Trailer-should or shouldn't


I have a used malone trailer that I haven’t had a chance to use yet. Here is the question. I am getting ready travel to Florida–a thousand mile trip. I plan to take two kayaks and a cargo cariier all of which will fit on my car top with 58 inch bars. As I shared, I don’t have expereince pulling a trailer. (I will practice this evening.) I am interested in hearing pros and cons of car toppiong down to Florida–which I have done in the past or using the trailer though I am inexperienced. I certainly don’t want to put anybody at risk thanks

here you go
trailer -


easy to load/unload

easy on gas mileage


need some experience to operate ( mindful of the dimensions)

tolls will be more

hassle of storing/securing at parking lots

hassle of parking at parking lots

(would be more expensive to set up)



same as driving a car

(cheaper than trailer to set up)


gas mileage suffers

water/salt/grime might drip on your car, extra steps to clean

might not be as secure to transport as on trailer ( rack attachment issues)

some folks might have issues with loading/unloading

having that much weight on top of the car might affect handling.

I am quite sure folks will add to the list


– Last Updated: May-23-12 3:41 PM EST –

The biggest con against using a trailer for your trip is space constraints and extra cost if you will use any ferries. I also remember that part of FL had a lot of toll roads. I myself do not like to drive a trailer in congested areas, which the east has a lot of.

But assuming you will drive the trailer, here are the ways to get prepare yourself:

* Practice going slowly around tight corners, such as in (vacant) convoluted parking lots that have multiple curbs with limited turning space. You need to get a feel for where the trailer wheels are (span from left to right), and for where its axle sits. Curb-checking a trailer wheel is something to avoid, and it is easy to do with long trailers whose axle sits near the end.

* Practice backing up, also in a vacant parking lot. You can use the lines between spaces as guides. If you stink at this and don't have time for lots of practice, make sure it's easy for you to unhitch the trailer and maneuver it by hand.

* Strap boats as if you were rooftopping. Then keep an eye on them by checking your rear-view mirror now and then. This is a HUGE advantage of trailers over rooftopping; if something is too loose, you might actually see it before trouble occurs.

* Practice braking with the full load. A loaded kayak trailer shouldn't present a hindrance since it is fairly light, but this depends on how good your brakes are in the first place. Allow extra stopping time and distance.

* Don't tailgate, period. And try to keep others from tailgating YOU. Keeping an "escape route" to the sides is extra-important when you're pulling a trailer. Avoid being boxed in, because your maneuverability is compromised.

* Make sure the electricals work; check all lighting functions with a partner before you go.

* Keep tires properly inflated and bearings adequately greased. Lock your spare wheel.

* Devise a fixed routine for the hook-up: I made up the abbreviation PLEC which I use as a reminder/check: PLACE the coupler, fully-seated, on the ball; latch and LOCK the coupler to the ball; connect the ELECTRICAL harness; and hook up the safety CHAINS. If I don't stick rigorously to this routine in this order, I tend to do things like forget to put the lock in the coupler, and then the lock falls off from wherever I put it. One time I forgot to connect the electricals. You get the idea. Because all of these pertain to safety, it's crucial that you burn in the habits.

Using a trailer has some disadvantages, but the first time you are loading up in gusty wind after a paddle, you will be very, very glad you have a trailer, if for no other reason than to avoid injury or property damage.

I car, (truck) top to Florida every…
winter with three boats, and there is no way I would want them on a trailer.

There are many launch places that would be difficult with a trailer due to space constraints.

Then you have to register it and insure it, as well as maintain it.

Backing a small trailer is a bear! the smaller the trailer, the harder it is to back up, (from experience).

If some one gave me a trailer free, I would pass on it.

Jack L

Depending on the length of your boats
A trailer that long may be light but it is just as long as a trailer that can carry a car. You do not mention your route but some of those highways are not a place to learn how to handle a large trailer in my opinion.

If the trip is for relaxation I would opt for whatever creates less stress.

I drove mine CO-FL-CO
More than 5000 miles round trip, in winter.

Parking presented no hassle because all the campgrounds along my route had room for RVs, and I picked motels with adequate parking space.

My main destination (Fort DeSoto SP) accommodated trailers as did every other state park I went to, so it depends whether the OP is going to launch from lots of unknown places or not. Also, a FL online kayaking guide I printed out beforehand described what the parking was like for each site. There are lots of fishermen hauling SOTs and other boats on trailers in FL.

Where the trouble could lie is inside cities. If he/she wants to eat at a restaurant in town, that could be more difficult.

You’d be wise to try both…

– Last Updated: May-23-12 10:03 PM EST –

I'm not sure how your car will take two boats on the roof and a loaded cargo box. Sounds like you may want to know before you go. Load it up and try it.
Long ago, camping with 5 kids and wife, I tried two loaded cargo boxes on the roof of a full size station wagon and I bought a trailer soon afterwards.
Trailers are a hassle, but as long as you keep in mind they are back there, it's minor.
If you can handle it on the roof, I'd go for that option. But you don't want to find out at mile 500 that it really sucks.
All the best, and I hope you enjoy your visit to Florida. We've got some great paddling here.
Edit: The best advice I received for backing a trailer came from an owners manual. Keep a hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. When you want the trailer to go right, move the hand to the right. And visa versa, of course.

Done both to Florida
The downside of the trailer of course is ancillary sightseeing. You need to be assured of a suitable parking space.

Interstate crusing was fine ( I have a Mo Family Four)except that I sometimes forgot it was there when at rest areas and went to park diagonally in the “car” spaces, get out and look at the tail still in the travel lane…oops!

You get cognizant of how and where to turn left. You might pass up a Mickey Ds because there is no room to park the thing. Same for some motels, but usually not an issue unless you are in the mountains.

Best to avoid western North Carolina…the mountain roads are not forgiving.

If you want to leave a trailer somewhere remember to lock it to something big and immovable.

I would use the trailer to get down there, and then switch to roof rack for around town driving.

You won’t even feel the trailer back there on the interstate. Be mindful of lane changes and on pit stops use gas stations with plenty of space. If you have to back up, put your and on the bottom of the steering wheel and move your hand the direction you want the trailer to go. Turning right is the worst part of pulling a trailer, just keep the turns a bit wider.

Ryan L.

I love my trailer but…
if you are not comfortable pulling it, you sure don’t need to pull it into unknown territories. You can tear up a lot of stuff with just one mistake with a trailer and it could sure ruin your trip. Play it safe with what you are use to, practice with your trailer locally and take it next time.

A couple of things to keep in mind
if you do pull the trailer.

  1. The smaller the trailer is the harder it is to back up ( I know from pulling my 25 foot long travel trailer vs, pulling my little five foot long garden trailer).
  2. The secret when backing is to go slow, and put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. If you want the trailer to go left turn the steering wheel to the left(clockwise). If you want it to go to the right turn the wheel to the right, (counter clockwise


    All of the above should be done slowly

    Jack L

    Jack L

Very light trailer
One advantage of a light kayak trailer is that if you do get in a tight spot, it’s easy to just unhitch and turn the trailer by hand, rather than backing & filling. Ditto for parking - sometimes it’s easier to just unhitch the trailer and park it alongside the vehicle.

A tongue jack is a wise investment even on a light trailer.

the hardest part of trailering is
… backing up!

Aside from that, it is remembering that you DO have a lot of mass and length behind you.

I suck at backing up and watched one woman back her boat-trailer over a gas pump.

later she rolled the trailer speeding down a rough roadm, dragging the boat and trailer for miles.

Your ex, by any chance? NM

I can’t think of any advantage …
… to a trailer for two kayaks and a cargo box. But that’s me.

I can but it depends on your vehicle
My old Forester really suffers on gas mileage when I load boats on the roof. Its better on the trailer.

My big truck cares not a whit either way.


– Last Updated: May-26-12 12:49 AM EST –

gas up at truck stops. They have big driveways and lots of open spaces. Pilot and Flying J are national chains of truck/trailer fuel stations. You can download an app to your phone showing these truck stops. Truck stops often have restaurants, laundromats, stores, even showers all in one facility, with acres of parking room.

Dont pull into a parking lot without seeing your exit. Make sure you can maneuver before entering.

Stopping for meals may mean parking a block or so away and walking. Look to see what the RVs are doing.

Every stop check your hitch and tires. Put your hand on the trailer tire hubs. If hot you may have a brake dragging.

What kind of tire are on the trailer? ST tires are made for trailers. They have different handling and traction properties than car tires. ST tires should not be driven faster than 65 mph. If the trailer has P or LT tires then no problem.

Backing takes practice. Most people tend to oversteer while backing. Small movements of the steering wheel can make major changes in the the trailer direction.

Dragging trailer brakes on a Malone?
It doesn’t have its own brakes. No kayak trailer that I know of does.

Checking tire temp is good for a different reason, though: If the tires are underinflated and going the way of the Ford Exploder tires (and others of that run), the wheel will feel hot. Also, if the bearings lack adequate grease, the wheel will feel hot.

This is not to be confused with normal warmth of a small black tire that has been running on the Interstate on a hot day.