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How to Transport a Kayak

Last Updated on October 17, 2022 by Donnell Henderson

Eyeing that awesome fishing kayak to level up your fishing fun? Before you even buy it, you have to think about how to get it from your place all the way to the water and back.

Transporting a kayak can be a tricky business. There are many types of kayaks and many ways to transport them, and not all of the methods are created equal. Some are simple, some are complex, and some are downright dangerous. Below we will go over the basics, as well as some advanced tips, for transporting your kayak, whether by car or by air.

Safest Methods of Kayak Transportation

how to transport a kayak

The first thing to consider when transporting a kayak is how you plan to transport it. One of the safest and most effective methods is to secure it to the roof of your vehicle with a roof rack. It’s important to note that kayaks are heavy and can damage the roof of your car or truck if not properly secured.

Aftermarket roof racks are the best option for transporting kayaks if you have more than one kayak. Although you have to be a bit conscious while choosing aftermarket roof rack systems.

If you have a pickup truck, you may be able to transport your kayak in the bed of your truck, but make sure it is secured with ropes or straps in case the truck hits a bump. You could also transport kayaks in the bed of another type of vehicle, such as an SUV, minivan, or van, but again, make sure that the kayak is secured so that it does not shift around during transit and cause damage.

If you don’t have a roof rack or any other type of carrying device for your vehicle and still want to transport your kayak, there are other methods, such as using a trailer or purchasing an additional vehicle specifically for transporting the kayak. Using a trailer allows for more flexibility when loading and unloading since you will not be limited by having to fit into the space on top of your vehicle.

Factors to Consider When Transporting a Kayak

Kayak Length

The most important consideration is the length of your kayak. If you have a longer kayak, then it won’t fit in your car trunk (which is where most people transport their kayaks).

Kayak Weight

Another consideration is how heavy the kayak is. Most cars can handle kayaks up to 80 or 100 pounds, but if yours has already reached its upper capacity, then you’ll have to look for other options like renting a truck or transporting it on a trailer.


And lastly, you’ll want to consider the material of the kayak. Most people transport their plastic or composite kayaks using a truck or SUV, which both have enough space to accommodate them. However, if you have a fiberglass or Kevlar model weighing more than 100 pounds, you’ll need to rent a trailer instead of using your car.

Roof Rack Harness

The most important part of transporting your kayak is safely securing it to your car’s roof rack. Most racks come with crossbars, which are metal pieces that run vertically on the inside of your car. You need to be sure that the crossbars are secured to your vehicle’s roof and rated to hold your kayak’s weight. You can usually check to see if the bars are rated for weight by looking at the product description or by contacting whoever you bought the rack from.

Guide for Transporting a Kayak

Fasten Tightly

Another important part of securing a kayak is making sure that it is tight enough so that it doesn’t move around but not too tight to damage the paint or make it difficult for you to take off. When attaching your kayak, attach one side and then ensure that it isn’t moving around before attaching the other side.

Proper Spacing

If you want to transport multiple kayaks, make sure that you tie them down securely together with ropes so that they don’t move around and cause damage to each other or yourself during transport.

Always be sure to check that your kayak is secured properly to the vehicle’s roof rack. This can be accomplished by checking the security of the straps that hold the kayak in place and tying down any loose ends. Your vehicle may also require a loading bar, which would run across the front of your kayak and attach to both the hitch receiver and your car rack. It is important to ensure that all of these connections are secure and will not slip or loosen while driving.

Avoid Bumps

The most important part is to pay attention while you are driving. Even if your kayak is strapped down tightly, it could still shift around on top of your car because of bumps in the road or strong winds, so always be aware of how your kayak is moving when you are on the road. The last thing you want is for your kayak to slide off onto the highway during rush hour traffic.

Once you have practiced transporting a kayak safely with a roof rack, it will become second nature, and you will have peace of mind knowing that you can transport a kayak whenever you need to.

Different Categories of Roof Racks

Roof racks are an important piece of kit for anyone who needs to transport large amounts of gear or cargo over long distances. But not every roof rack is made the same, and what works for your friend’s Ford Escape might not be right for your Honda Accord. The good news is that there are a lot of options out there, so you can still get what you need without breaking the bank.

Side Rails and Crossbars

Side rails can be installed on an aftermarket roof rack or factory roof rack, but crossbars must be installed on a factory roof rack. Depending on your chosen brand, this type of attachment could have several different names. Yakima calls them “hooks,” Thule refers to them as “clips,” and so forth. Whichever name they’re given, these pieces serve the same purpose: you attach your carriers to them. These rails are relatively inexpensive and are a good option for those who aren’t looking for anything fancy. If you decide to go with this type of system, make sure you buy ones that fit your specific brand of carrier; Yakima uses a different size than Thule, for example.

Side Rails Only

This type of rack has a series of metal side rails that attach directly to your vehicle’s body. If you don’t plan on putting heavy items on your rack, or if you’ll be using it mostly for bikes and other lightweight items, a side rail rack may work great for you.

Removable Roof Racks

Removable roof racks are a very popular way to transport kayaks when you’re not using them. They’re easy to install and remove, and they’re convenient for transporting other items as well. In this article, we’ll go over the models of removable roof racks that are available on the market today. If you have a vehicle with a rack system attached to your top, it may be worth considering getting some type of Roof Rack that can be attached to the crossbars that are already in place. However, if you don’t have crossbars, you will either have to buy some or create your own system with after-market parts.

Ways of Attaching Kayaks to Roof Racks

There are several different ways of attaching kayaks to roof racks. The best way depends on your particular setup, but it is important that you have a good safety system, so the kayak does not slip off the car or damage the car or the kayak.

Following are some attachments used with roof racks


Saddle racks are a must-have for any vehicle that’s used for outdoor activities like camping, hunting, and of course, kayak fishing. Keeping your gear stored in saddles on the roof of your vehicle keeps it dry and protected from the sun, which helps it to last longer.


The J-cradle is a design that’s become a standard for roof rack attachments and offers a lot of versatility. The four arms of the J can be extended to support different shapes of cargo, and the entire cradle can pivot to ensure stability. This means you can haul tall items like ladders or fishing kayaks without worrying about them tipping over or swinging against your vehicle.

J-cradles are also simple to take on and off, so if you don’t need them all the time, you can leave them at home until you need them. If you’re attaching a single cargo carrier, it helps to set the carrier’s base into the cradle first, then slide it up until the two arms meet at the top. If you need more than one carrier at a time, it’s better to attach each additional one after the first is secure.


The stacker is a simple and affordable way to safely transport your kayak on top of your vehicle. It comes in two pieces: the rubber, which goes into the truck bed or under the trunk area of an SUV, and the metal arm, which connects to the wood or metal side rails on the roof of your car and holds the rubber upright. The metal arm has two prongs that fit into two slots in the wood, but their placement isn’t exact—it’s best to place them where you think they’ll be most secure. This will keep it from slipping off and dropping your precious kayak.

You’ll need to remove a kayak from its watertight case to load it onto the rack. A good trick is leaving one end of it open so you can slide your foot in there and pull it out without lifting it with your hands.

Foam Blocks or Pads

A typical foam block has a foam core with an outer shell made of plastic, wood, aluminum/steel, or a combination. The foam is usually made from closed-cell polyethylene or polypropylene and is extremely lightweight. These materials also make them extremely durable and secure the cargo very well. They can be purchased in different sizes to fit most vehicles and in various quantities, from one up to six blocking units. Foam blocks can protect your cargo by preventing it from shifting inside the vehicle during transport. After being filled with cargo, you can use them as seats for passengers who are riding along for the journey or just for additional seating when camping or tailgating.

Loading Kayak on a Roof Rack

When it comes to loading your kayak on a roof rack, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure you have the right racks for your vehicle. Some SUVs and trucks come with these already, but if you don’t have them, you can add them to your car with no problem. A great tip to remember when loading your kayak up is to secure it with straps for extra support. This helps prevent any damage or mishaps from occurring during transport. To ensure that the kayak is secure and won’t slide around on the roof, it’s also important to always tie it down with ropes or straps.

The most important part of transport is safety. Make sure that nothing has fallen out of place in your vehicle and that everything is secured properly. Tie down the kayak using ropes or straps so it won’t become unbalanced during travel. Because there are different types of straps that come with them like, like cam straps or ratchet straps, so make sure you’re choosing the right one.

Pool noodles are a great way to add an extra layer of protection against scratches and scrapes. Simply cut them in half lengthwise and place them along the sides of your kayak.

Securing a Kayak to a Car

Securing a kayak to a car is a simple enough task: you’ll just need to clear the roof of any obstructions and make sure that there are no sharp protrusions. If your kayak has sharp parts like plastic fins or metal holes, be sure to cover them with padding and attach straps that will hold the boat in place without puncturing it.

While there are many different ways to attach a kayak to the roof of your car, there are three basic methods to choose from: using a roof rack, straps, and an inflatable device. If you have a roof rack already installed on your vehicle, it’s probably easiest to go with that option. If you don’t have anything like that, we recommend going with straps (which can also be used for attaching your kayak to the walls or tailgate of your vehicle). You can get high-quality straps online or at an outdoor sporting goods store.

Ways of Transporting a Kayak without a Roof Rack

Roof racks are great for transporting all sorts of things, not just bikes and skis. Here are some cool ideas for transporting a kayak:

Consider an Inflatable Kayak

You may have considered an inflatable fishing kayak if you’re in the market for a way to get out on the water without having to haul your kayak around. This option is great if you’re tired of feeling like a sardine while you paddle or if you don’t have a car big enough (or steady enough) to transport your hard-shell kayak.

An inflatable kayak can also be easier to store than a hard-shell one, and it’s especially well-suited for those who live in small spaces. Just deflate it, roll it up, and put it in a closet—ready to be inflated when paddling becomes convenient again. They’re also popular as rental boats—a business can quickly get them on location and easily set up for their customers.

They might not be as durable as their hard shell counterparts, though; the material can be punctured by sharp objects that your boat wouldn’t encounter on its normal journey, so there’s an additional worry about storing them properly. Even with all that in mind, they’re still pretty easy to use and can get you out on the water quickly and easily.

Use a Pickup Truck

The first thing to remember is that you need a pickup truck to mount a roof rack. A standard car won’t be able to handle the weight of the cargo you plan to store on the roof, so if you don’t have a pickup truck, you’d better start reconsidering your plans. Next, you should look into the different available styles of attachments for mounting your rack. There are racks made specifically for pickup trucks and universal-fit models that can be mounted onto any vehicle.

Trailer the Kayak

While it’s possible to store your kayak on roof racks, you might find that a roof storage system is either too expensive or not sturdy enough for your purpose. The solution? Trailer the kayak. This way, you can have a portable storage option for your boat, which will be just as easy to use as it would be if you were storing it in an actual trailer with an attached hitch. To keep it secure, purchase one of the available hitch lock options that will hook up to the ball on the hitch and help prevent anyone from being able to take off with your kayak without your permission.

A kayak trailer must be the right size and type for your kayak and be properly secured to your vehicle. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask a professional at a sporting goods store for help. Make sure to practice loading and unloading kayak trailers in an empty parking lot before taking them out on the road.

DIY Roof Rack

While roof racks are a great alternative to having your car stuffed to the brim, they’re not always ideal for all situations. Sometimes it’s difficult or impossible to fit one on top of your vehicle, or you might make an outdoor trip that involves a lot of walking or hiking and don’t want to be weighed down by heavy gear in your car. One solution is a combination of DIY skills and hardware store items that enable you to load up your roof rack with gear that’s readily accessible.


A kayak is a great watercraft that you can use to enjoy a relaxing day on your favorite lake, river, or ocean. It’s also an investment, so you want to take good care of it and make sure to transport it safely.

There are different ways to get the kayak from your car to the water: some people carry their kayak on foot, others get a friend or family member with a truck to help them, and of course, there is always the option of renting a boat trailer. If you have the option of transporting it on public land, do it—you don’t want to damage the environment with your car’s exhaust fumes or leave tire marks on the pristine ground.

Lastly, If the kayak slide off the rack, it could become damaged or, worse, cause an accident. When you reach your destination, be extra careful unloading it.

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