I had a Malone Stax system prior to this unit - going up and down a step ladder to put a heavy plastic sea kayak (60lbs) ontop of a tall SUV was getting old fast - more so that I was doing this twice each loading/unloading (for wife and I). Don't even mention what it was like on windy days...ugh...
The search commenced for a better alternative - the options considered:
- Thule Hullavator
- Malone Telos
- Various push from the rear roller loaders
- Kari Tek Easy Loader
The Hullavator is really cool - however, the way it grips the kayak, it is not so optimal for composites, they weigh alot so that eats away at your max weight rating for your rack bar capacity, Max load is 2 kayaks per roof, one each, they are expensive
The Telos is also kind of neat, but still would need a step ladder for the final push to load into the rack and tie down - not really designed for more than 2 kayaks on the roof.
Rear rollers - the most simple solution, however, it seems the rollers are not so great against the hull and they wear out quickly - also limited to 2 kayaks on the roof.
Trailer - Can load up to four kayaks at waist level, better aero dynamics since its behind the car/suv. Downside its a trailer - makes driving in tight confines more stressful, getting a trailer not optimized for kayaks (suspension) can very easily damage kayaks. Trailers made for kayaks are expensive, have to register and tag it down where I live.
This brings me to the Kari Tek Easy Loader - Its wobbly the first few times when loading (until you get the technique down) and a real pain for the initial setup (will get more into that later) - however it is the most affordable option if you would like to load and carry up to 4 kayaks without too much hassle. It is a really simple setup - just a slide and lever action - not many moving parts and all actions are manually done = less stuff that can break down.
I have the large version (I think 160cm) - and have it loaded with 4 sets of Thule Hull-a-port pros (the ones that fold down when not in uses)
In practical use - I can easily load and tie down two kayaks (including bow and stern lines) in about 20 minutes doing it myself. Three kayaks slow me down a bit, however if loading 4 it takes noticeably longer because you have to load the top most kayak when the rack is on the side of the car/suv (in my case I need a single step ladder to reach it) then slide and lock it into place and load the remaining 3 kayaks. - Loading that first kayak helps load and lift the three remaining kayaks by acting as a counterweight.
In the three years I have owned it, the only problem I have encountered was when someone was overzealous and helped me push/slide the rack back on the roof - and pushed/wedged the rack off alignment from the bars - was easy to resolve though - take off support/alignment tubes (wing nuts) - lift the offending bar and place back on track.
That brings me to another plus of this system - you can partially take it off when you are not kayaking - and if parking in a really questionable area, lock it inside of you car/suv. The sliding rack portion can be disassembled (2 sliding rack bars, 2 support/alignment tubes) and unbolt 4 13mm bolts and away you go - takes less than 15 minutes to reassemble with a socket wrench, 10 minutes to disassemble.
Now for the most horrible thing about this rack - you will most likely eat up a day doing the initial install of this unit. In reality it may take you the entire weekend. The issue with this system - is that the base bars need to be perfectly parallel and even in height with each other. If they are not, the system will not work. If doing this outside, wear sunscreen before you start - it is amazing how fast time flies when your trying to get everything plumb and even (yeah I got burnt bad...real bad...)
Oh yes another con or rather something to keep in mind - when loading or loading the kayaks - try to always park on a level area when loading/unloading - if the drivers side is tilted lower (assuming you load/unload from passenger side) - you will have to fight with gravity to unload it - though it may make loading easier and vis versa when the passenger is higher than the driver side...
The other con with this system is that it may be difficult to find in the US - something about importing issues from the UK (Kari Tek I believe is based in Scotland)
Looking back - if I had to do this all over again I probably would do the same exact thing I am doing now. Then again when I watch folks load and unload from a trailer I do feel some envy in their ease of load/unload from waist height - but that quickly dissipates when I see how they have to maneuver their now 17' trailer out of the parking lot and into traffic.