How To Transport A Kayak


So you have done your homework on choosing the right kayak but now you have one more important decision to make. You need to determine how to transport a kayak. It is very important that you determine the best way to transport your kayak properly because you do not want it to fall off your vehicle and get damaged before you ever get it in the water.

A couple examples of things to think about are if you have a tall vehicle, loading your kayak onto your roof would not be practical or maybe you have health issues and lifting a 60+ lb. kayak is not an option. All these issues can be addressed when you determine the different methods of transporting your kayak.

How to Tie Down A Kayak & Transport It

How To Carry A Kayak

Carrying a kayak with two people is by far the simplest way and is less strain on your body. To carry a kayak like this:


  1. Each person will grab the handle at the bow or stern of the kayak.
  2. With both people facing the same direction, lift the kayak and walk at the same pace.
  3. Carrying a kayak this way allows you and your partner to carry two boats at the same time by grabbing each kayak’s handle.

Carrying a kayak on your own is a little more difficult and requires more upper body strength than having a partner assist you. To do this you will need to:


  1. Lay the boat flat on the ground with the opening facing up and stand on the left side of your kayak while facing it.
  2. Squat down and grab the edge of the cockpit that is nearest you with both hands and pull the edge of the kayak onto your thighs.
  3. Reach across your kayak with your right arm and grab the inside of the kayak by the underside of the cockpit.
  4. Start standing up and as you do, begin lifting the kayak onto your right shoulder.
  5. For less strain on your upper body, let the rim of the cockpit rest on your shoulder but be sure to find a balancing point so your kayak is not tipping forward nor backward.

How to Transport A Kayak With A Roof Rack


When it comes to transporting a kayak by a vehicle the most important step is to be sure to tie it down. You would be surprised on often this step is forgotten or not properly done. Now having a roof rack helps make transporting a lot easier but we will go over how to transport a kayak with a roof rack and how to transport a kayak without a roof rack.

First, we will go over with a roof rack because this is the easiest and safest way but does add an extra cost although you can find them for less than $150. Below are the steps you will want to follow:

  1. Place The Kayak Straps Across The Roof Rack Bars

Straps have a buckle at one end so you will want to carefully lay the buckles down on the side of your car so not to scratch your windows and/or doors. Before you advance, be sure the rack crossbars are tight and have no movement.

  1. Place Your Kayak On To Your Roof Rack

If you are tying the kayak directly to the bars of your roof rack then you will need to place your kayak upside down. You do not want to place the hull on the bars because it can cause dents that can affect your boat’s ability to track straight.

If you have kayak carrier pads or attachments like hooks or rollers then you may place the kayak right side up.

Now for which end faces towards the front of the vehicle depends on the type of kayak you are using. We typically like to say to put the “skinny” end facing forward. This gives the board the best aerodynamics which helps you get better gas mileage and helps the kayak ride more securely because the wind is not pushing against the kayak and pushing the kayak back like if you had the “bulkier” end facing forward.

  1. Bring The Straps Over The Kayak And Secure Them

This step is pretty self-explanatory. You are going to lay the straps over top the kayak and attach them to the other end of the straps. Be sure the straps are flat against the kayak and are not crossed.

Bring the other end of the strap up and underneath the crossbar of the roof rack, open a slot of the buckle for the strap to slide through, pull the strap tightly to remove any slack, and then tighten the buckle.

  1. Tie The Straps Down

Your kayak is securely strapped down but that is not the last step. You now need to roll up and tie down the remaining part of the strap that is left flapping. You do not want this piece flapping in the wind so you will want to wrap this loose end around the part of the roof rack that is attached to your car. Then you will either tie it to the rest of the strap or shove it securely under the kayak.

How to Transport A Kayak Without a Roof Rack

  1. Get All Your Needed Gear

Before you tie down your kayak, there are a few things you need to have. You will need to grab ideally pool noodles which you can find at any pool store for cheap, but you can also use soft foam blocks or even use towels rolled up. You need something that is thick enough to keep the kayak from contacting the top of the car. Plus, you will need 4 spring-loaded or ratchet tie-down straps with 2 ends having hooks on them.

     2. Place Your Supports

Make sure you place these supports over the car’s support struts, front and back of each door. This is where if you had a roof rack it’s supports would be placed.

    3. Place Your Kayak

Raise the kayak up onto the support source you are using, pool noodle, towel, etc. You may need a second person to help you raise the kayak up to avoid scratching your car.

   4. Place Tie-Down Straps

Loop the middle part of a tie-down strap around your kayak in front of the cockpit. You will want to criss-cross the strap between the kayak and the roof of the car. Then you will need to open your doors and thread the other ends of the tie-downs through so they create a figure eight with the loop around the kayak. Be sure to tighten both straps so there is no slack.

 5. Finish Tying Down Your Kayak

Now tie down the bow and stern of the kayak using tie-down straps. Thread each strap through a tie-down point on the kayak and then use a hook to attach each end of each strap to a tie-down point under the body of your car.

How To Transport A Kayak With A Trailer


This is ideally the best and safest way to transport your kayak. A trailer can be hooked up to the back of any vehicle and can easily tow one or up to five kayaks, on select trailers.

Trailers come with rollers and cradles that allow you to easily slide your kayak up and into place without needing a second person.


Traveling with a kayak can be an easy way to transport your kayak from home to your favorite paddling spot and back. Whether you are using a roof rack, tie-downs, or a trailer you need to properly know how to transport a kayak. Be sure you properly strap down your kayak because if poorly done then you could cause damages to both your kayak and your vehicle or trailer. For more guides related to kayaking be sure to check out our kayak how-to guides.

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