lone paddler getting a yak on the roof

So how do you guys do it? I’m a small 5’1" 115lb female with OK upper body strength. I’ve started practicing trying to get my boat on my roof alone but so far I just can’t do it and a friend has to be my spotter to help out.

I have a Prius so it’s not a big car but it does have a slightly higher roof than a typical sedan. I’ve just been trying to lift it on from the side of the car. Do people find it easier from the front or back instead? At the moment I’m using a Pungo 100 so it’s a bit too short to try to load from the rear. But soon I’ll have a slightly lighter 13’ Hurricane Tampico which may be better for rear loading.

I’ve been looking into the Thule Outrigger as a possible aid as my budget is too small for the hullavator. Anyone have experience with the outrigger? http://www.plentypupule.com/outrigger.htm

Thanks for any advice!

Hullivators are great
(have one) but if your budget is tight I can highly recommend the outrigger - I used to use a Yakima BoatLoader for my 16’-10" 55# touring yak.

Of course you will have to be careful about the boat sliding after it is lifted up to the first crossbar, but after that you should be OK. I would suggest having a friend act as a spotter for the first several load/unload cycles.


Several Things
I have a low roofed wagon and have an easy time as compared to a higher vehicle. I used to pick the boat up placing my hands under near the cockpit or center of balance and heft the boat up. This was a fairly difficult lift for me especially after a day of paddling. Now I put the boat on the ground along side the car on the side that my rack is mounted and about three feet away from the car. Then I lift the bow of the boat up and place it in the front cradle on the roof. Then I walk around to the stern and pick that end up shuve the boat further onto the front cradle then walk the stern around and lay it in the rear cradle.

A couple of things to consider. I have an 18’ boat and a low car roof, a differant car or boat might not work like this. I make sure that when I lay the bow in the front cradle that it is held at least semi securly by the cradle. I also put an industrial strenth pool noodle over the car rack just behind the front cradle to help protect the boat. And, last, I have been doing this two or three times a week for the past two years or so and it has not been a problem to the boat or car.

Happy Paddling,


I remember loading a Keowee on a
Honda Accord from the rear with the trunk protection of a blanket. It as a nine foot long boat. Actually it was more of a pain than my CD Caribou is now at over seventeen feet. I carry it on a Toyota Tundra with a cap and the hirise Yakima towers…the kayak when loaded is over seven feet in the air and I am 5’4". If you can get the bow up over the rear bar and block the stern so it doesnt kick out you can load it from the rear.

None of this would be possible with out a two step stool from Home Depot. I have to be able to reach the tie downs somehow!

I own…
a Hurricane Tampico. Great boat but watch the weight. The 43 lbs. published is more like 47-50 lbs. I drive a Toyota 4 Runner and here’s how I load the boat…

My rack is on the right side of the car, looking from the rear. Facing the rear of the car and boat’s bow forward, I first lift the boat with it’s coaming, cockpit facing me, up my knee and then balance it’s right coaming on my right shoulder. (tip the boat on it’s side, and pull up on the right coaming…the side opposite from the side you are standing) Kayak hanging on my right shoulder, bow forward, I walk to the right side of the car, and heft the boat off my shoulder with my left and right hands at the coaming balance point, over my head, and land the boat (upside down) on the front beam of the rack first. Tampico’s ride and lash best upside down. Then I slide the boat to the rear part of the rack. Of all the way’s I’ve tried lifting this boat, over the head is easiest. I tried and practiced several different ways, this one is simplest and is the least punishing to my back.

towels come in handy
This is just from my experience. I get my 14 foot boat up and down from on top of van by using nice thick towels to protect car finish.

Instead of side loading I load from the rear bow first. I put towel on roof at rear and then with the kayak in back of van and pointing same way centered I lift the bow up on to the towel. Then I reposistion myself farther back and push the kayak straight up so that the kayak is always sliding on towel and not van’s paint. Just keep pushing.

Much easier to have 2 folks to handle a kayak but this is how I do it by myself.

Here’s how you do it
As someone said, carry a beach towel or two. Lay it across the back of the roof. Raise the bow of the boat and place that atop whatever you have on the roof - rack I assume. The towel is protecting any painted surface the boat may touch. After getting the bow up, go around and lift the stern - then push it into place.

Scroll down through here…
get some ideas that can cost the same …


rollers and even the outrigger are on this site.

they work great…
the outrigger/load bar thingies (either the Yak or Thule flavor) work great. Be sure to park with the outrigger/load bar on the upwind side on windy days or the boat can blow off the bar!

solo kayak loading
You might try the cheap route first. I have yakima racks & need to load a Tempest 170 on my truck. Being naturally cheap I purchased a 2’ section of 1/2" black pipe. It fits exactly inside the yakima bars. I taped water pipe insulation on ~2/3 of the pipe to cushion it. When I want to load the kayak, I stick the pipe in one of the crossbars,pick up one end, prop it on the pipe, pick up the other end & swing it onto a saddle. Then pick up the other end and put it on the other saddle. Works pretty well for a $10 investment.

This is how I was taught
This is how I hoist a 17’ foot 50 pound boat, onto a car rack 6’ off ground.

STARTING POSITION: Kayak on ground, bottom down, parallel to car, on drivers side (for my car), bow to the front of car (superstition).

1.Approach boat from port.

2.Left knee to the ground. Back straight

3.Grab starboard coming and pull toward you (rotate boat so it is on its starboard side).

4.Place rear half of boat on your knee. (port side down, cockpit towards you)

a.keep bow on ground through the following steps

b.reach inside starboard coming with right hand.

c.Piviot your right foot heel to aft.

d.Starboard coming on your right hand over

right shoulder

e.Pick up back half of boat and rest of your

right thigh

f.Steady boat with left hand.

5.With bow on ground, reach under boat (with right arm) and place rear of boat on shoulder.

Note: The center of gravity should be on your shoulder.

6.My boat is long enough that I can stand up leaving bow on ground, and then grab forward coming And tilt boat back so that it is balanced on my right shoulder.

6.ALTERNATE: For short boat you may need to balance on your shoulder BEFORE you stand up.

CARRY/LOADING POSITION: Kayak balanced on right shoulder, cock pit towards you, bottom toward car. Right hand on bottom

Left hand steadying boat forward

Walk toward car (that you can’t see now) and lay boat on rack. Good Luck

two ideas
Both of these look like they would be big helps. I haven’t tried either myself, but am thinking of it.



Other sites offer the same devices.

Good luck.

Mine was cheaper…
I found an old pipe laying around the garage that just happened to fit in the yakima - free :slight_smile:

I’m 5’2 and loaded my manitou 14 on a honda accord using the pipe extension. Worked pretty well, actually. Stuck the pipe into the front bar, lifted front of boat onto the extension, then lifted the back up onto the rack. I practiced a couple times before I would need to load it alone.

Not sure if I could load it on anything taller, without a stepstool.

Loading Kayak
Low tech is always better. I load from the rear and use a bathroom floor mat (rubber backing so it won’t slide). I lift the bow up and placeiton the rear bar and then go to the stern and push the boat the rest of the way up. To unload just do it in reverse. I have an outrigger but i hardly ever use it. Practice parked on grass first. Dropping your new $2,900 kayak on gravel or pavement hurts. Ask me how i know? Vaughn Fulton

I have a truck
an Xterra to be exact, and my spare boat is a Caroling 14.5. I’ve learned to use a bathroom rug and the doors on my truck. Leave the doors open, put the rug over the rear passenger door, grab the front of the yak slide the tip of it up on the rug, from there just lift the rear end and push it forward until it balances on the two doors. Once up, I just roll it over onto the roof and tie down.

Loading heavy kayak
This will sound crude but I’m in a rush and don’t have time to write it gently.

Use some of the money saved by the great gas milage you’re getting in that fine car to buy a 35 lb boat. Loading issues will fade away.

Suggestions above will help if you don’t want to pay big $ for ultra light boat, but a lighter boat is easiest.


Yes. Carpet with rubber backing
Towels and blankets are fine, but best of all is any kind of carpet with a rubber backing. That stuff will protect your car and it will NOT slip out of position. If you want something longer than a bathmat, you can get long, runner carpets with a rubber backing too.

Prius car loading
I have a Prius too, and I load from the BACK, not the side. Put an old bath mat down over the glass and metal on the back, then lift the front end of your kayak up onto the back of the car, resting it on your handy bathmat (try to get the tip of the boat onto the rear rack, but it’s no big deal if you can’t–just have a spotter the first time you try this). Go to the back of the boat, and slide the kayak over the bathmat (protecting the finish of the car!) onto the rear rack and then onto the front rack. Works just fine–I’m a few inches taller than you, but it wouldn’t be a big deal even if I was shorter. I can’t load my boat from the side either.

My “light” boat
weighs about 55 pounds, while the “heavy” one is about 80 pounds.

I load them onto my truck from the rear, using the Thule rear saddles that have the rollers on them (I forget what they’re called). I currently load on the cab roof, but I’m moving to a bed rack - whenever it gets here - and plan to load the same way.

Yoga Mat
Try a bathroom floor mat or a yoga mat, Something tacky so it doesn’t slide. Maybe use two mats. I load the back of the yak up first on the car. One mat on the car and the other on the ground so you don’t scratch up the bow of your yak on the pavement.