The first step to a great kayaking adventure involves transporting your kayak on top of your car. So, what do you need to get the job done right?
To safely transport your kayak on top of car you’ll need
- Roof rack crossbars and a kayak rack attachment
- Tie-down straps and ratchet straps
A properly accessorized roof rack offers the safest, quickest and easiest way to transport your kayak. Kayak roof racks are used in conjunction with a roof rack setup. You can use a roof rack to transport a kayak without a special kayak attachment, but you’ll need to transport the kayak upside down and use foam pads to protect it. This isn’t the best system, especially if you plan to travel long distances or if the weather is rainy and wet.
You’ll also need
- Plenty of time to secure your kayak in place, rushing leads to oversights that can turn disastrous.
- A cockpit cover to protect your kayak against the elements, as well as the wind power, generated going 60 miles per hour down the highway. A cover also helps prevent the kayak from slipping off your vehicle and becoming a high-speed rocket.
- If your kayak hangs over the end of your car, attach a red flag to it to warn other vehicles of the protruding cargo. In some states, this is the law, not just common courtesy.
- Check local regulations where you’ll be traveling as transportation laws vary from state to state and even between neighboring counties.
Roof Racks to Transport Kayaks on Top of Car
A roof rack offers an attachment point for your kayak or canoe racks. Not all roof racks are made equally, and some models work better for certain vehicles than others. Sometimes you’ve got to try a few models before you find the one that best suits your vehicle and needs. Our 53” Universal Locking Roof Rack Crossbars are built lightweight and quiet with the strength to uphold heavy loads. Plus, they are incredibly versatile and can be used with kayak racks, bike racks, and so much more.
Tie-Down Straps & Ratchet Straps
Tie-down straps are crucial to safely transporting your kayak as they keep the kayak secured to the roof rack and mount. You’d have to be insanely confident in your ability to tie an unbreakable knot to skip out on the option for buckles. Our Soft Loop Tie Down Straps partnered with industrial grade Ratchet Straps make an excellent combination to secure your kayak in place.
How to Load Your Kayak on Top of Car
It’s easiest to load your kayak on top of your car if you have another set of helping hands.
- Start by setting up the straps so that they lie flat and are ready to go.
- Set the kayak next to your car, and have one person grab each end to hoist it up directly over the rack.
- Carefully set the kayak down into the rack attachment you have mounted.
What if you don’t have a pal to help you out?
Solo kayakers have a couple different options, including kayak saddles with rolling wheels for easy self-loading. There are also integrated lift systems on the market that’ll do all the lifting for you.
How to Secure Your Kayak on Top of Car for Transportation
First and foremost, make sure your kayak is perfectly centered on the rack. An improperly positioned kayak will impact handling, stability and could even impair your view of the road.
Next, you’ll secure the kayak in place using tie-down straps and ratchet straps. Use 2 or more straps to secure the main body of the kayak; straps should run across your car width-wise.
Secure the front and back of the kayak to your vehicle’s bumpers. Our easy to use ratcheting system makes this a lot simpler than using tie-down straps alone. If your vehicle’s front bumper does not have something to secure the lines from sliding off the wheel well, use two bowlines that join to form the shape of an inside-out V, this keeps them pulling towards the center as opposed to the outside of the vehicle.
Avoid pulling the straps too tight or else you risk putting excessive pressure on the kayak which can lead to cracked fiberglass or deformed plastic hulls. Also, if your kayak will be sitting on top of your car for a while, perhaps unattended, make sure to use a long cable lock to prevent someone from stealing your kayak right off its rack.
Before You Drive Off…
Check to ensure your kayak is secured to the rack before you shift your car to drive. Grab either the front or back of the kayak and wiggle it side to side. A secure kayak will move side to side with the car. If only the boat moves, it’s too loose and needs to be tightened up.
If you’re driving long distances, stop to check your kayak every so often. Heat can cause some boats to soften, loosening straps. Straps can also come loose from bumps along the road.
Bring extra tie down straps along for the adventure, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Drive with Caution
Driving with a kayak on top of your vehicle can alter the way your vehicle handles, even if you use a sophisticated and aerodynamic rack and tie down system. Some vehicles are shorter than others, and as a result, the kayak may extend out past your vehicle. Be aware of this when driving regarding vehicle spacing and other cars on the road.
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