Whether you’re the occasional or the frequent kayaker, you know that having to transport a kayak from your storage unit to your car and from your car to the water is the least fun part of kayaking. It can also influence a few important decisions, such as what kind of car you should get and what add-ons you should use. Arming yourself with information on how to transport a kayak will make this dreaded task much easier.

How to Carry a Kayak

Carrying a Kayak by Yourself

A kayak can be carried by a briefcase if the weight allows it. However, it’s easier to carry it on the shoulder, especially if you’re carrying it for a longer distance.

  1. Stand on the side of your kayak. Squat, grab the edge of the cockpit with both hands and pull the edge up to your waist.
  2. Reach across with your arm closest to the kayak and grab the underside of the cockpit.
  3. Lift the kayak onto your right shoulder and stand up. Make sure to keep your back straight.
  4. Make sure the rim of the cockpit rests on your shoulder and balance it so the boat won’t tip forward or back.
  5. If it gets a bit heavy, try resting the boat’s hip pad against your shoulder to make it more comfortable to carry.

Carrying the Kayak in Tandem

  • One person should stand at each end of the kayak. Make sure you carry it by the grab handle at the bow or stern.
  • Don’t have the other person backpedal. Make sure you are both facing the direction you’re going.
  • If you’re carrying two boats, take the grab handles of each boat in each hand.

Using a Kayak Cart

Kayak carts have two wheels that attach beneath the stern of the kayak and a strap that goes over the top of the hull to make it more secure. They’re easy enough to transport with other equipment because they can be broken down for easier storage. Kayak carts are simple enough to use: simply attach the kayak to the cart, hold the front handle, and pull it behind you.

Vehicles to Transport Your Kayak In

If you’d like to get a vehicle that will be ideal for your kayaking lifestyle, the right vehicle will depend on how frequent your kayaking activities are and how often you need to carry it with you. There are a few things you have to think about before purchasing one, such as the mounting accessories that will fit your car, the type of roof rack that it can mount, and the kind of factory rails it has that will go with the other essentials of kayak loading. Here are three types of vehicles that can carry a kayak:

1.      SUV

An SUV usually has a kayak roof bar or luggage roof racks. It may have a luggage rack with the crossbars or have side rails with no crossbars. Either way, SUV’s can support the weight of a kayak and will usually require less equipment in transporting a kayak.

2.      Pickup Truck

Pickup trucks are best for hauling heavy items, and in this case, the best and most secure way to transport a kayak. It’s easy: simply leave the tailgate down (or add an extender depending on the length of the kayak), make sure to secure it with some straps and tie-downs, and then let the kayak stick out on the back of the truck. It also makes the loading and unloading job a lot faster.

3.      4-Door Cars

The typical four-door car can transport your kayak with the use of temporary pads or a removable soft rack system (that is if there is no base rack system with crossbars). The soft racks system is a set of two foam tubes that can be attached to the vehicle by opening all the doors and setting one tube on the roof towards the direction of the windshield and the other one towards the rear window. The straps are run through the door and buckled tight.

Depending on your vehicle, the additional equipment to transport kayaks may vary. There are, however, standard essentials that you should use.

Essentials for Your Vehicle

1.      Roof Racks

Kayak or canoe roof racks are the best way to transport whitewater kayaks, like sit-on-top kayaks. The kayak roof bars will help you transport your kayak securely while making loading and unloading an easy job. It’s also great for saving space whatever type of vehicle you’re driving. There are several types of roof rack canoe or kayak.

J-Cradle Racks

The J-cradle racks are shaped like the letter J, designed to load your kayak from the side and sit at a 45-degree angle on the vehicle’s roof. This is great for saving space on your roof, like if you’re loading two or more kayaks. This type of rack will need to have crossbars already installed on the roof. J-cradles or saddles are the best options for carrying kayaks on roof racks, especially if you travel frequently with your boat/s.

Stacker-Style Carriers

Stacker-style carriers also let your vehicle carry more than one kayak in a vertical position. It usually depends on the width of your car, but stackers can potentially let you carry two to three kayaks. They can conveniently be folded down when not in use.

Saddle-Style Carriers

Saddle-style carriers act as a seat for the hull of your kayak and let you carry it horizontally or the right way up. Though you’ll have to compromise the number of kayaks you can carry, saddles make it more easy and secure by having protective padding for the kayak. They also need crossbars for installation.

Temporary Pads

If you won’t need to carry your kayak on your vehicle frequently or long distances, it’s best to get temporary pads, such as inflatable or foam. They can be mounted onto any kind of vehicle and don’t need crossbars or mounts and don’t need any installation.

2.      Trailers

A kayak trailer is essential if you’re transporting multiple kayaks or have a vehicle that really can’t fit one on its roof. It also makes the job of loading, securing, and unloading again a lot less difficult. They usually already have pre-installed crossbars to imitate a roof rack and have extra storage for additional gear. There are several factors you have to consider before buying one.

Make sure you have some spare room in your storage area to keep your trailer when not in use. Other trailers have foldable parts that require less room.

You will also have to make sure that it comes in the right material that’s suitable for saltwater environments. Strong, durable steel with a galvanized coating to spare it from rust will do the job. Try the ones that also have protective padding and a suspension system to protect your kayak especially if the road gets bumpy.

The trailer has to be easy to maneuver, even while fully loaded with the kayak and additional gear. How easy it will be to tow will depend on the tongue length (the distance between the hitch and the axle). The shorter it is, the less chance you’ll have of carrying longer kayaks and backing up; the longer it is, the easier it will be to move backward.

Smaller wheels will wear out more quickly, so it’s best to purchase one with bigger wheels that are more durable and to cover larger amounts of distance.

3.      Truck Bed Extenders

If you’re loading kayaks on a truck, having a bed extender is a priority. Truck beds are versatile when it comes to hauling heavy storage. A kayak, however, might be longer than what’s intended for the truck beds, so that’s where extenders come in.

Extenders add two more feet to the truck bed and flip back and forth. When flipped open, they add extra storage space, and when flipped close, they put a barrier to keep your items from flying off your truck bed.

4.      Crossbars

Crossbars are an important part of base roof rack systems, which usually depend on what roof rack options will be in use. Carrack systems usually have parts: towers, which attach on the four corners of your vehicle’s roof via existing factory rails or with a specific clip; load bars or crossbars, which attach to the towers and create a mounting point for hauling objects; and landing pads, which are vehicle-specific parts that are not usually required.

Crossbars run across the top of your car. Though it depends on the vehicle, most types of crossbars can be attached to already installed bars that run from the front to the back of the roof.

5.      Cam straps

Cam straps measure three to 20 feet long and usually have a one-inch wide webbing with a simple spring-loaded buck on one end. The buckle uses a cam mechanism with teeth that hold the strap tight and helps prevent web slippage.

6.      Bow and stern lines

The bowline will stop the front of the kayak from moving side to side. The stern line prevents the stern of the boat from doing the same. Bow and stern lines help provide extra security to the kayak or cam straps and can be the best option in different situations, such as driving in high winds or taking your vehicle up the freeway with your kayak.

How To Load a Kayak

Loading a kayak by yourself

  1. Stand in the rear of your car. Lift one end and slide the kayak onto the rear crossbar of the rack, with the front part of the kayak going towards the front part of the car. Make sure the kayak is facing the right side up.
  2. If you want to transport your kayak upside down, repeat the previous steps but stop when you’ve slid half of the kayak forward. Flip it over, then resume sliding forward.

Loading a kayak in tandem

  1. Carry the kayak by the grab handles with one person on each hand. Position it to parallel to your vehicle, with the bow toward the front of the vehicle.
  2. Grab the kayak by the hull and lift overhead, ready to place the boat on top. Keep your back straight.
  3. Place the boat directly above the rack. Make sure to follow the position your rack requires your kayak to have.

How To Secure a Kayak

This is where the cam straps come in. Cam straps are safer and easier to use than the average rope because you only have to use the straps and buckles to help hold the boat down.

  1. The boat has to be positioned in a way that’s parallel with your car.
  2. Buckle one cam strap on one of the sides of the boat. Toss the other end of the strap across the other side, walk to the other side, get the end of that strap and loop it underneath the crossbar.
  3. Toss it back the other side, walk back to that side and loop the strap underneath the crossbar, then up into the cam buckle and lock it down.
  4. Repeat this with the other strap in the other crossbar.
  5. Make sure that both straps are snug, but not too tight to prevent too much tension from deforming the kayak.
  6. Get a feel of how secure the kayak is by shaking it from side to side.
  7. Adding the bow and stern method will help if you’re transporting your kayak long distance or up a high-speed highway:
  8. With the ratchet, hook the end of the line with the grab handle on the front of the kayak.
  9. Attach the other end of the same line to a secure point on your vehicle.
  10. Tighten the line, but not too much to avoid too much tension. Keep it simple and avoid using any fancy knots.
  11. Tie off loose ends of the line below the ratchet.