Pros and Cons, Load Assist Systems

OK, I have a new/used Rav4 out back and have pulled off two aging cars worth of rack systems. Some parts may move over for local use, no time yet to figure that out.

Next step is to get/assemble a fully solid base that will handle one of the load assist systems when I am ready to throw money at that. It appears I need to be attentive to what bar shape now in order to have the correct base for the load assist system later. Like round (Yakima) or square (Thule).

So - any opinions out there between the Hullivator and other systems? Also, any opinions on whether I am better off with an assist system in place going for bare roof towers over rail-mounted grabbers in terms of how well the whole system will age? (I assume I can get the rails off if needed.)

Thanks all.

I don’t use a lift assistance device
…but I’m not sure why it wouldn’t work with the factory rails, or why one would remove them. I’d consult with the manufacturer on that one because removal may be unnecessary and superfluous.

I know of three kayak load systems…

– Last Updated: Mar-09-16 11:00 AM EST –

and I happen to own one of them:
1) Thule Hullivator
2) Kari-Tek Easy Loader
3) Malone Telos

My vehicle is a 2014 Subaru Forester. I would estimate that the roof height is similar to your RAV 4.

Yes, they all have pluses and minuses. Pick your poison.
I'll start with the Telos, because that is what I have.
It requires that you use Malone J-cradles, which is not an issue for me. I have been racking my kayaks with the Malone cradles since 2000. The Telos is the least expense option of the three.
Drawbacks: (A) requires space in the vehicle or roof box to store the Telos loader. (B) Loading is not nearly as slick as with the Hullivator or Kari-tek. You raise or lower a kayak in increments by alternating working at the bow and then the stern. Yes, this is a bit of a hassle, but using the Malone J-cradles and Telos loader I can still fit my Thule cargo box on my Subaru Forester's roof.

Based on the measurements I have taken I cannot fit either the Kari-Tek Easy Loader or Hullivator on the Forester's roof and still have room for my Thule cargo box. That's the main reason I stuck with the Telos for the moment.

I have tried the Kari-tek while mounted on other paddler's vehicles. It is robust and quite well made. It does not have the pneumatic assist the Hullivator does, but it does give the user great mechanical advantage. I have seen smaller women load kayaks without issue.

Yes, the Hullivator has that nice pneumatic assist mechanism, but I have also read/heard of user issues with on-going maintenance, particularly here in the Northeast if they leave the Hullivator on the roof over the winter (salt, freezing).

At the moment I will stick with the Telos, but I could see migrating to either the Kari-Tek Easy Loader or Hullivator in the next several years as I get older, but I must be willing to give up the cargo box.

Marshall at The River Connection has both the Hullivator and Kari-Tek Easy Loader in-stock. I would give both a try and see which you like best.

Further info from the pnet archives:

Another Option
Would be the Thule Slipstream. I have one of those. Works well with my shortest boat at 11’ 10" up to my longest at 18 feet. You just have to be careful while sliding the boat up on the rear roller not to roll off to the side. Or V-saddles with a home made roller this one and v-saddles like these but what I like about the Thule Slipstream it holds your kayak farther out than were the bars are so kayak is held solidly on roof rack.

The Thule Hullavators are the only ones I have used and the only ones I can comment about.

I’ve used them for 3 years now and they pretty much still look like new. Once or twice a year I lubricate the pivot points with a little light oil. I have them on my 2012 Santa Fe with Thule towers fitted to the factory rails. I have them mounted to a square Thule bar but they also mount to Thule’s aero bars.

The major advantage to them is how ridiculously easy they are to use. They really make loading a kayak easy and because of this the chances of you scratching/beating up your vehicle are absolutely minimal. They are also extremely secure; Thule’s included straps and tie-down equipment are second to none.

The main disadvantage is the size. These are large units that stand up quite high above the roofline. (Our nickname for the car with these attached is “Bullwinkle” although it does make it very easy to find in a crowded parking lot!). With this size comes a fair amount of road noise. Of course they are also expensive but if you shop around a 20% discount is usually easy to find.

As to corrosion during the winter months, I don’t know as I take mine off for the “snow” season or if we take a long trip somewhere without the boats. And, once you get the hang of it, removing or replacing them from the cross bars is a 10 minute max. exercise.

Thanks for that reminder
My rack and Hullavator are being installed Sunday, but I have no intention of driving home with the Hullavator on the roof.

The installation guys will show me how to remove it and it will stay off until I actually need it. I guess I can practice putting it on and taking it off while waiting for the snow and ice to melt.

Malone Seawings w/Stinger
I have Malone’s Sea Wings with the slider (stinger) attachment and it has worked great. It is attached to Thule square bars. I clamp a large fleece blanket to the stinger and drape it over the rear of the car should it slip and fall into the car during loading.

It is still a bit akward to load but much easier than lifting into J’s or loading directly in the SeaWings.

Easy peasy!

I have the Malone Stinger…
And it’s basically a guide and the boat still needs to be pushed up on the cradles but it does work for single hand loading.

Several friends have the Hullivator and from what I’ve seen is very easy and worth the $$$.

I’m a convert…
to the “bathmat and slide it up your hatchback” method into a set of saddles. I have a Nissan Versa hatchback which seems, by the luck of geometry, to be particularly well suited for this.

Previously I was a “wobble it up awkardly and sideways into a set of j-cradles” guy which I am not sad to see go.

Just one point to clarify
I have an Amagansett Roller Loader and have used that for many years when loading a boat myself. So I am already set up on a way to manually slide a boat up and down pretty much from the cart to the roof and back again. Even in my younger days there was no way I could safely heft a sea kayak onto the roof of a car without some mechanical advantage.

What I am getting old enough and lazy enough to want is a system that that carries a significant portion of the weight on its own. That is something the Roller Loader does to a point, but I want more.

Celia, you are not lazy
You are being smart to prevent injury at a time of life when injuries heal slowly or incompletely. If a lift loader allows you to keep paddling, go for it.

A decent trailer for kayaks is often near the same price and is both easier to load and more useful.

Bill H.

That was something

– Last Updated: Mar-10-16 2:14 PM EST –

I had seriously considered but vehicles hauling trailers need lots of room for parking and maneuvering. I'd have to have a hitch installed on my vehicle.

License plates and insurance also required. My insurance agent told me the Thule rack and Hullavator were covered under my auto policy. No need for a rider.

Another factor was the Hullavator costs less than a good trailer and I can store the arms in a closet over winter.

For me, there were too many cons involved with a trailer.

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Hullavator Pro

– Last Updated: Mar-10-16 3:25 PM EST –

In that case go for the Hullavator Pro. From what I have read and seen the factory rails with the added Thule Crossbars have a higher weight load rating than clamp on roof racks.

Hullavator Pro says not compatible with aero bars but in the picture it sure looks like aero bars of some kind, they dont look square or round to me. I don't care for the round or square bars even though that's what I have but iam cheap.

Works with Thule Aero Bars
I’d bet they also work with Whispbar but that’s not in the Thule manual. The Hullavator has an adaptor that uses the T Channel on the Aerobar, not the aerodynamic factory cross bar. You need to have some bar extension past the edge of the tower/foot for the deployed Hullavator to clear the side of the car.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Cons as Rookie mentioned
I know how to travel with boats on a roof, and the car is not big enough to haul more than two people worth of gear and two boats anyway. Likely to be just me most of the time. Trailer is more cost, a different driving risk and a pain in the ass to park. If I was two people might make sense, but at one it is silly.

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bath mat
yeah, a rubberized bath mat works great on the back of my Forester. I also have a small dolly that I put under the back end of my yak so it isn’t dragging on pavement when I drag it to the back of the car. Prop the front end on the matt and grab the back end and push.

Invest The Money On Lighter Boats
And a pair of Goodboy racks. Everyday, I observe gals load and offload their 17 pound outrigger canoes on to or from their SUV and pickups all by themselves. These are 21 ft. long boats too. And guys, don’t even try to help, for you’ll get glared at.

I wouldn’t go that far
If you have space and practice a bit at parking and maneuvering, a trailer is a fine choice for a single person.