Feedback sought on systems to load kayak onto roof by yourself

  • Creator
  • #15559
    Annette Muttray

    Has anyone experience with the Sherpak Boat Roller or a similar “roller system” at the rear roof rack that would enable me to load my heavy single fibreglass kayak onto a RAV4? I’d like to get people’s feedback of what works or doesn’t work before spending a lot of $$$.  (I currently have two Thule cross bars and MEC foam cradles and no helper.)

    Thank you! – Annette

Viewing 11 replies - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • Author
  • #15589
    Annette Muttray

    That’s a great idea, Quirine. Thank you! We should suggest this to Karen for a monthly meeting. People could bring in photos, videos, or actual racks/rollers for a show and tell and to ask questions and get ideas for how to load boats single-handedly.

    Quirine Schuyff

    Sounds like we need a day to all do show and tell of getting boats onto cars alone!

    Quirine Schuyff

    I have the sweet roll system which works really well for me.  I use a fleece blanket on the back of my Rav 4 (older model and thus higher than the newer) and on the roof rack between the rollers to protect the boat.

    I lean the bow on the fleece blanket then push up until it hits the rollers, then roll up. In reverse for taking it off.

    I have a tarp and or blanket on the ground for the stern.

    It is slightly awkward sometimes but it works.

    Annette Muttray

    Hi all – Thank you for the many great suggestions and photos!

    Teresa – I would really like to see the Yakima Sweetrolls in action on your RAV4. If they are mounted far enough to the rear of the car this might work. I like that they do not rely on perfect suction on clean (vertical) windshields like the Sherpak boat rollers. Can we connect on email? My address is I live in the Vancouver Kits area.

    Gail – I considered the Yakima Showboat and talked to Rack Attack. I like to remove my roof rack when not carrying boats to reduce drag (noisy on the highway), and the Showboat seems to make that impossible. Otherwise it would be a good option for sure.

    Cameron – my RAV is 1998. I would like to be independent and not rely on a handy friend nearby.  J  Those Orchard kayak rollers look very useful, but are you saying they are only sold in the US?

    Yes, side-loading racks are way too expensive for me right now.

    Yes to wheels! I have them – they will help to get the boat from the garage to the car.

    Barry – I wish I had your height and strength, but alas……..

    Barry Dutour

    I don’t make any guarantees but this is how I load my kayak.  I drive a Rav 4 too.  My boat is an 18 ft, 60+ lb single.  I use Thule crossbars and Thule saddles.

    1 open the back door, the plastic trim on the door probably won’t support the boat, keep it open

    2 I lay a piece of carpeting across the rear set of saddles and hanging down a little in the door opening

    3 I lift the bow up onto the carpet in line with the center of the saddles

    4 slide the boat forward

    5 lift the stern pretty much level and let the boat slide on the carpet

    6 you’re done remove the carpet and tie down your boat.

    For full disclosure I’m 6’1″ and I can reach a little better that many.  The weight is still a challenge.  Depending on your saddles you might just want to slide the boat up with the carpet laid on in the center of the rack crossmember between the two sets of saddles.  The lift it on to the saddles.

    Whatever you do don’t put the boat in a position to slide off.

    Two disadvantages on the roller in my mind are it requires a higher lift and I see there is a little channel in the middle of the roller but that might not prevent the boat going sideways off the roller if you are not perfectly aligned.

    Anyway good luck with it.  I would offer to demonstrate but I live in Sidney.


    Nancy Flexman

    I have a Rav4 with the sherpas boat roller on my Thule bars and a 50 lb  kayak for 5 years.

    I use a bath rug over the back Rav4 window bar(need rubber backing) and able to lift the nose up on the rollerbar and at shoulder height push the kayak on to the from cradle.I have a tape on the side of the kayak where it needs to be to tied down to help knowing how far to slide it.

    You need the rug if unloading by yourself that you don’t damage the back of your car…..also helps sliding your boat up when getting the bow on the roller.

    Having wheels has also made me an independent woman!

    Nancy Flexman

    Nick Heath

    I have seen other members’ solution that seems to work ok and I copied it.  The CRV is similar to the RAV4 and probably has a gap above the rear door of about 5 mm or so. A wide urethane or rubber boat roller is mounted on a plywood piece – a little longer than the roller so that the supports for the axle can be attached at either end. A small aluminum or steel angle piece hangs from bolts below the plywood to fit the door slot. All this is well padded with sticky foam or tape to avoid paint damage.  The  roller takes the sliding load of the boat as it is pushed up from the rear to meet the cradles on the rack. At some point, it pivots and the boat is up there. The rack need not have rollers, Hully or otherwise if the bars and cradles are well made for a bit of a fore and aft load.   Once used, the roller is stored elsewhere. All this said, I don’t actually use this method for our double kayak which I transport hull-up  (very awkward for loading but has several other advantages.)

    Those proprietary side-loading systems may work, but seem way too expensive to me!

    I’m happy to demo my (copied) device.

    Gail Newell

    I use Hully Rollers.  They worked well on my old jeep but the new jeep has a larger spoiler and is more awkward.  The rollers still work but I have to use a piece of carpet to protect the spoiler.  I’m now considering using a Yakima Showboat.  This is a roller that slides out backwards and is attached to the roof rack.  It is more expensive but doesn’t require sticking something to clean glass and will work if you have to load two boats side by side.  The Sherpak doesn’t look like it would extend far enough sideways to help loading the boat that actually sits over the side of my vehicle.  My vehicle is not wide enough to have both boats entirely over the jeep.

    Cameron Redenbach

    Not sure what year rav4 but many other options exist if you have a handy friend. As well helps if you have the Thule or Yakima rear roller supports

    This is a one you can purchase , but something easy that can be made.

    or similar but made from wood


    Teresa de La Boursodiere

    Hi Annette,

    I own one as well by Thule.  I use it to load 100 lb tandem kayaks such as the Seaward Passat G3 onto the roof of my RAV 4 with Yakima Sweetroll cradles. There have been times where the suction cup slides or comes off the window if it is not absolutely clean or properly fastened resulting in scratching the roof paint slights from the desire to just get the job done and not being able to stop mid loading with only one or two people 4′ 11″ loading the boat.  You are welcome to meet and see how they work.  Just make sure you don’t turn on your rear wipers by error when its mounted or you will burn the motor as I have done… & then had to change the wiper motor.

    Nancy More

    Hi Annette.  That is the one that I mentioned to you this week.  I can load my big Navigator on my own on to a Grand Caravan.   It is essential that the glass is clean.  You can set it up to go out or up from the car to avoid those stupid spoilers that are on the back of many cars.  If you want to see or try it, you can drop by my garage.


Viewing 11 replies - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.