Kayak trailer advice

I am planning (hoping) to do some traveling next summer and would love to bring a couple of boats along. In the past I have just racked them on top of the car, but if I really put on some miles I would like to consider a small trailer. The basic requirements would be the ability to carry two 18’ kayaks and a LWB (long wheel base) recumbent bike and light weight so it pulls with a Civic and can be wheeled by hand. I don’t have the interests, time, or skills to build one myself. This is the list of trailers that I have found that are available nationally. Before I begin contacting manufacturers for details, have I missed any? The only recommendations I can find on the web are very positive about the Malone but very mixed about the Rack and Roll. Anyone have any experience good or bad with any of these?
Castle Craft http://www.castlecraft.com/kayak_dual.htm
Magenta Trailer http://www.magnetatrailers.com
Malone Trailer http://www.maloneautoracks.com/sport-trailers.php
Slick Rydr http://www.slickrydr.com/
Small Car Solutions http://www.smallcarsolutions.com/
Sports Rig http://www.sportsrig.com/
Sports Trailer http://www.sportstrailers.com/
Trailex http://www.trailex.com/
Yakima Rack and Roll http://www.yakima.com/shop/trailers/trailer

Thanks, David

Drove a few k miles with one behind Subaru Impreza, awesome trailer.

Yakima is very similar.

These two designs differ from either solid axle or leave spring design - both wheels are independently suspended, incorporate both shocks and struts.

You do pay premium - adding independent suspension, struts costs money. In my opinion, you do get what you pay for.

Other options out there

– Last Updated: Apr-06-11 5:59 PM EST –

Remember that leafspring suspensions come in a huge variety of "packs"--lots of thick leaves for big pickup trucks, down to 1 or 2 thin ones for kayak trailers. The type of suspension may not matter as much as the particular load rating of the version being used.

This was true of the trailer we used for 10 years, a Triton snowmobile trailer that we modded to haul kayaks. It had a Tor-flex axle, which uses a rubberized band for suspension. Tor-flex axles come in a variety of load ratings also.

The Triton worked very well and was rugged, no doubt more rugged than any stock 2- to 4- kayak trailer available. However, it weighed almost 400 lbs even before adding crossbars, cradles, and kayaks. We used it without trouble on most trips and virtually all local paddles. Long road trips included the following round trips: one of 5200 miles, one of 2000 miles, six of 1000 miles, plus others of a little under 1000 miles each. Went through 3 sets of tires in 10 years (no blowouts or other issues, just wear from lots of miles).

The weight became difficult to deal with because at our home we have to detach it and hand-pull it (with a running start) up an unpaved path, and then up a ramp to the shed. Neither my husband nor I felt like doing this heavy "weight training" any more.

The weight is the ONLY reason we sold this trailer and got the new one, a Trailex SUT-350-M2.

I had to assemble the Trailex because there are no dealers here and it got sent UPS in five boxes. Assembling the structure was easy; wiring not so easy due to less-than-clear instructions. But I figured it out.

So far I've driven it four times, once for mandatory state inspection and three times to haul my 17' sea kayak. Minimum crossbar spread without changing the default position of the rear axle (doable but not recommended) is 77", about 4" longer than what would be perfect for our kayaks. The boats have only about 20" of rear overhang even with lots of jackknife clearance up front.

It's too early to tell how the new trailer does on long road trips. The local drives I've done give me the impression that the leafspring suspension is soft and easy on the kayak. The trailer rides smoothly behind my truck, no waggling or other problems. It is a JOY to move around by hand, being more than 200 lbs lighter than the snowmobile trailer. I also like the fact that it comes with two riser bars that allow better strapping of the kayak, plus when backing up they function as a visual range for judging straightness.

I'll write a full review after I've driven it on a long trip or few. Cost was $1365 for the trailer, Bearing Buddies (recommended), and spare tire with bracket. Shipping between OH and CO cost $228.

In comparison, the snowmobile trailer cost about $1000 in late 2000; new ones are about $1500.

Both the above are aluminum trailers, which cost more than steel. They don't rust.

I disagree that the Rack and Roll and Sports Rig trailers are better just because they have independent suspension. We never had any damage from the stiffer-suspensioned snowmobile trailer, whether hauling plastic, wood, or fiberglass kayaks. If the Trailex does not meet our durability needs, we'll either buy another snowmobile trailer (the weight won't matter after we move out of this house) or create a custom trailer--but definitely will not buy the R&R or SportsRig even if price were the same or lower.

BTW, the trailers that Castle Craft sells are Trailex trailers. I've also seen Hobie-branded trailers that appeared to be rebadged Trailex models.

Oak Orchard sells a package that combines a basic Triton boat trailer (same brand as our old snowmobile trailer) with some struts and crossbars that OO devised to make it into a kayak trailer. Price comparable with the above--but there are two problems: The trailer must be bought at Oak Orchard (no shipping), and the trailer is too short for hauling sea kayaks. You need jacknifing clearance (which means the kayaks can't be too far forward), yet you want enough weight on the tongue to keep it from wanting to slap upward on bumps (which means the kayaks can't be too far in back of the trailer axle). If it weren't for these two problems, this is the trailer I would have chosen.

another one to add
Genesis Trailers http://genesistrailers.com/canoekayak.htm

boat trailers are all they make (not converted utility frames) so they know their stuff and their pricing is often better than other brands. 12" tires, galvanized frame and EZ-lube bearings are standard.

Past good advice: Pimp My Trailer

I would avoid trailers that …
… have the load bar attached at only one point … ie., the cruciform style .

A load bar will be better supported and have greater fatigue resisitence when attached at two points with an amount of spread between attach points .

One would think that when they make the cruciform single attach point , that they would add a triangle under brace at the least (a triangular under brace is worth it’s weight in gold) .

One question

Thanks for the detailed reply. I to have one question. You state “…but definitely will not buy the R&R or SportsRig even if price were the same or lower.” Why is that? Do you see that those trailers with independent suspension are inherantly worse? They do have the advantage of folding for storage. But is there a problem in this design or some other reason they are less desirable other than cost? I know there were some construction issues with the R&R trailers but I was not aware of any basic design problems.


Genesis trailers
I saw the ad but they did not list a 2 kayak combination and the 4 kayak trailer seemed like it would be extra weight that I did not want. I will get in touch and see if they make a smaller model and that the weight is like.

Thanks, David

BMO Trailers …

– Last Updated: Apr-07-11 9:02 PM EST –

They are far from being the cheapest, but are extremely well thought out and built. The biggest differences are the solid steel construction and the torflex axle (much less bounce than leaf springs).


I have a Rack and Roll & love it!!
I posted in the reviews about the recall kit and how poorly designed it was but overall, the trailer is awesome. I have used it for over 3 years and driven on both highways (~70 mph) and in urban streets (Washington, D.C. area). You don’t even know you are towing anything and it is very convenient and easy to load and haul multiple kayaks.

Like you, I did a lot of homework before my purchase and even visited the original founder and designer, John Koch, before it was bought out by Yakima. The original safety recalls were the results of owner stupidity, but they have since been addressed and totally resolved. You will have no regrets with the R&R and wonder why you even looked at the other inferior options.

Good luck in your decision.

Just did a video review of a trailex
Just did a video at the Jersey Paddlesports show of a Trailex trailer. Didn’t get to tow one behind my car but they look pretty slick. Here is the link to the video -http://www.youtube.com/user/RapidMediaTV#p/a/u/2/fut29RQHxis

Hope this helps and let us know what you decide.

Dan Caldwell

Rapid Media TV Guy

Reasons for not buying those have nothing to do with the independent suspension, which I don’t consider negative though not necessarily advantageous, either. As I stated above, the particular load ratings matter more than type of suspension; each type comes in more than one rating.

The SportsRig is notorious for rusting, and quite early on. I talked to someone who had one, before I read the comments in the Pnet reviews. I would not buy anything but an aluminum trailer. There is too much road salt in most of the U.S., besides the obvious ocean spray factor. If you never drive the trailer in winter and never take it to the coast, this will not matter. It matters to me because I do both.

The R&R trailers I’ve seen had noticeably flexy tongues. I’m already a little creeped out going from the snowmobile-trailer tongue (extremely stout) to the Trailex tongue. But at least it doesn’t flex the way the R&R tongue does, despite being very, very long.

Both the SportsRig and R&R trailers are a bit on the short side, despite what length boats their descriptions claim will fit on them. I have to wonder if they’ve given enough clearance for jackknifing. If you have shorter kayaks or never drive down a backroad that has no good turnaround place, this won’t matter. However, I’ve had to back with the trailer down a narrow, steep, rutted side path that required jackknifing the trailer, and there was no other way to get out of there. On any normal road, I could detach the trailer and hand-pull it, but in this case the path was incredibly steep and there’s no way I could hold even the lightest trailer from careening backward down such a grade if detached from my truck.

I don’t care about the folding feature or the pretty wheels.

One note
Keep in mind Civic’s towing capacity, or lack thereof.

Also you need to consider tongue weight when the kayak is loaded. You can estimate that by where the wheels of trailer are in comparison to center of weight.

Good luck.

Malone MicroSport
I purchased the Malone MicroSport this past fall. Assembly was a bit of a chore for one man and a socket wrench. But it’d probably be a breeze with two and an impact wrench. I haul an 18ft boat behind my Subaru (late model with the cruddy new roof-rack system), no problem.

My trailer experience

– Last Updated: Apr-09-11 11:01 AM EST –


It was made by a professional welder in Kentucky that makes these trailers. It cost me $1800 delivered, which was a steal (in 2008).

Other than carrying four kayaks at a time, I saw no benefit from it whatsoever. Storage issues, talkes up space, store outside and it'll rust (and need bearing work).

Even though some argue you could keep the kayaks on the trailer and save one load and unload cycle per trip (I did this in my garage), I can take my kayak off the wall rack and put it on the roof rack and ratchet strap it down MUCH quicker than hitching up the trailer and putting on the boats (unless boats already on, in which case they again take up space).

I know guideboatguy and esp pikabike have tons of trailer experience (pikabike is THE trailer guru on Pnet, certainly), but in the end, even with this fabulous custom trailer with extended tongue and all, I found it to be a hassle in many ways.

I sold it for $1300 cash and carry about 1.5 years later.

And yes, I can move it by hand to attach it, and yes, I know how to back up a trailer. It's still a PITA when you're on the highway driving (I much speedier without a frigging trailer) and parking at restaurants, and going through drive throughs (and yes, my cartopped kayaks fit undder the drivethrough) and so many more hassle factors I can't tell you.

If someone physically can't put the kayak on the roof, or is taking 3 + boats on one car, obviously the trailer is mandatory. Otherwise, it's a boondoggle. To me.

To increase your spread
Sometimes simpler is best.

A Thule Slipstream is good, if it’s compatible with your particular car, to essentially extend your bar spread.



Thank you for the explanation. These sound like solid points.