how to tie down a kayak

Picture this: you have a big outdoor weekend planned. A camping trip with your friends. Hiking through the maple trees. And to top it all off, kayaking together on the lake.

There’s just one problem. You don’t have a roof rack on your car, and you have no idea how to transport your kayak to the park.

Don’t fret! There is a solution. Read on to learn how you can tie down one or two kayaks to the top of any car with no damage to the roof.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 or 2 kayaks (duh)
  • 1 kayak bra
  • 3 tie-down straps
  • 2 foam pads

Step 1: Stack and Strap the Kayaks Together

how to transport 2 kayaks

The easiest way to transport two kayaks is by first strapping them together. (If you only plan on transporting one kayak, you can skip this step).

Lay one of your kayaks right side up on the ground. Then, take your other kayak and lay it on top of the other one, upside down and reversed (the seat of the second kayak should be on the opposite side of the first one, and the bottom of the second kayak should be facing upward).

Once they’re in place, you can take out the “kayak bra,” a special strap that holds the two kayaks together at each end. After tightening the bra at the center, the kayaks should be held firmly together and ready for loading.

Step 2: Place the Kayaks on the Roof

2 kayaks on roof without racks

If possible and depending on the height of your car, grab a few friends to lift up the kayaks. Have some at the front, some at the center and some at the end of the kayaks, ready to adjust them in any way necessary.

Also be sure to have one friend ready to put the foam pads in place. These are small cushions that go between the roof of the car and the kayaks, preventing any potential damage to your vehicle.

Take the time to perfectly center the kayaks on top of the car, with the heads a foot or two over the front window and the tails hanging a few feet off the back.

Step 3: Strap it All in Place

kayak straps

Now comes the fun part. Take out your three straps and begin tying it all down, with one strap at the front end, one at the center and one at the back.

This is not an exact science! Remember, there’s more than one way to arrange the straps. For the most part, you just gotta wing it.

For the front, you can thread the strap through the two handles of the kayaks. Then, decide what the best way is to strap it to the car. One option is looping it through the front of your car, closing your door on each side of the strap and tightening it as much as possible. Others choose to use the hooks under the hood of their car to keep it in place.

how to transport a kayak

The back can be done in a similar fashion. Loop the straps through the handles of the kayaks, and use your judgement to choose a stable place to tie. Maybe you have hooks by your trunk. Or maybe you choose to put it through the back doors or windows of the car.

There aren’t too many options for the center strap. Most people just wrap the strap over the top of the kayaks then place and tighten them within their central car doors. If you are like my lucky friends, you can use your roof rack to make use of extra hooks.

Step 4: Check your Work

kayak tie down straps

Trust me. It’s better to realize your kayaks aren’t tied down properly in a parking lot then on the freeway.

Take a short test drive around the area to make sure the kayaks are held firmly in place. Change your speeds, make some sharp turns and brake hard. If the kayaks stay put, you’re ready to hit the road.

taylor untamed

Besides driving with caution, there’s nothing more you can do to balance a pair of kayaks on your car than to properly strap them down.

Don’t let a long ride keep you from traveling with your kayaks and having a blast on the lake or river. Learn how to keep them stable on your car, no matter the make and model, and go have your next water adventure!


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