How to Transport Your Kayak

 how to transport your kayak

(photo courtesy of @adam_constantine)

Kayaking is super fun and super healthy. But it has its challenges, the first of which is how to transport your kayak to the water you want to paddle.

In this video by Paddle TV, Aqua Bound ProStaffer Ken Whiting covers four ways to get your kayak on your vehicle, to the water and back home again:



“Transporting anything that’s 10 to 18 feet in length is a real problem. And if you don’t do it right, it can become a very serious problem. Not only for you, but for the other people you encounter on the road,” explains Ken.

1. Transport Your Kayak on Your Vehicle’s Rooftop

This is the best option for most people. If your vehicle happens to have built-in racks that’s your best bet. If not, you have some options. There are very nice kayak racks available from companies like Yakima. They’re quite pricey, but very durable and safe to use.

If you don’t want to spend the money on a rack system, a pair of foam racks will also work. You’ll tie them to your kayak’s hull, then attach the kayak to your vehicle.

transport your kayak with foam racks

If your kayak’s seat is removable, take it off your kayak before heading out. It’ll catch less wind and won’t get the chance to fly off.

Kayaks can get heavy and are bulky to carry and lift, so you might need another person  to help you lift it up.

Use heavy-duty nylon ratchet straps to strap the kayak to your car, with straps through both the front and rear doors if you don’t have a rack. Then tie a bow line to a solid anchor point under the front of your car. Give your strap a couple of twists to prevent buzzing.

You can also tie on with good rope using a trucker’s hitch and half-hitch, which Ken shows in the video. Bow and stern lines come next.

2. Transport Your Kayak in Your Pickup Bed

A pickup’s bed is a lot easier to load a kayak into than on top of the vehicle. If your kayak is short enough it can work well to tie it in.

Put the bow into one corner of the bed with the stern hanging off the tailgate and use your cam straps and buckles to anchor it down in a couple different places. You don’t want it to be able to move front to back or side to side. To stop any rocking motion, tie the bow down to the truck’s bed.

transport your kayak in a pickup bed

If your kayak is longer than 12 or 13 feet, you’ll want a tailgate extender. That can handle a boat up to about 15 feet. Any longer than that, say for sea kayaks, you’ll want them on the top of your vehicle or on a trailer.

You can also buy a kayak/canoe rack designed for pickup trucks. That would give you the option to transport longer kayaks.

3. Transport Your Kayak on a Trailer

Trailers—especially those designed specifically for canoes and kayaks—are very easy to load. They’re low enough for one person to load easily. The other huge advantage is the ability to take more than one kayak. Some trailers are designed for four or more.

transport your kayak on a trailer

NOTE: If your kayaks are extra long, like sea kayaks, be sure the trailer’s tongue is long enough that the tips won’t hit your vehicle.

A couple disadvantages of a trailer:

  • You need to be able to back up your vehicle with the trailer attached (easy for some people, but not everyone!)…
  • Parking your vehicle with a trailer could be an issue, depending on where you plan to get on the water.

4. Get an Inflatable or Folding Kayak, Then Transporting Isn’t an Issue

When you have an inflatable or folding kayak you won’t need a rack, a truck or a trailer. Most of these models will fit into the trunk or backseat of almost any car. It also can solve storage issues.

Yes, you’ll need to take the time to inflate it or put it together, but you won’t spend time lifting and tying straps. It probably comes out about even.

There are your options. We hope you found this helpful. Happy paddling!

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