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  Boat Trailer vs Roof Rack
  Posted by: KeyMeKoe on Dec-22-12 5:01 PM (EST)
   Category: Other Gear 

I have a hatch back car. Would a kayak trailer or roof rack be better for transporting a 17' sea kayak.

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Messages in this Topic

 

  I like trailers
  Posted by: redmond on Dec-22-12 5:20 PM (EST)
Most of my put-ins here are boat ramps,so I don't have the problem of finding room for the trailer. I like not having to lift the boats on top of the car and I've gotten pretty good at maneuvering a trailer.
 
 
  trailers
  Posted by: ppine on Dec-22-12 5:32 PM (EST)
For heavy boats and tall trucks a trailer is a huge help. For light boats on small cars, a roof rack is fine.
 
 
  A luxury
  Posted by: abc on Dec-22-12 8:45 PM (EST)
I feel trailer is a luxury:

1) no need to lift the boat
2) no need to even take the boat off the trailer (if you have room for it in the garage)
3) no roof rack wind noise
4) no roof rack to cost gas milage penalty when not transporting boats

But,

1) it cost more to travel in toll roads
2) the trailer itself cost quite a bit
 
 
  It's up to you,
  Posted by: tjalmy on Dec-22-12 8:47 PM (EST)
I have both, but I don't use the trailer unless I'm hauling more than two boats. For me, throwing a couple of racks on the car, followed with a couple of boats is easier than getting out the trailer and having the manuvering and parking issues. It's not inexperience, I've had many trailers over the years, from utility trailers to a 28' camper.
But my boats are light, my health is mostly still good,and I'm tall enough where the reach isn't too bad even if we take the truck.
My trailer for the yaks is an old (1965) 18' galvanized boat trailer modified for kayaks and/or canoes, so it's not the lightest thing in the world. But it was free, so there it is.
Your equipment will be different, so you assesment will be based on what you have available, I'm sure.
T
 
 
  I agree
  Posted by: kayamedic on Dec-22-12 8:53 PM (EST)
I too have a trailer.. and dislike having to figure out what restaurants and motels have ample parking in the dark in strange areas. I do a lot of long distance driving. I will only trailer with three or more boats.

But I will point out that if your boat prevents your hatchback from raising far enough and you find yourself squatting over to rummage in the back or you keep whacking your head you might get tired of roofracking quick.

There is good and bad in both trailering and roofracking.
 
 
  I've never used
  Posted by: rpg51 on Dec-23-12 8:40 AM (EST)
a trailer for canoes and kayaks but I am getting to the point where my age, lack of fitness, and two prior shoulder surgeries are making it hard to load my boats on the roof. I have been looking at trailers and I think a trailer might be in my future. The only thing holding me back now is the price tag. But if you are not having trouble physically getting your boats on the roof (and there are many rack configurations aimed at making it easier to do so) I guess I would stick with racks for all the reasons mentioned.
 
 
  Cost
  Posted by: redmond on Dec-23-12 9:38 AM (EST)
For trailers can be less, but it depends on how handy you are. I found a used boat trailer for $200. Spent about another $100 to adapt it. Also bought a Harbor Freight Trailer on sale for about $250. Some assembly required.
 
 
  cost
  Posted by: abc on Dec-23-12 4:20 PM (EST)
For difficulty in loading and unloading boats, I think those new hydrolic boat loader gizmo might be a better option. They cost no more than trailers. They also don't have the wear and tear of the trailer traveling on roads (tires, lights etc).

For a single boat, the only advantage of trailer is if you have a double garage so can just leave the boat (and all the paddling gear) on the trailer, such that you can hitch-and-go when you want to go really quickly for a short paddle say, after work.
 
 
  Depends
  Posted by: leob1 on Dec-23-12 6:37 PM (EST)
If its just me, or my wife and I with the tandem, then it's on top. Putting my kayak on top myself, or the tandem with both of us lifting, its just easier than hitching the trailer. If we are taking multiple boats, such as the canoe and the tandem kayak, then the trailer is much easier. And, with the kayaks on the trailer I can put all of the stuff paddles, pfds, cooler, drybags, etc in the boat at home, put the cover on, and spend less time getting ready at the put in. At the end of the day, all the wet dirty stuff goes in the boat and not the car. This also comes in handy when we need the space in the car for other stuff, like if we are going camping. I use a regular boat trailer that I adapted for use with paddle craft. I got it for free.
 
 
  cartopping vs trailer
  Posted by: ret603 on Dec-23-12 7:22 PM (EST)
I have a trailer and also only use it when carrying 3-5 canoes/kayaks. I dislike the parking issues and am still able to load on cartop racks.

Another issue with trailer is increase toll expense. It varies from state to state and bridge to bridge, sometimes slight increase and sometimes major. On a multi state trip those increased tolls add up.

Dave
 
 
  History
  Posted by: CEWilson on Dec-23-12 7:29 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Dec-24-12 5:34 PM EST --

I have delivered thousands of canoes on 6 to 40 hauler trailers. I will do almost anything, including triple stacking to keep from dealing with a trailer.

An engineering type, I do not understand the electrical lighting problems endemic to trailers, but have spent lots of time on my back in the snow/ rain, mud fixing same.

Trailers compromise parking, even turning around in some places.

Trailers can tip over in extreme cross winds. So can SUV's but the latter has never happened to me.

As per PRG51 below, wheel bearings are another, constant, issue, but Bearing Buddys and a grease gun go a long way towards solving that one.

We spend several thousand dollars and engage title and licensing, lighting issues when we must because we're hauling a significant number of hulls for a camp, college or manufacturer. I need to be paid to haul a trailer.

To haul a couple, up to four hulls? Get a long combi like my late, lamented Saab, a BMW/ Audi/ VW/ Subaru station wagon, save money and frustration and simplify your life.

 
 
  You forgot wheel bearings-
  Posted by: rpg51 on Dec-23-12 9:30 PM (EST)
they always seem to go south at the worst time. All you say is true. Trailers are a PIA. But, a nice small and light trailer built for just 2 or 4 boats, not so bad. When your shoulders stop working over head it may be the only alternative if you want to keep paddling.
 
 
  downsides
  Posted by: rusty125 on Dec-24-12 12:59 PM (EST)
I've done both. I stopped hauling my composite boat on the trailer because it does not provide the soft and safe ride that that a weighted vehicle suspension does.

It is almost impossible to design a trailer that rides well with such a light load on it. A lot of thought needs to go into how to cushion the boats when riding on a trailer that will go airborne over every pothole and railroad track.
 
 
  Consider elevating the yak on the rack
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Dec-24-12 1:21 PM (EST)
I have a lot of canoes and kayaks and wouldn't use a trailer for all the negative reasons already stated.

One thing to consider if your hatchback is hitting your kayak. You can try to raise the yak higher off the roof.

You can raise the bars higher off the roof with some systems by using taller towers, if available. Extra tall towers used to be available from Thule if you used their false gutter mounts.

You can also lift the hull higher off the bars if you attach foam blocks, saddles or J racks onto the bars and into which the hull will rest.

 
 
  What is the vehicle ?
  Posted by: JackL on Dec-24-12 1:29 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Dec-25-12 6:01 AM EST --

My 4'-11" daughter has a small hatch back and halls an 18 foot sea kayak on it at times and other times canoes.
She has no hassel with any extra registration, insurance, parking, wheel bearing maintenance or trailer storing, and is very happy with her set up.

I have a Ford Escape with a hatchback, and carry two sea kayaks and one canoe

With all that said, I imagine it is a lot easier to load and unload off a low trailer

Jack L

 
 
  Does raising hatch become a problem
  Posted by: pikabike on Dec-24-12 10:50 PM (EST)
...when the boat is on the roof? Do you intend to keep the kayak on the roof at all times except when paddling, and if so, would it keep you from using the hatchback for loading or unloading other items?

We need more information from you.

In your experience, do you prefer one over the other? And why? What would make you consider another option?

Do you have storage space for a trailer?

Do you have physical limitations (height, injuries, etc.) that favor trailering?

The trailer wheel bearings are easy to deal with: Just keep them lubed (not overlubed) with a grease gun; it only takes a minute to do.

I have a trailer as well as a roof rack. The trailer gets used to haul the kayak(s) almost every time. Even if it's only one kayak, because if there's only one kayak that means it's only me to load and unload it, which makes trailering the better choice. My husband hates rooftopping as much as I do, so even when we both go paddling, we use the trailer.

The only time I rooftopped on a solo trip was when I knew I would not be stopping to paddle on the way out or back. It allowed a bigger choice of motels on the route, since the ones that are in towns sometimes don't have much parking. The ones in rural areas or along Interstates usually have enough space for trailers.
 
 
  Make loading the boat easier
  Posted by: FrankNC on Dec-25-12 8:42 PM (EST)
I think the biggest drawback to roof racks is the loading of the boat on the rack. With good cradles it is easy to roll the boat up onto the rack from the front of the car with most any cart. C-tug has a video showing how to do this.

Most folks can lift the boat onto the wheels on the hood. From there is it easy to go to the other end of the boat and roll it up onto the rack.

The only advantage of the trailer that has not listed is the box in the bottom is a great place to put all the wet stuff for the ride home.

The cost of the trailer is minimal compared to the cost of taxes, titling, registration, and insurance over the years.

Parking can go either way. In SC there are ramps where you may not use the parking unless you are pulling a boat trailer.

 
 
  Boat Trailer vs Roof Rack
  Posted by: KeyMeKoe on Dec-25-12 11:39 PM (EST)
Thank you for your input. You all brought up many excellent points that I had failed to consider. My car is a 2013 chevy volt. I will go with a thule roof rack, the only one currently available for the volt, with a hull-a-vator. The hull-a-vator should address all the lifting and hatchback issues you all brought up. And the roof rack should address all the disadvantages of the trailer. I am still deciding between the aerodynamic and standard cross bars. Any input on the differences there would also be appreciated.
 
 
  Might want to re-think that Hullavator
  Posted by: guideboatguy on Dec-27-12 1:27 PM (EST)
The Volt is already low and small, as cars go. I assume since you think you need assistance lifting the boat, it must be a plastic monster that weighs a ton? On a small car, you should be able to get one end of the boat onto the rack, then slide it up the rest of the way. If you do that, you won't have to lift more than about half the boat's weight during any stage of the loading process. You can put carpet on the un-used portion of your cross bars, or use cradles, or substitute a set of rollers for one of the cradles. Alternatively, you can buy or build a temporary cross-bar extension that sticks out to one side, onto which you first lift one end of the boat. There must be a dozen ways to make loading the boat easy, and a Thule Hullavator seems like overkill for the average male paddler with a small car.
 
 
  Bad Advice
  Posted by: old_user on Dec-26-12 6:25 AM (EST)
The members of this site usually do a pretty good job with newbie advice. I think you missed the mark on this one.

We've been trailering our boats for three years now and I would not go back to roof top transport for anything. The boats are always loaded and ready to go. No overhead lifting. I can always just unhook and walk it around in any parking lot. Tracks beautiful and sorry but no airborn bouncing. The tolls are an extra buck. Big deal. Come on guys, you got this person buying a one boat monstosity which is way north of cheap. Try again.
 
 
  "Bad advice" or just "not your choice"?
  Posted by: guideboatguy on Dec-27-12 12:51 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Dec-27-12 1:34 PM EST --

To my way of thinking, I haven't seen any "bad advice" here at all. Trailers aren't right for everyone, and your arguments in favor of trailers over roof racks sound more like a statement of "my way is right" rather than logic. Lots of other people said they prefer trailers, some of the time or all of the time, but in most cases also stated some logical qualifiers.

As far as your reasons for trailer use being so universally correct, they aren't. For one thing, "no overhead lifting" is no reason for a non-disabled person to use a trailer if instead they could use a bit of imagination and ingenuity. I've been loading boats on roofs all my life, sometimes with boats quite a bit heavier than canoes or kayaks, and sometimes on full-size vans. I'm not exactly big and strong, but I AM totally intolerant of doing things the hard way, and know how to modify a rack and my loading technique to make the job easy. If you are actually reaching above your head while lifting the entire boat, you are doing it the hardest possible way, and the logical thing to ask yourself is "why do it that way"? If you don't have the ability to modify your rack to make the job easy, then using a trailer may be a good choice for you, but it's not the only way to make boat-loading easy.

As far as bouncing goes, any trailer you buy which is not specifically designed for ultralight loads is likely to have this problem, and virtually every cheap trailer will. On such trailers, you'll have to modify the suspension yourself. If you buy a nice trailer (such as special one for bikes or boats that has a nice, soft suspension), it will cost the same putting roof racks on a small fleet of cars. Even with a cheap trailer, you still have to put a rack on it, and the rack will still be fairly expensive if you can't build it yourself. Besides, the OP is only looking to carry one boat.

As far as having the boats "already loaded", that's nice if you have a place you can park a loaded trailer. Not everyone does. I eliminate the inconvenience of loading boats by making my boat-storage methods quick and easy to use. Even my biggest, heaviest boat can be gotten out of its rack and onto the roof in about three minutes, and then all I have to do is tie it down. I don't have to do any heavy lifting at any point in the process on account of the way I designed my storage systems.

You say you can walk a trailer anywhere you need, but that's true only for you, not everyone. Try doing that so you can turn around on a dirt road or a back-woods road that's really steep. It'll take a team of helpers unless you bought one of those terribly expensive specialty trailers, but even then, you are wasting time that you wouldn't have to if the boat had been on the roof.

Overall, I'd say the pros and cons of trailers versus racks have been well described. As many others have said, I agree that which is the better choice is not universal, but depends on the specific situation.

 
 
  I agree
  Posted by: kayamedic on Dec-27-12 1:18 PM (EST)
trailers are not a blanket solution with one size fits all.

For those of you who do not have to deal with increased tolls bully for you. But to call everyone else wrong..is just wrong. My tolls do go up.. from $9.50 for boats on the roof to $20.75 for towing a trailer on the ferry. Multiply that by two..and its a factor.

And in the North Maine Woods turn around is an issue.. As well as pulling onto twitch roads when a logging truck oncoming is taking up the whole road.

I do have a trailer. Currently its under two feet of snow. Using it in the winter is a hassle..it always has to be unearthed.

So everyones experience is valid. No one is giving bad advice. If it works for you fine. If not, fine. Its YOUR outing. Not mine.
 
 
  Not as much as a "fleet of roof racks"
  Posted by: pikabike on Dec-27-12 4:44 PM (EST)
The two trailers I've had cost under $1000 (in 2000) and about $1500 including shipping (in 2011). While each costs more than one roof set-up, it's hardly a "fleet" of the latter, especially if there are things such as ShowBoats or Hullavators added on to make rooftop loading easier. And then it still wouldn't be as easy as loading a trailer.

The real advantage of a trailer, costwise, is that mpg suffers less than with roof racks, and that the trailer can be swapped to different vehicles as long as the vehicle has the same size towing ball on it. In other words, you don't need to keep buying different sets of roof-to-rack hardware because you sold your old vehicle.

That's why we could keep our first trailer for 11 years despite several vehicle changes. The same applies to our current trailer. With built-in riser bars, all that's necessary is some minicell kayak blocks--cradles not required.
 
 
  Sports Rig won't even publish prices
  Posted by: guideboatguy on Dec-27-12 5:06 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Dec-27-12 7:33 PM EST --

I was referring to the expensive trailers. I figure Sports Rig trailers must be a couple thousand bucks at least, since they seem to go by the policy, "If you have to ask what it costs, you can't afford it" (in actual fact, I think Sports Rig is on the verge of going out of business, since NOBODY closes their website for several weeks just to "take inventory". Who believes a company that small has an inventory that can't be tallied by one person in a day or two? A less-cynical interpretation might be that it's such a small operation that if the boss takes a long vacation, everything comes to a halt). Anyway, I think I spent $200 (MAYBE it was as much as $250) on my roof rack, so yes, I think I could have bought racks for 8 or 10 cars ("a small fleet") for the price of a Sports Rig, but granted, I carry canoes and similar boats gunwales-down, so there are no expensive accessories. I'm thinking of replacing it this winter with one that's home-built from the ground up, which would have been the smart thing to do right from the start.

As to the mileage penalty of boats on the roof, I myself wouldn't use it to justify a trailer. A quick calculation using some rough mileage figures of my own, with and without boats, shows that at $4 per gallon, I'd need to carry boats for 110,000 miles under average conditions before recouping the cost of a Sports Rig (assuming it costs $2,000), and 50,000 miles under the worst possible conditions (high-speed driving into very strong headwinds). In any case the estimate is conservative because it's based on the unrealistic assumption that carrying boats on a trailer would not affect mileage at all. I'm not sure I'll ever reach 100,000 miles of driving with boats on the roof. However, if the price of gas goes up enough, especially if it were to force me to use a much smaller car, it would take considerably fewer miles carrying boats to recoup the cost. Therefore, it seems that for a small-car owner, a really "nice" (expensive) trailer starts to look pretty darned appealing.

 
 
  Expensive does not equal "nice"
  Posted by: pikabike on Dec-28-12 2:25 PM (EST)
SportsRig and Yakima/Rack-n-Roll are the most expensive kayak trailers made, probably partly because they can be folded up.

Yet they are NOT the best kayak trailers out there. Ask around behind the scenes, and you'll learn about the rust problems (SportsRig) and tongue breakage (Rack-n-Roll). I don't mean just one or two instances.

What looks like the best kayak trailer (to me, anyway) is a new model made by Triton. It costs about $1500 and is much more solidly built and thoughtfully designed than any other stock kayak trailer. I wish I'd had this option when we replaced our old modified Triton snowmobile trailer.

We bought a decent Trailex kayak trailer in 2011; it's good but not as good as the new Triton kayak trailer. Take a look at how electrical wiring and taillights are handled, for just ONE example of the attention to detail and long-term durability.

I'd take that new Triton any day over any slough of roof systems.
 
 
  It depends
  Posted by: harry0244 on Dec-29-12 2:05 PM (EST)
on what you are driving as to the extra for gas. I haul one or two kayaks on the roof of my 4X4 Silverado, and the highway mpg for cruising at 60 mph is about 1/2 mpg less, 16 1/2 vs 17. While there is a noticeable difference in reaction to wind, it doesn't cause me problems. I would have serious problems turning around with a trailer some of the places I go. The bottom line is that no one solution fits all.
 
 
  Trailer is by far the best option
  Posted by: Bill_Stevenson on Dec-26-12 2:09 PM (EST)
I use a Sportsrig trailer. It is designed to handle light weight loads like kayaks and bicycles. It uses motorcycle suspension and conveniently folds up against a wall in my garage using a foot print of about 2'x4'. I have never been charged an extra toll for it. My gas mileage is almost unchanged as compared to no trailer, whereas a loaded roof rack will steal at least 10% of your fuel economy. In the 10 or more years I have owned it, and after thousands of miles of towing, the electicals all work and the wheelbearings are just fine. All the bugaboos verbalized in this thread have simply not proven to be true. I bought it after throwing my shoulder out when the wind caught my kayak while attempting to put it up on the roof of my car by myself. A trailer avoids that particular problem. A friend of mine forgot that he had a kayak on the roof and drove into his garage. He needed a new boat after that and a new garage door and frame. In strong cross winds, small cars with boats on the roof are blown around a lot more than small cars towing the boats on a purpose built trailer. The one and only downside to buying a trailer such as the Sportsrig is that they are expensive. On the other hand, the medical bills from my shoulder injury cost a lot more than the trailer did.

A trailer is the way to go, definitely re-think your decision.
 
 
  Bugaboos are largely avoidable
  Posted by: pikabike on Dec-26-12 8:40 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Dec-26-12 8:52 PM EST --

1. Keep the bearings greased; make it easy by having grease fittings (Bearing Buddies) on them, and you can grease both wheels in a few moments. And make sure you use WHEEL BEARING grease intended for high-temp applications (small wheels rotate faster for a given mph than big wheels do).

2. Keep the tires up to pressure. This means not airing them down too much, as so many advise. With such a light load as kayaks, you don't need to put the maximum pressure in them, which might be 65 to 80 psi for some tires. But you also should not let them go down to ridiculously soft pressures, because that causes overheating of the tires and uneven wear. On the Trailex SUT-350-M2 that I tow, the tires are the little ones with maximum pressures in the 60+plus psi range. Yet the trailer maker's decal says to use only 20 psi. I never go that high OR low and have had no trouble with hauling glass kayaks. I've put anywhere from 35 to 50 psi in them and settled on 38 psi. Tires are wearing normally and the ride is soft enough because of the soft leaf springs on that kayak-specific trailer.

Those are the two things to pay special attention to. But really, watching tire pressure is something you should do with your car anyway, so there's only one extra thing to watch for: adequate grease in the trailer's wheel bearings. And that is incredibly easy to do.

Now, for the bugaboo that you cannot control: In Colorado, tolls for trailers are extremely high. It wasn't always this way; things changed a couple of years ago and C470 Authority began gouging trailer users. It's based on number of axles, not actual weight or length. So my combined truck and trailer and payloads add up to less weight than a full-sized SUV with 1 driver and no passengers or loads at all. Go figure! But I sure wouldn't let extra toll or parking charges deter me from buying a trailer if it was better in other ways. (And C470 Authority and their incompetent recordkeeping can go stick themselves where the sun don't shine! Good riddance.)

 
 
  A joke
  Posted by: rblturtle on Dec-27-12 6:43 AM (EST)
If you have a Chevy Volt,a trailer would be beter so when it explodes your boats are saved.
Turtle
 
 
  Sportsrig wheels
  Posted by: Bill_Stevenson on Dec-31-12 1:17 PM (EST)
The wheels on a Sportsrig trailer are motorcycle type, I would have to look to be sure, but they are 18" or 19" diameter. The bearings are sealed and don't require frequent greasing.
 
 
  "Frequent" greasing is twice per year
  Posted by: pikabike on Dec-31-12 1:38 PM (EST)
A minute or two each time. Hardly a factor in the decision.

If I trailered 50K miles per year, then I'd need to grease them more often. Still not much effort, time, or cost involved. It's all DIY if you have the Bearing Buddies or similar system.

If you need a folding trailer, that's a different factor entirely that has nothing to do with the couple minutes of maintenance time difference.
 
 
  Wheel Bearings and Failures
  Posted by: guideboatguy on Dec-31-12 4:37 PM (EST)
From what I can tell, wheel-bearing failures usually involve neglected trailers, especially the neglected ones that also have their axles submerged in water at times, as is the case for normal boat trailers. I've met a lot of people who tow various kinds of trailers, but still haven't met someone who's had a wheel-bearing failure. Anyone who's mileage is not extreme, or who comes even close to following Pikabike's advice if their mileage is high, shouldn't have anything to worry about.
 
 
  Trailer won't work for me, since I keep
  Posted by: Yanoer on Dec-27-12 5:24 PM (EST)
a boat on my car during the week when at work. No place to park a trailer at work.

Not even any place to park a trailer at the city park lakes that I paddle the most.
 
 
  Capacity is most important in trailers
  Posted by: joewildlife on Dec-29-12 8:27 PM (EST)
I'd love to have a Sportsrig or Yakima Rack and Roll trailer. Question is, who stole who's design?

Both have "motorcycle" wheels, axles, and coil spring suspensions with shocks. I think capacity is around 250 pounds.

I have never seen a leaf spring axle assembly rated for less than 1000 pounds. Any typical cargo or boat trailer, NO MATTER how small, is probably equipped with 1000 pound suspension, and up. It is ridiculous. These trailers beat the crap out of lightweight boats on them. EVEN IF they have really really light springs, the unsprung weight of the normal trailer tires, wheels, and axles still make them ride rough.

There is another, much lower cost trailer out there called a Portage Pal. It has a solid suspension, but the boat rack on the aft end rides on springs. Seems to reason the boat rack on the bow end of the trailer rides soft because it is basically riding on the ball hitch...on the vehicle's suspension.

I have at least three full sets of Yakima racks, with four tower types. Yet I would still use a trailer at times if I had one I liked.

Joe
 
 
  Ummm, I use utility trailers
  Posted by: redmond on Dec-29-12 9:09 PM (EST)
I've used them to carry lightweight boats over thousands of miles and haven't "beaten the crap out of" any of them yet. Just telling my personal experience. Fiberglass, kevlar, and poly. Hasn't hurt any of them. Sorry, real world experience.
 
 
  Well, he's right that they ride rough
  Posted by: guideboatguy on Dec-29-12 9:44 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Dec-29-12 10:17 PM EST --

I have a standard boat trailer that has about the lightest suspension you normally see on such trailers. It carries a load that I think is somewhere around 400 to 500 pounds, and until I removed one leaf from each spring, it bounced terribly on any kind of "abrupt" bump, even small ones. The outboard motor used to bounce all over the place, and since the motor itself weighs 100 pounds that created a separate problem in itself. I finally got the bouncing under control though. Besides removing one leaf from each side, I built a bracket that removes all movement capability from the outboard motor's mount while in transport, and I put less pressure in the tires than recommended, so that they have about the same amount of "squat" as they would if at normal pressure when carrying the load they were actually designed for. However, running the tires with a lower pressure requires an additional modification - you must install an inner tube since they don't always remain sealed tightly to the wheel, and once you lose the seal there's no way to re-seat the tire with normal tools. The inner tube eliminates the risk of getting a non-repairable flat due to a bad seal.

Sure, you are correct that your boats won't be "beat to crap" as long as they are well secured, but I still haven't seen a trailer built from one of those kits that isn't sprung WAY stiffer than what remotely makes sense for carrying paddle craft, and they do bounce badly. It seems that people's tolerance for impracticality is inversely related to their understanding and ability to make things better, so yes, you CAN carry your boats on a 1,000-pound suspension, but plenty would chose to do it differently.

By the way, a guy in our local paddling club has a custom-built trailer for hauling multiple boats. It too is way heavier-duty than needed, but instead of the ultra-cheap, lightweight axles, tires and springs of kit trailers, it uses what I'd call a "real" trailer axle that's not made from stamped sheet metal, and the tires are as large as those found on something like a minivan, and the springs are far larger than what you see on any kit trailer. The longer leaves and progressive action of the springs provide a much smoother ride, and that combined with the relatively heavy weight of the trailer and the larger, cushier tires eliminates the problems associated with cheap trailers and their typical suspensions. It's a perfect example showing that there's more than one way to skin a cat, and that you get what you pay for.

 
 
  This thread has me thinking even more
  Posted by: rpg51 on Dec-30-12 10:28 AM (EST)
about a trailer. I'm 60 years old and I've had two shoulder surgeries. I have been struggling with all sorts of tactics and gizmos to help me get my boats on the roof for several years. Lord knows how many years I have left. It is starting to impact my interest in paddling - at least day trips. If I don't do it now - when will I do it? Have to start setting aside some $.
 
 
  One of the things I dislike re trailer
  Posted by: kayamedic on Dec-30-12 11:12 AM (EST)
is loading boats waist high. Its not really much fun getting them inbetween the low bars and the high bars (that are around shoulder high0. But I have a four canoe trailer.

I have found the same for my friends 10 canoe Long Ranger. Its easier to load shoulder height than lower if you have bars above the boat.

We both have Mo trailers that are built to repel sway and bounce..none of which is a problem..at least so far in the first 20,000 miles..never say never.
 
 
  The best thing
  Posted by: rnaimo on Dec-30-12 12:26 PM (EST)
I like about using a trailer is you can keep a eye on the boats. I have a converted boat trailer that I built a rack on that is a little below shoulder height. The boats can be seen in the rear-view and both side-view mirrors. I can also load the bikes and camping equiment on the trailer for them weekend get-aways.
 
 
  Trailer loading height varies
  Posted by: pikabike on Dec-31-12 1:14 PM (EST)
The height to load onto our old snowmobile trailer was low. The height to load to our Trailex kayak trailer is a little higher but still manageable even for 5'3" me.

Some have more adjustments possible in the crossbars and risers than others. Some allow carrying other gear besides boats. Payload varies a lot. Make sure that the size of coupler and ball that comes with the trailer suits you and your tow rig's set-up. You can make some alterations after the fact, but it's best to know beforehand what's involved.

Do lots of research before deciding what to buy, or even if to buy.

We LOVE carrying the boats with a trailer instead of rooftopping. There are a few disadvantages, but to us they are greatly outweighed by the benefits. YMMV.
 
 
  Sportsrig has shocks and springs
  Posted by: Bill_Stevenson on Dec-31-12 1:29 PM (EST)
The load limit is 250 lbs. so your boats are not subjected to undue shock. The use of motorcycle type wheels and a swing arm suspended with motorcycle springs and shocks make this possible.
 
 
  yeah, that's why I mentioned it...
  Posted by: guideboatguy on Dec-31-12 4:14 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Dec-31-12 4:41 PM EST --

... earlier parts of the discussion as being the type of trailer that would work well, as far as ride quality goes. It's also why the post you made the reply to only dealt with cheap kit trailers and "standard" trailers.

 
 
  Several trailers with leafspring
  Posted by: pikabike on Dec-31-12 1:08 PM (EST)
suspension that are soft and suitable for kayaks/canoes are made by Trailex. I own one of them, the SUT-350-M2 trailer. It is rated to a payload of 350 lbs max. The leafspring suspension is, indeed, quite soft. Softer than the flavor of Tor-flex suspension that was on our old modified snowmobile trailer. Both trailers carried glass sea kayaks many, many times without any harm to the boats.

With the very long effective wheelbase created by putting the trailer's axle far in back, the ride is smooth and towing easy.

Bucking/bouncing is as much a function of wheelbase as it is of suspension softness.
 
 
  Sportsrig was on the market for years...
  Posted by: Bill_Stevenson on Dec-31-12 1:14 PM (EST)
before Yakima came out with their trailer. Either of these trailers is a better solution than any others I have seen.
 
 
  Who stole whose design?
  Posted by: pikabike on Dec-31-12 1:23 PM (EST)
What I *heard* (no verification other than the sequence of going to market) is that a designer from SportsRig left to start Rack-n-Roll. Whether that designer stole the design is beyond my knowledge.
 
 
  Trailer parking
  Posted by: Bill_Stevenson on Dec-31-12 1:22 PM (EST)
Finding a place to park a trailer does require creative thinking. Since my Sportsrig is lightweight, I often detach it from the car and then push the trailer and boat(s) into a separate parking spot, or even put it off pavement in the grass or whatnot. I also use the trailer like a cart to deliver the boat by hand to water's edge.
 
 
  Let's get back to the OP, please
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Dec-30-12 1:03 PM (EST)
Hard, I know, on pnet.

This is a person with ONE seakayak. That's it. That's the fleet.

I have stated my non-trailer preference, and don't deny that trailers can be of benefit in multi-boat carriage and in vehicle loading for people with infirmities.

However, I don't think I exaggerate my personal and objective experience by saying that, in more than 60 years of boating with thousands of paddlers, I can only recall one person who used a trailer to tote a lone kayak.

He drove a motorcycle.
 
 
  um yes
  Posted by: kayamedic on Dec-30-12 3:06 PM (EST)
headtopping is impractical.
 
 
  Actually
  Posted by: pblanc on Dec-30-12 5:29 PM (EST)
I had a friend who used a Portage Pal T-1000 trailer to haul his solitary sea kayak. And he had an F-150 pickup truck.

It would not have been my choice, but he liked the convenience of leaving his boat and paddle strapped to the trailer. When he got home, he unhitched the lightweight trailer and wheeled it under a carport by his pool with his boat on it. He could be ready to go much more quickly than if he car-topped his boat.
 
 
  I'm another one who lone-trailers
  Posted by: pikabike on Dec-31-12 1:01 PM (EST)
Most of my paddling is solo. The trailer gets used both for solo and partner paddling (carrying 2 sea kayaks on the trailer). We have done it both ways and prefer trailering by such a huge margin it's not even a contest.

I have seen other people trailering only 1 sea kayak.

Neither my husband nor I is "infirm". However, I am short. I guess some people might consider that an infirmity. We both like being able to see the kayaks behind us instead of wondering what's going on "upstairs" in 60-mph crosswinds.
 
 
  Watch me haul one kayak on Sportsrig
  Posted by: Bill_Stevenson on Dec-31-12 1:26 PM (EST)
If you ever get to West Palm Beach give me a holler and we'll go paddling. That way in your 60 plus years of paddling you will have seen two trailers hauling only one kayak. Or maybe two if you need me to bring an extra boat for you to use.
 
 
  experience
  Posted by: abc on Dec-31-12 2:04 PM (EST)
"However, I don't think I exaggerate my personal and objective experience by saying that, in more than 60 years of boating with thousands of paddlers, I can only recall one person who used a trailer to tote a lone kayak. "

We can say the same about personal computer vs mainframe computers! When the first PC came out, "experience" would have told you that in 20 years of computing history, most people used mainframe computers!

Trails were initially build for hauling multiple boats so existing ones don't do well hauling light load of 1 single kayak. But there're now trailers specifically designed to haul 1 or 2 kayaks on the market. I haven't heard much negative from their owners.

More over, most people don't have the "experience" of pulling a trailer behind their car. So they go for the "familiar" of car topping! How many threads do you see on Pnet on "how to load a heavy boat solo"? If that's not a drawback of car topping, I don't know what is. Whether trailering trade the loading problem only to have other disadvantages, is what the OP was seeking information on, from first hand experience of those owning trailers.

The OP got enough useful replies from trailer owners. That's what really matters.
 
 
  "Drawback" versus inexperience
  Posted by: guideboatguy on Dec-31-12 4:27 PM (EST)
All the questions about how to load a heavy boat onto the roof do NOT indicate a drawback of cartopping. They only indicate that most people simply can't figure out how to do things the easy way, or how to build or modify their racks. I loaded an aluminum jonboat on top of a full size van so many times when I was a teenager, and back then I weighed 130 pounds and was NOT at all strong. That boat was far heavier and more awkward to handle than any kayak that was ever made, but it was easy because the method used was sensible. Loading it onto a full-size van was a bit harder than loading onto something like a station wagon (again, both vehicles had proper rack modifications), but even loading onto something like a station wagon is actually EASIER with that kind of boat (or a canoe) than loading onto something down around waist-high.
 
 
  And how much of the "drawback" of traile
  Posted by: abc on Dec-31-12 4:47 PM (EST)
... is also due to inexperience?

 
 
  What drawbacks?
  Posted by: guideboatguy on Dec-31-12 5:21 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Dec-31-12 5:26 PM EST --

That would depend who you talk to so one might know what "drawbacks" you are even talking about. Since your reply is directly to me, maybe I need to clarify for you that I never said anything against trailers in general. None of the specific negative issues I've mentioned have anything to do with trailers as a whole, and all can be avoided by making different choices (except for the example of trying to turn around on a narrow dirt path, and except for the fact that a good trailer costs many times more than a good roof rack), so I think you might be looking to argue against a point that I never made.

Maybe you were talking about the loading-height issue? Well, it's true. If you have a canoe on your shoulders, it's a lot harder to squat way down to set one end on a low rack than it is to simply step out from beneath it after setting one end on a roof rack, especially if it's a heavy boat. Also, it's also a lot harder to roll it off your shoulders and into your hands to set on a low rack than to simply set one end on a roof rack. It's not that low-loading is THAT bad, but it is harder, so I only mentioned that in response to all the folks who think that low-loading is universally easier. That "universal truth" isn't the case for all kinds of boats.

 
 
  you're unique
  Posted by: abc on Dec-31-12 7:28 PM (EST)
in your difficulty of loading onto low decks.

When I suggest you count the number of threads about loading boats, they're ALL about loading to high roofs, not low ones.

Seems it's universally accepted that loading onto low deck is a no-brainer. But you seem to find the opposite. So perhaps you ought to look into "figure out HOW..." to do it?
 
 
  He is not unique
  Posted by: kayamedic on Dec-31-12 7:48 PM (EST)
it IS hard to load onto a low deck when there is a higher load bar in the way.

Is this all a battle of egos?
 
 
  sort of depends
  Posted by: pblanc on Jan-01-13 8:57 AM (EST)
If two people are handling the boat, it is relatively easy to load onto a low pair of crossbars even if there is a boat above.

Working alone, it is a bit trickier, but with most racks one stem can be swung in and supported on a crossbar while the other end is lifted and pivoted in to the other.
 
 
  Probably a casd of not being clear
  Posted by: guideboatguy on Jan-01-13 9:19 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-01-13 5:37 PM EST --

IF you are carrying a canoe on your shoulders by yourself, and IF you've got a rack that you can lean the boat against (THAT issue is the only reason people keep asking questions about what should be an easy process), THEN there's nothing easier than simply stepping out from under the boat, followed by lifting less than half its weight using your hands (the initial overlap of boat onto rack means more than half of the weight will be taken by the rack when you pick up the other end, in case that needs to be explained to you, and the amount you lift becomes progressively less as you slide the boat onto the rack, too). Why would squatting down low, or dropping the whole canoe into your hands, be easier than simply walking out from underneath it?

Once again, I'm not saying it's a huge deal, but if you can't picture in your mind (since it appears yoiu haven't carried and loaded a canoe by yourself using this method) how simple it is to simply walk out from underneath your boat and then lift only a fraction of its weight, I don't know what else I can say.

Working in pairs, as Pete points out, loading onto a low rack is definitely easier, and in that case it's true even if there are no higher cross bars in the way, but this wasn't a discussion about two people cooperating to load a boat.

************

Okay, it's hardly worth saying more, but this idea that I'm so "unique" in finding the "step our from underneath" method so effortless can be refuted easily. You know those brackets that used to dot the north country canoe trails by the hundreds? The ones that people used as a means of easily resting while on the portage trail, or just to make it easier to get into and out from under the canoe? Well, how high were those racks? About three feet, or about seven feet? Well, there ya go. They made 'em that way to make it easier, not harder.

 
 
  But, if moving the boat around on a cart
  Posted by: Yanoer on Jan-01-13 12:00 PM (EST)
......loading onto low bars on a trailer would be easier.

That's how many people would be moving a heavy boat between the vehicle & launch.
 
 
  In that case, yes. (nm)
  Posted by: guideboatguy on Jan-01-13 5:32 PM (EST)
 
 
  Huh?
  Posted by: abc on Jan-02-13 10:35 PM (EST)
The OP was asking about kayaks.

 
 
  True enough, but ...
  Posted by: guideboatguy on Jan-02-13 11:18 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-02-13 11:22 PM EST --

... at the risk of repeating myself, the discussion DID take off in the direction of advantages of trailers versus roof racks "in general", which is no sin because side discussions ARE permissible. Anyway, I'm sure canoes were mentioned somewhere along the line, and all I did, in side-discussion format, was to address the kind of blanket statement I've seen here before, that lower is always better. Hey, if you want to get picky about adhering to the original topic, most of the thread strayed off topic because the original question wasn't about effort at all. The original question was about feasibility, and with few supporting details. We did find out that the paddler is male, and he gave no indication that he's small or weak, and the car being used has a roof that's almost as low as they come. So, who inserted the idea that loading on the roof would be unnecessarily difficult?

Anyway, the poor OP never came back, and probably wouldn't paddle with any of us now.

 
 
  Its been a good discussion
  Posted by: kayamedic on Dec-31-12 6:14 PM (EST)
but did we lost the OP..did I miss what sort of hatchback is involved?

trailering COULD make more sense in the case of odd rooflines or the hatch banging against the boat and not being able to be fully opened.

We all have our systems and have shared what works for us. But I daresay none of us have experiences with all cars.

I know when I swap cars there is always a period of having to think it out.

 
 
  Hands Down
  Posted by: old_user on Jan-03-13 10:32 PM (EST)
Its Malone all the way. USA made versus China import. Better warranty. Great customer support. All in all no contest.
 
 
  Yakima Rack N Roll vs. Malone MicroSport
  Posted by: KeyMeKoe on Jan-01-13 9:22 AM (EST)
How does the Yakima trailer compare to the Malone?
 
 
  Roof Racks AND Trailer
  Posted by: Cascadians on Jan-02-13 2:12 PM (EST)
We used to have Thule J cradles on the top of our Jeep for 4 kayaks.

But we're old and fat, and getting older, so we upgraded to 2 Hullavators which are awesome. But only 2 fit on top of Jeep.

We've ended up getting a huge amount of dog sports gear for my service Newfoundland who is also my kayak buddy and water rescue dog.

So in order to take all our stuff with us to his many activities we just bought a Pulmor Trailer. It has a 2" back receiver hitch for our bike and dog scooter racks, plus bars on top which we will Thule outfit for our 2 shorter recreational kayaks. The 2 longer ones will ride atop on the Hullavators. Eventually we'll get sea kayaks and a dog specific kayak (not made yet).

This trailer was way too expensive but it fits our needs perfectly, easy to see out back window and a really nice easy smooth ride.

Here's a picture of it our 1st day when we picked it up from U-Haul (was shipped from Colorado and we're in Oregon):

 

Click photo to enlarge or click here to change viewing preference.
 
 
  Looks like Chewbacca paddling the kayak
  Posted by: Yanoer on Jan-03-13 12:29 AM (EST)
:)
 
 
  ok I'll weigh in
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Jan-03-13 2:59 PM (EST)
If one has a two-door hatchback, which allows little in the way of bar spread, one has to decide whether to:

1. Add a rack extension,

2. Add a hitch extension,

or

3. get a trailer.

Both 2. and 3. require fitting a hitch receiver.

So in my simplistic flawed logic, in the case I provided it's either a rack extension, or a trailer...presuming you can get a trailer at a good price.

If your hatchback is at all attractive a trailer will "ugly it up" less. Its also much easier to remove, but harder to store.
 
 
  either or...
  Posted by: rb56 on Jan-03-13 10:53 PM (EST)
i have a 15.5 pelican canoe and an F-150 with a rack in the bed i haul it on. it over hung on the tail gate too much so i bought the rack. i usually am at a landing which is easy to load and unload, but it can cause me looks from people with trailer rigs waiting to launch or take out. i have to unload, the load my gear and takes longer. when landing i have to unload my canoe then load it then strap it down. a trailer would be nice and easier physically, but then comes tags, registration, maintenance and so on. i've thought about making a dolly rig so i can just park and unload my canoe, then load it by my vehicle and use the dolly to walk it to the water. then i have the problem of what to do with the dolly. if loading and unloading from the roof isn't too much physically, i'd say it's best. no flats on the trailer or bearings wearing out on the highway. no extra registration costs.
 
 
  Harbor Freight trailer
  Posted by: old_user on Jan-05-13 8:41 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-05-13 8:44 AM EST --

I bought a 4x8 folding trailer from Harbor Freight for under $250.00. After adding a treated plywood bed, putting a hitch on my Equinox, trailer registration, wiring, etc, I have less than $500.00 into it. I mounted my car-top carrier (for the camping gear) to the bed and built a treated 2x4 rack to carry the boats. It's a heck of a lot easier to load the boats on the trailer than it is to lift them up onto the roof racks, especially after a long day of paddling. I can also tell you that a kayak will take a side view mirror off of a car like a guillotine if the wind catchs it before you get a strap on it. The boats and gear stay on the trailer (tarped) all season then everything, including the trailer, goes into the garage for the winter. I even have room for the bike rack on the back of the car, with the trailer attached. My friends tell me it looks like the Beverly Hillbillies going down the road but, I don't care. Turning around, parking, or increased tolls have not been an issue. It's definatly an option worth exploring.

 
 
  love my trailer
  Posted by: gobsmacked on Jan-05-13 11:27 AM (EST)
Bought a utility trailer for ~$400, plywood floor added, 2x4 racks installed with simple foam pads on top. Racks are spaced to support the bulkheads.

The leaf suspension is definitely too stiff; bouncing on bumpy roads and train crossings occurs. But my boats are plastic, not composite, so no damage has occurred. And the foam pads are quite thick, so they are a kind of suspension anyways.

Loading onto a 2 foot high platform is a pleasure compared to hoisting the boats onto a rooftop. My back thanks me every time I avoid deadlifting the boat up to shoulder height. Mileage is better, too.

Rarely, I'll use the roof rack, like on long roadtrips. For those, the ease of parking in gas stations, restaurants, and crowded hotel parking lots makes the roof rack the winner. Plus I think of the trailer as another thing that can breakdown on the roadside. I wouldn't want to be struggling to replace a failed bearing while en route far from home.

Another disadvantage of the trailer is that mud, dust and grime can come off of your towing vehicle's tires and onto your boat. I've had to wipe off the boat before entering the pool, and had to pressure wash the boat after driving down dusty gravel roads. Felt like cleaning my old dirt bike. Might get a cover to wrap the boat in.

Despite the problems, I much prefer the trailer and use it whenever I can.

 

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