Transporting Kayaks

If you’re going to kayak, one of your first dilemmas is how to move the kayaks to the water. Trailer, roof racks, truck bed, it’s a matter of preference and what you already own. Ten years ago when we purchased our Wilderness System Tarpon 160i’s, our Toyota Highlander was brand new. With a little bit of research, we decided the Thule Slide and Glide (with a Thule bar) would be the perfect solution mounted on the Highlander’s roof rack. One word of warning.  When you choose your solution, your decision better be right, roof rack systems are not cheap!

The good news is we made the right choice. The Thule Slide and Glide, now called the Dock Set, was perfect. Ten years later the system is still in good shape, and for the past five summers it has remained on the car continuously. We highly recommend the Thule Glide and Set.

20180501_091848_Highlander Racks 1

Since we have four kayaks, and often are using all four of them with family or setting up a shuttle, we needed a Thule set for our Honda Odyssey minivan. Originally, on this vehicle we transported our  large double kayak, and a small Ocean Kayak sit on top on the J-Hooks. Loading this can only be described as unbearable. After recently needing to load one of the Tarpons on the J-Hooks we gave up and invested in a wider base bar and another set of Dock and Glides. J-Hooks are very hard to use if your vehicle is high, or your kayak heavy. It is relatively easy to change the width between the slides and docks to accommodate various types of kayaks.

We’ve also discovered we can use the Dock and Glides to transport a paddleboard by flattening the docks.

20180501_092004_Odyssey Racks 1

The first time we attempted to load our kayaks we spent over an hour on a cold misty morning and almost gave up kayaking. But with a little bit of planning we’ve developed a method that allows us to be off the water and driving away in 15 minutes.

I’m 5 foot 2 and my partner is 6 foot 2. We now each have our assigned roles based on what we can reach. First, and most importantly, attach the straps before attempting to load the kayak and lay them so they are reachable once the kayak is loaded.

20180526_133158_Straps on the front of the racksWith my partner on the kayak front, and me on the rear, we line the kayak up on the slides from the rear of the car and walk it forward. Once the front of the kayak is resting on the slides, my partner walks to the rear of the kayak and takes it from my hands.  He then lifts up the rear of the kayak and pushes it forward until it holds firm in the front docks of the Thule racking system.  We then strap it down being sure the straps go around the rack on the car for security.

20180526_133148_Straps on the back racks near the sliders

If driving long distances on interstates we will also use bow and stern tie down lines. You’ll need to look to find a spot to hook the tie down to the car, but there are some optional accessories available which can help with that problem.

20180526_133754_Kayaks strapped to the top of the Highlander

Transporting a kayak is really a matter of personal preference. The Thule system has served us well but may not be for everyone. However, for durability it has definitely held up well. The roof of the Toyota has not fared as well, as we recently realized salt water dripping from the kayaks is corroding the paint. A small price to pay for 10 years of kayaking bliss.

Austin Kayak: carries a complete line of Thule products. Occasionally we’ve purchased replacement bolts from Thule with success.

For more Kayaking Delmarva blog posts visit our Blog Index.
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