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How to Transport Your Kayak

Before you take your first paddle strokes and kayak selfies, there are two transportation elements to consider: getting your boat on/off your car and getting it to the water.

Straps or Ropes?

While rope tied with the age-old trucker’s hitch knot is a good solution, it’s a bit outdated and cumbersome. Instead, we recommend kayak straps, which are stronger and easier to use. More on how to use the straps coming up – keep scrolling!

No Rack

If you don’t have a roof rack, your best option is to purchase an inflatable rack system or a foam block car-top carrier kit. Once you have that, place the carrier between the boat and the roof and tie down both the boat and the rack through the door openings of your vehicle. For added security, tie the bow (front of the kayak) and stern (rear of the kayak) down as well, anchoring on each bumper or tow hitch. These are best suited for short journeys or for temporary use.

Roof Rack

A roof rack, whether factory installed or aftermarket, enhances security and convenience when transporting your kayak. There are 3 basic ways to mount your kayak on a rack: horizontal (kayak lays flat), vertical (kayak on the side) and J-style racks that support the kayak at a 45-degree angle. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for installing the rack before transporting your boat. Rack accessories, such as saddles and stackers attach to the base rack or cross-bars and help secure the boat. Additionally, a lift-assist or a boat roller make car-topping your kayak even easier; these items help you get your boat from the ground to the roof rack with less effort. Some are integrated into the rack itself while others are sold as standalone accessories. Malone, Thule and Yakima offer both racks and related accessories.


If your vehicle is equipped with a tow kit and has the capability to pull a light load, then trailers are a great option to reduce lifting the kayaks onto and off of the top of your vehicle. They typically come pre-equipped with the same cross bars that make up a roof rack kit, have extra internal storage for paddling gear, and are compatible with the same aftermarket accessories as roof racks. Some popular trailer brands include Malone, SylvanSport, Yakima and Right-On Trailer Co.

Loading - Solo

To load solo, slide your kayak bottom-side down (or upside-down, if it fits okay, to minimise hull deformation) onto the saddle or crossbars. If solo, lift one end up and slide onto the rack from the rear, and then slide remainder.

Loading - Tandem

If you have two people, grab each boat end, lift overhead, and slide onto the rack simultaneously (or rest one end on rack and pivot other end into place) .

Securing the Kayak

Secure the kayak with its own strap by looping around each crossbar and tightening. For extra security, tie both ends to bumpers /tow hitches.

Carrying the Kayak - Tandem

Once at the water, unfasten the straps and unload the kayak off the rack. Depending on the craft, there are several ways to carry it. The easiest is to use two people, grabbing each end of the boat (use grab loops or handles, if available).

Carrying the Kayak - Solo

If solo, either carry the kayak like a briefcase if weight and distance allows, or hoist it up with the cockpit rim resting on your shoulder. Here's an easy way to get in this position: lean the kayak up vertically against your car, cockpit facing outward, then slowly tip it over, resting the cockpit on your shoulder. Hint: try to rest your shoulder against the boat's hip pad during your carry.

Kayak Carts

If you want a little assistance transporting your kayak from the car to the water, we have the perfect solution in our kayak cart. Ours features two wheels that attach beneath the kayak’s stern, with a strap extending over the top of the hull for security. Simply attach the cart, grab the front handle, and pull it along behind you to the water. It can also be broken down and for easy storage (it can even be stored in some of our larger boats).

View Kayak Cart

Transporting Your Kayak Video

Transportation Accessories