How to Transport Kayaks

If you’re planning on taking your kayak for a ride, so that you can enjoy and use it, you’re going to first have to make it to the water.

Unless you live right by the waterfront, that’s going to require some transportation, and although it’s fairly straightforward, it’s not always easy.

Kayaks are pretty sturdy, but you still have to be careful when transporting the kayak. Some of them can be pretty heavy, so you have to know how to carry them properly to avoid any injuries.

And when transporting the kayak over a longer distance, you’ll likely have to find a way to carry it with your car, which needs to be done securely in order to avoid it falling off in the middle of the highway. 

Best Kayak Rack for Car Without Rails

But don’t worry, transporting a kayak is fairly simple. It’s just important that you do it the right way, to avoid any accidents or problems.

So we’ll go through all of the basics, ensuring that you know exactly how to carry a kayak, how to transport it with your car (whether you have a car roof or not), and how to secure it so that there are no tragedies along the way!

How to Carry a Kayak

If you have a kayak, you’re inevitably going to have to carry it around when moving it from place to place.

As easy as it would be to just drag it, that would cause a lot of damage to it, so it’s important that you’re lifting it off the ground.

However, it’s also important to avoid any muscle injuries. As with everything, there’s a way of carrying it properly. Let’s take a look at how:

Carrying a Kayak by Yourself

If your kayak is especially big and heavy, you might struggle to carry it by yourself.

However, if it’s light enough for you to do so without too much of a struggle, this is how you should do it, step by step:

  1. Stand on the left side of the kayak, so that you’re facing the boat (the front). You can do this the other way around if you would prefer!
  2. Squat down to hold the edge of the cockpit closest to you with both hands. Then stand up and place the kayak on your right shoulder. (Or your left shoulder if you chose the other side.)
  3. The rim of the cockpit should rest on your shoulder in a balanced way so that you can walk with it and carry it without too much strain on any muscles.

Carrying a Kayak with Someone

Carrying a kayak with the help of someone else is always a lot easier, as you have double the amount of hands!

With two people, it’s as simple as each person holding up one end of the kayak, so that you can carry it off the ground with ease.

If you have a third person, they can hold up the middle of the kayak, and then it would be even easier!

Transporting a Kayak with Your Car

If the water is too far away to simply walk over with the kayak, you’re going to need to transport it with a car.

There are several ways to do it, so we’ll cover the main three.

With a Roof Rack

If your car has a roof rack suitable for transporting a kayak, then the job is simple. All you have to do is get the kayak on top of it and secure it.

So for this point, we’ll just tell you the best ways to load your kayak onto the roof rack.

Loading the Kayak by Yourself

If you’re tall enough and strong enough, you can probably just lift the kayak up and prop it onto the roof rack, without a single issue.

However, if you’re not able to do this, these are a few of the methods you can use:

  • Using a towel or blanket:
    This is the easiest method to use, as it only requires you to have a towel, blanket, or similar to help you out. You place the material on the car, to protect it, and then you set one end of the kayak on top of that, before pushing it to load it onto the rack.
  • The lift system:
    Some roof racks come with a lift system integrated, which allows you to place the kayak onto the rack lower down, and then it lifts onto the top of the car. However, these roof racks can be more expensive!
  • Rolling wheels:
    Other roof racks come with rolling wheels, and they’re cheaper than the lift system. They basically have wheels so that you can prop one end of the kayak on the rack, and then roll it on without having to lift it. It’s like using the towel method, but a lot smoother and with less effort.

Loading the Kayak with Someone

If you have someone to help you, loading a kayak onto the roof rack is a lot easier.

Each person can simply grab one end of the kayak, and then lift it high enough to prop on top of the roof rack, before securing it appropriately.

What If You Have Multiple Kayaks to Load

If you have enough space on the top of your car, you can transport more than one kayak at a time.

You can do this by using a roof rack that accommodates various kayaks, or by using stacker bars. These stacker bars will essentially prop the kayaks on their side so that they make more space, and there’s room for more of them. 

However, if you’re doing this, make sure you have enough straps to secure them all!

Without a Roof Rack

What if having to transport the kayak has caught you off guard and your car doesn’t have a roof rack?

Or what if you’re not transporting your kayak very often, and you, therefore, don’t want to invest in a roof rack, what can you do?

Well, there’s a way in which you can create your own make-do roof rack, for really cheap, and in a few simple steps.

For this, you will need two long pool noodles (yes, the long soft tubes that float and are used in kiddies swimming lessons), and a cam buckle or ratchet straps (these are easily found in hardware stores, get a few so that you have enough to secure everything properly).

Once you have the materials, let’s go ahead and walk you through the process:

  1. First of all, you need to place the pool noodles on top of your car. They will essentially act as a make-do roof rack, as they can provide a solid and durable base that will protect both the kayak and the car. (Make sure the pool noodles aren’t too long so that they’re not protruding off the back and front of the car too much, you can cut them to be shorter).
  2. To secure the pool noodles in place, you can put a ratchet strap through their hole in the middle, and then tie them around through the inside of your car, so that they’re firmly in place.
  3. Next, it’s time to load the kayak onto your make-do rack of pool noodles. Make sure to place them face down, and then secure them in place with more ratchet straps in the same way that you secured the pool noodles.

With a Kayak Trailer

If you don’t want to drive around with your kayak on the car roof, you can always use a kayak trailer (if you have access to one, of course).

It’s slightly easier in the sense that you don’t have to lift the kayak too high off the ground in order to place it in the trailer, so it’s a lot easier to load up and secure.

You can also carry a lot of extra stuff and gear, depending on the size of the trailer.

The only downside is that you have to have the trailer in the first place, and you have to be aware of it when driving and parking!

Best Kayak Trailers

How to Tie Down and Secure a Kayak

Okay, so with all the different ways of transporting a kayak that we’ve talked about, we’ve mentioned that you need to tie down and secure the kayak. So how exactly do you do that?

Ratchet straps and cam buckles are the best way to do so. You won’t have to know any specific knots or methods.

You simply secure the kayak by using the straps and pulling them through the buckles to cinch them down.

Here are some tips and tricks when tying down and securing a kayak:

  • Don’t overcomplicate! It might seem as though wrapping the straps around in more ways and directions keep the kayak more secure, but it can actually be detrimental. Just make sure to secure the main points down firmly, and you’re good to go.
  • If you’re worried about your kayak being stolen any time you park the car for a few minutes to do something, you can use locking cam straps. That way, you’re the only one that can undo the straps and release the kayak.
  • Use a ladder or step! If you’re short, it can be a huge struggle to tie down the kayak. Make your life easier and grab something to stand on, then you’ll be able to actually see how you’re securing the kayak and will do a much better job of it.
  • Once you’ve finished securing the kayak onto your car, drive for 5 to 15 minutes and then stop to check. It’s important to ensure that the whole set-up is secure when in movement while driving! Re-adjust if needed, and then you-re ready to be on your way for real.

In Conclusion

There are many different ways of transporting your kayak, so it ultimately depends on the ones you have available.

Carrying a kayak appropriately is important in order to avoid any injuries. And the same goes for loading a kayak onto the transportation method.

If you’re using a car, you can transport the kayak on top of a roof rack, or in a trailer. (Or if the kayak is small enough or inflatable, you can just place it inside the car).


How do you transport a kayak without a roof rack?

If you don’t have a roof rack on your car, it’s not the end of the world. There are other ways of safely transporting your kayak to your destination!

Here are the main ones:

  • If your kayak is inflatable, you can just keep it inside your car as it will hardly take up any space. You can then inflate it once you’re at your destination, so no special transportation set-up is needed!
  • If you have access to a kayak trailer, you can set it up to be pulled by your car, and it offers enough space for your kayak to be transported securely. Plus there is usually enough space to carry other equipment too!
  • Make your own roof rack. It might sound a bit dodgy, but you can create a make-do roof rack for really cheap in a few simple steps. You essentially will place two pool noodles on top of your car to act as a roof rack that protects both the car and the kayak from damage.

What is the best way to transport a kayak?

If you’re going to be transporting your kayak on a regular basis, or often enough, then the best way to do so is by installing a roof rack on your car that is suitable for transporting kayaks.

There are different types of roof racks that you can look into, and some of them come with integrated methods of loading the kayak onto them, to make the job even easier. They vary in the price range and feature different commodities, so there’s a lot to look into!

How do you transport a kayak by yourself?

Transporting a kayak by yourself is a little bit more of a challenge, but perfectly achievable.

The main two things you need to know how to do are how to carry the kayak, and how to load it onto whatever method of transportation you’re using.

How to carry a kayak by yourself:

  • You can do this by propping the kayak onto one of your shoulders, with the rim of the cockpit balancing on the said shoulder as you walk. This avoids you directly lifting it and possibly straining any muscles.

How to load a kayak by yourself:

  • As for loading the kayak, if you’re tall and strong enough you can probably simply lift it high enough to load it. If not, you can use whatever loading system the roof rack features. And if it doesn’t, you can place a towel or blanket on the edge of the car, where you can place one end of the kayak as support. Then you simply push the kayak so that it slides over the edge to be positioned on top.

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