Have you ever had trouble getting your kayak onto your roof rack? If so, you are not alone. Since most kayaks weigh between 40 and 80 pounds, lifting them yourself without scratching and banging your car can be challenging. People often have to work as a team to complete this task.
Alternatively, it is much easier to raise a kayak onto the roof of your vehicle with the help of a kayak lift assist device. Different lift assist devices work differently, but they all serve the same purpose of helping you load a kayak onto the car roof. These systems are affordable and extremely helpful to regular kayak users.
In this guide, we have compiled a shortlist of the three best kayak lift assist systems you could use anywhere you are.
Kayak Lift Assist Pole
When searching the market, you often find two different kayak lift-assist pole designs. Below, we have classified one type as a classic lift-assist pole and the other as a cradle lift-assist pole design.
Classic Lift Assist Pole Design
The first design uses a single pole that attaches to your roof rack and extends from the side of your car roof. These lift-assist poles have a supporting rod extending straight to the ground, making an inverted L-shape next to your car. The horizontal and vertical bar does not contact your car’s body.
Using this system is time-effective and intuitive. You need to place one end of the kayak onto the horizontal pole and leverage the other side of your kayak onto your car roof. Using this system prevents damage to your car and injury to yourself, as you won’t need to lift the total weight of a kayak over your head.
Overall, this kayak lift-assist pole system is an affordable option that will save you lots of time and effort. You will only need a few minutes to set up this system.
How to Use It:
Step 1: Depending on the design, attach the horizontal pole to your roof rack or attach it to the front of your roof rack.
Step 2: If your design has a supporting pole, attach it to the horizontal bar and extend it down to the ground.
Step 3: Place the bow of your kayak onto the horizontal pole. Lift the stern and place it onto the roof of your car.
Step 4: Slide the bow onto your car and secure your kayak into place.
Cradle Lift Assist Pole Design
The second type of lift-assist pole system is similar to the first design discussed; however, it uses two horizontal bars that attach to your kayak roof rack, not just one. Attached to these horizontal bars are two poles that extend straight to the ground at a reflex angle. You will sometimes find designs that do not use the horizontal bars and use the vertical bars you attach to your car roof rack at an angle.
To use these lift-assist poles, center your kayak at the foot of the system and slide it upward onto the roof of your car. Modern designs of these pole systems also use jay bars on the vertical pole. These jay bars can then hold your kayak while you slide it up one bit at a time and lock it into place. This will allow you to lift your kayak onto your roof one step at a time.
This lift-assist pole design can be tricky if it does not have a j-bar or cradle to help you push the kayak up the pole. As most know, kayaks can be heavy; therefore, this design risks sliding down on us when we have the kayak halfway up the bar.
How to Use It:
Step 1: Depending on the design, attach the horizontal or vertical poles to your roof rack on one side of your car. If you use horizontal bars, connect the horizontal rods after that.
Step 2: Center your kayak at the foot of the poles or in the center of your jay bars.
Step 3: Pick up your kayak between the two vertical poles and slide your kayak up and onto your roof. If the vertical pole has a jaybar, then center your kayak on the bars, slide up it, and lock it into place one at a time until you reach the car roof.
2. Kayak Lift Assist Roller
Kayak rollers are quick-to-mount and easy-to-use accessories for all kayak lovers. They are designed with rugged metal tubing with foam or rubber rollers. The roller system then connects to your car by mounting onto the front or back of your roof rack, or it can mount to your rear window with heavy-duty suction cups.
To use a kayak lift-assist roller, place your right side up and lean one point of the kayak onto the rollers. Grab hold of the opposite end of the kayak and push the kayak up and onto your roof. The rollers will rotate around the metal tubing, enabling you to easily slide the kayak onto your roof without damaging your car or kayak.
Mounting the system will only take a few minutes out of your time, as most modern roller systems make use of window suction cups. This straightforward system only requires a single person to load the kayak.
How to Use It:
Step 1: Using a kayak roller with suction cups, ensure your window is clean and dust-free before mounting. This will ensure that the cups are adequately secured and eliminate the risk of popping off or sliding down while you lift the kayak.
Step 2: Position the kayak behind your vehicle and lean the bow onto the roller. Ensure the kayak is placed in the center of the rollers to add more balance.
Step 3: Lift the stern of your kayak and push the kayak forward and up onto your roof. You will slide the kayak over the rollers while moving forward, making them rotate as you push.
Step 4: Secure your kayak to your roof rack and disengage the suction cups or unmount the roller from your rack.
3. DIY Lift Assist Blanket
The DIY Blanket method is a simple method that requires no extra equipment. All you will need is a relatively large blanket and your kayak. The blanket will be a barrier for your car and allow you to slide the kayak onto the roof. This method can be tricky to do and has a higher risk of causing damage to your car or kayak and injuring you. Therefore, be cautious when attempting this method.
How to Use It:
Step 1: Spread your blanket over your car roof and tuck it under the roof bars for positioning. If the blanket is big enough, you can position the blanket over your roof bars and wedge the corners of the blanket into your car door or window.
Step 2: Line the kayak next to your car and remove any accessories that might fall off and get lost during your trip.
Step 3: Raise the front of your kayak onto the blanket on one side of your roof. The kayak will then be in a leaning position on the car roof. The ground might damage the bottom of your kayak; therefore, try to complete this on a grassy area or place a rubber mat beneath the kayak.
Step 4: Keeping your hands on the kayak, move around to the back of the kayak and lift the rear. Slowly start pushing your kayak up and onto the roof blanket until it’s about halfway up the roof.
Step 5: Once the kayak is halfway up, pivot the kayak towards the car’s back by walking around to the rear of the vehicle while holding the kayak. Once in position, push the rest of the kayak onto the roof.
Step 6: When the kayak is entirely on the roof, position the kayak in the center of your roof.
Step 7: Carefully raise the kayak one side at a time to remove the blanket before securing the kayak to the roof rack.
The technique for removing the kayak is the same but in reverse. This technique is a creative and inexpensive solution but can be time-consuming and require more physical activity. If you are new to the method, we recommend you refer to one of the instructional videos available on the internet about the blanket method.
Our Final Thoughts
Kayaking is a hobby that is healthy, fulfilling, and adventurous. Still, when transporting your kayak ends the fun before it begins, it’s time to consider using a kayak lift assist system. As discussed, there are many different kayak lift assist systems; however, they all have the same purpose: to help you lift a kayak onto your car roof. Therefore, it is solely up to your opinion on which system would work best for you.
A UK native, passionate writer, and outdoorsman, Nathan enjoys piercing words together to share his knowledge on cycling, kayaking, and camping in intriguing and engaging ways. As a father to twins and a keen runner, he is passionate about helping people make the most of their time and health.