If you’ve tried to get a kayak onto the roof of a car or large vehicle before, you’re probably already aware that doing so without a great deal of struggle can be quite tricky. Kayaks can be heavy, and as a result of their size very awkward and cumbersome to lift.
Struggling with a kayak and trying to get it on top of your car can be unsafe not only to you, but also to your car. If you’ve not god two people (or even sometimes with two people), you could easily damage your car if you’re kayak is sliding around all over the place as a result of you not being able to control it properly. You could also injure yourself. A kayak loader offers the perfect solution to both of these problems.
Kayak Loaders – What Are They & Why?
In simple terms, a kayak loader is a mechanism that helps you get your kayak onto the roof of your car as easily as possible. Kayak loaders are not the same as kayak roof racks. Roof racks are designed to hold and secure your kayak on top of your vehicle, whereas loaders are designed simply to help you get your boat up onto your car.
As we mentioned briefly, getting a kayak of any size onto your car roof if you’re on your own can be quite a tricky task. A kayak loader will allow you to break down the process and provide you with lift assistance – making your job a lot easier as well as vastly reducing your chances of damage to your car, or injury to yourself.
Although we’ll get into it in greater detail shortly in the guide, one of the best points to look for in a kayak loader is one that has gas loaded assistance. It’s great for providing that extra bit of power to get your kayak from the side of your car to the top with the ultimate convenience.
Key Features To Keep An Eye Out For
Back and Side Loading
Depending on the size and shape of your kayak, it may be easier to load to from the back or the side of your vehicle. On the other hand, loading your kayak on from the rear of your car could be tricky if you’ve got a saloon-style car or one with a long boot that makes access to the roof more difficult.
Best Kayak Loaders
Thule Hullavator Pro – Best Kayak Loader
If you’ve had a look at our guide to the best kayak roof racks available, you’ve probably noticed that we reviewed the Thule Hullavator there too. This is because it’s a pretty special kayak loader – as well as being a kayak loader that allows you to get your boat on to the top of your car with absolute ease, it also serves well as a roof rack.
The Hullavator Pro is an advanced kayak loader. It’s got gas-filled chambers, meaning that the bulk of the weight of the lift is easily handled by the loader itself. It’s a very assistive system
The Hullavator features quite a unique “cradle” design, that allows you to strap your boat on the rack when it’s on the side of your car. Since this is low down, it’s extremely easy to get your boat into a secure position before it goes on top of your car. This is great for eliminating any strain on your back that you might normally suffer when loading your kayak onto a more generic rack. The rack is also corrosion-resistant – even if you’re driving in the rain or the rack comes into contact with saltwater from your boat, you won’t have the worry of a rusty rack or loader.
Thanks to the gas assistance, this is one of the easiest and most assistive racks on the market. Once you’ve conveniently secured the kayak to the lift at the side of your vehicle, you can simply push the underside of your boat and the rack will give you 40 lbs of assistance, meaning all you really need to do is guide your boat as it moves up the side of the car.
- Length: 36”
- Width: 16”
- Weight: 40 lbs
- Load Capacity: 75 lbs
- Quality assurance from Thule
- Gas-assisted – 40 lbs of lift assistance
- Can be loaded and secured at the side of your vehicle
- Larger boats with a hull width of up to 36” can be secured to the Hullavator
- Two 9.5’ tie-down straps included as standard
Seattle Sport Sherpak – Cheap Suction Kayak Roller Loader
The Seattle Sport Sherpak is an inexpensive solution to getting your kayak up on top of your vehicle quickly and easily. It features two powerful suction cups that secure the rolling loader onto your vehicle.
The Seattle Sport Sherpak can be either placed onto the roof of your vehicle or onto the rear window. The positioning is entirely up to yourself and whatever you think’s easier. However, often suction cups to bind more effectively to glass.
If you often find yourself loading your kayak or kayaks onto your car for the journey ahead yourself, the Seattle Sport Sherpak will suit you perfectly. As well as being cheap, it’s extremely functional and will help you get your kayak from the ground to the roof of your car quickly, and without strain or pain.
To make sure that the Sherpak loader can be used on just about all vehicles, it even features angle adjustment. Once you’ve adjusted your loader to be at the correct angle for you and your vehicle, getting your kayak loaded on is easier than ever.
- Length: 27”
- Width: N/A
- Weight: 2.15 lbs
- Cheap kayak loader
- Easy and quick to use thanks to suction cup design
- Adjustable angles for ease of use
- Can be mounted on glass or roof of your vehicle
- Foam rollers for protection
- Aluminium bars make for a strong yet lightweight design
Rhino Rack Universal Side Kayak Loader – Popular Kayak Loader
The Rhino Rack Universal Side Kayak Loader is, without a doubt, one of the easiest ways to get your kayak onto the roof of your vehicle.
It’s designed to be used by one person and makes for a quick, easy, and painless loading. There’s a good reason that the Rhino Rack is one of the most popular on the market. To start with, the Rhino=Rack brand has been at the forefront of the roof rack market since 1922. Yes, rather a long time! Rhino-Racks provides roof racks for almost everything you can think of putting on top of your car. Rhino-Racks is a brand that exhibits quality.
Using the Rhino-Rack side loader is particularly easy. The loading pivot extends out from the side of your car and acts as a rest for one end of your kayak, after which the kayak can be loaded on easily by one person using the bar to help
Once you’ve got your kayak secured down on top of the vehicle, the loading bar can be compressed down to a smaller size and conveniently packed away inside your vehicle. It’s also great for helping to get your kayak off the top of your vehicle and down onto the ground easily.
- Length: 41”
- Width: 7”
- Weight: 10 lbs
- Load Capacity: 132 lbs
- Well-made by Rhino Rack
- Easy for one person to use
- Quick to setup
- Can be packed away into a small space inside the car after your kayak’s been loaded on
- Fairly cheap
Yakima Showboat 66 – Kayak Loader and Roof Rack
The Yakima Showboat 66 is, similarly to the Thule Hullavator that we reviewed earlier in our guide, a kayak loading system that’s at the higher end of the market. Yakima is another brand, like Thule and Rhino-Rack, that’s well known and respected by many customers over the world.
In addition to being a kayak loader, the Yakima Showboat 66 is a roof rack too. It offers a complete solution for getting your kayak on top of your vehicle and securing it in place once it’s there.
Once the rack is in place on your vehicle, loading bars can simply be slid out from the side to support your kayak whilst you’re getting it in place. They extend up to length of 24”, and will support a large boat weighing up to 80 lbs.
Yakima has catered for different vehicles with the design of the Showboat 66 – it’s designed to fit well onto the majority of crossbars made by Yakima. However, the kit does also come supplied with two crossbars (at 66” in length) as well as all the hardware that you need to get them up and running.
The Showboat 66 is well padded, meaning that it’s great for those higher-end boats too. You’ll have no worry about your kayak getting damaged, scratched or dented when loading it on and off this loading system. It’s well-padded and offers great protection for your kayak.
- Length: 24”
- Width: 6”
- Weight: 17.8 lbs
- Load Capacity: 80 lbs
- Quick and easy loading thanks to slide-out support bar
- Supports kayaks of up to 80 lbs in weight
Hopefully, it’s easy to see from our guide how incredibly helpful a kayak loader can be. Not only do they make getting your kayak on top of your car easy, but they make it quick and convenient for one person to do too. No more struggling with another person to get your boat on top of the car!
There’s a variety of different styles of kayak loader and loading system on the market. We’ve covered the main ones in this guide, from suction cups to gas-assisted. All come at different costs and have different features to offer.
If you’re looking to spend some money on the best available, we wouldn’t hesitate in highly recommending the Thule Hullavator. It’s without doubt, one of the most advanced all-round kayak loading systems on the market.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to save a bit of cash and keep a tighter budget, the Seattle Sport Sherpak is sure to serve you well too. It’s two suction cups can be mounted onto either the roof of your car or the back window. Once mounted, there’s a simple roller on the top that can be used to support and push your kayak along whilst you get it into position.
We hope you enjoyed the guide! Happy kayaking!