How To Lift and Carry a Kayak By Yourself (And Avoid Injury!)

Kayaking is a fun water sport, but Carry a Kayak By Yourself can be challenging if you’re smaller or injured. Don’t let moving the kayaks stop you from paddling! With some helpful tips and gear, transporting kayaks can be made much easier. 

How To Lift and Carry a Kayak By Yourself

In this article, we’ll teach you different ways to Carry a Kayak By Yourself on your own or with a friend. We’ll also talk about products and techniques for simply lifting and moving the kayaks, so you can get out on the water with less strain.

Taking Away Points of Carry a Kayak By Yourself

  • Carry a Kayak By Yourself can be tiring, but there are different tools and methods to make it easier, even if you’re doing it alone.
  • For smaller sit-inside kayaks, you can lift and rest the opening on your shoulder. For sit-on-top kayaks, carrying it under your arm works better.
  • When moving a big heavy kayak with a friend, one person can hold the back end and the other person the front.
  • Buying a carry strap, wheeled kayak cart, or shoulder yoke will help take the strain out of carrying kayaks. These make moving the kayaks much more manageable

Can I Carry a Kayak by Myself?

Can I Carry a Kayak by Myself?

If you’re new to kayaking that how Carry a Kayak By Yourself, you may worry about getting the kayak to the water by yourself, especially if you don’t have a lot of upper body strength. As a small woman, I had the same concern when I started.

The good news is that being strong isn’t required for kayaking. Here are some tips to make transporting your kayak easier:

  • Choose a lightweight kayak that is short enough to fit in your vehicle so you avoid lifting it onto a roof rack. An inflatable kayak is also easier to move.
  • Find places to paddle that don’t require carrying your kayak long distances.
  • Kayaking helps build upper body strength over time, so you may find carrying your kayak gets easier after a few months of practice.

Work within your physical limits. For example, I can Carry a Kayak By Myself short distances on my shoulder but can’t lift it onto a car roof alone. More shoulder exercises would help!

Luckily, some tools make moving Carry a Kayak By Yourself much easier. Keep reading about how to Read a Tide Chart and use the Information for Kayaking to learn about those. First, let’s go over safe ways to lift a kayak solo.

How Do You Lift Carry a Kayak By Yourself?

  • If you kayak alone, you’ll need to carry all your gear by yourself. Before going out, know how far you’ll need to Carry a Kayak By Yourself and what kind of ground you’ll walk over.
  • The way you carry your kayak depends on what type it is.
  • Remove everything from the kayak before lifting. This prevents your gear from falling out and also helps with balance. Extra weight in the kayak can make it harder to carry.

How to Carry a Hardshell Sit-Inside Kayak

Step 1: Put the kayak on the ground with the front pointing where you want to go.

Step 2: Stand next to the seat (cockpit) of the Carry a Kayak By Yourself, facing it. If you want to carry it on your left shoulder, the front of the kayak should be on your right, and vice versa for the other shoulder.

Step 3: Bend your knees and grab the edge around the seat. Tilt the kayak onto one side, away from you. Remember to keep your back straight!

Step 4: Stand up slowly while sliding the kayak up your legs. Bend your knees a bit to let it rest on your thighs.

Step 5: Use one or both hands to grab the opposite side of the seat. Roll the kayak toward you and up onto your shoulder.

Remember: Keep your back straight and avoid twisting to prevent back injury. If it feels too heavy, try a different method.

Step 6: Balance the kayak on your shoulder. You can put your hand inside the seat to help hold it up. Some people wear a life jacket to cushion their shoulders.

Step 7: To put the kayak back down, do the steps in reverse.

Tip: If lifting it onto your thighs is tough, try using a box or bench to lift it higher before putting it on your shoulder.

You can also watch a video to see how Carry a Kayak By Yourself

How to Carry a Hardshell Sit-on-Top Kayak

Step 1: Put your kayak on the ground facing the way you want to move. Stand at its balancing point (a bit behind the middle). If you’re right-handed, stand left of the kayak; if left-handed, stand right.

Step 2: Stand across the kayak, feet apart. Bend your knees, keeping your back straight, and lift the kayak onto its side, facing away from you.

Step 3: Use one hand to stabilize the kayak as you turn to face the front.

Step 4: Find the grab handle by sliding your hand down the kayak. Straighten your back and use your legs to stand up while holding the kayak.

Carrying a kayak this way is tough because the weight is on your arm instead of your shoulder. If it’s too hard or you have a back issue, consider using carry straps or a kayak cart (which we’ll discuss below).

Step 5: To lower the kayak, squat down until it rests on the ground.

If carrying it under your arm feels difficult, using straps or a cart might be easier.

How to Carry an Inflatable Kayak

Step 1: Inflate your kayak and ensure it’s facing the way you want to go.

Step 2: Stand in the middle of the kayak, facing it. If you prefer carrying it on your left shoulder, the front of the kayak should be on your right, and vice versa for the other shoulder.

Step 3: Squat down and reach across the kayak to the opposite side’s tube. Put your hands under the tube where it meets the floor and tilt the kayak onto its side (so the top faces you).

Step 4: With both hands under the tube, straighten your legs to stand up, lifting the kayak. Remember to keep your back straight!

Step 5: Adjust your position so the inflatable tube rests on your shoulder. Move the kayak slightly forward or backward to find the right balance.

Step 6: To lower the inflatable kayak, reverse the steps above.

This method helps you carry the lighter inflatable kayak comfortably over your shoulder.

How Do You Lift and Carry a Kayak with Two People?

Step 1: Have one person stand at the front of the kayak and one at the back.

Step 2: Both people squat down and grab a handle on the kayak.

Step 3: Stand up together using your legs to lift the kayak. Communicate to keep it steady.

Step 4: The person in front should go first and warn of obstacles.

Step 5: To put the kayak down, squat at the same time. Keep your back straight and lower slowly.

Step 6: You can also carry two kayaks this way. It may be easier since the weight is balanced.

Step 7: If no handles, put your hands under the front or back to lift. Or add your handles.

Step 8: You can also carry between two people on your shoulders for longer distances.

Is It Bad to Drag a Kayak?

Use Caution When Dragging: Some folks say never drag your kayak. Ideally, yeah, I’d agree. But if it’s just a short distance over sand or grass to the water, I’m usually gonna drag it.

Watch the Hull Material: Plastic hulls can take some dragging with no problem. But for fragile composite or fiberglass boats, dragging is a no-go. I’d also be really careful with nice inflatables, especially if there’s anything pointy around.

Mind the Ground Surface: Concrete or rocks? Don’t drag it. Sand, grass, and dirt are fine. Just take it slow and watch for those pesky tree roots! A replaceable skid plate on the bottom helps a ton.

Lift and Pull: Bend those knees and use proper lifting form. Grab the front handle and keep your arm straight. Let your strong legs and core do the hard work, not your back and arms!

Gear to Help You Lift and Carry a Kayak

If you’re concerned about the risk of getting hurt or seeking ways to simplify carrying your kayak solo, there are tools available to assist you in the process.

How To Use a Kayak Carry Strap

Carry Strap

Try a Carry Strap for Sit-on-Tops: Kayak carry straps are a cheap and easy way to haul your sit-on-top kayak. They take up like zero space in your car too.

How They Work: The strap either slides through the scupper holes or loops around the hull. An adjustable shoulder strap lets you carry it on either side.

Not Ideal for Long Hauls: The strap can work OK for short distances from your car to the water. But lugging a kayak on one shoulder can get uncomfortable fast. With all that weight on one side, it’s also not the best for your back.

Upgrade to a Cart: If you’ll be schlepping your kayak a lot, invest in a kayak cart instead. It’ll save your shoulder and spine. The strap is fine for occasional short carries though!

How To Use a Kayak Cart

Kayak Cart

Kayak carts are the easiest way to move kayaks by yourself. They work great on smooth surfaces like concrete, asphalt, or grass. But they aren’t as good on rocky ground or in mud or sand.

A kayak cart has two wheels and works kind of like a wheelbarrow. You strap your kayak to the cart and then either pull it from the front or push it from behind. It’s best to attach the cart near the balanced middle of the kayak.

You can use a cart to move a fully loaded kayak. This is helpful if your launch spot is far from your vehicle. You don’t have to keep going back and forth to get all your gear out.

Kayak carts cost around $50 or more. You can also make your cart by following a DIY tutorial.

How To Use a Kayak Yoke

A kayak yoke lets you carry a kayak upside down on your shoulders. It’s a wooden pole with padding that rests on your shoulders and curves to fit your neck.

Why Use a Yoke?

It may sound odd, but a yoke makes carrying a kayak much easier over long distances or on narrow paths, like when portaging kayaks between water spots. The yoke evenly distributes the weight across both shoulders. It also lifts the kayak so you can see where you’re going!

How to Use a Yoke: Attach the yoke to the kayak cockpit. Lift the kayak onto your shoulder first. Then use both hands to lift it overhead and onto the yoke.

How Do You Transport a Kayak with One Person?

Carrying a kayak might seem hard, but putting it on top of your car can feel even tougher. Don’t worry! You can do it by yourself, but there might be an easier way…

Inside Your Vehicle

For solo paddlers, it’s much easier to transport your kayak inside your vehicle rather than on top. Smaller kayaks will fit in most trucks, vans, and larger cars. Shorter kayaks are also easier to maneuver on the water.

To load it in, open the trunk and lift the front end so it rests on the edge. Then lift the back end and push the kayak forward into position. Place a towel on the edge to protect the paint.

Another option is an inflatable kayak. They take more time to inflate and pack up. But inflatables will fit in almost any vehicle and take up less storage space at home.

On Top of Your Vehicle: How to Load and Unload a Kayak by Yourself

Basic roof rack systems often rely on factory-installed roof bars. If your car doesn’t have these bars, other systems exist, but they can cost more.

Some loading systems for roof racks, like the Thule Hullavator, can automatically load your kayak, but they’re pricey. However, there are a few less expensive choices available as well.

How to Load a Kayak Using Rollers by Yourself

You can use saddles and rollers to put your kayak on your car by yourself. They go on the bars on top of your car—the saddle in the front and the roller in the back.

Put your kayak on the ground behind your car. Put something soft under it to keep it from getting scratched. Pick up the front of the kayak and put it on the roller. Then pick up the back of the kayak and push it forward until it is on the saddle.

Another way to do this is to have two saddles and a roller that sticks to the back window of your car. This can make it easier to put your kayak on your car, but you have to watch out that the roller does not fall off.

How to Load a Kayak on a J-Rack by Yourself

J-racks are like special holders for your kayak that clip onto the top of your car. They let you carry your kayak on its side, so you can even fit two kayaks in a small car!

The tricky part is getting the kayak up there. If you have a friend, you can lift it together from the side. If you’re alone, here’s a tip:

  1. Lift the front of the kayak (the pointy part) and put it in the groove of the J-rack.
  2. Then, lift the back of the kayak (the wide part) and push it forward until it turns on its side and settles in the J-rack.

How To Tie Down a Kayak

You need to keep your kayak safe in your car. Put your kayak in the middle of the bars on top of your car. Make sure it is straight.

Use cam straps to hold your kayak. They are easy to use. Put the cam straps over the kayak, and put them under the bar on both sides. Then put the strap through the buckle.

You also need to tie your kayak at the front and back. If you don’t, your kayak might fall off. If your car is high, a small ladder can help you move Carry a Kayak By Yourself and tie it.

Lifting A Kayak Onto A Car

Lifting A Kayak Onto A Car

Loading Kayaks on Roof Racks: Lifting and securing Carry a Kayak By Yourself on your roof rack safely prevents damage to your car, kayak, and rack system. Having someone help makes side loading easier, but there are also lift-assist products to help load solo.

Lift Assist Options: Various products attach to your roof rack and J-cradles to help lift and slide kayaks up. Pool noodles can also protect the hull when sliding onto the roof.

Secure with Cam Straps: Use cam straps over the kayak to secure it to the crossbars after sitting it in the J-cradles. The front and back of the kayak should also be tied down.

Pass the Straps Over Have a partner pass the straps over the kayak to the other side of the car to avoid the buckles hitting the vehicle. Make sure straps are tight but not too tight. Tie up loose strap ends.

Bow and Stern Ties: Use additional ropes or straps to tie down the front and rear of the kayak. The back line can attach to a tow hitch.

Repeat for Additional Kayaks

Follow the same process to securely load any additional kayaks on the roof rack.

How 2 People Should Lift A Kayak

Having someone assist makes lifting kayaks way easier. Let me walk you through how to lift a kayak with a partner using the proper technique.

For Short Carries

If you’re just moving the kayak a short distance, have one person grab the front handle and one person grab the back handle. Simply lift together and walk forward. Communicate and keep a firm grip!

For Longer Carries

To haul a kayak up onto a roof rack or further distances, you’ll need a different approach. This is where a lift assist tool can be handy.

Step 1: Get Set Up With the kayak on the ground, you and your partner stand on the same side at opposite ends facing the kayak.

Step 2: Do the Lift Bend those knees, keep your back straight, and grab the toggle handle closest to you. Communicate to make sure you’re in sync, then lift together at the same time. Bring the kayak up to waist level.

Step 3: Up to Your Shoulders Talk with your partner to make sure you’re both ready. In one motion, lift the kayak onto both of your shoulders, with each of you supporting one side of the hull on your shoulder.

From here, you can load the kayak onto roof racks or carry it safely to the water. The person in front just needs to warn the person in back of any obstacles.

Video: How To Carry And Transport Your Kayak

Kayak Carrying Tips and Precautions

How to Carry Your Kayak Safely and Easily Two women carrying a touring kayak Carrying a kayak can be hard, but these tips will make it easier and safer for you and your kayak, no matter your skill level:

Warm Up Don’t lift a Carry a Kayak By Yourself without warming up your muscles first. This is important if the kayak is heavy or if you haven’t been active for a while. Do some stretches for your legs, back, and shoulders to get ready.

Wear Good Shoes Walking on a wet surface with bad shoes can make you slip. Carrying a kayak can make it worse. Get some water shoes or sandals that have a good grip. This will help you stay balanced and stable. For more tips on what to wear when you kayak, check out our guide on what to wear kayaking.

Lift With Your Legs You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s true: always lift with your legs, not your back. Your legs are stronger than your back. By using them, you can lift your kayak more easily and avoid hurting your back. So, when you lift your kayak, bend your knees and use your leg power.

Wear a PFD You might think, “Why wear a PFD when I’m not in the water?” Well, you never know when an accident might happen. Even when you’re just moving your kayak near water, wearing a PFD can save your life. Also, it can make Carry a Kayak By Yourself more comfortable, as it can act as a pad for your shoulder. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Look Around When you Carry a Kayak By Yourself, you might get too focused on it and forget about your surroundings. But this can be dangerous. Look around for any things that might get in your way, like rocks or branches. Make wide turns to avoid hitting anything, and make sure you have a clear path ahead. Also, be careful of other people, especially in crowded areas.

Check the Weather Before you go, it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast. Windy conditions can make carrying a kayak hard, especially if you’re alone. If there are strong winds, think about delaying your trip or getting someone to help you Carry a Kayak By Yourself.



After learning these safety tips for lifting Carry a Kayak By Yourself, I hope you’re excited to give it a try! As you practice, the right technique will become more natural to you. Additionally, using a lift assist rack or a cart with wheels can make longer trips easier.

Remember, staying safe is key to enjoying your time on the water. Learning these steps will help you have even more fun while kayaking. Keep practicing and stay safe out there!

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