Kayaking Upgrades for Land Rover Defender

30 Aug

I know most of you readers are envious of my big black truck and are puzzled as to why you didn’t make the brave buying decisions I make, but let me tell you that having 2 tonne of British awesomeness isn’t without its problems. For a start, it’s a British car and that means design by committee with a union watching over things to make sure sensible decisions don’t go ahead. I won’t bore you with a description of the air-conditioning unit that seems to have had three different teams working on it without a plan or the headlights that actually make things darker when switched on. Nor will I dilate on the inferno that blasts up from the gearbox, scorching the ‘hand’ brake that nuzzles your left shin at all times. Rather, I will explain how I solved the problem of single-handedly putting a 26kg kayak onto the six foot 6 inch roof.

I went without racks for a long time due to illness first then loss of income next but a small windfall and the onset of Spring prompted action. But what to do? There are several solutions and few of them really work on a vehicle of this height. Here’s my methodology:

1. Put on a set of normal racks like Rhino, Thule or Pro-Rack and then mount my existing kayak cradles on them. This necessitates aero bars. Easy start but then there’s the problem of getting the boat way up there.

2. Get a Hullavator. Good call and this means it will bring the boat down to chest height. Problem is the cost of $719. This plus the racks is an $1100 solution. There’s also the problem of having to push in the side mirror every time I use the kayak. This mirror is the bane of my driving life and took ages to adjust properly. Now that it is, I don’t want to disturb it.

3. Get a roof-top cage and make a set of kayak cradles. Then fashion some sort of boat roller at the back to slide the boat up. This would have the advantage of giving me a rack system that is much more versatile for general 4wd trips. Problem is that these tradesman racks are around $700 or more and then there’s the problem of me manufacturing stuff. Not a brilliant plan.

4. Just go with option 1 and only go out with two people. Poor plan. I paddle a lot with Owen Walton who is somewhere between 4 foot and 51/2 foot tall, maybe a bit more. I am 6’1″ and struggle to reach the top of the truck. Bad plan.

Then Rhino come to the rescue with this thing:

Basically it’s a metal stick that clips onto the roof rack and allows you to lift the prow of the boat up so you can swing the stern to the cradles. I’ll show you:
1 2 3 4 5 6
Pretty neat, huh? At first I thought the bar would be a bit flimsy but once load is applied to it, it held firm. I can actually hang from it and I weigh 100kg. I don’t think I’ll be doing that too many times but the bar by itself can be used to hang a camp light or a solar shower so it is quite versatile. The whole setup cost me $500 and now I am sorted.

The next upgrade isn’t directly kayak related but fits the lifestyle. Most serious 4wds have a side awning attached. I know you can do all this with a tarp and I have a good tarp but for sheer convenience you can’t beat a pull out awning. So I got one while it was on special. There are lots to choose from and I guess they’re all good but I got the Tigerz11 for two reasons. First, it was on special for under $200 and second it is 2m x 3m making it one of the biggest out there. It’s as good as the Rhino or ARB versions and dead easy to set up. See:

1 2 3 4 5

You can get side screens for this awning as well so it’s a pretty handy overnight setup with a swag or two or for just a day on the beach.
My truck grows in awesomeness with each upgrade. I can tell you are all now staring at your current rides with some measure of disgust wondering where you went wrong. I went for a paddle with Owen last week and he picked me up in his Triton. I was appalled at the level of opulence and asked him if he was getting a bit soft in his old age. With no income and the prospect of becoming homeless shortly, at least I will have a decent emergency home and I’ve been told the Defender TD5 will run on used vegetable oil from takeaway deep friers. With a MacDonalds in every town, I should be able to roam the country for ever.


Posted by on August 30, 2013 in Kayaking Life


Tags: , , , ,

8 responses to “Kayaking Upgrades for Land Rover Defender

  1. Colin

    August 30, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    You now need to put some petrol in the thing and get yourself out for an actual paddle

    • rjimlad

      August 30, 2013 at 5:41 pm

      I went out last week with Owen. I have evidence.

      • Colin

        August 30, 2013 at 7:59 pm

        Paddling with one of the 7 dwarfs does not count 😂

  2. Ancient Sea Kayaker

    August 30, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Brad – I used to be extremely tall once (official lie) but 2 marriages, mortgages, kids/grandkids, early retirement, the GFC, voting Labor, etc has all conspired to wear me down.
    With all these mods to the Landie, you might like to join me next Autumn in a little trip up the Oodnadatta Track; (don’t worry I carry a tow rope and the extra load of towing the “awesome machine” will hardly phase the ever reliable Jap/Thai diesel).

    • rjimlad

      August 30, 2013 at 5:41 pm

      Keen As! You might need to add a couple of days to the trip, though.

  3. WR

    August 30, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    I have a similar problem trying to get my heavy plastic yak onto my landcruiser racks.
    I tried a few things but now I just throw a synthetic blanket over the rear rack cradle so it slides easy. Then sit the front of the yak on the blanke covered cradle and lift/slide from the back to get it on.
    Do the reverse to slide off the same way. Seems to work pretty well so far have had no issues.

  4. Ian james

    March 30, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Hi, it is interesting having a black vehicle in Australia with soooo much sun makes them a realy hot vehicle. You should look at getting the roof painted white so it reflects the heat or the old style Safari roof which gives you the thermal barrier to keep the cabin cooler.
    Cheers, Ian the ex communique rep

    • rjimlad

      March 30, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      No! There is nothing pleasant about driving a Defender. It is a calling. The car and driver choose each other and form a bond. An unpleasant and bankrupting bond but a bond nonetheless. It is freezing in winter and scorching in summer. You can paint the roof all you like it won’t make a difference. You see, Land Rovers are British and that means a stiff upper lip no matter the discomfort.


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