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Rack Setup for my girlfriend


Sep 17, 2010
Saint Constant, QC
First of all, I am very happy I found this site. Even if I am from the east, I am learning alot and love reading about your paddling experiences. One day I will drive out to paddle your waters. Thanks to Dan, Mark and all the others who contribute to make this the best Kayakers site, for all to enjoy. :clap: :big_thumb

That said, I am trying to figure out a rack setup for my girlfriend. She`s 5`2 and drives a Toyota Matrix. She has Boreal Design Epsilon P200, weighs in at 65 pounds. At the moment she seems set on getting J`s but in my mind I don`t think she will be able to get that boat up on the rack. I am looking at Yakima hullrollers with Mako saddles, but not sure that the rollers won`t dent the hull.

Any other suggestions?

P.S. Ladies input would greatly be appreciated.

Hullavator from Thule. You load the kayak into the hullivator on the side of the vehicle and there are hydraulic assist cylinders to help lift the boat on top of the vehicle.
Andre, I wouldn't recommend the J-cradles as they require lifting the boat higher than pretty much any other setup.

The Hullivator, while expensive, seems to me to be the best option for someone of your wife's height.

If the Hullivator is not to your liking, a lot of people here have used rollers on the rear with regular cradles on the front and have had good experiences with that setup. Some have used a floor mat on the back of the vehicle to stop the boat from rubbing the top of the rear door.

There have been a few past discussions about this topic and hopefully Kasey will join in this discussion as I know she's had some experience with getting her kayak on and off her car.

I am 5'2"!!! And I drive a Kia Sportage which is a lot higher than a Matrix. :lol: :lol: We have the Yakima hullrollers and they are great for solo loading by a short person. :clap: :clap: They are also fine to 'lift' the boat right onto with two people.

We have put plastic, thermoform and fiberglass on the wheel-thingies and never dented any hulls. The wheels attach individually and can be move closer and further apart according to boat size. We have driven all over Vancouver Island which has 120km speed limits (or something like that :mrgreen: ) with no problems. Tieing them down tight, but not overly forcefully may be part of it. Bow and stern lines keep them steady... I can even throw the double thermoform up there solo - IF i have to. :yikes:

I think they are a great, cost-effective option. The only thing I don't like is that the wheels tend to leave black skid marks (like shoes on floors) after while. Of course the marks come right off with a bit of boat cleaner or VIM. For me, being able to paddle solo, without asking for help with my kayak is worth the little black marks. (The marks are avoided with a two person load.) As Dan said, I pop the floor mat onto the back of the car in case I don't lift the boat high enough, or if I need to put the boat down on the roof for a moment while loading - protects the paint of the car; I got a lot of gel coat on the last car. :shock:

AndreG said:
Any other suggestions?

Come to a WCP event and try out all the racks you want in the parking lot! OR if you must, do you know anyone with J racks and a similar car way out there.
Also a long-time hully roller user, every kind of boat. We get the smudges now and then, but never seen any hull damage, probably because of the softness of the rubber on the hullies. When I'm being lazy, I just drag the stern of the boat along the ground and place the nose onto a set of rollers, and then walk to the stern and lift it. Pushing forward, it is pretty easy to get the boat forward enough so it will stay there until I go around front and finish the job by pulling. (I have cradles forward.)

Sheila must be a hotrodder, all right -- I think there is a stretch of 110 kph on 19 up by Parksville -- otherwise, it runs to 90 kph, most places out of towns. She may be short, but she's fast! :cool :wink:
Thanks for the replies.

The Hullavator is my first choice but a little expensif at the moment. We are just starting out and getting all the equipment is a drain on the bank account :? For now her boat is at her parents place and it is a short walk to the lake. I made her a cart for that. So popping the kayak on her car will only be occasionnal(Odd times that I won't be around).

So solution #2 is what I was looking at, Hully Rollers with a set of saddles. Of course getting a floor mat to protect the paint.

Sheila: Speed limit here is also 120 and even in some places seems to be 140. But if you see a cop, better slowdown cause someone forgot to tell them. :twisted:

Also would love to go to a WCP event but seems to be like an event we have here and that opens the season. Well since my girlfriend is a teacher that won't be possible until she retires :cry: Trips to the West Coast are in the works. Just need to wait till my kids don't come see me for vacation due to their summer jobs. That will give us time to get more experience. The season here can be quit short, if you don't have immersion suits. Even if you do, unless you want to paddle in the ice flows, your season is about 6 months. Or a 6hrs drive, atleast.

I think I am off my own subject. :oops: So I better quit while I'm ahead


Here is another, more affordable option (compared to the Hullavator) that I am considering purchasing myself. I have had the Malone cradles on for 8 years and am quite pleased with them. Absolutely no problems, and their loading system looks fairly straightforward and simple to use.


Keep an open eye on craigslist or other on-line classified ads. I've seen hullivators for sale around $250 (used) as opposed to $450 (new). You'll need to become familiar with all of the pieces of the hullivator to make sure you get all of them when getting a bargain price.
I didn't mention, on the really cheap side are the simple foam blocks for kayaks! :cool
http://www.a1-autoracks.com/riverside-4 ... locks.html

These can be used just like the wheels to push a kayak up onto the roof (like the wheels). LOTS of people I know use this option. It will also give you an idea of how often she will be bothered to shove the kayak up onto the roof by herself before investing it wheelie things. If I didn't paddle solo I would just have cradles on both racks. :|
Halmmark: Thanks for the link and will have a closer look, after work, as the video demo is not working. From what I see, would be a good setup for me. For my girlfriend I doubt it. Doesn't look like it takes most of the weight while you push it up. But I may be wrong. As I have mentionned, she has a 65 lbs boat that needs to be pushed up higher than her head.

Forgot to mention that she does have a weak knee and not much arm strength. Yes I know the Hullavator :roll: So arranging her to struggle as less as possible with weight is the objective.

Roy: I had a look around on Craigslist and others. Nothing in my neighborhood. Not looking further than lets say 50km. Need to see in person since I don't trust online transactions with individuals. Sorry to all the honest people out there. With my luck I will get the one crook. Will still keep looking until we get the rack set up.

Sheila: Will try the foam blocks on my rack. That will give us an idea, since that setup can happen sooner than hers. Tried the blocks directly on the roof with a FG renter and will never try that again with her car. Should of seen the look on her face when she saw the roof caving in. :shock:

Searching Yakima I found another interesting option. They have something called the ShowBoat. This is a roller that slides out to help while pushing onto the saddles. No need of the floor mat but more expensif. Also since no friction or less friction would be easier. Anyone ever see this?


I just use foam on the roof of my P/U and canopy so have no experience with the various mechanical devices out there but i have to say the Hullavator looks incredible. If the decision is between hullavator and foam blocks well there's a significant savings to ponder but if your looking at something for $250-300 and the hullavator then is the difference really that big of a deal spread over yrs of effective service especially giving that your gal has some physical issues. If someone just doesn't have the $$ then that's one thing but sometimes its better to pull the trigger and get the good one. I think that Hullavator would be appreciated every time she has to use it and that appreciation is shared all around, but that just my 2 cents.
Before I owned hull rollers, I used a piece of 2 inch pvc pipe 18 inches long. wrapped in thick pipe insulation. With the rack inside. Also doubled as a foamy. Its inexpensive and worked as good as a hull roller.
Jill said:
Before I owned hull rollers, I used a piece of 2 inch pvc pipe 18 inches long. wrapped in thick pipe insulation. With the rack inside. Also doubled as a foamy. Its inexpensive and worked as good as a hull roller.

Good idea
mbiraman: For sure if $$ was not an issue, the Hullavator would be a no brainer. I sure don't want my sweetheart to hurt herself, trying to get the tug up on her car. Thanks to Halmmark I may have found the best setup for half the cost of the Hullavator.

Hallmmark: Many thanks for the link. There are 2 possibilities with Malone Auto Racks.

1) AutoLoader combine with the Telos Load Assit. Showed her the video and she thinks that she can manage that last little push onto the J's.

2) the Seawing/Stinger combo is another possiblity at an even lesser cost. Question is, how do these perform on the highway?

So according to Halmmark who is satisfied with the J's, we will got with one of those 2, unless I get to many negative comments about Malone.

Jill: Love that idea, with the pvc. Just may do that on my old SportsRack with a foam block on the front crossbar. Thanks

I'm an advocate for the Hullavator. When I balked at the cost, my wife asked me how I valued my time for all the hours I put into building my boat, and how I'd feel if I had an accident while loading or unloading it and damaged it or the car, or both. As I ease into my mid-seventies, I find it's made loading and unloading easy, and I've been out on the water many more times than when I was using my old kayak stackers. It's not only for the old and feeble, but you young whippersnappers can benefit from its use, too. :lol:
I've loaded my heavy plastic boat onto my son's borrowed toyota tercel by dragging it up over the hood (at home I assist with a sawhorse), a foam sleeping pad protected the hood-and then windshield -n.b. this was an old beater rust bucket, not a pristine matrix...
I used rigid old bic sport rack kayak saddles on the roof racks, not sure how the foam kayak pads would react to the sliding weight. The dismount was even easier, I just nosed up to the dock, which was high and dry in the fall and pulled/pushed it off.

Those nice, short tercels...if only I could get my highlander lowered-or figure out how a kayak could fit on the miata...
One problem with the Hullavator is the size. It need at least 25" of load bar space. On some smaller cars its too big to have 2 of them on the load bars. If you plan to have 2 kayaks measure your roof before buying a Hullavator I couldn't fit 2 on my vehicle so I went with the Malone solution.