM EST –

I'm a 5'5" woman in my mid 50s and I load & unload my kayak by myself most of the time. I looked at a lot of systems before I bought my kayak and the Rhino Rack T-Loader works very well for me. I plug it straight into my hitch receiver instead of clamping it to the ball on my trailer hitch. It's very stable and I find it easy to use. It only requires lifting the nose of my kayak up onto the T-bar, then walking around and lifting the stern. Push forward and the T-loader cantilevers up while you slide the kayak unto the roof rack. I don't use the side brackets with the strap in between like they shoe in the video. I just use the T-bar by itself and it works very well. A little cheaper than the Thule and Yakima systems, and didn't require me to lift as much of the kayak weight to load.


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lighter boat

– Last Updated: Aug-01-16 11:53 AM EST –

I agree with the suggestion to consider getting him into a lighter boat instead. A $900 Sea Eagle Razorlite 393 inflatable sit on top (just one example) only weighs 28 pounds. A $650 Advanced Elements Straitedge fishing kayak weighs 41 pounds. Either can be left inflated and lifted onto a roof rack or inflated with a battery operated pump before using, then deflated and shoved in the back hatch when the outing is over.

Heavy boats are not just a headache for loading. They have to be unloaded and hauled to the launch site as well. Even with a cart, that is an added hassle. Having a boat you can easily lift with one hand is very liberating for us older folks.

I'm 66 myself and have eliminated any kayaks from my fleet that are over 46 pounds.

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SOT? Loader
If the OPs 80 year old kayak fisherman is using a sit on top this could work. I don’t have any personal experience with it but have always thought it was a novel approach


See you on the water,


The Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY



Any chance
a trailer would work? The only issue would be storage at his place, but a small trailer takes up little room. The Explorer would pull it easily and no high lifting involved.

I saw a couple use one for a tandem and quite frankly it was pretty sweet. Don’t know the brand but looked well made and carried the kayak about 30 inches off the ground.


2nd Trailer…
I’m getting to the point I would rather not load my kayak alone. I live on the water so most of my paddling is local but if I wanted to transport more often I would definitely look into a trailer.

Not sure the Hullivator is the answer
I have one. It does what it does very well. But it still only takes 45 pounds off the load, and frankly that is a tall roof.

I have to wonder if a better idea might be a folding kayak? Willowleaf has good experience with them.

kayak trailer
Malone makes nice kayak trailers and their $899 model works on boats up to 14’ long. The models for longer boats are a bit more.

Another option might be ultralight solo pack canoes. Some weigh as little as 13 pounds. Several of my older kayaking buddies have switched to pack canoes as they’ve gotten older.

Folders are super light – my Pakboat Puffin is only 20 pounds and is a 12’ long open topped kayak (a bit like a pack canoe, with a low seat) that can be used with or without the optional deck. Cost is around $1200. They do require some fussing, mostly inflating and deflating the side tubes and seat, as well as the initial assembly. But once the boat is set up it can stay that way for the season.

Details, please

– Last Updated: Aug-01-16 2:42 PM EST –

What is its max height adjustment?

How much does it weigh?

Is it quick to collapse and put inside the vehicle while you paddle?

If so, what size does it collapse down to?

What length kayak do you load? The videos only show fishing kayaks, not sea kayaks.

Thanks for any answers you can provide.

KN, I applaud your dad for still
being at it.

"no such thing as a too light canoe"
This is the advice given to me by a very senior veteran of the paddling industry when I first got involved in paddle sports.

I know this post is about kayaks, but I imagine the same principle applies to them in this case.

The older I’ve gotten, to more wise this advice becomes.

Thanks for the great advice, everyone!
Hi all,

Thank you so much for all of the great advice – what a great community. So helpful for someone who’s not a kayaker! I’m leaning toward buying my father an inflatable kayak – for the same cost or less than a special rack, it seems the best option for him.


Just another thought
If your father doesn’t really need a full sized SUV, he might think about getting a sedan.

I easily load my kayaks on my Hyundai Elantra sedan by putting bath mats on the trunk and sliding them onto the Malone Seawings. I only lift one end of the kayak at a time.

I also frequently shuttle with a friend who has a RAV 4, and I’m here to tell you it’s a lot harder to hoist the same boats onto that.

Inflatables are not that easy
Most of them can be very hard to paddle and impossible in any wind and waves. I good paddling inflatable will start at $1200. Please don’t buy him a cheap one if he already has a good kayak.

Sea Eagle Razorlite 393RL - good reviews