Solo loading a sea kayak onto a car

Ok, the kayak is about 46lbs. I needed a way to load and unload by myself. I tried from the back but there is a wing that isn’t strong and it was awkward that way. I tried from the side and that was doable, but barely, and really tiring.

Here’s a way I came up with that loads from the front of the car using a carpet runner with rubber backing.

The first time I tried this method using a bathroom carpet on the front hood. Well, the top of the ft hood got scratched because the kayak hit it. It will buff out. Also, I out a small dent in the top hood because I pushed the kayak down. Whoops.

Now, I got a runner carpet from Home Depot for $20. My husband sewer two pieces of foam onto the carpet, one on each end. This should absorb the kayak weight and not cause denting.

Does anyone load this way? Input? Suggestions?

Here’s the YouTube video I made:

The kayak slides up and loads easily. Then I put Tue foam blocks I have under the kayak on the crossbars.

this could help too

It should take the load on the back so you don’t actually rest the boat on any part of the car.

The OP seems to have a spoiler on
the car trunk. The roller can also be homemade out of pipe insulation around the rack bar but the spoiler is probably still in the way.

yakima thingy may still help
it seems to telescope back and likely above the spoiler so it takes the weight rather than the spoiler.

Good loading system
I like the look of that. There was something similar at the place I bought the kayak. Problem is right now, I’d have to buy different crossbars and that loading system is over $100. I’m totally broke after buying my kayak and paddle!

Hopefully in a year or so, I can get something like you linked to.

Spoiler/wind depflector
Yeah, unfortunately, my Outback has a fiberglass wind reflector on the back. It’s so fragile I thought I would break it. I can put the kayak on it at all. I tried avoiding it but I lost hold of the kayak and it dropped on that stupid spoiler thing.

How about a pair of stackers and…

– Last Updated: Aug-23-11 12:51 PM EST –

rig an extension to the forward cross bar, then shove it up at an angle from the side? The forward stacker would limit its travel sideways. That'd avoid putting a load over the front windshield if things slipped.

Stackers are among the least expensive add-ons, and it looks like your cross bars would take them.

The other idea, not cheap but still less than a full rack system, is the Amagansett Roller Loader. ( This may work so you can load from the back and have it not whack the spoiler. Current full cost is $169, but they last forever. We've had ours for more yrs than I remember now and it is showing no wear.

The wheels are big enough so that if I am loading alone, I don't hit the (stupid) plastic projection on the back of the '07 Outback wagon in which they put the backup lights.

08 Outback
You must have the same design as my 08 Outback. My lights are on the wind thing too.

I will try other ways as well. Eventually I can get a proper loading system. This is just for now because I’m still afraid of damaging my car.

I’ll be going alone mostly so I needed a way to do it myself. Thanks for that link, too!

hey thanks for posting the video
A couple of concepts to help loading a boat.


Technique, it’s all technique. You want to use big muscle groups, and work smart, not hard.

Best way to pick up a heavy kayak to lift it onto the car is to kneel, roll the kayak onto it’s edge, roll it from the cockpit rim onto your shoulder, then stand using your core and legs.

This technique will allow you to get the kayak much higher and be able to lift it onto the car more effectively and with less effort.

The kayak is designed to be easiest to carry from the middle at the cockpit.

Second part

The car. A low car like the subaru is a great start. No ladders or other funky middle steps. But you need to work at the back of the car once the kayak is on your shoulder. Foam pads on a yakima or thule system are the best system, because you can walk with the kayak on your shoulder and then just push it from your shoulder onto the car, and slide it into position.

This technique allows me, a 5’7" guy to load a heavy 55-70 lbs kayak onto a variety of cars.

Use long cross bars. Instead of setting the bow on your vehicle set it on a foam block on the outer part of your long cross bar. No rugs involved.

I used to load with a rug, then tried a
"Roller Loader", which also works great. I now have a “Hullavator” (newer version) that works wonderful for this older, short (5’2") woman.

Try an extender? Maybe load sideways?
This looked interesting:

You could also load the kayak sideways between the racks by lifting the bow or stern up onto the roof above the door on either side of the car. Slide it up onto the roof then rotate the kayak into place. The roof over the door will need protection. Rotating might be a pain without something on the rack to keep one end in place while rotating the other end.


that is worth the $$$ in my opinion!

Subaru loading
I go from the side. First, I place the bow up on the front cradle. Then I go to the stern of my boat, and walk it up onto the top of the car. No significant strength or effort is required. It does tend to scuff the car roof a bit, but on a Subaru that type of thing looks appropriate.

kayak auto loader
Malone Telos. It’s less money than Thule’s Hullavator and you can use it on both sides before storing it in the vehicle.

different roller loader
I use one of these - less expensive, well built, works well:

With narrow bar spacing on my Honda Element and old-style Yakima TLC saddles, loading from the side didn’t work well - too tall for me. With the narrow bar spacing, getting it on one bar and then lifting the other end high enough to clear the saddle put the at too much of an angle.

I like j racks
I’m an average sized middle aged female 5’ 5" and have solo loaded all my kayaks, ranging from 32 lbs to 68 lbs but most often my 46 lb Easky, on Volvo wagons and now a Hyundai Santa Fe, by using Thule J-racks (the upright, padded J-shaped brackets).

Per the previous posted instructions, I get my center of strength and balance under the cockpit rim with the boat on its side and bow forward, insert my shoulder and right arm and lift and walk it to side of the car, then pivot the bow up and rest it in the fron J-rack, slip my shoulder out of the cockpit, walk my hands back to the stern and lift it up and set it in the rear rack. (Be sure and loop the straps through the top loop of each rack BEFORE loading the boat, a stretch them forward and back to lie on the hood and trunk of the car where you can reach them easily once the boat is settled on the racks. ) Once the boat is up on the rack, it is easy to grab the straps and toss them over the boat so they can be secured to the rack on the outside.

Even when I am loading without J-racks, this method works, pivoting one end up from the side and then walking your way to the stern to lift and pivot the other end up.

tieing down on thin bars will put dents
in the hull… When I kayaked the cradles worked fine, nice & soft yet secure…the J-bars will work well too…


I have a hullavater…
It is noisy as hell when empty. It’s really expensive and rusted right from the beginning, sometimes the bars won’t stay in the lock down position and has flung my kayak into the side of my car. Needless to say it dents it each time.I have had to fight to get Thule to replace parts that keep it in the lock down position, it’s just not worth it sometimes. I am 5’1/2" and am determined to purchase stackers with a load bar next time around. But for now I will use the Hullavater because that’s what i have. I think it’s only hard to load a kayak if you think it’s hard to load a kayak. Ingenuity can go along way.

Yes, what
willowleaf and PhilS said works for me, too; with Forester and Outback. (An aside – my loop straps – with Thule buckle bumpers – stay attached to the J racks all the time. I just have to be sure that the strap section attached to the top of the j rack is pushed over out of the way – toward the center of the car – before loading the kayak. Otherwise the kayak would sit on that end of the strap making it hard to retrive that end. Works well for me. The only slight difficulty is reaching over the boat to retrieve the top section of the strap. Standing on the rear tire makes that end very easy. I do have to open th front door and stand on the “door jam” to reach over and retrieve the front strap section – I’m a little over 6’ so a shorter person might have to stand on the driver seat. That’s why i said “works for me.”)