portaging and solo canoeing?

-- Last Updated: Jun-27-04 6:47 PM EST --

so i'm getting a little confused trying to figure out whether its possible for me to load up my 70 lb canoe on top of my truck and portage the beast to the put in.

is this doable? do any folks really do this? i see yedo carts and extend-a-truck hook ups. is all this necessary?

i'd hate to think that i can only go canoeing with a friend to help load up and take her down..

any guidance is greatly appreciated...

Last weekend I portaged

– Last Updated: Jun-25-04 6:34 PM EST –

my 58 lb. canoe 15 times to fifteen lakes ( not to mention my 40 lb. pac, took 2 trips) by using just a closed cell foam sleeping pad on the front seat bar...yes I was a bit sore, but what a trip...I'm 56 years ole..not sure what that means, but I thought I would add it..

Its possible but not enjoyable
Ive got an Old Town Loon 160T that weighs between 70 and 80lbs that I used to solo and cartop. Moving and lifting it by myself was not something I looked forward to. By the time I got it on the roof, off the roof, to the water, back to the vehicle and back on the roof and straped down I felt like I had been in a street fight. Ive also got a 90+lbs canoe that Ive cartopped and it was easier to deal with then the kayak but still a hand full. I think most men are strong enough to get that amount of weight up to the roof (assuming you dont have any physical problems that would limit you), its the balance that becomes an issue and the same with portaging it. That much weight perfectly balanced isnt that bad but getting something thats 15 or 16 feet long balanced is the trick.

2 questions
It seems like you’ve got two questions. A) Do you need a rack set up for your truck? and B) Can you handle a 70 lb. canoe?

Regarding A): A good rack is a blessing you’ll never be sorry you invested in. You may want to try some jury-rigged set up with foam blocks and such, but only so that you fully appreciate how good racks are when you get one. They make all kinds, some for canoes/yaks/bikes/skis, and also heavier duty jobs for construction or other commercial applications.

The canoe will ride better and you’ll feel more relaxed with a good rack.

How long is the canoe by the way? The longer the canoe, the more you need a good rack I think.

Regarding B): If you’re in good physical shape you should probably be able to handle a 70 lb. canoe. Go to Redrock Store’s web page. Look for links at the bottom of the page. Joe has some nice how to photos for handling a canoe. You might want a buddy around the first few times to sort of “spot” for you if you get in a bind.

A decent portage yoke is really nice for a canoe of that weight so your not having to cary it in some unbalance way or drag it around.

Leverage is the key for me. I have a bad back so I have to be careful. On my heavier canoes I lift from one end and walk up under the yoke. I also walk the canoe up to the truck, set the front end on the back rack and the rear end on the ground, then I get out from under the yoke, pick up the rear end and slide the whole thing forward. You can throw down a pad of somekind if you are worried about scratching the end that is on the ground.

Hope that helps some.

Have fun.

Truck racks
If you’re hauling on a truck, get racks. It makes it so nice. Your canoe will be locked down with couple of ratchet tiedowns and good racks are easily removable. My canoe is about 70lbs, and with the truck rack extensions, it’s easy to load and unload.

Loading: Front on first, back on ground, lift back to second rack.

Unloading: Back down first, walk around to the yoke and cart her away. I have a 3/4 ton Dodge 4x4 that is pretty tall. The key is balance, like previously stated.

My 2cents

You can do it but it isn’t easy.
My Old Town Disco 158 is just about that in weight.

Make or buy a nice set of portage blocks and attach them to the portage yoke.

Lie the canoe on the ground botom side up with the bow against a fixed object such as a tree or big rock.

Pick up the stern, and walk it up in the air like you would do with a heavy ladder using the rock or tree to foot the bow.

When it is up fairly high, get in under the yoke, and let it down on you shoulders.

Coming back to the vehicle, walk right up to it, and put the bow on the rack and let the stern down on the ground. Then get out from under, and go around and pick up the stern and slide the canoe on your vehicle.

When you bring it to the water find a solid object to foot it against to take it off, and do it as above only in reverse.

Of course if you are in your forties or fifties, you can just pick it up and throw it on your shoulders.

Second idea is buy a kevlar canoe.

This all comes from someone who just got a hernia from picking up telephone poles!



Portaging builds Character
Come on! Once you get it on your shoulders you’re all set! Portaging is great fun.

To help me load the 18 ft Old Town Wood Canvas Guide at 85 lbs. onto the high Explorer, I got a Maine Roll-On. Best $120 I ever spent. Saved my marriage and all those Attorney’s Fees. See here: PS- I’m not related to this firm, just a happy customer without a hernia.


I take the Guide solo all the time now and as I said, once you get it on your shoulders, portaging part is relatively easy.

Roll-On device
The previous poster is right. A roll-on device like the one he names works great. Mine is home-built and was an idea born of necessity (I didn’t know such things were commercially available at the time). Mine is a slip-on contraption that provides a temporary sliding bar about 14 inches behind the normal rear cross bar. Even my 80-pound jon-boat loads as easy as can be by that method. A more popular method is to put a temporary extension on the front cross bar that sticks out to the side. Put the front end of the boat up on that, walk around to the back of the boat and lift that end onto the rear cross bar, then slide the front of the boat across onto the regular part of the cross bar.

If your front and rear cross bars are far enough apart, a simple bar connecting the two makes a great boat-loader. Approach the car from the side and lay the front end of the boat up against that lengthwise bar, then grab the back of the boat and pivot/shuffle the thing around onto the racks. Crude but effective.

portaging and loading
Portaging a 70 lb boat is reasonably easy if you are in decent shape, but loading it is much tougher, I have NEVER met a paddler who would not spend 60 seconds helping load another’s boat , so if there are others at your put in just ask.

My 33 lb kevlar is much easier to portage and load, and consequently gets paddled lots of times when the 75 lb royalex boat stays at home. If you can afford a lighter boat, go for it!


Sure is Sean, however the weight factor is a main reason many paddlers who have done the heavy canoe tripping ONCE…go to the lighter materials…kevlar, etc…

But FWIW, “SpringCreek” tapped onto the most efficient setups for a canoe yoke, with the wide foam strips placing your shoulders between areas that receive the full weight…

Best of Luck…


thanks everyone!
wow…i really appreciate all the guidance. i am studying the photos of how to properly lift and carry a canoe and boy i sure have a lot to learn!

thanks again everyone!

Hip flick
Hi Sean, lemme see if I can describe the hip flick for you - it’s another method of getting the canoe off the ground and onto your shoulder.

Ok, Canoe on ground, open side up. Your standing on the left side, facing the bow. Reach down and roll the canoe over onto its right side, so then you are standing next to a canoe that’s sideways (open side away from you). Place your right hand on the yoke, left hand on the gunnel and lift. Now’s the trick. once you have the canoe off the ground, take your left hand and place it on the yoke on the FAR side of the boat. Pull that hand UP (rotating the canoe), and at the same time give the canoe a ‘kick’ with your hips. The canoe should be about stomach height when you try this. If the canoe has momentum, it should start to rotate to an ‘open side down’ position. At this point you just need to walk under it and settle yourself under the yoke.

All this takes about 3 seconds.

This may take some practise. Maybe you could have someone ‘spot’ you while you try. But it’s a good solution for when you don’t have a tree to brace the boat against, or other assistance.