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How to Transport a Kayak

Getting out on the water for a good paddle is one of the best ways to unwind. Regardless of the season, there’s plenty to do, and it’s a great activity to share with friends. One of the larger challenges can be transporting your kayak. There’s definitely a learning curve involved with the routine of strapping down and transporting a kayak, but it’s easily manageable with some practice.

There are a couple different recommended ways to secure a kayak for travel. It usually differs based on what type of vehicle and equipment you have to work with. Tandem kayaks will naturally take a bit more effort to secure than a whitewater rafting one, but if you understand the basics and give yourself enough prep time, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

Transport Kayaks Safely

The last thing you want to happen when on the road to the water is for your kayak to come loose or for it to become damaged due to it being improperly tied down. Especially if you travel with it regularly, you’ll need to be conscious of how you’re securing it in order to not strain or warp the shape of the boat.

If you have a flatbed truck, this will be the easiest way to transport your kayak safely from Point A to Point B. You can simply leave the tailgate down and use tie down loops on the lower walls to anchor your boat. Run a cam strap through the stern handle of the kayak to avoid it sliding around and possibly denting the exterior hull of the boat. This setup is ideal for unloading as well, especially if you’re by yourself.

An SUV or smaller car is capable of transporting a kayak, but you’ll need some extra gear to make it work. The most effective way to transport kayaks on four-door cars is to mount it to the roof. Be sure you place the kayak rightside up, and run straps through both the bow and stern to secure under the front and rear bumpers respectively. You’ll need to invest in either a soft- or hard-mounted rack system so you don’t damage the top of your car.

Kayak Transport Tips and Tricks

Kayaks are quite hydrodynamic, but if the wind catches them the wrong way they can be aerodynamic as well. It’s not unheard of for a kayak to catch some air and possibly break due to the pressure of strap placement in combination with wind speeds while driving. Here are some equipment recommendations and kayak transport tips to make your life easier and decrease risk of damage to your boat:

  • Invest in a cockpit cover. This cover prevents debris from getting into the cockpit during travel or transport, as well as decreases drag on the boat while driving. They usually come with carabiners that secure it to the boat to ensure its effectiveness.
  • Don’t anchor straps to plastic bumpers. If you don’t have tow hooks on both ends of your car, it’s worth looking into loop straps to install under your car. It’s not secure enough to attach tie-down straps to plastic parts of your car.
  • Release pressure on tie-down straps when not actively driving. Even if it’s loosening them while you take a pit stop or get gas, this brief pause does a lot to preserve your boat’s natural shape. When ratcheted down, you’re straining the hull unnaturally, and that causes strain over time that could lead to damage.
  • Check your straps throughout your trip. Before you loosen anything up, give your straps a tug to see if they give or the boat moves at all. This will be a good indication if anything needs to be adjusted before you take off again.
  • Come prepared--bring extra straps with you. Don’t let yourself get caught off guard if a strap breaks at some point during transport. Make sure you have some extra tie-down lines packed in case of emergency.
  • Be aware of where you’re going. Different states and counties sometimes have specific rules about how to transport kayaks safely. Make sure to double check how many points of contact are needed where you’re going, and if they require you to mark your kayak with a caution flag if it sticks out past the bumper of your car.


All of these kayak transport recommendations are meant to ensure you and your kayak make it to the water safely. From there, it’s just about being safe on the water and having fun. Enjoy your trip!

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