kayak transportation question

In the next month, I’ll be making a decision on the best vehicle for my kayak…the ultimate kayak accessory. I’ll be travelling around the coastal US as a travelling RN, stopping for 4-13 weeks or longer to work. In my free time I’ll be kayaking. So the questions are:

Van vs car

Gas vs diesel

Hybrid vs traditional

I’m quite flexible, so though I’d prefer to camp in a lovely spot, I’m perfectly willing to sleep in a Walmart parking lot and use a gas station bathroom to brush my teeth as needed. I am not willing to have a traditional RV because of the waste issues (human and gasoline).

Thanks for any advice and opinions.


Just Me

– Last Updated: Apr-20-04 7:03 PM EST –

I spend a few months living in the Sierras in my regular cab Toyota Truck with a camper shell and a boat on the rack. I could sleep in the back, but also had a small tent. It is amazing how little you need as long as the weather is warm.

A good sleeping pad and bag, a duffel full of clothes, a chair, a tent, a small cooler, and a tool box with stove, latern,and coffee pot.

Add a box on the rack if you have room, and the truck bed is all yours to sleep in.

I ate all my meals out, and hit the laundromat once every week or so.

Heck, you could even buy a laptop DVD player for entertainment these days for a few hundred bucks. Or a good 6 volt reading light and some books.

Thinking about hitting the road again myself.......

Nice Warm Van
is hard to beat when changing out of wet paddling wear in cold temps…

Heck, you could remove all the back seats and have a flat bed for sleeping and storing stuff. Make sure you get dark tinted windows for privacy.


Conversion Vans are great
for camping though a little tall to put a kayak on top. Can be done though. Besides dark glass get the curtains if you really want some privacy. With the interior lights out you can see out but they cannot see in. This just isn’t true with darkend glass only. Lots of folks think this, until they get about 30 feet away and then it is OMG.

Another option (with a stove), is the VW Camper. Now where are all those tie-dyes?

Boat hauler
I buy a vehicle based upon teh racks that will fit. I am on my 3rd Subaru OutBack based on the strength of the rails that come standard. Each rail has three mounting pads, and each it through-bolted to the underside of the roof. Be careful of racks that are only screwed into the roof metalwork.

Subys are dependable, and I get 22-23 mpg (automatic AWD 4-cylinder)with a boat on the roof and driving in the mountains of WV. Coastal driving should yield greater MPG. If you do not already have an aftermarket rack system, Yakima or Thule are both sturdy. I have also heard good things about Saris, but have no personal experience. I have recently converted from Yakima cradles/rollers to Malone AutoLoader cradles. Also added a Yak Boat Loader to one bar.

With the rear seat folded you could easily sleep in the rear. Seats split 60/40, so you should be able to arrange enough space to sleep.


Certified Subaphile

parking lot camping

– Last Updated: Apr-20-04 9:28 PM EST –

a good ole chevy panel van has seen me through many trips,and the fact that your "stuff" is sight unseen is a plus, and being unobtrusive counts.the configurations for Van camping are unlimited..Just Don't put any "deadhead" stickers on it,"I brake for kayakers "or anything else other than a magnetic sign that says 'PLUMBING' plumbers get carte blanche treatment where ever they park. Better than being a doctor or pizza delivery guy;evryone figures the van is there for something urgent and the only thing to swipe out of it are some smelly tools; the kayak must be for those really bad septic tank leaks..try and get a plain white one and if you must have a bumper sticker it should be plumbing related "have you seen my snake" is very popular here.. Should you buy a hippe VW or camper style truck don't come to key west ,the locals seem to have a paticular disdain for campers and vws. maybe because they pay half a mil for a $80,000 cinderblock house, paradise isn't paradise,it's gotten real expensive....ever seen a 180,000 dollar trailer?in the "bad" section of town. even the the crackheads complain about how outragous real estate prices make thier rocks cost more.
wish i wasn't serious

Toyota RV
Still can find them. Get 17MPG, better than most Conversion Vans. Of course you can just use the hospital facilities for bathing, toileting. I use a small pickup with a shell and a carpet kit. You can also think about a pop up camper.

my choices so far
a Subaru Outback, a Dodge Sprinter, and a Toyota hybrid SUV (that option just popped up today).

Outback has low roof for easy kayak loading, all wheel drive, and it lasts forever. But it’s small.

Sprinter van has more storage space, more comfy sleeping if necessary, but it’s big. And diesel, which I’m unfamiliar with.

Don’t know much about the hybrids yet.

All 3 options get the same mileage (~22mgp). If I get a hybrid car I end up with less space but the mileage is incredible (~40+mpg). Looks like that may come in handy.

Thanks for any opinions…Lyn

Dare I Say It…
my 94 Subaru legacy is just about history… While the motor and clutch are doing fine, the air shocks are gone. Replacement for each shock is $360 per, without labor. I got some rear wheel well rust… Decided to give her up but can’t spend $20K plus for another since I’m still paying for the Forester my wife drives.

Nope. I gonna get a Suzuki Aerio SX hatchback with AWD this week. Gonna cost a tad under 16k with factory rebate. Hope she’ll last as well as my previous subarus. At least, the extended warranty seems good. Hope my Thules fit.


Station Wagon

I have a Merc Sable and A Ford Taurus Wagon. Both cars have good length for loading, and yet are not has tall as mini-van / SUV. The station wagon gives you the area in back to toss the gear, or sit on the tailgate and relax.

Have seen
Outbacks last a lot of miles. Guess ya gotta pick what suits your needs. Space in the rear, height of roof ,ect. Would love to have a hybrid, gotta wait for a pickup model though. And 4X4. good luck on your pick.

kayaking vehicle
I’m another person who chooses vehicles for their ability to haul kayaks and bikes. I own several long boats, my favorite being the CD Extreme, at just under 19", so I went with a station wagon for lots of roof length. I chose the VW Passat Wagon over the Outback because of lower overall height (for easier loading/unloading) better gas mileage (30+ with racks on, but without boats) and sport sedan type handling. This is not meant to be a knock on the Outback, which is a great wagon, with the bonus of all-wheel drive, but the Passat was a good match for my needs/wants

My dream kayak hauler…
GOTO : poseur.4x4.org/futuresuv.html And see the perfect kayak/canoe hauler.

Try This…
Aparently the link I listed above does not work.So go to "Search and enter Kenworth Pilgrimage for the kayak/ canoe hauler of all time.

the pilgrimage
website was great. Thanks for the laugh.

I’ll check out the passat wagon. Gas mileage is an important factor, and so is reliability as I know nothing about cars beyond changing the tires and the oil & fluids. I think VWs fit that category as well as Subarus…thanks for the advice.

Give some thought …
… to a 1980-1990 VW Vanagon Westfalia Camper. With a poptop roof, choice of two double bunks, a kitchenette fully equipped with stove, fridge, and sink, and lots of clever storage space, this isn’t your wacky hippy uncle’s VW Bus.


With a choice of three different engines (my diesel gets 26-30 MPG) the Vanagon Camper serves as a great base camp for backpacking, fishing, and paddling trips.

Here are a couple of links to footloose individuals such as yourself who are travelling around the country on a fulltime basis in their “Westy” campers, both hauling kayaks and bikes.



Good Luck!

Station Wagon, YES!
I got out of the SUV and into a Taurus wagon a couple years ago and could not be happier. The lower height allows me to pull into the garage at night and unload the boats in the morning after a late evening paddle. Much easier to load and unload alone or with a helper and the cargo area is huge compared to most reasonably sized SUVs. Looooong roof line and looong rack rails that are securely bolted into structural steel framing. I’ve carried over 360lbs of 4X8 1-1/8" thick particle board on Yakimas attached to the stock rails and had no problem. Tailgating is just as fun if not more so due to being closer to the ground and the rear facing jump seat in the cargo area. The gas mileage is much better than most SUVs also.


Jetta TDI
Also check out the Jetta TDI (diesel) wagon. It’s my next car. My wife drives a 2000 TDI Beetle (5 speed stick), and gets 48mpg on the highway, and close to 40mpg in town. Plenty of power, and a fun little car all around. The newer TDI’s are supposed to have more horsepower, and even better mileage.

Jeff in South Dakota

Another choice
Even though I love Subys, the Honda Element might make a good vehicle for you. Rack x-bar spacing is a bit tight, but if you use Malone cradles it should work OK. Higher than a Suby, you might need to use a step-stool. Rear seats fold out of the way, making the cargo compartment cavernous. Interior is clad with rubber, allowing wash-down to remove boating-related spooge. Engine is not very powerful, but probably adequate.

Toyota Highlanders are nice too, but pricey. Their rack rails appear to be strong and long.


I Saw A Really Clean One This Weekend
I have wanted a Toyota RV for a long time. I saw a really clean one this weekend with a newly rebuilt four banger.

If I just went to the beach I would buy it, but I don’t think it would get over Sonora Pass.