My first kayak was only intended to be a boat to carry with our camper; allowing us to get out on the water on weekend getaways. I added a TracOne TracRac to my truck to make it possible to haul it and the camper without them hitting each other, then I would throw it in the bed (with a bed extender) once we had set up the site. It was a pretty good way to haul it, but it was a lot of work throwing a hundred-plus pound kayak on top of the rack. I actually carried a milk crate that would make it possible for my short legs to reach high enough – which is not a pretty sight to see. I would have killed for a good kayak trailer during those days!
Kayak Trailer Options: How to Find the Right One for You
Before we go much farther, find a kayak tournament check-in and you will be able to see just about every possible type of trailer… utility, jet ski, boat, homemade, DIY kayak trailer…some you may not be sure what it really ever was, but it is functional. You will see small tires, big tires, narrow tires, fat tires; tires that most likely show air through them due to the miles they have traveled. Brand names, no names… renamed…. you name it, it is hauling a kayak to the water somewhere across the globe.
My original trailer was a Harbor Freight trailer that took me two long days to put together. It came in two boxes with what felt like thousands of nuts, bolts, and washers. About halfway through the assembly process that tested my years of engineering skills, I considered dragging it out of the garage and putting an “almost finished” for sale sign on it – but then knew I would have to fight the HOA, so I persevered.
It was a decent trailer and served me well for almost a year; but I hadn’t considered one thing, how far and fast I would be traveling. A Tennessee State Trooper was kind enough to point out that doing 70 mph heading back from Guntersville with such a small and light trailer, with small tires, was not too safe. He was even quicker to point out that the speed limit was 45 mph, but that is another story for another time.
I hadn’t considered the safety of what I was doing. To be quite honest, I never thought I would travel farther than Yellow Creek or maybe Kentucky Lake (40-minutes from home) with the cheap utility trailer. But as I watched him writing a ticket in my rearview mirror, I thought about what he had said. Was this the best trailer to haul my Hobie PA across the states? When I made it home, I went on a quest to determine what would be my ideal trailer.
I made a list of the things I was looking for:
#1. 12-inch Tires.
I wanted larger tires because I planned to put a lot of miles on a trailer. I didn’t want 8-inch tires, nor did I want skinny tires that might allow the trailer to shift from side to side under the weight.
#2. The Ability to Haul Multiple Kayaks.
My wife Joy and I love to be on the water. I wanted to be able to haul my Hobie PA, her Hobie Compass, at least one of the other Hobie’s I keep in the garage for company that may join me or to demo. Also, if I needed to complete a float trip with folks, I wanted to be able to haul a few.
#3. I Wanted a Trailer with Substance.
I had no plan to haul the trailer with my wife’s Nissan Sentra (which we have traded for a Frontier), I am using a full-size Titan. As functional as the Harbor Freight trailer had been, it bounced, rattled, and shook while traveling. I had lost a fender somewhere between Clarksville and Cedar Creek Lake in Kentucky; not exactly sure where.
#4. It Had to Fit in the Garage.
One side of my garage is too full to breathe in, much less add a trailer. The other side is shorter. So I had a length restriction to consider unless I wanted to empty the garage – and I wanted to be fishing instead of digging through all that stuff.
#5. I Wanted it to Look Kinda Cool.
Ok, so maybe this is not a real quality to search for in a trailer but I wanted it to look like it was meant to be a kayak tournament trailer… I know that makes me a bit shallow, but I had seen trailers at events that were pretty awesome and I caved to that desire.
Your list of “wants” may, and will most likely be different based on space, needs, or the amount you want to spend. But regardless of the trailer you choose, you need to understand how to set up your vehicle for towing. Reese Hitches has a fairly informative page with links that can educate you about the differences.
Also, make sure your trailer has lights and the correct wiring for your vehicle. If you are comfortable with searching yourself, this link can get you started. If not, contact someone locally to help.
In Tennessee, we are not required to register all trailers. Make sure to follow your state and local requirements when it comes to registration. The last thing you want is to pay money for a ticket that you could use to buy a toolbox or rod tubes for your trailer.
So without further ado, let’s walk through a few trailer options…
Kayak Trailer Options: The Bed Extender
A lot of guys still carry theirs using bed extenders like the Boonedox T-Bone or any number of other versions like the MaxxHaul, and it can be as simple as throwing it on top of your car or you can add a ladder rack (or just the bed of a truck).
Casey Kunder’s T-bone bed extender.
Kayak Trailer Options: The Utility Trailer
You will find many guys trailering their boats using this method; there is nothing wrong with it and is where I started; with a converted utility trailer.
The mod can be as simple as just throwing your kayak on it (like Donald Guthrie above) to some fairly elaborate setups.
I had assembled the trailer then added some 3-inch PVC to serve as runners for the kayak. In an effort to allow multiple kayaks to be hauled, I added a truck rack. Many anglers have done the same; there are even kits that are meant to be used on utility trailers for this purpose. Malone has several options for converting trailers like the utility trailer cross bar system.
A friend of mine, Jay Minor, had used his trailer to haul kayaks on the weekend, then would throw sides on it to haul trash or leaves when he needed to clean up around the house. He eventually added a Malone cross rails conversion kit, removed the sides, and created a nice kayak trailer that he still uses today. It still allows him to remove the bunks if he needs to do some work around the house.
Jay Minors Trailer with the cross rails conversion kit!
Anthony Shingler hauled his Jackson on an old utility trailer that I often worried wouldn’t make it home. Its sole purpose was to be a kayak trailer, he had attached a cooler and PVC also, but the real issue to me was the tire size. It had 8-inch tires and he was constantly wearing them out running mile after mile each weekend. Those tires left us sitting at ramps changing them… which is why I knew that I wanted to have larger wheels on my “dream” trailer.
Again, there is nothing wrong with using utility trailers. They can be modified to fit whatever your needs; even adding camper shells to use it to sleep in. Just make sure that before you build a tiny house to haul along with you, that you know the weight limitations of the axle, tires and the hitch you will be using to tow it.
Kayak Trailer Options: Boat/Jet Ski Trailers
These trailers are perfect for kayaks; they are smaller, lighter than a bass boat trailer, and tow really well. Most kayaks are in the 10 to 14-foot range, so there is little more to do than adjust the bunks on the trailer. A quick search on Craig’s List or the Facebook Marketplace (even just watch local kayak club pages) will turn up a few very reasonably priced versions. I know some guys who bought them for a hundred bucks, then put a hundred more in them; now they have a virtually new trailer. If you are looking to haul more than a single kayak, you can add kits like the cross rail conversion kits, or you can go with a larger trailer designed for a full-size boat.
Shingler has finally converted from the old utility trailer to a jet ski trailer.
Jeremy Hines, a guy who fishes with our local club, has taken a full-size trailer and modified it. It has a truck box, a ladder rack to haul more boats and he took the time to paint it; an extremely nice trailer that he bought then put some elbow grease into.
He took the time to bring his vision of what a trailer should be for him to life.
You can do as much, or as little as you choose. I would recommend if you buy a used trailer, especially one that had been submerged in water, that you check the bearings. Grease them, replace them or at least check them. It is hard to find an auto parts store that carries the bearings for your specific trailer open on Sunday on a remote country road… trust me on this one, it is very hard!
Kayak Trailer Options: Trailers Designed For Kayaks
The availability of trailers designed specifically for kayaks is growing at the same rate as the interest in kayak fishing is growing. There are companies that offer several different models of trailers. These are lightweight and fairly sturdy; with many configurable to meet your needs and the number of kayaks you want to haul. Malone is one of the most recognized names with many models, and Yakima has some nice offerings including the new Easy Rider. There are many companies across the states that recognize the need to offer more robust trailers for anglers; many willing to build custom designs for you.
I personally chose one of those companies, Tennessee Trailers, after doing quite a bit of research. It had larger tires, could haul multiple kayaks, had some substance to it (a heavy-duty trailer), fits in the space I had available and looks pretty cool. I chose a galvanized version for extended durability; I don’t ever want to buy another kayak trailer, and this one should last.
The only problem I’ve had with the trailer is that one of the fenders collapsed while driving home from Wisconsin. I was driving through Illinois at about 70 mph (ok, maybe more) when I heard a “BANG” and looked up to see the trailer raised up in the air over my tailgate. I stopped to find that a deer had run into the trailer and crushed the fender against the wheel. The kayak was untouched, with just a bit of deer on it, and the trailer was still completely functional. I contacted the folks who built it, they fit me in, and I was back on the road in no time with a new fender. Had I not opted for a more substantial trailer, or been hauling the small utility trailer when this happened, I am certain the outcome would not have been so positive.
You do not have to use a kayak trailer, there are days where I do not because it is too remote where I am launching.
There are a lot of anglers who will never switch to trailers and will be perfectly content. But if you are going to haul one of the larger kayaks on the market, or carry friends and family along on the trips; you might want to consider a kayak trailer. It just makes it so much easier to launch. I can get all of my gear ready, then back down and push it off; then when I come back, I can pull it on the kayak trailer and move out of the way to unload the gear.
Either way… if you do get a small utility trailer… when you get pulled over for going too fast the correct reply to “Do you think it is safe to go this fast with that little trailer?” is not “oh yeah, it handles 85 pretty easy”… just some parting advice.
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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