How to Carry a Kayak

Kayaking is a great hobby and outdoor sport. Enjoyed by countless in the United States, it brings many to the vast water bodies across the country. Given its popularity, have you ever stopped to think of how kayaks transport from point A to B?

Transporting kayaks might be something we take for granted, but it is an essential part of enjoying the sport.

Many will bring a kayak in a car, and there are ways to do it safely and properly. Knowing how to do so also ensures you do not damage your kayak or vehicle.

Boy Carry Kayak

How to Put Kayak on Roof by Yourself

The many water destinations are there to enjoy, so transporting our units is part of the whole effort. The first thing to learn is placing the kayak on the roof of your vehicle.

Most like myself place their boats on top of their vehicles. I shop at a boating supply store that sells a variety of products for car mounting.

An inexpensive alternative is foam blocks that will do for short trips. Roof racks will cost more but are secure, easier to use, and better for longer journeys on the freeway.

Kayak Specific Roof Racks

A roof kayak system comes with a pair of horizontal metal bars that latch to the top of a vehicle. These bars integrate with factory-installed roof racks, raised side rails, or bare rooftops.

I attached my base systems myself with the clamps provided. Still, if you are not inclined, a store assistant can help with installation.

Once you have a proper roof rack system, it is now time to place the kayak on top of your vehicle. How to carry a kayak properly will ensure that you do not injure yourself.

Carrying a Kayak

When leaving the house, you are likely coming from your kayak storage area, whereas if you were going home, you would be coming from the water to a parking lot. Either way, you have the task of carrying the kayak. You could be alone or with a friend.

Carrying a Kayak Alone

You can carry a kayak like a briefcase if it is light, but it is easier to lift it on the shoulder. To do this, place yourself on the side of the boat (left or right side), bend down at the knees, hold the edge of the cockpit using both hands, and pull the edge to your waist.

With your arm nearest to the kayak, reach across and hold on to the underside of the cockpit. Carry the kayak on the right (or left) shoulder and get up. Tighten your core so you can handle the weight. (Read A Parent’s Guide to Kayaking with Kids)

Carrying a Kayak with Help

If a pair, one of you should stand at each end of the kayak. Getting hold of the bow or stern, lift the kayak in unison.

Be sure you are both facing the same direction, and if you happen to carry two boats (yes, it is possible), use grab the handles of each boat in the right and left hand.

A bit of advice for both carrying scenarios: Lift the kayak in short distances, taking brief breaks to recharge. This is an especially helpful technique if you need to carry the boat over a longer distance. Switching shoulders or arms on each break is also helpful.

Kayak On The Roof

Placing a Kayak on the Roof

Once you get to your vehicle, now comes the task of hoisting your bot on the roof rack. Loading a kayak alone begins by positioning yourself at the back of the car.

Carry one side and slide the boat onto the back crossbar of the rack. Ensure the front part of the boat goes to the front part of the car, and it must face the right side up.

Transporting the boat upside down involves the same steps but stopping once you have slid half of the kayak forward. Turn it over, and then continue sliding it forward.

If you have a companion, lift the kayak using the grab handles with one person on each side. Place it parallel to your car, with the bow facing the front of the vehicle.

Carry the boat by the hull and hoist it overhead to place it on the rack. Be mindful of the position of your rack to fasten the kayak correctly.

Secure Your Kayak

Nothing could be worse than ruining your trip with a kayak that falls off. I always make the extra effort to secure the boat properly. Use foam to pad surfaces that contact the kayak and be parallel with the car to reduce wind drag.

Place the boat in the j-cradles or saddles as required. If you chose to transport your kayak right side up, cover the cockpit to seal it from water.

To fasten the boat, I make use of a pair of nylon-webbing straps with spring-loaded buckles. Place the straps as far apart as possible and secure them well (but not overly tight).

Observe the boat as you tighten the straps to make sure it is not deforming. If you try and gently lift the bow and there is no give, the tension is right.

Rock the bow side to side, and if there is some play, tighten the straps more. I use ropes to secure the stern and bow by fastening a rope around the front grab handle with the kayak strapped down. I attach it to a sturdy car part. The secure rope also around the back grab handles and fasten it to another vital car part. (Read What Muscles Does Kayaking Work)

Finally, tie the loose ends of the ropes and straps, so they do not flail around. Once you get on the road, observe the kayak first a few miles. Stop to make a brief inspection, making sure it is secure and staying in place. If all looks good, off, you go.

How to Carry a Kayak