tire step and/or hitch step

-- Last Updated: Sep-05-11 2:38 PM EST --

After 35 years of paddling we bought our first SUV (4Runner) and are just able to load our Solstice Kayaks with a bit of running back and forth from stern to bow.

Wondering of the efficacy of tire steps and or hitch steps in assisting the loading of kayaks. It isn't the weight, it's the height that is the issue.

Pictures of the kayaks and our vehicle at http://www.flickr.com/photos/umnak/

What about a small stepladder?

– Last Updated: Sep-05-11 2:53 PM EST –

Dear umnak,

You might be better served by a small folding step stool or step ladder? If you and your partner are relatively light in weight they make plastic step stools that will probably work fine. I used to use one when I had to load my Nana in my pickup truck, it allowed her to walk up into the cab and was like the one pictured below.

That way it would serve a purpose around the home other than loading your roof rack?

Just a thought.




Wow, thanks for that link. We live in a town that has very little in the way of options for shopping. I am really impressed that it can fold to just 2".

“After 35 years of paddling”, I don’t
understand why you didn’t look at the height of that 4runner before buying it?

My primary hobby is paddling, and in picking my last four vehicles, the first thing I looked at is how will they carry the boats.

Just bite the bullet and carry a small step ladder or stool.

jack L

Blind luck on my part
Dear umnak,

It wasn’t until I started viewing your pictures that I realized you might not have a Bed Bath and Beyond close by?

A hitch step is one thing. When mounted in a 2" receiver hitch they are pretty sturdy, but you’d need a front mounted 2" receiver hitch and a pair of them to make them work from both ends.

I do not trust the “tire steps”. If you step on it and it shifts you might wind up cutting the sidewall of a tire.

That’s why I suggested a step stool. Here’s hoping you can find one locally or get one shipped to you that will do what you need it to do.



Too limited in placement options
I have a heavy-duty tire step that I would love to use for rooftopping. Unfortunately, it only mounts on tires, so that means if I need the extra height anywhere else–which I do–it’s no go. I would like to sell mine!

Same problem would exist with a hitch-mounted step. I prefer to just step on the bumper if that’s enough height. If not, the tailgate goes down, and that’s a good boost in height, plus it’s rock-solid and can support lots of weight. Your SUV must have a full lift-up-door instead of a tailgate. I know that FourRunners used to have tailgates but heard that Toyota phased those out years ago.

Anyway, I’ve found a lightweight aluminum folding shortie stepladder to work well, and it offers unlimited placement choices. Cheap, too. Hit the hardware store!


My wife and I have a 4Runner and two Wilderness Systems Tempest 165 kayaks. We use a tire step (a Sherpak Elevator Step, but Suspenz sells a duplicate of it) and a couple of small folding steps when needed. I made a wooden slide-in box for storing the tire step in the back of the car and accessing the tire step when a lot of stuff is piled on top of it. We have used the tire step with the Nissan Pathfinder that we had before the 4Runner, and we have been quite satisfied with the tire step with both cars. I recommend the tire step.


Malone Tire Step

– Last Updated: Sep-05-11 7:30 PM EST –

Raised 2004 4Runner owner here . I am 5'7' and my wife is 5'3". We use and appreciate the Malone tire step. Have used it for the past few seasons without complaint.

Funny thing;we get more questions and comments about the tire step than our kayaks!

Thanks for the variety of suggestions. I did manage to visit the local hardware and walmartish store after we paddled in pouring rain (high today of 50!)

Nothing like the folding stool suggested by Goobs, and the step stools are way to big.

Given the mixed reviews of the tire step I think I’ll start with a small step stool. We were able to off load the kayaks – each weighs about 50lbs – with no problems in the pouring rain, so I guess I’m just looking to make life a bit easier.

Jackl, do you have long term friends? Your response doesn’t really justify one from me, but if you must know… we bought the vehicle in Seattle and drove it 2000 miles to a ferry dock at the end of the road, then another 8 hour by motor vessel to our home. Turned out it has 17" wheels not the 16" I had assumed. I bought it so we can head north next year along the Dempster to the arctic and paddle toward Coronation Gulf. That is the only place on the Canadian north coast I’ve not kayaked and it seems like it is about time to give it a try. Need a real off road vehicle for the trip.

I liked the tire step for placing rear
straps. For the forward straps, I just open the rear doors of my Explorer. Many times when trying to get onto the rear bumper, I (5’2" lady) will place a strap over the rear bar of my factory rack, face the straps toward the end of the vehicle, step to the rear of the car, gather both sides of the strap, put one foot onto the bumper, and pull myself up.

Caution: Don’t forget to remove the step when done.

Mine came with a carrying bag and takes up little space in the vehicle.

Small stepladders are way too expensive
at least for me.

You see I have to load boats over seven feet up. I am just five four. I got a stepladder from WalMart.

It was in my truck… I went on a trip to Canada. The step ladder was not in the truck. My husband took it for painting the house while I was away.

So I tootled to Canadian Tire to buy another step ladder. However this one was not thirteen dollars but twenty three.

Now we had two step ladders. I put one in the kitchen. I went on another canoe trip and forgot that hubby had step ladder 2 to install insulation in the workshop ceiling.

Back to Canadian Tire. The third stepladder was not on sale. It was $35.

Now I have scaffolding that I don’t need. One stepladder (three step) works fine on my Tundra with Hi Q towers.

There actually was a stepladder #4. I backed over it after I loaded a canoe. I forgot it was there.

I suppose if I had bought a tire step none of this would have happened.

I would like to think I have a few
sorry if my response hurt your feelings.

My son has a 4-runner. I wouldn’t have one. They are way to big and bulky to turn around on a six foot wide logging road.

Don’t stay too close to those big eighteen wheelers on the Dempster. Especially if it is a rainy day.

That gray “concrete” coating your boats will add a lot of weight to them.

Jack L

This works well with saddles
Not sure if your using saddles but with mine this roller has worked very well for me on a high vehicle. Makes loading & unloading very easy.