If you want to go kayaking, you may wonder how you can transport your kayak if you don’t have a roof rack or the bed of a pickup truck.
There are some clever ways to transport kayaks, and there are some ways you shouldn’t, for protecting them and for your safety and that of your vehicle.
If you think about transporting a kayak inside a car, you could find it a struggle unless it’s a certain type of kayak.
In our guide, you can learn more about how to transport a kayak on a small car and how to do so safely so you can get fishing as quickly as possible. (Read Kayak Hoist DIY)
Can I Put a Kayak Inside My Car?
Before you even contemplate loading your kayak inside a car, you need to know that a full-sized kayak won’t fit in most cars.
The most common method of transporting kayaks is through a car, but not inside; it is to transport the kayak on the car using a roof rack made for kayaks or a DIY method.
The only two types of kayaks that stand any chance of going inside a car are modular kayaks that could break down into segments and possibly sit on the rear seat, or you have an inflatable kayak you deflate and fold up small enough to fit in your vehicle. (Learn How To Put Kayak On Roof Rack By Yourself)
If you have either of these types, you need to ensure they are securely tied down to the seats. If they move under braking, they could move forward and cause injury or break your windshield.
Transporting a kayak on a car is straightforward once you have the right gear to do so. A kayak roof rack is the preferred piece of equipment to transport a kayak by car.
If you plan to transport a kayak in your car, here is what you need to know to do so safely. It would help if you had a roof rack of some sort to transport the kayak safely to your destination.
A kayak roof rack typically falls into one of four categories.
Stackers: Ideal when you want to transport multiple kayaks. Kayaks are laid on their sides for transportation before being strapped down. (Learn How Many Calories Does Kayaking Burn)
Saddles: Such a style of rack is preferred for the size and added safety.
J-Cradles: The most commonly used kayak roof rack are J-cradles as they deliver optimum security and stability while being easy to install on your vehicle and use.
Temporary Pads: Such pads are a great solution for occasional kayakers. As it sounds, you have foam blocks, and you tie your kayak down with straps. A four-door compact vehicle, ratchet straps, and pool noodles are all you need to attach a kayak securely.
Remember, aside from the foam to carry your kayak, car size and type will determine the type of kayak roof rack you will require as car manufacturers are offering pre-built rails on the roof.
If you are new to kayaking and wondering if you should be transporting a kayak upside down or the right way up, upside down is the standard method for the top of a car.
You will need to remove the seat and other gear on the deck, cockpit, or stick up from your kayak level. Night fishing lights can fit into this sort of gear.
It would help if you covered the cockpit using a cockpit cover as it adds protection and stops wind buffeting against your kayak and causing damage.
Can You Transport a Kayak Inside an SUV?
No. Unless you want to carry inflatable kayaks, do not attempt to transport a kayak inside an SUV. However, many people do such a thing, even if it compromises the well-being of the kayak, your safety, or the safety of others if you find yourself in an accident.
You may also find that transport a kayak inside a car or SUV is a sin with kayak etiquette.
It is much better to transport a kayak in a truck, so here are the guides to do this, and for transporting your kayaks on the roof of your SUV or the roof of your car. (Read Kayaking Workout)
Get your truck bed ready.
Start by thoroughly cleaning the back of the truck. If you have any hardware or items in the back, you’ll need to remove these. Place a rubber mat across the bed of the truck as this will stop your kayak sliding and also protect the hull and the bed of your truck.
Load the kayak
If your kayak is heavy, ask someone to help and load your boat onto your truck. Remember, the hull needs to face down. In addition to this, make sure you have removed the seat and any loose gear inside the cockpit, and you have it stored safely inside the vehicle.
Slide the kayak onto the truck
If you have a large truck and small kayak, you could fit the kayak inside. However, if your kayak is large, you may not be able to fit your kayak unless you keep the tailgate open. Doing this, the kayak overhangs, and if overhanging too far, it isn’t safe. If you don’t wish to leave the tailgate open when transporting your kayak, you can keep the tailgate up.
If you have the tailgate closed when transporting your kayak, one end will be in the air. Add extra foam and padding to the tailgate before you secure the kayak to the bed of the truck with your ratchet straps.
This will prevent the kayak from sliding, so you won’t have a nasty surprise when you reach your destination.
When you transport your kayak in, either way, you need a red flag tied to the end. This alerts other drivers that a long vessel, boat, or item is sticking out from the vehicle’s rear.
The length of your kayak and how far it sticks out determine if you need a red flag or if you can legally transport your kayak in this manner.
Typically, you will find the rules dictate that anything that sticks out over 4 feet from the rear of a vehicle requires you to take additional safety measures, such as using a flag or adding red lights.
If you don’t have a truck nor a roof rack, you can use these steps to learn how to tie down a kayak on an SUV or small car.
Using this method is safe so long as you use the right gear and securely attach your kayak.
Tools you need
- Electric drill & drill bit (#40)
- Rasp file & flat jeweler’s file
- Sharp knife & needle nose pliers
- 2 x 1 in x 12-inch ratchet straps
- 2 x 3-inch diameter pool noodles
- 1 x 1 x 1-inch aluminum plain square tube to be cut into two
- Protective rubber or plastic tips
- Measure the aluminum tube and cut it in half.
- Place the tube on the roof of your vehicle and measure where the edge of your car roof is. (make sure it isn’t sticking out wider than your car roof).
- Mark two rectangular slots on either side.
- Run around the line with the drill to cut out the aluminum.
- Cut the two rectangular holes large enough to feed the end of your ratchet straps through. File the holes so there are no rough edges and it won’t damage your straps.
- The straps here secure the tubes to your car or your SUVs roof. Place one at the front and one toward the rear.
- Once you cut the holes in your aluminum tube, measure and cut the pool noodles until they reach the hole on either end of the tube.
- Feed your straps through the first hole until you see the end at the second. To secure, place the tubes on your roof.
- As you tighten the ratchet, the strap will secure itself to the vehicle. (The positioning should be by the vehicle doors).
- You want to get rubber tips because you can easily damage your kayak when you lift it onto your homemade vehicle roof rack.
- Next, load the kayak onto the roof and the tubes and pool noodles. Secure your kayak to the ends of the aluminum tubes.
- Strap down the bow and stern from either side at the front and rear of your vehicle. Please do this as it stops your kayak from trying to spin in the wind as you drive to your destination.
Besides these methods, you have the option of using inflatable kayaks, a folding kayak, which you can fit inside your SUV.
If you can’t fit any of these securely behind the seats without being folded down or don’t want a folding kayak design as they are not ideal for sea fishing, the best way to transport kayaks is to purchase a kayak trailer. (Find the Best Kayaks for Dogs)
Using a trailer can simplify loading and unloading your kayak and carry more weight than your roof. When you have multiple kayaks, your family paddling excursions will be much more enjoyable.