Short Paddler Loading a Kayak

Looking for some advice on loading and transporting my kayak on my new Toyota Tundra. I was thinking about the Trac Rac system since it is fairly easy to put on and take off, but got to thinking about how high my kayak would be. I’m only 5 1/2 feet tall and worry that I won’t be tall enough to get the thing loaded up.

Any short paddlers out there loading their kayaks on pick ups? If so what rack system are you using? Any tricks to making it easy?

Thanks for your input.


Toyota Tundra
At the outfit I work with, we have a toyota tundra, its HUGE, and I am a tiny guy, at five foot six inches tall, loading sea kayaks, cd oracles and solstices, rapiers, nordkapps, surfskis, make for a difficult time loading up the truck.

However, we have the Outdoorsman from Yakima setup with make saddles and antiscuff pads…it makes the loading much easier…sliding the boat over the back saddles, its easy for longer boats.


From 5’4"
Longer boats are easier - hard to say without knowing what you have. And deck perimeter line and rigging as well, since you’ll need some decent points to grab the boat as you push it up (or slide it down).

You can lay a blanket and/or a set of the rolloer-loader wheels over the back to protect the vehicle as well as something under the boat on the ground, get it propped up and push. I’ve usually run a rope thru the front rigging on the boat and thru the rear rack before going for the actual load, so that I can pull on that to help prevent a fall off to the side and help slide it up. The same works backwards.

bucket loader…
A tip I picked up here was to use a flipped over paint bucket as a step stool. The $5 kind at Home Depot, etc. It was a great idea and I keep the tie down straps in the bucket when the boats are not on the car.

Good luck out there… Tom.

Shorter than you
at 5’3" I load/unload all my kayaks myself (10, 15.5 and 16 feet). But then, I have a Toyota Matrix rather than a Tremendous Tundra Thumper :wink:

My system is based on a Yakima rack with Hulley Rollers and Mako Saddles, with appropriate tie downs. Check the archives about those, it will be amusing and enlightening.

I use the power of leverage to bring the kayak bow up first and lever her right up. The rollers move the boat along nicely and the Mako Saddles cradle the boat’s hull.

Use a rubber-backed carpet to protect the edge of your rear door, or get the mini rollers that Celia describes. Some are permanently attached, others just when you need them as they slip into the crevice on top of the rear loading door.

With all due respect to the poster above, using an overturned plastic 5 gallon bucket can be a cheap invitation to the emergency room.

It barely has room for both feet (most people’s feet) and thus destabilizes you at the worst moments. You’re also more likely to tip working on ground that’s not level, since you just have a thin plastic edge (that can crack) to support you. It is even more likely to crack in very cold weather, if that applies.

Something footed is better. Or if you go round, go big and round so that your feet are always entirely on the topside, while the ground side has some soft rubber on it to prevent slipping.

Thule makes some kind temporary step that comes on and off over a wheel near the runner board. You could check that out also.

All good suggestions. At least I know it’s not impossible to load.



My friend
is about 5’5" and loads his kayaks on a fairly large truck with quite high bars.

He folds down the tailgate and slides the front of the kayak forward so the cockpit is just past the tailgate and the kayak is at about 45deg angle. He then climbs into the bed and lifts the kayak bow up on the front bar and then sidles it forward until the stern is just forward of the rear bar. He then lifts the stern, puts it on the rear bar and slides it backwards until it is properly situated on the bars.

He uses foam instead of standard saddles, but I think you could still do the same thing with saddles and/or rollers. Might have to spread one side of forward saddles to make it easier for the initial slide forward.


  1. Slide under rear bar/saddle on tailgate from ground.
  2. Slide over front bar/saddle while standing in bed. Far forward enough to clear rear/bar saddle
  3. Lift up stern and slide backward over rear bar/saddle while standing in bed.

    Hope this helps.


Not impossible
In addition to all the Slide Up methods listed so far you can also go the next step and use a pair of Thule Hull-a-Vators either on cab based roof racks or on closer spaced ladder style racks like the Thule XSporter or the Yakima Outdoorsman (I’m sure other makes exist too) Cradles drop 41" down to allow you load at chest height and then the mechanism helps to load it upward for you. Nice at the end of a long paddle.

On the slide up techniques, add a 2’ brightly colored rope to the rear grab loop. Alerts truck drivers not to put your kayak through your windshield and helps immensely on offloading when you want to get the boat tilted to slide off.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Do you need a rack sys ???

– Last Updated: Nov-10-07 9:48 AM EST –

You didn't mention the length of your kayak so I will just describe my situation.

I have a short bed F150 and a 12' (roto) kayak. I just drop the tail gate down and bungee the kayak in using 1 bungee cord. I have also carried carried a 14'(roto) Tsunami at the same time using a total of 3 bungees for both kayaks and because I have a Leer high top camper shell on the truck I have several times had 8 (roto) kayaks (none less than 12') bungeed in the with 14 bungee cords.

Loading my Tundra
I have an '03 Tundra that I use to haul my boats (12 ft) around. I installed 2 Yakima racks with one set of Landsharks and one set of J’s, all on the top of the cab. I put a boat in the back end, then slide and lift the boat onto the rack. Using all the straps and tie-downs and I am ready to go. I have made long trips with nary an issue.

I would recommend using the makos and hulley rollers if budget does allow, it would be even easier. My next purchase will be the “T” for my hitch because I am hoping that Santa brings me a canoe!


As a 4’ 11" lady, it can be done
I have a Nissan Pickup and the Rail N’ Rack system (rack folds down to rails when not in use). When I had my Dagger Savannah, this was my system for loading/unloading:

Set the top of the boat to lean on the rack with end on the ground. Get into the truck bed and drag it across the racks, tie down and off you go.

Reverse process to unload.