How to Transport Your Kayak

Roof Rack Kayak Holder

You’ve just purchased a new kayak, and now you need to know how to transport it on a roof rack. Taking the necessary precautions to ensure safe transport is crucial to keep you, your vehicle, and other people on the road safe. While it is possible to transport your kayak on just about any vehicle, some racks and methods of securing will work better than others. Let’s explore some of the options available. 

Determine What Type of Roof Rack You Have 

The first part of knowing how to transport your kayak on a roof rack is determining what type of roof rack you have. The ideal roof rack for kayak transportation will have side rails for a frame with two or more crossbars covering the width of the roof. With this setup, you’ll only need a few attachments before you’re ready to travel. 

Other roof racks will have only side rails. If this is what your vehicle has, you may want to purchase crossbars that attach to your side rails separately. Options for crossbars abound, so finding the right style and size for your vehicle shouldn’t be too difficult. If you don’t want to purchase crossbars, another DIY option is to lay pool noodles width-wise across the roof of your car for the kayak to rest on. Use three sections of pool noodle – one for the bow, one for the middle, and one for the stern. Avoid this option if you plan to transport your kayak often, as it is far less secure than other options.

If your vehicle doesn’t have any type of roof rack, you may be able to buy removable ones. Check with your vehicle’s manufacturer or conduct a quick search on the internet to find an option that works best. 

Use a Kayak Carrier

When choosing a kayak carrier, consider the size and weight of your kayak, how many kayaks you will be transporting, and how regularly you plan to travel with your kayak. If you plan only to transport your kayak a few times, you can save some money with cushioned crossbar pads or foam blocks. You can attach these temporary additions directly to your crossbars.

J-style and saddle-style carriers are intended for enthusiasts that transport their kayaks frequently, or that need a little more protection. A saddle is a small cushioned platform that you can attach to the roof rack. A pair of saddles are often used for extra support – one for the bow and one for the stern. However, you can also use just one under the middle. J-cradles allow you to transport the kayak on its side, which will help prevent the kayak from warping out of shape. It’s also easier to transport two kayaks side by side with this method. 

Properly Secure Your Kayak to the Rack

Another element to learning how to transport your kayak on a roof rack is securing your kayak to the roof rack. To avoid damaging your kayak or your vehicle, secure your kayak with the proper amount of tension. Too much tension can bend or snap your kayak. Too little tension creates the risk of your kayak coming loose while traveling. It’s also best to use cam straps or a cinch strap instead of ratchet straps or bungee cords. Ratchet straps and bungee cords are often tightened with too much force. 

As you bring the straps over the kayak and fasten them to the cross bars, put a twist in the strap to prevent it from obnoxiously vibrating as you drive down the road. Once the kayak and the strap are secure, take the excess strap and wrap around the roof rack where it attaches to the car multiple times, then tie it off with a knot. This will prevent the end of the strap from whipping in the wind and hitting your vehicle while driving. After driving for about 15 minutes, pull over and check that the straps are still tight. Wind and bumps in the road can cause things to shift, so it can’t hurt to double-check that everything is secure. 

Don’t want to use a roof rack? 

If by some chance, you read this far and you’ve decided using a roof rack isn’t your style, you might try using an inflatable kayak. Don’t forget an air pump if you choose to go this route. This might also be a suitable option if you’re just getting into kayaking since inflatable ones are easier to store safely. Transportation is also much easier since your kayak can fit into one bag and doesn’t take up excessive space in your vehicle. If you already have a plastic or fiberglass kayak and don’t have a roof rack, consider using a truck or a trailer instead. 

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