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Transporting and storing your kayak

One of the realizations you may have experienced when you bought your first kayak was – OK, now how am I going to get this thing home? Depending on where you bought your kayak, the staff there may or may not have assisted in your dilemma. If you haven’t bought a kayak yet, but are thinking about it – this blog is intended to assist in your thought process how to move it from one place to another, as well as what do I do with it when it isn’t on the car?


Types of carriers:

foam and saddle

This is a combination roof system – on the driver side, there are foam blocks which can be used in conjunction with crossbars, or stand alone and placing them directly on top of the roof. If there are no crossbars or luggage rack on top, one would further secure the kayak by running straps over the kayak, opening the doors, and securing the strap on the inside (placing the strap through the buckle and tightening it down). Besides the foam block, there are inflatable pads which may be installed. This isn’t recommended for long distances, or highway speeds, as movement to the yak could result. But, for the person on a budget, or just starting out – these foam blocks can get you started. On the passenger side are saddles which “hug” the curvature of either the hull or deck.

3 times the carrier

Shown here are a triple saddle carrier for a larger truck – based on the width of placement, narrow kayaks were transported. The rear hull would rest on a pair of these. There are matching saddles pairs on the front of this carrier.


This is an example of J-hooks. The kayak would be placed on edge, with the cockpit facing outside, with the majority of the hull resting on the more vertical bars.

For the above systems, (except the foam blocks) there are three main parts. The crossbars, the kayak support, and the mounting hardware (to either the existing luggage rails – or to the inside top of the doors, when there is no luggage rails). Each roof rack system is unique in the regards to which vehicle you have, and some kayak supports fit certain crossbars (round, square, or wing style). Three more common companies which specialize in roof rack systems are Malone, Yakima, and Thule.

For kayaks which do not completely fit inside the bed of a truck, there are truck bed extender T-bars which look like a field goal, and slide into the hitch. Securing the kayak within the bed is easy on the T-bar (much like a cross bar on the roof). The end of the kayak which is inside the bed may slide side to side, so a way to minimize this process would be to creating an X (with ropes or straps) over the deck and securing the ends to the bed of the truck. If your kayak sticks out way beyond the end of your vehicle, depending on your state laws, a red flag must be placed on the end of the kayak.

mega kayak trailer

This is a kayak manufacture company trailer above, not something the ‘average Joe’ would have in the back yard, but shown to illustrate how each single kayak (or canoe) is individually secured to the crossbars. Trailers make it easier to load and offload the kayak from near waist level, parking may be a challenge at times. The named companies above also carry dedicated kayak trailers. Extra credit if you can correctly guess how many this beast of a trailer can carry.


How to secure the kayak:

The main goal when securing your kayak to your vehicle is to ensure it doesn’t dislodge and become a hazard for others on the road. Whether you have a kayak you can place in the back of the truck, on top of the car, or on a trailer – a tie down will be used. Majority of main tie downs used will either be ropes or straps. When using ropes, they should be secured on both ends of the carrying device (truck bed, trailer frame, or roof carrier). Straps which have rubber/plastic ends covering the metal buckle reduce the risk of damage to your vehicle when the strap is thrown over the vehicle (or a strong wind blows the strap around). Ratcheting straps should not be used, as over tightening the strap can cause damage to both kayak and/or car. Bungee cords offer minimum support and security, and should not be used as a primary means. The overall effect one is achieving is to secure the tie down to the main base and the kayak is under the tie downs. For added security, bow and stern lines attached from the kayak to the vehicle aid in slight side-to-side movements of the kayak, when placed on the roof. This is extremely helpful for traveling at highway speeds, windy days, or getting passed by a semi-truck.

Shown below are examples how to wrap the strap around the support crossbar – and a close up look of the buckle cover, which is not over the buckle to better illustrate the method. For the remaining extra strap, I normally place the tail end inside the car and tuck it in the visor or grab bars. When I know it is going to rain – I will wrap the tail end around the support bar and tuck the end into itself. When carrying yaks on a trailer, I fully secure the tail ends, so they do not flap around as I drive.(Note: I place pool noodles on the trailer bars to reduce damage to the kayak).

car rack with strap  kayak trailer kayak trailer

Storage of yaks

Storing your kayak when not in use, one has many options to choose from. The main principal is to keep the hull off the floor, off hard surfaces, and placed on something soft. There is a term called, “Oil-canning”. This happens mostly to plastic kayaks which have been placed upon a firm edge (such as a 2×4 or metal bar). The edge imprints itself into the weight of the plastic kayak, leaving a lasting impression. Removing this oil-canning can be a daunting task, but sometimes placing the hull upwards and letting the sun warm up the plastic will sometimes ‘pop’ up the indentation.

pool noodles

Kayaks, when not in use, should be stored out of the sunlight to increase their longevity. For a cheap method of storage (if you have the floor space) is the purchase of two thick pool noodles. Place these directly on the floor, and then place the kayak on top of the noodles. For those who which to be a bit more creative, 2×4’s cut at an angle and secured to an exposed wall stud with the noodle attached to the 2×4. Various designs can be found for PVC kayak storage racks on the web. They are effective, if build correctly. For those who have a taller celling, and the floor space is a bit tight {in the garage} – there are slings which will lift your kayak with the aid of a pully system. These usually have straps which are about 3 inches in width, which do not add a pressure point to the hull. Ropes or thinner diameter cords shouldn’t be used as the main supporting element, as they will create the undesired oil canning in long time storage. Much like a roof rack system (J-hook), there are wall mounted, or free-standing kayak storage systems which are outstanding and well worth the investment.


Transporting your kayak, and storage solutions doesn’t have to be a painstaking process – Just something in which needs to thought about before you get your kayak. Some of these systems will not break the bank, but you usually get what you pay for. For those of you wondering, that large kayak trailer carried 96 kayaks and 12 canoes, but that is a story for another day..




For the Paddler Within…….

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