How-To Guide: Loading A Kayak On By Yourself2021-08-04T13:08:54-04:00

How-To Guide: Loading A Kayak On By Yourself

How To Put Kayak On Roof Rack By Yourself For BeginnersPicture the scene: You’re out kayaking with a friend when they suddenly remember an important appointment.

In a rush, they leave. You wave them goodbye, determine to enjoy the water a little longer. After all, it’s a beautiful and peaceful morning.

We bet it sounds idyllic. There’s only one problem with this perfect kayak trip.

Nobody is around to help you with kayak loading onto your car.

Here are some handy tips to help with loading a kayak alone without injuring yourself or damaging your vehicle.

How To Put Kayak On Roof Rack By Yourself

Before trying your hand at kayak lifting, you need to understand which types of kayak racks you’ve got on your roof.

It’s crucial to know the differences between the rack types available, as it will affect the method used to load your kayak. The major types of racks include Saddle racks, J-racks, Stackers, and Temporary pads.

Typically, your roof setup will determine the best type of kayak racks. Bare roofs and standard side rails, for instance, will require temporary pads.

Factory or aftermarket crossbars setups will give you access to specialist kayak racks, such as J-racks (J-cradles), saddles, and stackers.

We’ll be focusing here on cars with temporary pads and those with J-racks. This article will show you how to load a kayak alone on different roof setups safely.

Loading A Kayak Alone On Standard Car Roof Racks

Standard roof racks or bare roofs use temporary pads. They consist of straps placed along the roof inside and over the top of the roof outside.

This kayak loading method uses a blanket on the roof to protect your car. Tuck the blanket under the pads or secured inside the car doors.

Pads Kayak Lifting Method

1. Line up the kayak to the side of the car, bow facing between the pads.

2. Lift the bow and let it rest on the edge of the car roof. The keel rests on the ground.

3. Use your car floor mats to protect it from damage.

4. Lift the stern and push forward so half the kayak slides onto the roof.

5. Swing the kayak sideways to the rear until it rests on both pads/ roof bars.

6. Position and secure the kayak to the center of the roof.

7. Remove the blanket.

Loading a kayak with J-racks

J-racks are recognizable by their J-shape that holds the kayak at an angle.

If you are still considering the best type of racks for your car, here’s a word of advice: J-racks are best suited to smaller cars and SUVs as you need to consider kayak lifting. For easy loading, install the J-racks with the taller side further away from the edge.

J-racks Kayak loading method:

1. Line up the kayak with the rear of the vehicle, face up. Use your floor mats to protect the stern.

2. Rest the stern on the mats and lift the bow up and into the first J-rack.

3. Secure the bow into the channel of the J rack.

4. Lift the stern, rotating the kayak and pushing forward at the same time to set the gunwale into the J-racks channel.

5. Finish position the kayak on both J-racks and secure it.

What If I Don’t Have The Strength For Solo Kayak Lifting?

We assume that you are healthy for this article, with normal strength, average to tall height, and full mobility.

However, we appreciate that enthusiastic kayakers may struggle with either strength, height, or mobility. Loading a kayak alone can be difficult and particularly if you are not loading a lightweight kayak. If this is the case, we strongly advise against loading a kayak alone on your roof as you could injure yourself.

There are plenty of helpful kayak loading systems that can take the struggle off. Some of the best innovative kayak loading assist solutions can remove significant weight off the loading process, using extended arms that can lower to the side of the car and support kayak lifting.

Kayak Loading On A High Vehicle

High cars and trucks are likely to affect your lifting techniques. You can’t push your kayak safely on a tall roof by yourself. However, solo kayak loading on high roofs can be made possible using assisted kayak lifting with side extensions.

Alternatively, you will find it more accessible to lift with a partner if you need to reach a tall roof.

Check Out This Tutorial On How To Put Kayak On Roof Rack By Yourself


You can still plan the perfect kayak day out by yourself. These solo kayak lifting techniques for J-racks and standard roofs are safe and effective.

Remember that solo kayak loading will require a specific set of criteria to ensure you can do it safely for yourself, your kayak, and your car:

    1. Preferably low and medium-height vehicle.

    2. You physically need to be tall enough to push the kayak onto the roof safely.

    3. You need to be able to lift your kayak up to the roof without injuring yourself (Beware: weak backs, injured shoulders, hurt wrists can dramatically affect your lifting abilities and cause severe damage to your health and your car)

    4. Sufficient space to position the kayak.