How To Transport A Kayak | Best Easy Ways To Load

Kayaking is known for centuries and is considered the most popular and cheerful activity, especially among Americans. Most of the lucky kayakers live near the ocean or a river and enjoy the great benefit of kayaking.

But the real problem lies with those who came from long distances and are hardly able to transport their kayaks. Due to this many kayakers have to suffer losses while transportation.

Transporting a kayak is not such difficult if few precautionary measures are followed correctly. In this article, we have tried our best to provide you the easy, affordable, and safe ways to transport a kayak.

Today many modern and secure strategies allow safe loading to take your kayak at the best-loved kayaking spot and answer such queries ‘how to transport a kayak on a roof rack of a car or in a truck?’ Let’s take a closer look on each of them.

How to transport a Kayak on a Roof Rack:

Roof racks are best considered a safe and easy way to transport a kayak. However, there are many distinct types of roof racks are available depending on your need and a kayak length or wight. You can choose any of the below racks to protect your kayak from unwanted marks and scraps;

How to transport a Kayak on a Roof Rack

Soft Racks:

For easy installation and tight transporting, soft racks are widely used. Soft racks made of two tubes inserted straps inside them to secure the tubes. They are available for the transportation of both larger and standard size kayaks.

Larger soft racks are perfect for heavy and oversize kayaks, while standard models are ideal for small kayaks.

To provide several tie positions, a detachable chain is fitted. Both models can scatter the kayak’s weight on the rooftop. Soft racks also have a strong grippy stay, which minimizes the kayak’s movement and allows comfortable lifting.

While installing soft racks make sure straps do not enter your vehicle’s roof. Install them tightly to avoid the vibration of straps while driving.

transport a Kayak on Soft Racks


Want to transport more than one kayak? Then J-cradles roof rack is the best option. Most of the kayakers prefer j-cradles for safe and trouble-free carrying. It provides enough space and ability for the loading of at least two kayaks, not more than two due to their limited capacity.

Their j-shaped rack at a 45-degree turn allows boats to occupy minimal space, instead of covering the whole roof top, which makes them ideal for long kayaking haulage.

J-cradles are also available in folding models they can be unfolded when not in use. For balancing the kayak’s weight on the roof, it is advisable to install horizontal crossbars.

You will be surprised to know that they are considered the 2nd cheapest roof rack design than other styles, however, folding models are a bit pricey. All these worthwhile qualities had made the j-cradle rack style the finest priority of kayakers.

Some of the most used and popular j-cradle roof racks are ‘Malone Downloader’, ‘Yakima Jaylow’, and ‘TMS kayak carrier.

transport a Kayak on J-Cradle

Horizontal or Saddle roof racks:

Saddle rack style or horizontal rack style is another sturdy and ideal option for the lifting of a kayak. Saddle roof racks provide ample room for the kayak to fit in perfectly. Kayak fully remains in contact with the racks and weight gets equally distributed, which allows peaceful transportation along the way.

Kayak is lifted to horizontal roof racks from the back end of the vehicle. Rack rollers make the loading even easier. Some of the horizontal roof racks come with a lifting facility which proves helpful in solo loading of kayak

One of the biggest reasons for horizontal roof rack’s admiration is their aerodynamic system, which helps in increasing the gas mileage. As the kayak is fitted closed to the roof top and the weight gets evenly distributed, which provides a barrier to oppose wind and likewise expands gas mileage. Additionally, horizontal

racks preferred for the vast variety of kayaks, especially helpful for the transportation of heavyweight kayaks.

Horizontal roof racks are comparatively a bit more costly than j-cradles. Additionally, these racks occupy a large space of the roof, this makes it difficult to load another kayak if the vehicle has a small roof top.

Horizontal or Saddle roof racks


You are allowed to load only two kayaks on j-cradle roof racks, but what if you need to transport even more than two kayaks? Don’t worry you are not forced to spend extra pennies on purchasing new racks and looking for another vehicle. The process can be done by one rack fitted on a wide roof of a vehicle…Yes!

The ‘ stacker’ roof racks are best known for their transportation of four kayaks at a time in a limited roof top capacity. The stacker supports the kayak tilted on one side leaving space for the placing of other kayaks.

Thule stacker can be folded down when not in use. Kayaks get exactly fit in the stacker which eliminates the risk of kayak’s movement during traveling at high speed.

However, before using stacker kayak racks, keep in mind its major defect. Stacker racks require more straps and tie-downs than other kayak racks.

Since many of the stacker racks hold the kayaks by utilizing only two upright bars which increase the risk of insecure transportation. Make sure you apply enough straps and tie-downs for safe and locked loading.

How to transport a kayak in a truck:

Transporting a kayak in a truck is the most common and affordable way. Kayakers find this method an easy and comfortable one to load multiple kayaks to their favorite river. We have found the two easiest and most popular ways to load a kayak in a pickup truck, let’s discuss them one by one;

Truck Bed:

The first idea that comes to truck holders is the ‘truck bed’ when it comes to kayak loading. It also eliminates the question of ‘how to transport a kayak without installing a roof rack?’ It seems easy but can prove a tricky decision if you don’t consider the pros and cons of truck bed transporting.

You will just have to compare the length of both a truck bed and a kayak, fix a durable and soft mat on a truck bed to prevent kayak surface from scratches, and a lot more. Review the following tried and tested tips before loading a kayak on a truck bed;

Ensure the smoothness of the truck bed surface; Before placing a kayak on a truck bed, remove the unnecessary accessories from the bed. Clean or wash it thoroughly. Place a smooth rubber mat on a truck bed which eliminates scratching and dirt on a kayak. This tip allows safe and secure transportation.

Kayak length vs truck bed length; After preparing the truck bed, it’s time to compare the lengths of both kayak and a truck bed. The length of short truck beds is around 5-6 feet and long truck beds can easily create a space of around 8 feet.

When it comes to a kayak length, it depends on the kayak style and model you are using. Normally, you will see kayaks 8-12 feet long and a few kayaks are even longer up to 17 feet. This seems that even a longer bed cannot support your shorter kayak. So what’s the solution?

It has two ways. In such a case most of the kayakers prefer to place a kayak diagonally with a tailgate up. It can load 8-12 feet long kayaks. For even longer kayaks, the next method can be fixing a bed extender with a tailgate down. Bed extenders provide some extra feet space to place a long kayak.

Typically, two types of bed extenders are used; Aluminum or utility truck bed rack and a load extender. Load extender can easily transport a long kayak even when it is placed straight, without putting the hull down.

Don’t forget to hang red flags at the load bed extender to notify other drivers on road. Fix the mount bracket to the tailgate down and attach the mount to the bracket and fix it to the tailgate using straps.

Place the kayak in a truck bed; Now time to settle the kayak on a truck bed with a hull side down. Don’t place the kayak in the middle, instead place it in a corner it minimizes the kayak’s movement and also secures the kayak from slip and slide.

Install the anchor points in a truck bed, tightly tie down a kayak using straps and fix the straps in anchor points ensuring that the kayak is well balanced.

Truck roof rack system:

A similar process is explained in the case of a roof rack system on a car. Truck roof racks are also known as ‘aluminum or utility truck bed racks’. You can place your long kayak on a truck bed rack with a tailgate down.

It also allows the loading of two kayaks at a time. After placing a kayak, no need to hang red flags at the back end. It does not pose any alert to other drivers on the road.

Easy Ways To Load Two Or More Kayaks On A Truck Bed?

Loading one kayak in a truck is quite easy task to do, but how to load two or more kayaks in a truck bed?

If you have carefully applied the above tips to load one kayak in a truck bed, then loading second or even more kayaks is not too difficult process to worry about.

When you have successfully placed the one kayak, whether keeping the hull side or up ( I would suggest you keep the hull side down in case of loading multiple kayaks), now place any soft cloth, towel, or another smooth mat on the first kayak as you placed a matt under the first kayak.

Besides putting one kayak on the other, the other way you can adopt is placing a kayak sideways. This proves helpful if you have a wide truck bed. Now you have to place the smooth matt or a towel in between each kayak. This tip avoids any scratches on the kayak sides, and a sudden bump could not damage any kayak.

Things To Consider After Placing A Kayak On A Car Roof Rack Or In A Truck:

You are open to following any of the above methods for transporting a kayak whether on a car roof rack or in a truck, the foremost priority should be to load it safely for easy transportation.

Whether your journey is long or shorter carrying a long costly kayak demands extra care and attention. It is necessary to follow the below instructions after loading a kayak on a vehicle to avoid any sudden loss:

Tie-down Correctly:

Placing a kayak in a hurtle can prove a harmful loading. Make sure you have carefully tied a kayak to remove the risk of loose straps. Usage of bow and stern lines proves more helpful in securing both ends of the kayak.

Use one line for both bow and stern, depending on the length of your kayak. Make sure they are not stretchy and impervious to moisture.

Apply ropes to both ends of the kayak, it will stick your kayak to the truck bed and straps will eliminate the kayaks’ movement, allowing secure and trouble-free driving.

Good to apply a locking strap that can only be opened with a key, for further security while staying in rest areas you can use a cable lock system to prevent your kayak from stealing.

Keep Extra Accessories:

It would be a wise decision to keep some extra accessories e.g. straps, bow and stern lines, and rope before moving to the trip. It will assist you a lot in a sudden mishap while transporting a kayak and won’t let your cheering kayaking mood get worse.

Drive Carefully:

“Better late than with a loss”. Don’t take the carrying of a long and heavy kayak an easy one. Better to drive at a standard speed. One bump during high speed driving can greatly raise the danger of vibration and loosening of a kayak.

It would be better if you check your loading from time to time. . If you are using a bed extender, and a long kayak is hanging out of the bed truck, don’t forget to hang a red flag at the back end to not to put road fellows in any difficulty.

We have described to you the best and finest methods to transport a kayak to your favorite spot. No matter what vehicle you are using whether a pickup truck or a car both are feasible and the most popular means of hauling a kayak.

All you need to do is keep in mind all the tried and tested techniques throughout your trip to kayaking.


Hey! This is Muneeza, a researcher and writer of the website. Utilizing my vast experience and in-depth research skill, I used to dig deep to find out the information you'll love to know about your favorite watersport. In case of any queries, reach out freely!

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