one man canoe loader

Hello everybody, first time here. I have a 17ft,80# alumacraft canoe and a 5ft 100# wife I almost killed trying to load the behemoth onto my Toyota Sienna mini-van. I’ve been able to find on the web only 2 methods of loading. The backload hitch mounted swivel t-bar and the Yakima side mount. The Yakima sounds like the more hassle free but for the life of me I don’t see how it can handle my size canoe (38"s wide) without serious demolition to the vehicle. Any suggestions and recommendations short of a smaller lighter craft?

we have
a yakima roof rack above the cab of our truck along with a t bar mounted to the back. i help my man get the thing to the truck and with balancing onto the t bar. he takes it from there. it’s great. two of our trucks have shells on the back and one is open bed. this will work good on all of them.

I surmise
that the problem is a combination of a tall vehicle and a heavy boat. I also paddle with my wife. Over the years, I learned that she is the only permanent piece of the puzzle. I still own tall vehicles, but my boats have gotten increasingly lighter. The perfect canoe friendly vehicle is probably something like a Subaru Outback. We have a Ford Escape that’s not too bad, but the key is to be able to get it up myself, with the wife just guiding one end. Another option is one of those light trailers.

everglades , the swiveling T-bar …

– Last Updated: Dec-13-09 10:55 PM EST –

...... is the easiest thing I've ever come across for loading our canoes . I'm leighrobins' man btw .

Ours , (and the one our friends got by our recomendation) , are the Reese Canoe Loader (about $100.) and got them from Bass Pro Shop .

All she needs do is help me stick the stem up on the T-bar , although I could do it myself , it's easier with her help and we share the gear pack and unpack , canoe carry , etc. together also , just like the paddling , team work .

We lay the canoe upside down straight back from the truck , then together we tilt one end up and on to the T-bar . You need to make sure the the canoe end is seated as far forward as it will go against the side stops (rope loop ears of the T-bar) , then for safe measure use a bungie (temporary) over the canoe end in the T-bar to keep it from trying to jump out when you pick up the other end getting ready to walk it around 180 degrees to the front bar mount (the bungie - I don't do this but will recomend others do it , I just keep slight forward pressure and ballance on the canoe when picking up the other end so it doesn't jump out of the ears) .

After you have one end setting up on the T-bar , it's "EASY" to pick the other end up over your head to level or higher than the roof top (level or higher is important - best to have the end you are holding a tad higher than the end in the T-bar) , then just walk it around 180* and set it on the front bar mount (have a milk crate , short stool or similar already in place (or have her ready to place it for you) where you need it up front to step up on to for aid in getting that end on the front bar mount (I don't need one cause I am tall and can easily just transition the canoe end from over head , out to the side a little to get it started on the bar mount , at that point the weight is gone , but the milk crate helps sometimes for moving it farther into the center because I have canoe stops ($35.) from Yakima on the front bar which locks it in but you have to manuver the canoe end up and over the stop to lock it in .

The canoe/load stops were a good idea , not just because they lock in the front well , having the front locked in "stops" the T-bar from having any rearward/forward sway , because the canoe is locked in at both ends even before final tie down .

There are a few detail special things we do to finish the tie down (special rope and strap ideas) , but not going to mention them here because they are just common sense tie down proceddures .

I got a hitch extension this year , which allows me to mount the T-bar 9" farther rearward ... this allows me to open the caps rear window all the way with the canoe loaded .

I always pull the T-bar and extension out and lock it in the truck while out on the water (don't use lock pins) ... our front bar (Yakima Q-towers) have the lock cylinders and only take them off after unload at home .

Don't take this last suggestion lightly ... "if" your mount system is a portable type of bars , or combo T-bar etc. that you can take off and store when not using ... and such leaves your roof top flat and empty ... "DO" always take along a set of roof top foam blocks as a back-up , just in case you come in from paddling to find your rack system has gone missing !!

the one that Cabela has shown looks to have a few more adjustments than our Reese model , I can't say about the quality of the others (I know our Reese is good quality) , they may be the identical products or some cheaper brand kick off ??

Looking at those pics. again myself , I see that none of them show the rear tied off as I do , they just have a strap pulling it down to the vertical post .

I have found that tying the canoe and T-bar off (with a single long rope) to each side of the bumper takes all the left/right sway out of the vertical post (the wider V rope thing makes it stationary) ... bumper to loop ear - over canoe and under and around and over again - through other loop ear - down to bumper other side , draw tight with truck hitch or similar .

Two Methods

– Last Updated: Dec-13-09 8:17 PM EST –

As has already been mentioned, a really good method is to have your rear cross bar close enough to the back of the vehicle that you can lean one and of the boat onto it, and then pick up the end that's still on the ground and slide it the rest of the way up.

If there is a span of at least four or five feet between your front and rear cross bars, another very easy method is to attach a length of pipe between the ends of the cross bars on each side of the vehicle (once this is done, the rack as seen from above will form a rectangle instead of two parallel lines). Then you can lean the canoe toward the side of the vehicle against one of those pipes, slide it up onto the roof so it sits crosswise on the rack on both pipes, and then work it around until it is oriented the proper way. It is VERY easy for one person to do. Best of all, this system will only cost you about $15 or $20 to build. Here's a photo showing one of my side-loader bars:

one man canoe loader
I used two of the, I guess you would call them gutter mount bars which consisted of a pipe with the two mounting brackets. I found pipe that would slide inside these two bars and cut the pipe to about an inch longer than the bracket bars. I then drilled a hole through both when they were about even to keep the inserted bar in place when traveling. When you want to load the canoe, slide the one bar out far enough and prop the canoe on it and then lift the canoe while your wife pulls the other bar out underneath the canoe. Then slide the canoe into place, slide the inner bars back inside and pin in place. Tie her down and your off.

Thank you from Everglades
Thanks for the time and effort to my query on one man boat loaders. I think my best option is the t-bar swivel. My canoe has quite a pronounced rise on both ends making it quite difficult to load upside down via a rear load bar. Found this out the hard way on my last minivan. Which brings to mind the question what are the cons of loading a canoe right side up?

As to the t-bar swivel both the Reese and the Cabella

have mixed reviews, both seeming to suffer from craftmanship and unsteadyness. But both seem to work well enough with some tweeking. The bone of contention fo me is the t-bar itself. The Reese t-bar is fixed at 30 inches where as the Cabella is extendable, quite a desirable feature me thinks. The question to you knowledgeable canoe pundits is, is 30 inches enough width to accommadate a very wide canoe? That is can I get enough of the stem or stern inserted forward enough for a secure and safe loading?

I believe the Reese and the Cabella take different size hitches, correct me if I’m wrong, so I can’t order the Reese which I think might be the better quality one to try out or I might get stuck with an expensive hitch if the Reese doesn’t work out.

Well if I havn’t bored everyone to tears with my trivial conundrum I’d certainly appreciate any feed back. Thanking you in advance.

the Reese loader which we have …

– Last Updated: Dec-14-09 7:12 PM EST –

...... seems to be just perfect in the dimension between the rope loop ears to lock in and have the right amount of canoe hanging out back there (our canoes are 16"-9" and 10" , 36"-37" wide at center, 25" bow/stern height, 15" center height) ,

The Reese is not poor quality , but acually pretty good (I'm guessing the Cabela one is good also ??) ... you will like these T-bar loaders once you get used to it (won't take long either) .

I am going to suggest that you use a seperate dedicated hitch extension (without the ball) just for the T-Bar itself ... mount the Vertical part directly to the hitches "ball hole" instead of that flat iron piece that comes with it that is suppose to go under the ball (don't use the ball)... it's a fairly simple thing to do by just putting a bushing in the 1" ball hole to make it 3/4" which is the size of the bolt that comes out the bottom of the vertical bar piece (could even cut a 1" o.d. pipe with a hack saw to make that bushing) , and then use a heavy large washer to span the 1" hole undernieth before the 3/4" nut , that's all .

As for the hitch ... the T-bar loader itself is not hitch size specific . It can be mounted to whatever size hitch you have because it mounts to the tow ball hole (I have a 2" x 2" reciever and hitch - but I'm sure it could mount to a 1-1/4" x 1-1/4" also) .

As for the sway ... if you read my first post again ... this method or similar will eliminate "ALL" sway , both front to rear , and side to side ... don't worry , it won't be wiggling around back there if you do something like I mentioned .

When assembling the T part to the vertical part , don't be afraid to snug up the connecting bolt a little , it should swivel under pressure but not free spin like a propeller .

If you can get those canoe stops like I mentioned , you should do it because using them actually sets the spread between the T-bar (lock in) and the stops (lock in) to fit your canoe length and width perfectly ... once you lock it in it all just tie down from there , not much wiggling around while tying down .

More Stuff

– Last Updated: Dec-14-09 8:42 PM EST –

If the "pronounced rise" at each end of your boat interferes with loading from the rear, it either means that your rear cross bar isn't far enough back on the car (which might not be easy to rectify), or you are lifting too high and too soon. The second possibility occurs to me because I won't let passersby help me load my guide-boat onto the car because every single time I've let someone help, they lift too high, stabbing the bow of the boat into the car's roof.

The side-bar loading system won't be affected at all by the rise of the bow and stern. That's still your cheapest and easiest option. Nothing wrong with a T-bar swivel, but the only thing it will do that side bars won't do is eliminate the need for sliding the boat on the gunwales.

As to your question about loading the canoe right-side up, don't do that. The gunwales are the strongest part for supporting the boat, UNLESS you support the hull with cradles having a very large surface area (and that's too much of a hassle). Also, an upright canoe can collect a couple of hundred pounds of water in a very short time if it rains hard. You don't want that much weight sloshing from one end of the boat to the other unless you'd just like to test the strength of your roof rack. :)


these were featured on the P-net home page a few days ago - an option to the “T Bar” swivel

looks like a couple of ideas that would work for you, maybe

Russian mail order bride…

– Last Updated: Dec-16-09 9:50 AM EST –

Send off fer Tatiana (strong like bull) ta lift dat canoo fer yer.

Iffin' yer kin git de canoo over yer head usin' de one person canoo throw method or some such way.. why not just put one stem on de front rack an' then shift back an' slide de other stem on de rear rack. Ah' had a full size van an' never had much o' a problem (an' ah's only 5'9" but strong like jackass an' mostly full o' bull) an' some o' me canoos aar close ta 90 lbs.

Trouble be now-a-days nobody's gots welded rain gutters anymore (except full size vans). Yer always could position yer rear bar close ta de back an' jus' slide one stem up onto dat an' then push.


maybe this may help…

rotating rear T-bar
A rotating T in the hitch plug. You put one end of the canoe on it, bungee it down. Pick up the other end and walk it around, place on top of the vehicle. I made one for my old pickup truck. Worked like a charm.

Maine Roll ON - Unfortunately
The Cat’s Meow is the Maine Roll-On. Unfortunately, you can’t have one, because like anything else that REALLY works, they no longer make these!!!

I am lucky enough to have one and I use it to routinely pull up and put in or take out the 18 foot wood and canvas guide.

Immediately, all these kayakers show up offering to help me unload, but being the MANLY MAN that I am, I say politely and with feeling…“No, I can handle it”, where upon, I simply roll the love of my life off the Ford Explorer and on to my shoulders and deposit the lovely craft into the headwaters of some stream somewhere.

Immediately the crowd of kayakers and Sunday Go to Meeting Canoeists rejoice at the Mechanism that so artfully assisted my old bones in the deposition of my lovely craft. “Where did you get that??!!”

This DEVICE, single-handedly saved my marriage to my 4 ft 11.5 in. wife…(think about an 18 foot Guide, an Explorer and her petite stature now will yah??).

Well, apparently Maine Outdoor products didn’t receive enough of my referrals, or they couldn’t compete with Chinee, because I sent everyone that I ever met at a landing in their general direction.

Now, I gotta try and keep mine functional for the rest of my life I guess.

Might consider the Kari-Tek “Easy Load Roof Rack” system. Popular overseas and now available here in the U.S.

Check out:

This is an old thread but all my searching shows me not much has changed over the years. I thought I would add what I’m currently experimenting with to the thread.

I have my OT Guide 147 80-90lbs on a dolly and roll it alongside my car. I built some 8’ long poles with 12” spaced steps and a hole at the top to pin them to my DIY rack. I want to be able to flip the canoe onto the ramp/ladder and walk it up and onto the rack with the dolly on. That way when I get to my put in it will be ready to roll.

The pictures I have are from my first attempt and the dolly wasn’t centered on the length and the straps got in the way of the ladders so I took them off.

I have steps all the way to the top and I’m thinking about only having them go about half way up as I can start off having them hook over the gunwale on the high side and then when I get up a ways have them hold against the lower gunwale. Once I get it about 2/3 of the way up it is pretty easy for me to press it up and on as it is not like lifting from the ground and the car is taking half the load.

The poles are 2x2x96” and after I get it on they can be strapped to the rack also.

Any way here it is and as I refine it more I will update.
IMG_1185 IMG_1186

My friend with the 100#, 100 year old canvas wood canoe uses a extended front rack lift one end at a time method. I will show with my 62# 17ft kayak and 4x4 pick up. The pick up is taller than our van.

Extend your front rack. Here we put a ached 40 pvc pipe on the front end of the rack. You can tie the pipe along the front rack too.

Lift the front of the boat to the extension. Note I used a two step folding ladder.

Then lift the back of the boat up onto the rack. Then move the front over onto the rack.

The canoe would be loaded upside down.

You will see " hilly rollers" by Yakima on the back rack. This is an old system. You could use it but if a roller stops tuning the rack on a round bar tends to roll around the bar scratching the boat.

1 Like

I have used a clothes hanging bar as an extender bar .

1 Like

Bud - Your method with the “stepped” poles looks really good. I only load 50-60lb kayaks and dealing with 80-90lbs would be tough.

For the kayak loading, I’ve made bars that connect the ends of my Thule cross bars. I then load up the side and pivot the kayak into place. A removeable vertical guide bar gives security so the kayak won’t slip off while loading.

1 Like

There is a big difference between kayak and canoe loading for sure. The most oblivious is canoes want to ride upside down.

When I started stripping the 75-80# OldTown down I could see it was possible to get some weight out of it mainly the big heavy plastic seats. I did get one of them out and replaced the yoke with a really light aluminum thwart and I even built a wooden center seat that was pretty light. So all in all I could maybe get it to 70# to load and I’m still strong enough to get that on top alone at 65 and not getting younger or stronger. So I started thinking about how I will use it and how it will be loaded and when. So once I figured out I want to take it off the car load it with whatever gear the day demands I would need a dolly. The idea of not having to make a bunch of trips back and forth to the launch area was appealing. The dolly folds up small enough to take in the boat and the wheels come off and can get stashed on the boat.

I figured if I needed some device to help load and unload at that point a few extra pounds in a tandem being used as a solo wouldn’t be so bad and might even help with balance if stored in the right area when on the water.

I still want my roof weight as low as I can get it and I don’t want anything sticking up from the gunwales for loading. The gear will be in the car the dolly will stay on the canoe for transport although I might take the wheels off as that is most of the weight. Load it up quickly at the car roll it to the water and be off paddling or fishing ASAP.

I think it is important for everyone to understand what they want to accomplish and build around that plan.

I planned on taking the top 3 blocks off my ladders today and seeing if that works, but I woke to a couple inches of snow on the spring flowers so I will wait a couple days