What's the easiest-loading kayak rack?

I need to be able to load my kayak onto my Honda Civic by myself. Health problems make lifting, moving, and maneuvering my kayak a real challenge, so I am looking for the easiest possible way to do it. It appears that Thule’s Slipstream or Hullavator may be the easiest to use. While the Hullavator looks like it might be easier, it still requires one to lift the kayak off the ground. Two questions: (1) Are there other good-quality models (including Yakima) that would be just as easy or easier to use? (2) Between the Slipstream and the Hullavator, which would make loading the kayak the easiest? Anybody have experience with both? Thanks!

Car too low for Hullavator
I use a Hullavator with a Durango and as easy and wonderful as it is, I still have to squat lift my boat. After reading your post I don’t think this is something you may be comfortable doing.

While the Hullavator is perfect for me and my vehicle, I do not recommend this for your very low car. All previous experience was with J-racks (and step-stool). I cannot however speak for any other units.

You have…
an interesting problem.

I am not sure of your physical limitations, or where you paddle.

I would reccomend paddling with an easy going group.

If you lived near us, I’d show you a couple.

You’d never have to lift a thing.

Have you considered a trailer? Back it down the ramp like the power boats do. Leave it on the trailer at home.

A small used boat trailer can be less expensive than a hull a vator.

Don’t give up. Your answer is out there. You can do it with the gear, or friends, that are right for you.


Trailer is the way to go…

– Last Updated: Apr-12-09 11:00 PM EST –

..for a bad back and solo kayaking. You can get one like the Trailex SUT-200S and loading and unloading is very easy with a nice kayak dolly.


this might work.

– Last Updated: Apr-13-09 10:28 AM EST –

I believe I saw a few years ago a kayak lifting device that actually picks the kayak off the ground and places it on your car. You might try googling for such a device. I don't know if it is still available. It looked well made and reasonably priced for what it did.

If can't find it, you are relegated to either lifting your boat less high, as in the Thule and Yakima assist devices or

The Yakima Showboat, which allows you to lift only half the boat at a time


some ideas
I have seen a female unload a heavy kayak off a small SUV with the Hullavator. It came down to about the top of the wheels.

Several people also have the Rack and Roll trailer. It’s not for highway use.

I would suggest a light trailer like the Rack and Roll, and a paddle cart for the back of the kayak. That way you could lift up the front and slide it on, then go to the back and push the kayak the rest of the way. You would have the paddle cart for moving the kayak across the parking lot.

Hope you find something that works for you.

Rack and Roll
Last summer, I met a couple who haul their heavy Hobie kayaks on a Rack and Roll trailer. It must have been the wider one, since they had a Thule ski box mounted between the kayaks. They came up on the Thruway - the trailer looks fine for highway use. It has shock absorbers to keep it from bouncing and I suspect it may trail better than many heavier trailers. It was so light they could move it around and hook it up by hand.


Or… You could treat yourself and buy a very light boat! Makes a world of difference in loading/unloading… though even a light boat can be a bear if you have a tall suv or van (I use a car).

good idea
I was thinking a wooden boat is strong and light.

Also, regarding the R&R, I thought I read that it wasn’t for highway speed, but I’m just going on memory… so check with them. It’s hard for anyone to make sure a roof rack or trailer is right for themselves. The best we can do is help point you in the right direction.

If you go the trailer route…
work out some way to make loading onto and off of the trailer easy, too. My trailer is of a height that makes it easier than lifting from the ground and of course it is much lower than a rooftop. But I still have to do some lifting.

An option that I do not use with my trailer is the tilting feature. It’s a snowmobile trailer, so it had this, but we locked it out since I prefer not to back a trailer all the way to the water. However, this might be something for you to consider.

You can use…
…a Rack and Roll trailer for highway use! For what it cost you better be sure that Yakima (they market these trailers now) ensures that you can drive it at highway speeds. It has a very nice suspension system. My Trailex doesn’t compare to the Rack and Roll and I drive 60mph with it without a problem.

Again, if you use a kayak dolly to help you loading and unloading isn’t hard at all. Best of all the Rack and Roll and Trailex trailers themselves are lightweight so you can move them around easily.

How big
What kayak do you have? There have been some good suggestions but it breaks down to how heavy and how long is your boat. There are very light kayaks out there. I have one that weighs 30 lbs. A light kayak will be a lot easier to handle even with a trailer. I have also worked out a loading system that allows me to load a 65 lb kayak on my car solo with out lifting more than half the weight at one time. Give us some more info.

Get a lighter Kayak

– Last Updated: Apr-14-09 5:25 PM EST –

One of the reasons I bought a Hurricane 116 kayak was because of weight-- loading, unloading and carrying to the water by myself--mine weights 39 lbs

Malones!!! check out their new lift
system…might work just great for you…

or their seawing/stinger combo…

Hullavator and Malones
I watched the Hullavator you tube video and checked out the Malones on the ORS website.

On the Hullavator video - the guy lifts the whole kayak onto the assembly at once.

On the ORS website demo’ing the Malones its not a video but a series of web shots - where the kayak is on the ground - then “jumps” onto the assembly all at once.

As someone in a similar circumstance as the OP - I question being able to lift the whole kayak onto either assembly - even if it is low.

It would be ideal to put one end up then the other - but are the assembly bars to close together to do this? If so, I think I would have to move on to considering something where I lifted one end, then the other. I think it would be easier for me to lift half the weight of a kayak to the roof line, than the whole bulky weight, wasit or chest high. Perhaps its a matter of your disability. Maybe if you just don’t have upper body strength, get a Malone or Hullavator. If you have bad back (me), not so much.

I agree
If you can lift one end of your boat, it is easy to prop the bow on the trunk of a small sedan like the Civic (I have a Saturn sedan) then pick up the stern and slide the boat up onto the rack, using a blanket or bathmat to keep from scratching the car. I have to be careful of my back, and using this method and a Paddleboy Nemo kayak cart, I only lift one end at a time.

Hullivator experience
I have used a Hullivator on a Suby Outback. Not as low as your car, I still had to squat down and reach under the boat to release the catches.

I have a bad back, but my main reason for buying the Hullivator was to free up the roofline to allow me to open the hatch.


A bit more detail from original poster:
My disability is decreased lung capacity–I get very short of breath with very little exertion. I can do small “bursts” with rests in between, but I don’t want to exhaust myself before even getting on the water! I have a 12-ft. Tsunami, 55 lbs. Didn’t realize when I bought it that lifting 55 lbs. of kayak is NOT like lifting 55 lbs. of dog food! (I was a newbie.) I’m considering getting a Pungo (120, since it comes in ultralite–40 lbs.), not only because it’s lighter but also more stable. (The lung problem has turned me from an excellent swimmer to a near non-swimmer, so I’m afraid of deep water [and HATE that! Don’t ever get old or sick!] I think something more stable will be less likely to capsize and will help me feel secure enough to venture deeper.) Has anyone used the Malone Telos? Looks like a good compromise (and much cheaper than the Hullavator!) but it doesn’t seem like it would be terribly sturdy. I’ve searched exhaustively for a review or video but can’t find a one. THANKS to all for your help and advice–this community is the BEST I’ve ever found!

Here ya go…
…Lightweight (36lbs), very stable and very comfortable. Get yourself a trailer and you are good to go. You can even get a skirt for it.


you may have to look
at getting something built, (cheap and low-tech)

to get the nose of the boat onto the roof and then push. If it was me, and I had problems lifting due to injury. I would come up with a way to get the nose of the boat, over the rack on the rear of the car. This way I could push the rest of the boat onto the rack using the mechanical advantage of round bars to slide the kayak. Some sort of wooden contraption built as a ramp would be my choice. it would have to come apart and fit in the trunk.

A honda civic is a much easier lift than a CRV for instance.

Why would the hullavator not work for you?