How To Transport A Kayak

Transporting kayaks could be a cumbersome task if you are unaware of the right way to do it. Before you purchase a kayak, you must know how you will transport it to your home.

One of the simplest and most affordable options is to use a roof rack system, which typically consists of two sturdy bars that attach to your vehicle’s roof and allow you to transport your kayak safely.

However, not everyone finds a roof rack to be an ideal option. Some people may want to know options other than a roof rack system.

Another option is to transport your kayaks by using a trailer or boat carrier, especially if you plan on going long distances or transporting multiple kayaks at once. This can be a great choice if you have limited space in your vehicle or need to transport multiple kayaks together as a group.

Of course, another option is to transport your kayak by using a car-top carrier, which rests on the top of your car and allows you to transport your kayak without needing a roof rack system.

This is a great choice if you want to transport your kayaks easily and quickly, but it may not be the best option if you need to safely transport your kayak over long distances or on rough terrain.

This comprehensive guide is just what you need to know about kayak transport with and without a roof rack.

No matter which method you choose, it’s important to take precautions when transporting a kayak so that you can safely enjoy your adventure on the water. Always make sure that your kayak is properly secured, check for any signs of wear or damage before setting off, and always use caution when driving with your kayak on top of your vehicle.
With these tips in mind, you can easily transport your kayak and have fun exploring all the great outdoors has to offer!

In this “How to Transport A Kayak Guide” we will highlight different ways of transportation that you should be familiar with before purchasing a new kayak.

So, let’s dig in a little deeper.

How to Transport Your Kayak

Do you need a roof rack at all for kayak transportation? Not necessarily. If you have more than one kayak there are many other ways which can help you transport kayaks without requiring a roof rack.

You could transport it in a pickup, trailer, SUV, DIY roof rack or even use aftermarket roof racks.

All of these methods are discussed in detail below. So, read on to know about them:

How To Transport A Kayak Without a Roof Rack System

In a pickup truck bed

One of the most convenient ways to transport your kayaks is to use a pickup truck. It is ideal for shorter kayaks; however, it may not be suitable for longer ones, such as sea kayaks or fishing kayaks.

Make sure to secure your kayak properly if you decide to transport it in a truck bed. To make your kayak fit snugly into the truck, you may use rope or cam straps. If you are good with making solid knots, then tying your kayak with a rope would secure it.

Cam buckle or ratchet straps are used to tie the kayak to your vehicle. These are available in hardware or automotive shops. They are long pieces of hard-wearing nylon joined with adjustable buckles that are placed around any object. They can be ratcheted tight to keep the object secure in place. You may require around two to five sets of these straps to fit your kayak in your truck.

 on a trailer

Kayak trailers are another option for carrying kayaks. Just about any vehicle can tow these lightweight and small-sized trailers. If you are transporting kayaks and equipment for several people, then kayak trailers would be quite useful for you.

Your vehicle will require a hitch to tow a kayak trailer and an electrical connection for lights. A two-inch hitch works for most trailers. Make sure you check the technical features before buying any kayak trailer.

Hitch your kayak trailer to your vehicle according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then simply load your kayak onto the trailer, making sure that it is secured tightly in place with tie-downs or other suitable transport devices.

Bear in mind you may require some experience for pulling the trailer while driving, especially when driving in narrow lanes or reversing.

A kayak trailer provides extra space to accommodate other objects as well. It may have space for loading bikes, boats, cargo boxes, and any other items that could be tied down. Thus, a trailer could be a nice option if you want to transport two kayaks or more.

Inside an SUV

Transporting your kayak inside an SUV is possible if you have plenty of space in the back, but it is definitely not recommended. If you are placing your kayak inside your SUV, place a rubber mat on the floor to minimize friction, thus keeping the kayak safe.

While loading the kayak inside your vehicle, be sure to place it upside down and fasten it with straps or buckles to prevent it from sliding around. You should be extra cautious when driving an SUV with a kayak inside.

However, remember that an SUV is not large enough to securely transport the kayak. Most kayakers would advise against transporting a kayak inside the vehicle except if it can be deflated or folded. You may take the help of buckles and straps for tying the kayak down, but it is highly risky since the kayak may come loose if you take a sharp turn or suddenly break at traffic lights.

Moreover, having a big kayak in the back of your SUV would probably block your rear-view mirror, making it difficult for you to drive safely. And the kayak would most likely ruin the interior of your vehicle. Therefore, transporting your kayak inside an SUV may not be a feasible option.

DIY Roof Rack

You can make a roof rack yourself with the help of a few supplies and follow some important steps. The two main things that you require are pool noodles and cam buckle or ratchet straps.

Pool noodles or any kind of polyurethane tube having a hole in the center are used for making a roof rack. They are available at superstores or hardware stores. Be sure to get one that is large, heavy-duty, and thick so that it can cover your vehicle’s roof completely.

Cam buckle or ratchet straps are also available in automotive or hardware stores. These long pieces of nylon are attached to adjustable buckles, allowing them to be used around different items. They fit tightly around the object to keep it in place safely.

Following are the steps involved in a DIY roof rack:

  1. Firstly, the pool noodles must sit on the roof of your vehicles.
    Make sure the shape of your pool noodles fits the vehicle’s size. They should sit well on the roof and not extend unevenly on any side.
    Pool noodles protect the roof from accidental scratches and provide a durable and flexible base for the kayak to rest on. Pool noodles should be placed every three feet, one in the center and the other at the front and back.
    After you set the noodles in their place, tie them with the ratchet straps. One set will go through the pool noodles’ hole in the middle and then over the inside of the car, passing through the open doors.
    This will secure the noodles in place.
  2. Place the kayak on top of the vehicle once the pool noodles are adjusted securely. Flip over your kayak to face the cockpit down. Then lift it onto the car’s roof with the midpoint of the kayak placed on the pool noodle in the center.
    The pool noodles keep the kayak securely in place and protect your vehicle’s roof from any damage.
  3. After placing the kayak on the top, you need to tie it down with straps to keep it safe. Make sure the front and rear doors are open as you pass one set of ratchet straps through the front of the kayak.
    The straps will be joined inside the vehicle using the cam or ratchet strap to secure it. Repeat the step for the rear of your kayak. Do not tighten the straps too much, or they may damage the hull of the kayak and roof of your car.
    Keep the buckles in a reachable position so that you could loosen or tighten them during your journey.
  4. Your kayak needs to be prevented from moving backward or forward.
    To secure it, you need another set of ratchet straps. Pass the straps through the front buckles or carry handles of the kayak and then fasten them below the vehicle using a hook or a carabiner.

How To Transport A Kayak With a Roof Rack

Using a Foam Block Rack System

A foam block roof rack system could be an ideal option for you if you do not have the required side rails or crossbars to carry the kayak on top of your vehicle.
Take care of a few things while applying this method to avoid any inconvenience.

The foam carrier has two foam blocks secured with ratchet straps passing inside the car. Then, the kayak is placed over the foam blocks and secured using ropes or straps. You must make sure that you tie down the foam blocks before tying down your kayak.
The foam blocks may slide around if you do not tie them down properly.

 Using Cross Bar and Tower System

You may use a crossbar for transporting your kayak if you have crossbars installed. Crossbars run through the roof of the vehicle.
Most of them attach to factory-installed bars positioned front to back on the car. Some crossbars also go in the truck’s bed.

A basic rack system consists of four vertical towers and two horizontal bars. They can accommodate different gear-transporting accessories.
The clamps hold the towers in place; however, some are permanently attached to the roof. They are quite stable and long-lasting, and capable of holding various gears. Therefore, it is a good option for transporting your kayak on a tower.

Can You Transport a Kayak on a Sedan?

A lot of people haul their kayaks on a Sedan. The use of racks and different accessories that come along could make transporting a kayak on a Sedan quite convenient. You may keep the kayak upside down over the roof due to the flat surface.

It prevents bouncing or making noise while driving. When you put a rack on your vehicle, it is a good idea to put some padding on your rack to protect your boat. Also, to tie down your kayak, use a ratchet strap and bow tie-down for secure placement of your kayak.

Accessories for kayak Roof Racks

There are various accessories for roof racks that you can consider for transporting your kayak. Most people would attach their kayak directly to the roof rack crossbars. However, it is more convenient and safer to place more boats or other equipment on the roof rack using saddle cradles, kayak stackers, or J-cradles.

People with huge vehicles or limited weight capacity could use a load assist system. It is quite useful for heavyweight and big kayaks.

You will find a variety of add-ons for roof racks that make transporting boats easier.
You may consider Thule products for added convenience when it comes to the loading of your kayak. All you need to do is pick the one that best aligns with your requirements.

Transporting Kayaks – The Best Way

There are several options you could explore for hauling your kayak. However, a lack of relevant information about your gear and vehicle could overwhelm you with so many options. The best way to transport a kayak is the one that suits your personal preferences. It depends on the rack system already installed on your vehicle and the quality of rail systems you would purchase.

But, if you do not have a rack system installed, then installing one could add up to your cost. If you have a high budget, it is great to get a rack system for your vehicle.
Also, rack systems are immovable. This means that, unlike other options, you cannot remove the rack from your vehicle. So, if you do not like the appearance of your vehicle with a roof rack on, then you must revisit your decision.

Besides, you would require a roof rack for transporting several kayaks. But be careful of how much weight the racks can endure. If you do not want a roof rack, it is best to use a kayak trailer. It can hold much more weight than others and have more capacity to accommodate multiple kayaks.

Kayak trailers are also one of the quickest options when it comes to loading and unloading the kayak. You simply have to fasten the kayaks to the trailer and the trailer to the hitch. So, depending on your budget and personal preference, you may pick the best method of hauling your kayak.

Securing the Kayak

You must ensure that you keep your kayak secure using the tie-down straps. The polyethylene material of the kayak may cause it to slide on the factory crossbars or aftermarket systems, making it difficult to fit securely.

To resolve the problem, you may add rack pads that provide a better grip to hold the kayak and allow it to fit snugly. You may order the SUV rack pads for a factory rack, whereas, for aftermarket bars, consider using the standard rack pads.

Moreover, once you load the kayak, make sure to secure it with tie-down straps or ropes. If you are not good at tying knots, it is better to stick with tie-down straps. The tie-downs should be spaced out as much as the rack allows.

Make sure you tighten the straps inside the fixture for hard-racks. This keeps them from sliding off the rack. On the contrary, for soft-racks, fasten the tie-downs through the rack, and for inflatable racks, pass the tie-downs through your vehicle’s doors along with the rack fastener.

After the tie-downs are secured, make sure to tighten them. However, remember not to pull them very tightly as they may harm your boat.

Be sure to check the boat thoroughly once you are done with the fastenings. Lift the bow of the kayak gently. If it stays affixed, then it indicates the boat is fitted perfectly. If it moves, you should recheck your tie-downs and make sure that the bow does not move at all.

To be extra cautious, some people choose to secure the bow and stern to the bumpers. Get a long rope, tie the front handle of the kayak, and attach it to the front bumper.

Then, get another long rope to tie the back handle and fasten it with the back bumper. You do not need to tighten the ropes. The purpose is to exert a mild downward pressure on the kayak to prevent it from moving forward or backward during driving.

Lastly, take a good look at all the fasteners, ensuring the kayak is safely fastened. If you take a stop somewhere or leave the vehicle for some time, remember to check everything again before embarking on your journey.


Every kayaker needs to learn and master the right way of transporting the kayak. There are several ways to haul your kayak, but you must choose one that best goes with your vehicle and budget.

Besides, getting the kayak from your vehicle to the water after arriving at the destination is the final step that lies ahead of you. Many people carry the kayak over their shoulders and walk to the water. It is the simplest and cheapest method; however, it may not be convenient for some people. Long and heavy kayaks require a lot of strength to carry on the shoulder, making them tough to carry.

An ideal option is to get a kayak cart. You will find various options available in the market that you can choose from based on their features.

Consider the weight, style, and gear of the kayak, along with the type of terrain you would have to cross to get to the water. Keeping in mind these factors, you will find the best fit for paddling.

Hopefully, after reading through this comprehensive guide, you would know how to transport your kayak. You could transport the kayak securely with or without a rack system, depending on the equipment you have available.

Whatever transport method you choose, make sure to keep your kayak safe and secure.

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