How to Transport a Kayak: Methods, Tips, and Best Practices

You want to go kayaking, but first, you need to take your kayak to the water. How to Transport a Kayak? You have to be careful because you don’t want to break your kayak or cause trouble on the road.

What is the best way to take your kayak? We will show you different ways to carry your kayak with different kinds of vehicles. We will also give you some tips and tricks to make it easier and safer.

Kayak Transport Methods

You need to think about what kind of car you have, how often you go kayaking, and what you want when you carry your kayak. Next, we will explain each way to do it, and tell you the good and bad points of each one. This will help you pick the best way for you.

1. Roof Racks

Many people who like outdoor activities use roof racks to carry their kayaks. Here are some reasons why:

Safety: You want your kayak to be safe and not fall off when you drive. A good roof rack and some extra things can help you keep your kayak in place and avoid accidents.

Versatility: You can use roof racks for other things too, like bikes, snowboards, or bags.

Efficient Use of Space: Putting your kayak on the roof makes more room inside your car for people and other stuff. If you are new to roof racks, you should know what they are made of

Side Rails: These are like the long sides of a ladder. They go along the sides of your car and support the roof rack.

Crossbars: These are bars that go across the side rails. They make a platform for your kayak and other things. Having a roof rack is not enough. You also need some extra things to make sure your kayak is safe on the roof. Here are some of them:

Crossbar Padding: These are like cushions for your kayak. They can be foam blocks or soft crossbars. They stop your kayak from getting bent or damaged when you tie it to the crossbars.

Saddle-Style Mounts: These are like seats for your kayak. They hold your kayak from below. They are good for wide kayaks.

J-Cradles: These are racks that look like the letter ‘J’. They let you put your kayak on its side. This is good for carrying two kayaks.

Kayak Stacker: This is another way to carry more than one kayak. It lets you put them on their sides.

Bed Racks: If you have a truck, you can use bed racks to carry your kayak. They lift and hold your kayak above the truck bed. This way, you can use the truck bed for other things. If you want to learn How to Transport a Kayak in your car, you can read our detailed guide on how to load and tie down a kayak on a roof rack.

2. Transporting a Kayak on a Car Without Rails

Some of us have cars that were not designed to carry large items like kayaks on top. But there are still a few options for How to Transport a Kayak a kayak even if your car doesn’t have roof rails. You can buy special crossbars that attach directly to the roof of your car using clamps or suction cups.

 These crossbars give you a base to put your kayak on. It’s also a good idea to use foam blocks or kayak mounts on top of the crossbars. This helps support the kayak and protects your car’s roof. Check our guide on the best kayak racks for cars without roof rails for more details.

Another cheaper way is to just use foam blocks directly on your car’s roof. The thick foam pads act as a cushion for the kayak. See our guide on carrying a kayak without a roof rack for how this works.

Crossbars give more security but foam blocks are simpler and cheaper. If you only kayak sometimes, the foam blocks may be a good budget option. But crossbars are better for regular kayakers.

3. Transporting a Kayak Inside Your Car

Transporting a kayak inside your car can be a good option, even though roof racks are more common. Many 8-foot kayaks can fit comfortably inside some vehicles without getting in the way of driving.

Some tips for transporting a kayak inside your car:

  • Clean out your car and remove anything that could block the kayak or damage it.
  • Fold down the back seats to make more room. Hatchbacks and SUVs usually have enough space.
  • Put down a tarp or old blanket to protect your car from scratches or water.
  • If it fits, place the kayak cockpit side up. This lets you use the space for paddles, life jackets, etc.
  • Make sure the kayak doesn’t block your view out the back window or rearview mirror.
  • Tie the kayak securely to hooks inside your car so it doesn’t shift while driving. Bungee cords or ropes work well.

If the kayak sticks out a bit from the rear:

  • Driving short distances with the trunk open can work if the weather is good. But tie the kayak down very securely.
  • Don’t let the kayak stick out too far. This can be dangerous for other vehicles and illegal.

Transporting a kayak inside your car takes some extra effort but can be simple and convenient, especially for short trips. Just focus on driving safely and securing the kayak so it doesn’t move around.

How to Transport Your Kayak – Top Tips

4. Truck Bed Transport

Pickup trucks can be great for carrying kayaks. The open bed gives lots of space to put a kayak in. It’s easy to slide the kayak in and out of the truck bed. You can also fit other gear like camping equipment along with the kayak.

Truck beds come in different sizes, usually 5 to 8 feet long. So some kayaks will stick out past the end of the bed. If the kayak sticks out more than 4 feet, you need a red flag or light on the end. This warns cars behind you.

If you carry long kayaks a lot, get a tailgate extender. This attaches to the truck to make more support for long kayaks. Extenders have reflective tape too. Overall, pickup trucks work well for hauling kayaks because of the open bed space. Just be sure to use flags or lights if the kayak sticks out very far. Extenders can also help support long kayaks.

5. Kayak Trailers

For many people, lifting a kayak onto a car roof seems scary and difficult. That’s why some use kayak trailers instead. Trailers make transporting kayaks easier in several ways:

  • It’s easy to load and unload since you don’t have to lift the kayak overhead. You just slide it onto the trailer at ground level.
  • There’s less risk of damage to your car since the kayak doesn’t touch it during loading.
  • Some trailers can carry multiple kayaks, which is great for group trips.
  • You can use the trailer with any vehicle – sedan, SUV, etc. Roof racks are limited to certain cars.
  • Trailers provide extra storage for gear, fishing poles, coolers, etc.
  • Some trailers double as storage when not being used for transport.

If you’re considering a kayak trailer, make sure your vehicle can tow it properly. Kayaks are relatively light but add the trailer weight too. Potential downsides are cost, storage when not in use, and needing to be more careful when driving with a trailer.

Occasional kayakers may not find the investment worthwhile. But frequent paddlers can benefit a lot from the convenience. See our article on the best kayak trailers for recommendations.

6. Bicycle Trailers

Towing your kayak behind your bicycle can be a fun way to combine cycling and kayaking. It’s an unusual idea, but it works! Special kayak trailers attach to the back of your bike. They have two wheels and a long body to spread out the kayak’s weight.

But riding a bike while pulling a kayak is different than normal cycling. Here are some tips to know How to Transport a Kayak and stay safe:

  • Practice controlling the bike with the trailer first in a safe area. Get used to how the extra weight and length change your turns and stops.
  • Use reflective strips or flags on your bike and trailer to be more visible. This alerts drivers you’re carrying something long.
  • Stick to quiet streets or bike paths if you can. You’re longer than a regular cyclist which can surprise drivers.
  • Stay alert like when driving. Watch for hazards like potholes or sharp turns.
  • Stop often to check the kayak is securely strapped down and not shifting.

Towing a kayak by bicycle is eco-friendly. It allows you to reach places cars can’t easily. It’s satisfying to explore with just your bike, kayak, and sense of adventure. At first, it seems tricky, but with the right gear and practice, kayak trailers can be a fun way to How to Transport a Kayak your kayak.

7. Kayak Carts

Moving a kayak from your car to the water can be tiring and difficult. But a kayak cart makes it much easier! Kayak carts have wheels and a frame to hold the kayak securely. This takes the weight off you so How to Transport a Kayak is smoother.

In How to Transport a Kayak. A kayak cart gives several benefits:

  • It’s safer for your back since you’re not straining yourself carrying the weight.
  • Your kayak is protected from scratches or damage since it’s lifted off the ground.
  • You can strap gear like paddles and vests onto the kayak and move everything in one trip.
  • Carts work well on sand, grass, or other terrains. When not in use, they fold up for storage.

So a kayak cart isn’t just an extra accessory. It’s an important part of hassle-free kayaking experiences. It makes getting from the car to the water much simpler. If you’re interested in getting one, check out our article comparing the best kayak carts. How to Transport a Kayak. We look at their pros, and cons and what terrain they work best on.

What Is the Best Way How to Transport a Kayak?

Not every kayak transportation solution is suitable for everyone. What works well for one person might not be convenient for another.

Comparing All Methods

Transportation MethodProsConsPrice
Roof RacksSafe, versatile, efficient use of spaceThe kayak may protrude and may need extra equipment$$
Foam BlocksCost-effective, easy to install, various vehiclesLess stable, risk of car roof damage, limited capacity$
Inside Your CarIdeal for short trips, protected, no extra equipmentLimited to smaller kayaks, potential interior car damage
Truck BedSpacious, easy loading, keeps kayak accessibleKayak may protrude and may need extra equipment$
Kayak TrailersEasy loading, no car damage, multiple kayaksExpensive, requires storage, affects driving$$$
Bicycle TrailersEnvironmentally friendly, access to unique locationsChallenging towing dynamics, safety issues on busy roads$$
Kayak CartsPortable, ideal for short distancesLimited to terrain, not suited for long distances$

Recommendations Based on Kayak Types

  • Small kayakers: You’re lucky! These fit easily in your car or on the roof.
  • Medium kayakers: These are common and fit well on roof racks or inside most cars.
  • Big kayakers: These guys need more space. How to Transport a Kayak Trucks, trailers, or roof racks are best.
  • Fishing kayakers: They’re chunky with lots of gear, so trucks or trailers are their jam.
  • Whitewater kayakers: These are small and sporty, so they fit in cars or on roof racks easily.

Transporting Multiple Kayaks?

If you like to go kayaking with other people, you need to think about How to Transport a Kayak and carry more than one kayak. You can use J-cradles on roof racks to carry two kayaks, but a trailer is better for carrying three or more.

Kayak Transport Safety and Security Measures: Driving with a kayak in your car or behind it is not a regular drive. You need to be extra careful and pay more attention to the road.

Driving Considerations With a Loaded Kayak: Balance the Weight: Make sure the kayak is not too heavy on one side. If it is, your car will be hard to control when you turn or stop quickly.

Watch the Height: A kayak on top of your car makes it taller. Be careful of places where the roof is low, like bridges or parking lots.

Drive Carefully: Do not stop or turn fast. How to Transport a Kayak. The kayak can act like a wing, catching the wind and making the car unstable.

Driving in Different Weather Conditions

Rain: How to Transport a Kayak When the road is wet, your car can slip. Go slow, do not brake hard, and stay away from other cars.

Wind: The wind can hit the kayak, making it hard to steer. Go slower and check all the straps are tight.


When picking a kayak rack for your car, make sure it fits your specific car model. Most companies have charts showing which racks work with different cars. If you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to ask the company or a store that specializes in these things for advice.

If your car doesn’t have racks, you can use foam blocks or inflatable pads to protect the roof. Secure the kayak with strong tie-downs inside the car, but always check to make sure it stays secure during your trip.

The size of your car and the kind of rack you use matter. With J-cradles or stackers, you can carry two kayaks on a normal car roof. For bigger cars or trucks with bed extenders, you can carry more kayaks with the right gear.

To carry multiple kayaks, use J-cradles or stackers. When using a trailer, arrange kayaks freely and make sure each one is securely tied down to avoid any shifting.

For bigger fishing kayaks, consider using trailers or truck beds instead of roof racks. Make sure to secure or take off fishing gear before transporting them.

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