- Read our review guidelines
Getting your kayak up and onto the roof of your car or SUV can be tricky, especially if your yak is heavy or if you’re on your own. But kayak loaders might be able to make the whole loading process a little easier.
Because there’s not a lot of information out there on loaders, we’ve put this guide together to give you a better idea of what they are and how they might be able to help you on your next kayaking adventure.
You might also like:
Kayak Loaders 101: What Is A Kayak Loader?
A kayak loader is a device designed to help you load your vessel onto the roof rack on top of your vehicle.
Kayak loaders are not roof racks but they work in conjunction with roof racks. They are simply designed to help you load without having to lift the entire weight of the yak.
They can act as a second person, helping to take the weight of the craft as you lift it up onto the roof of your vehicle. There are different types you can get, depending on the loading help you’re after.
Some are gas assisted, which can really take the weight off and others provide a load support that can allow you to load one side of the yak at a time, usually from the side of your vehicle.
What Are The Advantages Of A Kayak Loader?
If you have a particularly heavy vessel, such as a fishing kayak, or a tandem/double, and you want to head out to paddle by yourself, it can be a struggle to load the craft onto your car. But with a kayak loader, you won’t need to lift the full weight of the vessel at once.
If you have a tall car, such as an SUV or a minivan, it can be a lot easier to load a yak with the help of a kayak loader. This is because it can give you the assistance that you need to get the yak up to the height of your roof without you having to lift its full weight.
Another benefit of this tool is that it can mean people can get take their yaks on the road without requiring a second person and without needing a boat load of upper body strength.
What Loader Features Should I Look Out For?
Gas Assisted Lift
Having gas assisting technology in your kayak loader can make it easier to get heavier yaks onto the roof of your car. If you struggle lifting your vessel above your head or if you have a taller vehicle or SUV, loaders with gas assistance can help by taking some of the weight of the vessel as you lift it to the roof, making your yak appear significantly lighter.
Side (and Rear) Loading
Video: Loading A Kayak Onto Your Vehicle With Only One Person
Loading a vessel onto your roof rack using a side loading rack can be easier, as it can let you stand closer to your vehicle.
Loading from the rear could be more difficult if you drive a sedan or other type of vehicle with an extended trunk, as you may find yourself standing at a greater distance from your roof rack while trying to load and you may need rollers.
Video: Using Rollers
3 Of The Best Kayak Loaders
- Length: 36 inches
- Width: 16 inches
- Depth: 6 inches
- Weight: 39.7 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 75 pounds
The Thule Hullavator Pro is a gas assisted kayak loader. It features corrosion resistant cradles that hold your yak on the roof of your car. Because of the design with the cradles, it means you can securely tie down your yak to the rack while it’s at the side of your vehicle, at waist height.
This can eliminate the struggle of having to strap down your vessel on top of a high roof when you might not be able to see what you’re doing. The loader works with selected Thule crossbars, including SquareBar.
The gas lift technology means once you’ve loaded your yak onto the cradles at the side of your vehicle, you can simply push up from underneath the cradles and the Hullavator Pro will take 40 pounds of the weight of your yak as it lifts your vessel onto the roof.
Video: Thule ‘Hullavator Pro Demo’
- Length: 41 inches
- Width: 7 inches
- Depth: 4 inches
- Weight: 10 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 132 pounds
The Rhino Rack Universal Side Loader is designed for both kayaks and canoes. It’s built to help you load your vessel on to the top of all types of cars and SUVs with roof racks.
The way it works is that it attaches to your roof rack and extends to the side to give you a platform on which to rest one side of your vessel. You can then lift the other end of your craft and slide it over onto your roof rack, followed by the other end that’s being supported by the loader.
Designed to be used by one person, the loader can be detached after your yak is on your roof and then folded away to fit in your trunk.
- Length: 37 inches
- Width: 3 inches
- Depth: 3.3 inches
- Weight: 4 pounds
The Yakima BoatLoader is a telescoping loader designed for both kayaks and canoes. It is built to work in conjunction with Yakima round crossbars, being designed to fit inside your crossbars.
It can extend out 28 inches from the end of the crossbar, which can allow you to load one side of your vessel so that it’s supported by the loader, letting you then grab the other end of your craft to load it up onto your roof rack by yourself.
Video: Loading A Kayak – Yakima Style
Because of its telescoping design, the BoatLoader can be kept inside the crossbars when not in use or it can be easily removed by unscrewing it.
The side loading design can also give you more room than if you’re loading it over a trunk or hood.
Conclusion: Taking A ‘Load’ Off Your Mind
As you can see, kayak loaders can be a great tool for loading your watercraft onto your roof rack if you’re on your own…no matter what type of vehicle you drive. They can also help you load heavier fishing yaks or canoes.
It can be a good idea to think about your budget, as well as your own strength. How often you’ll use the loader may also influence your choice.
If you’ve found this helpful, share it for others to read, and if you have any questions or comments about the kayak loaders, let us know.