Loading kayak on compact car

I have the Thule Glide n Set system—felt pads in the rear and rubber in the front.

In the past two years the edge of the trunk and the rubber seal around the rear windshield have taken a bit of a beating. I use a rug over the windshield and trunk, but that hasn’t totally protected the car. Probably too thin.

The kayak gets to the rear of the car via a Paddle Boy. That helps a bit, except for the fact that the stern does eventually hit the ground due to the loading angle.

Although this system works, I’m getting a little tired of loading a 49lb kayak (plus some gear that I keep stored inside—safety stuff, paddle, etc. Probably adds another 3 lbs). I don’t know if you’ve noticed that when a Paddle Boy is placed at the stern and you lift the kayak from the bow, it somehow feels like more than its weight.

What’s a cheap and convenient way I could improve my loading system? I don’t really like to pay for expensive Thule and Yakima stuff.

You need a side loader
Thule has one ($100?) and you can make one for $10. Remove end cap on front Thule bar, lower the car antenna if necessary. Get a 3ft steel rod (preferably stainless, but regular will work too). Diameter should be just slightly less than inner hole in Thule bar. If it’s a rectangular bar - then slightly smaller than the smaller dimension of the bar hole. It should just slide in - not play in there too much. Wrap 1.5 ft of the rod in old carpet with duct tape or packing tape. You’re done.

User’s manual:

Shove the bare part of the rod inside. Lay the kayak along the car. Lift the bow and place it onto the carpeted rod. Go to the stern, lift it and place it onto the saddles of rear Thule bar. Grab the stern and swing the bow into the front saddles. Tie the straps.

“when a Paddle Boy is placed at the stern and you lift the kayak from the bow, it somehow feels like more than its weight.” ??? Have never noticed. It can’t weigh down on you more than its total weight when another end is still on the ground. You’re just feeling discomfort of lifting it high.

Something to consider
A friend got some of the thin magnetic sign material (used for temp signs on cars) and glued on some foam blocks in a “V” shape. He stuck that on the trunk and would slide the kayak up on that until he got enough up over the roof that he could drop it into the rear saddle.

Your trunk might be too low to get enough angle for complete slide, but maybe you could put some foam on a magnetic sign in a couple of places so you could protect the trunk and the window rubber. When finished loading the magnetic sign just peels off and stores in the car.


Only on hatchbacks the method

– Last Updated: Jun-29-11 10:50 PM EST –

of "pushing from behind" works well. On sedan (i.e. with trunk) the trunk is getting in the way. After I've tried side-loading, I tried pushing it from the trunk like you are doing, and switched back to side-loading. 49 lbs is very light, btw. After hernia surgery I had to switch to expensive 48 lbs Kevlar because my previous kayak was fiberglass 56 lbs. And I never add extra 5-7 lbs of gear into cockpit when loading/unloading, - this is what gym bag is for.

Thick bath matts
Get a good thick ones with a rubber bottoms. Tuck in the sides to make side bumpers. I think it work much better than carpet.


– Last Updated: Jun-30-11 1:28 AM EST –

I was thinking of some side bumper on that loading rod - at least at the end, so that kayak won't suddenly slide off the rod to the side. Not that this happened yet...

PS: to the OP - again, the rod diameter should be a tight fit. If it's too loose, it will have a slope outwards - you don't want this. For my rectangular Thule bar the rod was some odd diameter like 5/8", don't remember - not a usual 1/2" or 3/4".

take everything out of the boat
If you’re struggling with weight, it doesn’t make any sense to keep 5 pounds of paddling gear in the boat. Remove everything, and you may have an easier time.

(Paddle, 2 pounds; Pump, 1 pound; Paddle float 1.5 pounds; etc.) It all adds up!

I’d second the idea of side-loading your rack with a loading bar.

To reduce the weight that you are carrying when using the cart, can you move the cart closer to the middle of the boat? When right at the end of the boat, you’re carrying 1/2 the weight. When the cart is moved to 3/4 of the way up the boat, you’re only carrying 1/4 of the weight. Cart right at the middle carries ALL the weight.

did you try the wet beach towel trick?
My wife used a very thick and long beach towel that she would wet with water to get it to stick to the trunk and rear window before she attempted to slide the boat up. It worked pretty good with the only caveat that she remember to dry the towel once back at home so it didn’t mildew. I like the rubber-backed bath mat idea. In either case, if you care about your car finish-make sure you don’t get ANY sand or dirt under the mat or towel.

This may work well over the rear trunk too but they aren’t cheap.


Different strokes
I find it is much easier to lift the bow to the trunk than to the side loader. The side loader feels awkward to me, and I have to lift the kayak or canoe higher than when I slide it up the trunk.

Another disadvantage to the side loader, is that sometimes I don’t have the option of loading my boat without another car parked next to mine, so up the trunk is the only way.

I use bath mats to pad the trunk and windshield.

I don’t have any trouble lifting the canoe or kayak off the Paddleboy Nemo cart and carrying it a few steps to the car–but then, my canoe weighs 25 lbs, my kayak 38 lbs.

You should have gotten the Thule Slipstream instead of the Glide and Set. It is essentially a Glide and Set system on a longer span that can be slid fore and aft with a rear roller. So you slide the whole system rearward, put the bow on the roller, then roll the kayak into place. Once it is in place, you slide the system forward until the weight is centered on the rack.

Either that or just get a surfski at 36 lbs or less and just lift it directly onto the rack. :slight_smile:

Forgive me …
…if I am missing something here.

I’ve loaded a range of mostly touring kayaks from 35 to 65 pounds and 12’ to 18’ long all by myself hundreds of times over a 10 year period on sedans, wagons and SUV’s and NEVER loaded a kayak from the rear or had to use some sort of auxiliary device. BTW, I’m a wimpy little 61 year old woman, 5’ 5", 145 lb and no super-athlete. I load my boats from the side of the car, the same way I do it when I have another person holding the other end. I carry the boat balanced on my shoulder with my arm inside the cockpit (with a sit on top, I’ve used a strap wrapped around it for the same purpose). I walk up to the side of the vehicle and angle the bow up towards the roof and shove it onto the rack as far as I can, balance it there, walk my grip back to the stern, get under it and lift it up and swing and shove it up onto the rear rack. Especially with a taller car this is easier with Thule J-racks (under $100) as I can stick the nose in the cradle and it will hold it in place as I move to the back to lift the stern. On a standard height vehicle I can usually get the boat up high enough on both ends to just roll it onto the roof. Yeah, neither procedure is much fun with the heavier boats and I grunt and swear a bit, but I don’t need mats or extra hardware, it only takes a couple of minutes of effort and I’ve never damaged a boat or car.

I guess I don’t understand the necessity or appeal of rear loading. It always looks dicey and more effortful to me when I’ve seen it done, especially from out over a sedan trunk. I guess I could understand it maybe with an 80 or 90 lb. tandem that would be nearly impossible to lift alone (but with a tandem I’d usually have a helper!). But with a solo boat? Am I missing something? Can someone explain why they would choose rear over side loading?

loading mat
Check out the Thule Water Slide Mat at Backcountry.com. It’s around $30.00. I use one and it works great!

lots of people rear load boats

– Last Updated: Jun-30-11 2:38 PM EST –

My mom did among them. She was 65 and had a shoulder injury. She could probably have explained the process in two sentences and done it without grunting. I doubt she or anyone else would do it if it was more difficult than side loading.

But then again, I'm not sure why anyone would buy j cradles.

I found that
carrying 56 lbs kayak on my shoulder was already too much. That’s why I got a proper center cart (not end-cart). So side-loading it from the shoulder onto the compact car roof didn’t look like an option. I believe this can be done, just didn’t want to suffer that much.

Yes, I can explain
I’d rather throw a bath mat over the trunk and easily slide my boat up onto the racks, instead of “grunting and swearing” as you do.

Do you enjoy making simple things difficult?

a tangent
I’ve seen a bunch of bicycle carriers for car trunks - looks like a contraption that uses buckles and what-nots to attach a plastic/metal carrying hooks to a trunk - image here http://www.bicyclebuys.com/productimages/0129977.jpg

If you already have one of these, you could plop a length of PVC tubing into one of the cutouts to make an in-between ramp for your kayak. Get close enough to lift the bow on the tube, walk it on the rest of the way.

What I meant was
that there was no more grunting and loading when I started side-loading my kayak using a side-loader lever (as opposed to lifting it onto the shoulder and swinging it onto the roof from there).

Yes, pushing it from the rear looks simpler than using a side-loader lever. In reality it’s not always the case. I didn’t find rear loading more convenient in case of my car with a trunk. Depends on the kayak length and trunk length and roof height all the angles, and how close to the rear is that rear roller or saddle. With side-loader the kayak length and shape of the trunk don’t matter.

The OP apparently doesn’t find rear loading all that simple and easy or he would not have asked about alternatives. For me, taking a deep breath and hoisting the boat onto the roof is as simple as I need.

As to why I have J-racks, they facilitate fast and secure solo loading of my Feathercraft folder when it is set up without deforming the frame, and they also allow me to carry three kayaks on the roof when necessary, since two are on their sides and one is flat on the bars between.

Yes, I can understand people with shoulder injuries not being able to do a side load. Point taken.

In retrospect, I worked for a number of years as an industrial construction electrician, so I suppose hoisting and hauling long and heavy awkward loads on my shoulder (like bundles of steel conduit and 8 and 10 foot wooden stepladders) comes naturally.

Maybe the auto makers would do well to design an option for new car models with some sort of track mounted roof panel that would slide down over the rear deck of the vehicle, supported by fold-down legs at the end to keep it above ground level at the back. A boater could slip their kayak or canoe onto the panel at waist level, fasten it down with integrated hardware and then lift and slide the whole panel with boat(s) back up along the tracks onto the top of the car (or, in the Mercedes and Cadillac versions, just push a button and have a hydraulic lifter do all the work.)

Heck, even cheapskate me might buy a new car if I could get something like that.

I was responding to Willowleaf,
who asked for an explanation.


– Last Updated: Jun-30-11 6:16 PM EST –

Funny, ah' jus' pick up me canoos (fro' 85 lbs. ta 30 lbs.) walk over ta me Jeep an' put it on de roof rack... But then a'gin, dis poorly edoocated, eegnorant, non-Frencher lingo speakin' polecat (heh,heh) larn'd how ta actually lift a boat (canoo an' 'yak) de cooreck way a long time ago.... :>} - an' ah' ain't no young buck anymore neither. Now, unless yer gots a bum back or some such malady (or have an SOT) it be technique usin' moommentum an' leverage, not brawn ta git a boat over yer noggin'.

Some say wimminfolk ain't gots de upper body strength ta do dis... HOGWASH ah' say ta dat! Ah' larn'd me ex-wife, who weighed under 100 lbs., ta lift aar 65 lb. canoo over her head wit no probloom (unless thaar wuz a wind gust - but dats a'nudder story)

Substitoot 'yak fer de canoo.






'yakers make thing's so compleecated, Heh! Heh!.