View topic - Canoeist's Pickup Truck

Canadian Canoe Routes

Canoeist's Pickup Truck
Page 1 of 4

Author:  martin2007 [ September 24th, 2019, 12:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Canoeist's Pickup Truck

I suspect this subject has been explored elsewhere on the forum, but I haven't managed to locate the links.
I've always driven previously-owned compact cars. One big advantage to me of a low-roofed vehicle is how easy it is to load and unload canoes onto the rack, something I do a few times per week all season long. My present vehicle, a Mazda 3, needs to be replaced soon, and I'm thinking of replacing it with a used 4x4 pickup truck. I do lots of solo-ing, so I have to be totally self-sufficient with loading and unloading my boats. And of course I'm not getting younger. For those of you who drive pickups and paddle solo a lot, how do you set the vehicle up for easy on-and-off canoe-carrying? Would having a topper on the pickup be much of a factor in setting up a good carrying system? Input would be appreciated.

Author:  ameaney [ September 24th, 2019, 1:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

I built a rack that slides in and out of the truck bed. Very easy to load an unload the boat. Here's a link to a photo: ... rega+1.JPG

This isn't mine but the site where I got the idea/plans. Fairly simple to make and cheap if you have some scrap lumber lying around.

I am getting a new truck this week which has a cap so my rack might not be feasible any more. I many have to get an actual rack for the topper. Which would make it harder to put the boat on but not impossible.

If that happens I could probably sell you mine for a minimal price!

Author:  Bill P [ September 24th, 2019, 2:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

Basically I load my canoe from the rear. Sliding the canoe over the supports or topper and I have even loaded it that way on top of my truck camper. I have a three step ladder that helps me reach.

Author:  scratchypants [ September 24th, 2019, 4:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

My setup is a Backrack with a Thule Goalpost that mounts in the trailer hitch receiver. I set the goalpost in the lowest position, load the canoe from the rear and once it's on, I raise the goalpost to "load height." Reverse for unloading.

Author:  DougB [ September 24th, 2019, 6:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

I have a full size crew cab pick up with a yakima roof rack over the cab. I can lift my boat over my head to portage so lifting it up to the racks isn't much different. Setting up the straps is a bit more difficult - I'm tall so I can stand on running boards and reach - otherwise stand in the box. A bed rack (like pictured by ameany) is also a popular option - you can rest the bow on the rear rack and slide it forward. These can also be purchased relatively cheap that slide into stake pockets. Standard bed racks are somewhat limiting as the bars are often designed to be only a few inches above the cab so if your boat is short and or rockered the bow may contact the roof of the cab. They also eliminate the ability to use a tonneau cover (with the exception of the Lomax adarac system)

Author:  kgd [ September 24th, 2019, 6:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

Really enjoy my Nissan 4x4 pro with built in roof racks. Put canoe on back, slide on top of racks, use built in tie down hooks on rails to secure plus a couple of under the hood loops. Works great. Also just bought a yakima system to add extension bars for a 2 canoe carry option. It works with the built in roof racks.

Author:  redstart mouser [ September 25th, 2019, 6:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

we've been using a trac rac (and trac tonneau) with canoe cradles on a 2500 dodge ram since 2007. My husband is tall enough to load it solo - rest it on the first rack then push the canoe onto the second, but I need to get into the bed and have someone help from the ground.

You can get a cantilever attachment for over the cab of the truck but we find we can just shove the blue foamies under the front of the canoe there, wedging them in tightly.

The racks are adjustable to any position which is handy for transporting other stuff over the years. we've even carried two canoes, nested, after removing the thwart of the top canoe. The racks lock so no one can walk off with your racks when you park in dodgy areas. The tonneau is not 100% waterproof which is annoying, but being able to get into the truck bed for lifting and strapping is worth it. The racks still look great after 12 years.

Author:  redstart mouser [ September 25th, 2019, 6:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

p.s. you'll need to buy really long straps. the canoe straps from nova craft or thule aren't long enough e.g. to tie down in front. but then, our truck is 3/4 ton so pretty big.

Author:  martin2007 [ September 25th, 2019, 11:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

Thanks, everyone, for your responses thus far.

ameany: That looks like a viable system. I can't see on the attached photo what clearance is like at the interface between canoe bow/the roof of the cab/and the windshield. I'm trying to imagine sliding the hull, gunnels on rack, with the bow clearing the cab. An option__less ideal__ would be to manhandle the boat from a standing position within the truck bed.

Bill: The 3-step ladder or step accessory is probably going to be needed. Thanks.

scratchypants: At your suggestion I checked out the goalpost systems. Lots of price-points. When using one of them it means the truck bed tailgate must remain up. Is that right?

Kgd, Redstart Mouser and DougB: thanks for the ideas, they are helpful in bringing me to an understanding of the available options.

Because most of my paddling involves wooden boats, I don't like loading or portaging that will necessitate placing a canoe deck on the ground while I maneuver the boat into its next position. That goes both for loading and portaging.
I've paid little attention over the years as to how others have been carrying their boats on pickups and SUV's, having been content with how simple and easy it has been with the Mazda 3. I've obviously got more thinking to do on this. Pictures are helpful if you have any to share.

Thanks again for the help.


Author:  gnatwest [ September 25th, 2019, 12:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

I used to have a rack just like ameany. I now have one made of steel that mounts to the bed but same concept.

In terms of clearance I made mine 3 inches higher than the cab to account for recurve from the bow.

I have tepeed mine on the rack then slid up, you can do this without dropping the deck to the ground but its obviously easier if you do.

I have ultralight boats that I can just lift up and over as well solo if needed.

Author:  Mike McCrea [ September 25th, 2019, 12:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

martin2007 wrote:
I've always driven previously-owned compact cars.
My present vehicle, a Mazda 3, needs to be replaced soon, and I'm thinking of replacing it with a used 4x4 pickup truck. I do lots of solo-ing, so I have to be totally self-sufficient with loading and unloading my boats. And of course I'm not getting younger. For those of you who drive pickups and paddle solo a lot, how do you set the vehicle up for easy on-and-off canoe-carrying? Would having a topper on the pickup be much of a factor in setting up a good carrying system? Input would be appreciated.

Martin, I have driven small pickups as canoe toters and travelling vehicles since 1984; a Toyota Hi-Lux longbed, mid-90’s Extra Cab, currently a 2wd 2013 Toyota Extra Cab. All have had caps, and racks wide enough to haul two canoes side by side.

The current truck has a Leer cap with factory posts that accept Thule towers and bars.

Leer uses Thule, ARE brand caps use Yakima racks. I was able to reuse the same towers, crossbars (gunwale stops/kayak cradles/etc) from an old CR-V, so if you have current racks or rack parts you can repurpose the cap manufacturer matters. Leer and Thule are like Honda Civic/Toyota Corolla, each makes a half dozen different nearly identical cap styles.

With 78” long crossbars two canoes fit easily on the Taco. Ground level to the top of crossbar is about 69”. I load my canoes from the back like a lot of folks, sliding them on the rear crossbar. A 4x4 will be X-amount taller, but sliding canoes on from the rear crossbar no harder. Belly lines or straps may need a step ladder with a 4X4; I can just barely reach the belly lines on my 2WD to tie a trucker’s hitch. YYMV

Cap height is an issue worth investigating, especially with an Extra cab (worse with a king cab) roof line, and a lot of small trucks are now available only in extra cab. Leer and ARE both make cap models flush with the cab roof, mid-rise caps, and high-rise caps. With a cab height cap racking a canoe with any sheerline rise may result in the canoe resting on the cab roof, or if extended past the windshield scraping the cab roof while being slid into place.

The mid-rise cap on the Toyota provides enough cab clearance to easily slid any of our canoes on and off, and the rear crossbar is close enough to the back of the cap to allow resting the canoe / while I walk around to the end on the ground and slide it in place. That rear crossbar location is essentially the same on all three different height caps.

The location of the front crossbar varies considerably from low rise to mid rise to high rise. Because of the different cap roofline shapes the front crossbar on cab-height cap is the furthest forward, giving it the longest crossbar spread, about 5 feet apart (on a small truck 6 foot bed).

The rack spread on my mid-rise Leer is 45 inches apart, which is sufficient. The rack spread on a high rise cap is shorter still and seemed unreasonably short for a 6 foot long cap.

Before buying the cap, to verify the cap height required, I put sawhorses in the empty truck bed and foam blocks on the cab roof, and racked a few different canoes to check the top-of-crossbar elevation needed while sliding canoes on and off. I know folks with cab height caps who have difficulties with some canoes. The mid rise give me enough head room to sit up in the back and read before bedtime.

Beyond boat toting I sleep in the truck bed while travelling to paddle, and on car camping trips. The simplicity of truck camping, travelling with a full bedroom and spacious back porch, everything set up dry and protected and ready to climb in, is incredibly convenient.

ImageP5100019 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The tarp is sun reflective for summer/desert use, and allows me to keep the cap windows open in the rain and back porch it, getting in and out dry and unshod. Shoes go in the hanging mini-hammock.

(BTW, climbing in and out of the truck bed with old man knees is made far more pleasant with some exercise foam padding glued to the tailgate.)

I lived in the back of the ’84 Hi-lux for 18 months and after three trucks set up as live-aboards I have my needs and wants dialed in.

Fully screened for air flow, carpeted side shelving for storage, including an 4’ open front shelf on one side and 6’ long locking box for paddles, sails and shotgun on the other.

Three inch thick foam pad, full blackout curtained windows, fully insulated truck bed and walls, tailgate and cap door weather stripped light-tight dust and bug proof, blue barrel cradle, nightstand at the head of the bed with reading light and fan and dozens of DIY tie down points inside the bed to hold gear in place on washboard or twisty mountain roads. Ice chest and 5 gallon water carboy accessible at the tailgate end.

Being able to bed down under the cap at a moment’s notice is a huge boon when travelling. On a multi-day drive being able to simply climb out of the aptly named bed in the morning and start making miles really helps. No gear to get out, set up, take down, put back. No wet tent to deal with in the morning

I have a trip coming up that is reachable 9 hours to the put in. Instead of leaving at 4am to get there by 1pm and hurriedly beat feet in to camp before it gets dark, I’m leaving well after rush hour the day before, driving somewhere close, and sleeping in the truck so I can be at the launch in the early morning windcalm. Even if motels were free I would still detest them.

I am convinced that a truck with a cap can be the ultimate canoeist vehicle. I was convinced of that in 1984, and sleeping in the plushy outfitted bed of the truck is as comfortable as home. But more convenient, everything I want is within arm’s reach.

Lots of truck and cap discussion here. Sorry some of the photos are blurry. freaking Photobucket strikes again. ... ping-truck

Author:  redstart mouser [ September 25th, 2019, 12:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

if this works it shows a pic of two canoes mid tie down process. we moved the cradles to be surrounding the green canoe since it sat flush and then the belly straps and front tie down went on. It looks like the green canoe is sitting on the roof of the truck but it isn't, sorry for the lousy pic. this is Sept 2019 and the rack and cradles bought in 2007. racks can slide back and forth to any position. Same with the cradles on top.

this is also my truck with just one canoe: ... 1251993326

edited: i guess the pics are kind of crummy. If you do a google image search of tracrac canoe you will see a lot of pictures of...kayaks... on the racks. maybe there is a reason the system is preferred by kayakers?? 8)

Author:  martin2007 [ September 25th, 2019, 2:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

Thnx for the photo there, RM. Much appreciated.

Mike: You're feeding my imagination. I risk going off in 14 directions all at once. Actually, too late. I've just started looking at toppers, truck campers, trucks, rack options, and post-graduate engineering studies in vehicle modification. I've harboured on-and-off fantasies about sleep-in road-tripping vehicles for years. Now my Mazda replacement problem is triggering an ultimatum: shit or get off the pot.
I've read through your thread on tripping vehicles. Pure Mike! Maybe even better and scarier than solo-ized Penobscot projects and varnish endurance experiments! Great ideas! Thank you for all the detail and for such entertaining narrative. Had to google "ARE", "Leer", "Taco", and "inflatable companions" just to understand some of it. Fun!!
I wasn't aware of the cult around "Tacos". I'll have to look into them some more. For the moment I have my eye on a used F150 4x4 with a 3.5 V6. Early research has me considering pairing it with a used Sun-lite truck camper that seems to be compatible with the truck's 1500 lb. payload. Needless to say, I'm wary of letting the tail wag the dog. i.e. buying the pickup because I happened to find a cheap truck camper to put on it.
What I haven't mentioned so far: I've been spending the better part of my last several winters in ski country in Colorado. This year I want to extend our travels in the spring into desert country in the southwest. In other words, I want a versatile vehicle that I can store skis and stuff in, not get stuck in snowdrifts, carry boats on, sleep in when I want to, and road-trip till I'm blue in the face. To be honest, though, I don't know shoot about trucks.

Author:  ameaney [ September 25th, 2019, 2:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

martin2007 wrote:

I wasn't aware of the cult around "Tacos". I'll have to look into them some more.

The taco "cult" leads to some pretty outrageous pricing on used models. I've seen 2012's here in Ontario priced at 30,000.00!! Also they are a small truck I'm not a big guy but compared to my f150 the cab seems very cramped.

But a they are a great off road option.

Newer tacos (I think post 2016) have a camry engine and the reviews have not been stellar... Seems that the engine doesn't suit the type of use the taco (or any pickup) is really designed for.

Author:  scratchypants [ September 25th, 2019, 5:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

Yes - you can't open the tailgate with the goalpost installed, unless you remove it (the tailgate) completely.

Page 1 of 4 All times are UTC - 5 hours
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group