RVs and kayak carrying

I am planning on buying a small RV and traveling to paddle all over the country when I retire in 2 years but all of the RVs I’ve seen are realy high for an old lady traveling solo to load and unload a 17 foot plastic boat. I know about the rack lowering system but they work with Thule and Yakima systems which don’t go on the fiberglass tops of RVs. Does any one have a workable solution to the RV topping problem and/or a model of RV that works well with boats? I’d like to take 2 with me. Also the AC unit on top of the RV’s seem to be in the way? Thanks for your gret body of knowledge.

We are in the same boat{no pun intended}
Hi Karen,

The wife and I are planning to buy a class c in the next couple of years, We have been looking and have found only a few with an open area for laying the kayak on the roof. The problem is ,there is no way of mounting racks to the roof,as it voids most manufacturers warranties. We have a travel trailer now,and a pickup truck to tow,so we put them on the truck racks.

We had one RV dealer suggest a unit with a rubber covered roof,and have a rubber roofing company “glue” foam blocks to the rubber roofing {no penatration} then along the edge remove a trim screw and replace with an eye bolt for a place to tie down from side to side. For added safety a bow line tied to the tongue,and stearn line tied to roof ladder or rear bumper. I have a large RV parts,and accessories catalog,and no rack exists for a travel trailer,or motorhome.However there is a rack system for pop up campers that use Thule or Yakamia cross bars.Maybe I could become rich if I design a rack system just for RV’s. Good Luck

Happy Paddling billinpa

RVs & kayaks
I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one wanting this. If you did rig the top as you described, how will you get it up there since it is really pretty much higher than a van which is plenty tall for me to car top? I understand that the rubber/plastic roofs won’t take a lot of abrasion which would make the loading really difficult. I really didn’t want to tow anything like a trailer. Someone out there will bave solved this, I’m sure.

How about
Mounting some J cradles to the side of your motor home? Strap it on to the vehicle just below waist level. Easy to load and unload. Just don’t mount it over a door. Just an idea.

extra wide load
Won’t that make it too wide to fit in a lane? I like the height of the rack but am concerned about the width. Have you seen side mounted carries? Thanks for the idea.

I have seen kayaks mounted on the side of trailers before, but never a motorhome. Seems to me the J-cradles would work the best, but you would have to watch your width. I would suggest putting both boats on the same side (probably the driver’s, as the RV door is usually on the Passenger side.) If I remember correctly, the maximum width is 8’. I’ll give this some more thought…

Try here, http://www.boatloader.com . It looks like they do alot of fab work, may be a possiblity to use a hitch mounted system and mount the front half to the roof only. Site says to email them about different configurations. You may need to decide on an rv first though.

hanging kayak from RV
I have rigged up side carrying racks that I hang from the double side doors of my class B van camper. I re-engineered a roof rack ski carrier with a j hook and hang the racks sideways from the top and bottom of my side doors on a B250 Ford van chassis. I incorporated a turnbuckle onto the bottom hook, so I can ratchet it down quite strongly. I hang the kayak (a 16 footer) at about shoulder height. This interferes with opening the front side passenger door near the top. But I can still get in my driver’s side and rear doors of the van camper.

It holds up well in driving at highway speeds.

The hooks that I use on the side door ledges are car roof gutter hanging hooks bought from Sears hardware.

It is no wider than the side mirror of my van and is about two feet above the side mirror.

I’ve had much experience with RVs, we currently for the last while we’ve had a Born-Free 26 foot…too darned big, and we gave up on putting the kayaks on top and just put them on the ‘toad’ which made the whole rig almost 40 feet looooooong, again too big.

Recently I purchased a Tiger:


Nothing is perfect but this RV has a total length of 19 feet, so going to the mall or anywhere a typical SUV can go, it can go.

I chose a Duramax engine for the durability, power,economy a diesel can offer. I also chose the 4x4 option to get to trail heads and put-ins that would stop a normal RV.

I liked the over-cab sleeper too.

Since the Tiger is configured by your choices the manufacturer incorporated Thule Racks into the fiberglass top during construction (along with 2 large Concorde batteries/inverter, GPS, rear-view camera, etc.)

We had an extra Thule bar put on the back rear (where roof meets the back exterior wall) and on that extra bar we put large conical rollers:


It is simple to lift up the bow and place it on the roller, then I climb up while my paddling partner (you do have a paddling partner dont you?) holds the boat. Then I simply pull/roll the kayak onto the other Thule racks and then tie them down.

A ramp can be made that looks like a two section ladder from the rear. One section is mounted on pivots on the bumper and the other section is mounted to pivots on the extra thule bar at the extremem rear of the roof. One section slides up and out and the other down and out and clicks in place. On the top ladder surface you would put wheels like the Yakima Hully Rollers that can click off in a non rolling setting or even a rope that will slip off as you pull the boat up. This holds the kayak in position while you climb up the ladder.

Get a folding kayak
and carry it in your RV.

5th wheel
We looked at the motorhomes and went to a 5th wheel trailer because there were too many problems loading kayaks on top. We carry our kayaks centered and stacked on the tow vehicle. We can carry the kayaks with sterns 4’ into the bed this way and the trailer turns around them so we can carry boats up to 18’ without excessive front overhang. I figured I would have to tow a towed so I might as well tow a trailer. I get about 12 mpg with my set up which is more than I would get with a motorhome of similar size. Also, once we are set up we can move around with the truck. The motor home without a towed would be a lot easier to drive but we went with what worked for us. My wife insisted on a 5th wheel while I was looking at tags because of the ease of racking the boats. I did not agree to the 5th wheel until I figured out a way to rack the boats. I will admit the 5th wheels are a lot easier to tow.

I had designed a rack system for RV top carry. I figured side plates made from 1/8" stainless or 1/4" aluminum. I thought they should be about 10"-12" long and bent 90* at the top. Height would depend on needed clearence. Unistrut would be mounted on the side plates to span the roof. The kayak saddles would be mounted to the strut. Rollers would be mounted to the luggage rack or a piece of marine carpet could be glued down to the rear roof if there is no rack. I am not an engineer and if you use this design you do so at your own risk.

Or a take-apart kayak
EasyRider, Nimbus, and one of the Brit makers have 3-piece composite kayaks that bolt together. Heavier than the regular models, but the individual pieces would not weigh much and they’d fit inside an RV.

Hey kfsrmn, I currently have a 5th wheel trailer, and have been trying to decide the best system for mounting my touring boats on the truck. Do you have any pictures of your system? If so, post them or e-mail them to me if you can. Thanks much!!!

Please Think Twice!
There is still time to avoid becoming a menace to society. Do you really need to drive around in a huge piece of machinery to enjoy your retirement? As you age your driving reflexes worsen and you become a hazzard. Live simply so others can simply live. Many of us who live in mountain communities, tourist areas etc LOATH RVs that slow traffic, block roads, consume excess gas. Ask anyone who has driven behind retirees up Logan Canyon,through Zions N.P. up Berthoud Pass, along the Big Sur Coastline. If you do decide to drive one, please do not park next to me in a pristine alpine campground or beach and run your generator, tv, stereo system ect and then dump your sink, toilet etc where someone will want to pitch a tent in the dark and find they have found your sewage by accident. For the price of an RV you could stay at thousands of campgrounds in a tent, hundreds of B and Bs and just carry your boats on the top of your car, truck or small tent trailer. Also consider the price of having repairs done while on the road. Road break-downs in an RV in a remote area are a huge expensive nightmare.

Signed an Ex-Utahn, Coloradan, and Arizonan

RE: Please think twice
As a recent retiree and Soc.Sec. recipient,I give a resounding A-MEN.

“Rolling Roadblocks” being driven by people with little or no experience at handling heavy vehicles, gives me the shivers. Every time I meet one of these weaving beaumoths driven by some mouth breather with a white knuckle grip on the wheel and bulging , terrified eyes, I give thanks that I got by that one without a head-on.

Please don’t join their ranks.

Hi Karen,
I have a relatively small rv myself.We don’t use it all that much but I’ve been wondering about the same thing you have.The only thing that I could come up with was the idea of a trailer.I have a Toyota Sun Land Express which is not in production any longer.I think it is @ 8ft. wide and I was thinking that if I hung my boats off the side it would be too wide.Please keep me posted here or e-mail if you learn any new ideas.



Just my two cents…
I worried about shuttles and have tried bicycles which work for short shuttles, but my motorcycle is even better. I had a utility trailer built with an RV door and window and it is lined. It has a ramp door in the back, interior lights and vent fan, its own battery, leveling jacks, and side step. I had it built empty so it would be light weight for towing (3360 lb). I can carry my motorcycle and a couple of boats. My son and I sleep in it with cots and it is nice in the early spring when it is cold. It is also nice at the landing to roll the bike out and slip the kayak inside where it is locked up. Some of the new sport utility trailers are set up as rolling garages with living quarters in front. You can have them built with bathrooms, kitchens, etc.

Hi Karen:
I know you did not ask to be discouraged from purchasing a motorhome. There are plenty of places they are unwelcome, but its a free country.

I don’t think hanging a boat on the side is a good option…the widths are usually pretty maxed out & will likely make you unsafe if not illegal. And the tops are usually pretty cluttered (AC unit, vents, skylites, hatches, etc.) The biggest problem, once you find a suitable spot & figure out how to fasten it down, is getting it back off. I can’t imagine having to do it without a second person…even with hully rollers or equal.

There has been discussion on this site about mounting boats vertically or diagonally to the back of RV’s, but I guess for boats much over 10’ this won’t work. I seriously considered just hauling mine inside & lugging it out at each campsite, but besides the hassle, you better have a way to securely stow it. No easy solution to this that I know of…good luck & happy trails.

Long term usage

– Last Updated: Feb-12-05 5:09 PM EST –

We use our RV for a couple of months at a stretch. Usually it is driven to a destination and stays parked for a week or more before moving on to the next destination. We like to explore the area we are visiting and you cant do that in one day. We are not going to live in a tent for that period of time. We have yet to see a pristine area that we could get our rig into and if I found one, I would not want to spoil it. Usually we are in a state, federal or private park that is set up for rvs. We have never boondocked or dumped our tanks illegaly and we leave our site cleaner than when we got there. We dont do our dishes at the community water supply or crawl out of our rig to go dig a shallow hole on the neighboring campsite. We also dont play loud music from a boombox or leave our garbage in our campsite. Not all you tenters are that nice so dont paint everyone with the same brush.

Short boats
I have seen a motorhome with two 10’ kayaks verticaly on the back. The owner had rigged wrap around carriers on the rear bumper and they just dropped in. Height was under 12’. If the short boats would work, it would be a good way to go.