Transporting a canoe, kayak, or a small skiff on a pair of car roof racks is a convenient way to get to the water, but once the boat is on the racks, access to it is not at all convenient. I’ve seen some boaters bring ladders to the launch site, but they are bulky things to pack in a car with all the other gear brought along for an outing.

Photographs by the author

The Tooenjoy (above) and Ekepin (below) car-door steps are compact enough to stow easily in a glove compartment or car-door pocket.

Rodney Lewis of Santa Barbara, California, realized that cars didn’t need ladders, they just need a step. Coming up with a step was easy; how to support it was the hard part. The genius of his solution was recognizing that vehicles already had built into them the place to attach the step: the door striker plate. The striker is attached to the vehicle frame and anchors the door latch. It’s strong enough, as required by federal regulations, to keep a door from flying open in the event of a crash, so it can easily support a person’s weight. The cast-metal step Lewis created has a horizontal platform to stand on and a vertical hook that engages the striker and hangs from it.

His concept was patented in 2017. It went to market under the name Moki, after the steps carved by the ancient Anasazi of the American Southwest as handholds and footholds to climb vertical cliff faces. Since 2017, many devices that serve as car-door steps to get access to loads carried on roof racks have appeared on the market with the Moki. I bought two: one has the step below the striker, like the Moki but hinged to fold flat; the other, also folding, has its step at the level of the striker.

The Ekepin Foldable Car Step closely resembles the original Moki in size, shape, and function, but its hook isn’t fixed. It folds into a recess in the step so it’s easier to store when not in use and won’t take up much room in a glove compartment.

A slip-on rubber cap prevents the inboard end from marring the car-door frame, and a low conical insert on the outboard end is designed to break tempered auto glass in an emergency. The step measures 5″ × 3″—room for one foot—and has a diamond pattern for traction. It is very easy and intuitive to hang from the striker and is rated to support up to 440 lbs.

The Ekepin has a textured platform with a slot for the pivoting hook. The shiny conical point is for breaking auto glass in an emergency.

With the Ekepin step, I can reach over or into any canoe or kayak on the roof racks. There is only room for one foot on the Ekepin, so I stand on one leg and steady myself with the other.

The Universal Car Door Step with 5 Gear Adjustment from Tooenjoy also folds for storage, but its step is on the same level as the vehicle’s striker. It is supported by a pivoting steel arm that rests against the door frame below the striker and can be adjusted to accommodate the contours of the frame in the rear doors of a four-door car. The 7″ × 2″ aluminum step provides enough room to stand on it with both feet. Its top has a series of raised ridges and a textured coating for a non-slip surface. The support arm has two pivoting rubber feet that won’t mar the car’s finish. When installed and in use, the step and support arm grip around the striker like pliers, ensuring it won’t accidentally slip off. A quick adjustment is required to find the best of the five ratcheted settings to bring the step to a horizontal position. It has a load rating of 400 lbs.

The Tooenjoy pinches the striker securely when weight is applied to the step. The fittings at the bottom pivot and compress slightly to prevent damaging the doorframe’s finish.

Even though I wear size-13 shoes, I can get both feet on the Tooenjoy step. It sits at the level of the car’s striker rather than hanging below it. I’m 6′ tall, so I don’t need the extra height, but those who are shorter in stature or have a taller vehicle will welcome the higher perch.

The Tooenjoy’s support arm is ratcheted and can change its angle to accommodate different door frames.

While the rear doors of many four-door vehicles have to accommodate the rear wheel wells, both steps can work in the contoured opening. The Ekepin is short enough to fit the available vertical space and the Tooenjoy, seen here, has a support that can be adjusted to fit.

Both of the steps have performed well for me and provide a solid platform to stand on. The car-door frame around the strikers on my SUV show no signs of flexing when my full weight is on either step. I’m 6′ tall, so I don’t need the extra 3″ of height provided by the Tooenjoy, but I like having the room it provides for both feet. Climbing up on either step requires both hands on the car, so it’s not practical to lift a canoe or kayak to roof racks while ascending. Once in position, it’s important to take care to stay upright and solidly planted. The height the steps provide is helpful for checking straps, hatches, and cockpit of a kayak carried upright on the racks. They also make a good perch for cleaning the roof of a car. Just remember to remove the step before slamming the door shut.

Christopher Cunningham is the editor of Small Boats.

The Ekepin Foldable Universal Car Door Step is sold on Amazon for $14.99. The Tooenjoy Universal Car Door Step, also on Amazon, sells for $24.99.

Is there a product that might be useful for boatbuilding, cruising, or shore-side camping that you’d like us to review? Please email your suggestions.