How to Transport a Kayak? Tips, Tricks, and Gear

by | Last updated Jul 1, 2024

How to Transport a Kayak

Kayaking is a fantastic way to get some exercise, explore nature, or just have fun on the water.

But before you can hit the lake, river, or ocean, you need to get your kayak there! Safely transporting a boat or canoe might seem tricky, but don’t worry.

This guide covers everything you need to know, including how to transport multiple kayaks.

Transporting a Single Kayak

Let’s start with the basics – moving one kayak at a time. Here are the most popular ways to do it:

Roof Racks to the Rescue

Roof racks are probably the most common way to haul a kayak. There are a few different kinds:

  • J-Cradles: These hold your kayak upright on its side, kind of like a giant letter “J.
  • Stackers: If you need to carry more than one kayak, stackers let you pile them up vertically.
  • Saddles: These have pads that cradle your kayak, with straps to hold it tight.

Picking the right rack depends on how big your kayak is, what kind of vehicle you have, and how much you’re willing to spend.

Once you’ve got your kayak racks in place, it’s loading time! Be careful when lifting your kayak – it’s better to ask a friend for help than to hurt your back. Once it’s on the roof rack, secure it with cam strap. Don’t forget to tie down the front and back of your kayak (bow and stern lines) so it doesn’t try to go flying!

How to Transport a Kayak: A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

Truck Beds: Perfect for Pickups

If you own any trucks, the bed is a super easy way to move your kayak. Tailgate pads protect both your truck and kayak. Then, just like on a roof rack, you’ll use straps to keep your kayak from bouncing around. If your kayak hangs way out past your tailgate, you might need to attach a safety flag so other drivers can see it.

Inside Your Car? Sometimes!

For smaller kayaks or inflatable ones, sometimes you can squeeze them inside your car. This is mostly for SUVs or truck bed with big cargo areas. Make sure to put down padding so you don’t scratch anything!

Transporting Multiple Kayaks

Want to bring a buddy along for a kayaking adventure? Here’s how to haul more than one kayak:

Roof Racks: Stack ‘Em Up!

With the right kayak racks setup, you can carry multiple kayaks. Vertical stackers let you load them sideways, saving space. Or, you can use a few sets of saddles and position the kayaks carefully. Remember, heavier kayaks should go on the bottom, closer to the car.

Trailers: The Ultimate Kayak Hauler

If you regularly transport several kayaks, a trailer might be the way to go. You can find flatbed trailers and customize them for kayaks, or get specialized kayak trailers that have built-in racks. Trailers are also much easier to load and unload since they’re closer to the ground.

Essential Equipment

No matter how you transport your kayak, you need the right tools to do it safely:

How to Transport a Kayak: A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

Cam Straps: Your Best Friend

Cam straps are the easiest way to secure your kayak. They have a buckle that lets you cinch them super tight. Make sure to get good quality straps designed for outdoor use.

Bow and Stern Lines: No Wiggling Allowed

These ropes or straps attach to the front (bow) and back (stern) of your kayak, and then to your vehicle. They stop your kayak from sliding forward or backward on the rack, which is super important for safety.

How to Transport a Kayak: A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

Foam Blocks and Pads: Extra Protection

If your roof rack doesn’t have built-in padding, get some foam blocks or pads. These go between your kayak and the rack to prevent scratches and dents.

Additional Tips and Considerations

Almost there! Here are a few extra things to keep in mind:

How to Transport a Kayak: A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

The Rules of the Road

Check your local laws about the length of how far cargo can stick out past your vehicle. You might need to attach lights or a red flag to the end of your kayak if it hangs out too far.

Driving with Kayaks: Take it Slow

Kayaks on your roof add wind resistance, which can make your car handle differently. Drive slower than usual, especially in windy conditions, and take turns carefully.

Caring for Your Kayak

If you leave your kayak on your roof rack for long periods, consider a cover to protect it from the sun’s UV rays. And always rinse off saltwater after ocean trips to prevent corrosion.

When to Get Help

If your kayak is super heavy or awkwardly shaped, or if you have any health concerns, don’t be afraid to ask a friend for help or even hire a professional transport service.

How to Transport a Kayak: A Comprehensive Guide for 2024


Transporting a kayak (or even two boats!) is easier than it looks! With the right gear and a little know-how, you’ll be out on the water in no time. Remember, safety first! Secure your kayaks properly, drive carefully, and most importantly, have fun paddling!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use regular straps for hauling my kayak?

While you could technically use regular straps or ropes, cam straps are specifically designed for securing heavy loads. They are much easier to tighten and less likely to come loose while driving. Invest in good quality cam straps for the safest way to transport your kayak.

How do I protect my kayak’s hull when transporting it?

If your roof rack doesn’t have built-in padding, use foam blocks or specialized kayak cradles to protect your hull from scratches or dents during transport. This is especially important for longer distances or rough roads.

What’s the best way to tie down a kayak in a truck bed?

Use multiple straps, placing them around the hull of the kayak and through anchor points in your truck bed. Additionally, consider bow and stern lines attached to the front and rear of your truck to prevent your kayak from sliding.

How far can a kayak overhang the rear of my vehicle?

Laws regarding overhang vary by location, so always check your local regulations. Generally, you’ll need a red flag (and potentially lights at night) if the overhang exceeds a certain limit (often a few feet).

Do I need two sets of crossbars for carrying multiple kayaks?

Not necessarily. With the right roof rack setup, like vertical stackers or strategically placed saddles, you can often secure multiple kayaks using a single set of crossbars. However, having two sets of crossbars provides more stability and weight distribution, especially for heavier kayaks.