How to Tie Down a Kayak onto the Roof Rack by yourself

How to Tie Down a Kayak onto the roof rack the right way so it doesn’t get damaged.

How to Tie Down a Kayak onto the Roof Rack

Did you know most kayak damage happens while carrying it? That’s because your kayak is most at risk when it’s out of the water. So you need to know how to strap it down properly.

This guide will show you step-by-step how to tie your kayak securely to a roof rack. That way it will stay safe and not get messed up.

Moving a kayak doesn’t have to be hard if you do it right. This video will show you how to:

  • Carry a kayak by yourself or with a friend. Grab the handles or put it on your shoulder.
  • Get the kayak onto your car. It’s easier with a friend, but you can do it alone too.
  • Strap the kayak down tight. Use cam straps – they’re easy and secure.

How to Tie Down a Kayak onto the Roof Rack

How to Carry a Kayak

How to Carry a Kayak

How to Tie Down a Kayak onto the Roof Rack in Carrying a kayak with a friend is easy:

  • Each person grabs one end of the kayak by the handles at the front or back.
  • Lift the kayak. Face the way you are going instead of walking backward.
  • You can carry two kayaks like this. Hold one handle from each kayak in each hand.

You can carry a kayak alone unless it’s enormous and heavy. Here’s how:

 kayak alone
  • Stand on the left side of the kayak facing it.
  • Squat down and grab the front edge with both hands. Lift it onto your thighs.
  • Reach across with your right arm and grab under the front seat area.
  • As you stand up, put the kayak on your right shoulder.
  • Let the front edge rest on your shoulder. Find a balanced position so the kayak doesn’t tip forward or backward.

(To use your left arm instead, start on the right side of the kayak and switch arms in the steps above.)

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

Tips for Carrying a Kayak

Save your back: Bend your knees and keep your back straight when picking up the kayak.

Wear your life jacket: If carrying solo, put on your life jacket for extra padding on your shoulder.

Use a cart: If carrying the kayak is too hard, get a cart with wheels.

How to Put a Kayak on a Vehicle

Kayak on a Vehicle

How to Tie Down a Kayak onto the Roof Rack.You just need a few basic things to put a kayak on your car:

  • Crossbars – Bars that go across your roof. Most attach to the long bars on your car, but depends on your vehicle. Some crossbars go in a truck bed.
  • Rack/padding – Kayak racks attach to the crossbars and hold the boat. Padded J or V-shaped ones are the most secure.
  • Cam straps – Fast and secure straps to tie down the kayak. Get two 12-foot or longer straps.
  • Ropes – Use non-stretch ropes at the front and back. Special ratcheting ropes are the quickest. Usually need one rope on each end, but it depends on your kayak and car size.

Driving Safely with Your Kayak

Here are some tips for driving safely with a kayak:

  • Hang a red flag or light – Attach a red flag or light if the kayak sticks out the back. This helps other drivers see you.
  • Check straps before driving – Double-check check all straps and tie points are tight before leaving. A quick check prevents problems.
  • Stop and recheck straps – Even if tight at first, stop after 15-20 minutes of driving to check again. Vibrations can loosen straps.
  • Adjust your driving – Go slower, brake early, and avoid sudden stops or sharp turns. Remember your vehicle is taller and heavier now. Watch for low bridges and tunnels.

Loading a Kayak With Help

Loading a Kayak With Help

How to Tie Down a Kayak onto the Roof Rack. Once the roof rack is ready, you can put the kayak on top. It’s easiest with a friend:

  • Carry the kayak by the handles to the side of the car with the front of the kayak facing the front of the car.
  • Lift the kayak overhead by holding the ends, not the handles. Use your legs to lift, not your back.
  • With the kayak above you, put it over the rack and lower it down gently. Place it how your rack holds the kayak best.

Loading a Kayak by Yourself

Loading a Kayak by Yourself

How to Tie Down a Kayak onto the Roof Rack. Then, Loading a kayak onto a car by yourself:

  • Use a lift system – Some racks slide down from the roof so you don’t have to lift the kayak as high. Load the kayak lower, strap it, then lift the rack back up top. Expensive but easy.
  • Get rolling wheels – Racks with wheels let you put the front on the back cradle and just roll the kayak forward into the front cradle. Cheaper than lift systems.
  • Use a towel or blanket – Put a towel on the back of your car and set the front of the kayak on it. Lift the back and push the kayak forward onto the rack. A low-tech, low-cost option.

Loading a Kayak Onto J-Cradles by Yourself

Loading a kayak on J-cradles can be tricky depending on your car and kayak size:

  • Put the kayak parallel to the car with the front by the front cradle.
  • Lift the front and carefully put it on the front cradle.
  • Go to the back and lift the kayak while keeping the front in the cradle.
  • Gently slide the kayak forward until the back goes onto the back cradle.
  • Make sure the kayak is on its side with the seat facing out.

Once loaded, center the kayak on the roof racks. Line up the seat with the middle of the crossbars. For a sit-on-top kayak, use the side handles to center it.

If you often load alone, get a rack with a lift system or wheels. Lift systems slide down so you don’t have to lift as high. Wheels let you roll the kayak into place after putting the front on. Both make solo loading much easier.

Loading Multiple Kayaks

  • Add a second rack – You may be able to put a second rack on the crossbars to hold another kayak like the first one. Depends on the kayak widths and your bars.
  • Use stacker bars – Stacker bars let you turn the kayaks on their sides to take up less space. It is often used for smaller whitewater boats but works for bigger recreational and touring kayaks too.
  • Make sure you have enough straps – Note you’ll need extra straps to tie down multiple boats securely.

How to Tie Down a Kayak

How to Tie Down a Kayak

There are 2 methods of how to tie down a kayak:

Cam Straps

  1. Center the kayak between the roof bars and parallel to the car.
  2. Put a cam buckle on the side of the kayak by a bar. Toss the strap over the kayak.
  3. Go to the other side. Loop the strap under the bar and back over the kayak, inside where it attaches to the car.
  4. Go back and thread the strap under the bar and up through the cam buckle. Tighten.
  5. Do the same on the other bar with the second strap.
  6. Tighten the straps snug but not too tight.
  7. Tie off the loose ends under the buckles to the bars so they don’t flap.
  8. Shake the kayak to check it’s secure.

Front and Back Ropes

Front and Back Ropes

It’s good to also tie ropes at the front and back:

  1. Hook a ratcheting rope to the front handle and front of the car.
  2. If no tie point, use a hood loop strap. Don’t tie to plastic parts.
  3. Pull the rope tight but not too tight.
  4. Tie off the loose end below the ratchet.
  5. Do the same for the back rope.

Tips for tying down a kayak:

  • Keep it simple – Fancy knots aren’t needed. Basic is often the fastest and most secure.
  • Use a ladder – Keep a small ladder to reach straps on tall vehicles.
  • Add a twist – Twisting cam straps can reduce annoying vibrations.
  • Lock the straps – Get straps with keys so no one takes your kayak if you make a quick stop. For long periods, use a locking cable.
  • Know the trucker’s hitch – If no cam straps, use rope and tie a trucker’s hitch to get it tight. Use non-stretch, water-resistant rope.
  • Check after 15 minutes – Stop after 15 minutes driving to tug and check the kayak is still tight. Straps can loosen.


Nailing it on bare bars? Not ideal! Hard metal can bruise your kayak’s hull and it might slip in a breeze. Use cradles or padding for a safe, happy journey.

Here are concise 3-step answers for tying down a kayak:

  • Center kayak on roof racks.
  • Strap top to crossbars with cam buckles.
  • Tie the front and rear to the car with ropes or ratchets.


How to Tie Down a Kayak onto the Roof Rack. In Transporting a kayak safely and securely is crucial to avoid any damage while on the road. There are some key steps to follow. First, it is important to carry the kayak properly either with a partner or using methods like a shoulder carry or wheeled cart if solo. 

This prevents injury. Next, install kayak racks with padding on the vehicle along with cam straps and ropes to tie down the boat. With a friend, loading the kayak onto the padded racks is straightforward. Alone, utilize a specialized lift system or wheels to simplify loading if possible.

How to Tie Down a Kayak onto the Roof Rack .Once the kayak is on the roof, take care to center it properly on the racks. Strap over the top to the crossbars with cam buckle straps. Also, tie rope or ratchet straps specifically at the front and rear of the kayak to solid tie-down points on the vehicle. Adjust your driving style by going slower and braking early. After 15 minutes, stop to check that the straps have not loosened. Avoid fancy knots and keep the tying process simple.

Following this guide carefully will allow the How to Tie Down a Kayak onto the Roof Rack without any damage. Proper carrying, loading, tying, and driving techniques are key for safe paddling adventures.

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