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The Best Ways to Transport Kayaks

Kayaks are great for going down rivers, lakes, ponds, and even over the ocean. Coming in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and propulsion methods, these boats are often used in sports, fishing, and just exploration alike. Whatever your style of kayak you’ve no doubt come across the same problem – how to properly transport it. If you have a truck or trailer it’s just a matter of throwing them into the bed and making sure they don’t fall out. For the rest of us there are many different techniques that can be employed – you can strap your kayak to a truck rack, Jerry rig a setup with some cut up pool noodles, or invest into additional accessories to expand your racking system. Before we can start on how to properly load and tie down via these methods, we first need to understand the most basic form of transportation.

Carrying a Kayak

Transporting your kayak to and from your vehicles doesn’t require more than some muscle and the proper technique. Even though kayaks are lightweight, their awkward shape may result in you tweaking your back or worse. Remember to follow proper lifting procedure – always make sure to lift with your legs and not your back.
The simplest way is to use two people – having one person grab the bow and the other the stern. Often kayaks come with straps or handles to help with grip. To avoid one person from backpedaling and to put less stress on their back it is best to have both people face the same way.  If you are by yourself, you need to be a little more careful. First, stand on the side that favors your dominant hand – if you are right handed for instance it’s just a matter of standing on the left side of the kayak and vice versa for your left hand. Squat down and pull the edge of the boat up to your thighs and position your dominant hand inside the cockpit of the kayak. From here slowly stand up and position the kayak on your shoulder. If this is painful try using some sort padding between your shoulder and the cockpit rim. Try to position it so the cockpits balances on your shoulder, so that the front nor the back leans down

Transporting with a Roof Rack

It’s recommended to have some sort of crossbar or padding installed on your roof rack beforehand – this serves the dual purpose of protecting your kayak from scratches, and giving additional attachment strength. If you have partner merely have one person on each end and grab the kayak at each end – with the front of the kayak, or the bow, facing the front of the car. Lift the kayak overhead and place it directly on the rack – make sure to always lift with your legs and not your back. If you find you have to do it by yourself, merely grab a towel or blanket and set it on the rear end of the vehicle’s roof. From here set the bow end of the kayak on the towel, then move around to the stern and push the boat up and forward onto the rack. When tightening the straps, make sure to have at least a couple worked around the center of the kayak and intertwined between the crossbar and the actual roof of the vehicle. When tightening the straps make sure it stays snug, but not so tight that it warps your kayak or the roof of your car.

Transporting without a Roof Rack

Using just a couple pool noodles and some bungee cords or straps, you can get your kayak strapped safely to the top of your car without a roof rack. Using a knife, you need to cut each pool noodle the width of your car’s roof. You’re going to want to put three cut up noodles on the front, middle, and back portions of the roof of your car. With some help lift your kayak and gently place them on top of the noodles – the goal here is not to move the noodles too much. Make sure the kayak is balanced well enough when you grab the bungee cord or straps. Open the doors and pull the straps through the car and over the kayak, tighten it so it’s taut without doing enough to damage the roof. In order to keep the kayak as straight as possible during your trip, attach a bungee cord to both the front and back.

Modifying your Roof Rack with Accessories

There are many aftermarket accessories that can be added to your car’s roof rack as well. They typically come in one of four styles –  J-cradles, stackers, saddlers, and temporary pads – the last of these are similar to the pool noodles, and don’t need a basic rack system to work. Naturally, these are the easiest to install and remove. Saddlers are also pads but they attach to your racking system directly, providing a good base of support for your kayak. J-cradles work best with two kayaks or more, along with providing a great base of support. The only minor disadvantage of this variant is that they add a noticeable height to your vehicle.  Stackers work similarly to J-cradles but actually need less in the way of installation.

Final Thoughts

Proper transportation technique begins with knowing the right way to lift a kayak. From there you are given a few options for transporting your kayaks via vehicle – if you have a truck it’s just a matter of throwing it in the back bed. Racks on cars or SUVs are useful as long as you use tie downs the right way, and can be modified with accessories that increase stability. If you have no truck or rack, the DIY pool noodle method works great as long as you are careful. Kayaks can be a great investment as they can be used on just about any body of water you can imagine. As long as you keep a few things in mind, transporting them shouldn’t limit all the fun adventures that await you with these great boats.

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