How to Load a Kayak Onto an SUV


The height of a SUV makes it difficult to load a kayak onto it. When alone, the height makes the experience frustrating and can cause injury, because you have to lift the unwieldy kayak above your head. Luckily, adding an aftermarket roof rack and kayak-carrying accessory to your SUV makes loading a kayak onto it easy. The rack allows you to lift one end of the kayak at a time, which simplifies the process and helps prevent shoulder and back injuries.

Things You'll Need

  • Roof rack
  • Kayak-carrying accessory
  • Cam-buckle straps
  • Bow and stern tie-downs
  • Install a roof rack onto your SUV. Roof racks add two bars to your vehicle, which run perpendicular to the centerline of your SUV. You mount kayak-carrying accessories to these bars. Yakima and Thule, the two largest rack companies, make racks to fit every model of SUV.

  • Install a kayak-carrying accessory to hold the kayak. Follow the instructions to mount this accessory. Because the height of an SUV makes loading the kayak from the side difficult, buy an accessory that allows you to load the boat from the back of the SUV. Both Thule and Yakima make a kayak rack system with a cradle in front and a roller in back---these work best for SUVs.

  • Lift the front of the kayak onto the rear roof accessory. Keep the stern on the ground.

  • Roll the kayak onto the SUV until sits on both the front and back kayak accessory. With SUVs, the kayak usually overhangs the rear by several feet.

  • Use the supplied cam-buckle straps to strap the kayak to the rack.

  • Secure the bow and stern using the tie-down straps provided with your kayak-carrying accessory.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you want to load a kayak from the side of the SUV, consider Malone Rack's side mount kayak loader or Thule's Hullavator. The rack mechanically lowers off the roof of the SUV allowing you to load the kayak close to the ground. To lift it to the top of the SUV, the rack mechanically assists, which makes loading a cinch.
  • Many SUV come with roof racks; some may be strong enough to support the weight of a kayak. If they are, add the kayak-carrying accessory directly to your SUV's rack. A kayak specialty store can determine if your rack is strong enough.
  • Seek professional help from a kayak specialty store when selecting and mounting your roof rack---an improper or poorly fitted roof rack could fall off your SUV.

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