How to Strap a Kayak to a Roof Rack

If you love to paddle in your kayak during the weekends, you must have a way to transport the kayak if you don't live near a lake/river. But as many of you know, it's not always easy to move a kayak or a canoe around because it's heavy. So, how can you travel a hundred kilometers?

Well, one possible solution would be to strap the kayak to your roof rack. But if you've never done anything like this before, it might be hard to figure out how to do it properly. That's why today we're going to talk about how to strap a kayak to a roof rack. Keep on reading if you want step-by-step instructions.

What do we need to strap a kayak to a car roof rack?

Before I delve into the topic, we're going to compose a list of everything you'd need to strap your boat to the car roof:

  • Cam straps
  • Bow and stern ratcheting lines
  • Somebody to help with the lifting
  • A ladder (if you can’t reach the crossbars)
How to strap a kayak to a roof rack

#1 Transport the kayak to the car

Your first step is to transport the kayak to your vehicle. That’s easy if there is another person to help you. Simply:

  • Both of you grab the kayak by the grab handles on the hull/stern.
  • Then you lift the boat and carry it to the car.

It’s more difficult and complicated if you have to do it on yours, especially if the vessel is heavy. You have several options:

  • Try and lift the kayak on your shoulder.
  • Drag it by the grab-loop, if it’s a plastic one.
  • Purchase a kayak cart.

#2 Load the kayak on the car

If you think that carrying the kayak is the heavy part, you’re sadly mistaken. Lifting it on the car’s roof would be the most difficult part of the exercise. I highly recommend that you find somebody to help you. Then:

  • Each person picks up the kayak by the handles and position alongside your vehicle so that the bow faces the front of the car.
  • Then both of you grab the boat by the hulls and lift it over your heads. Do not lift it by the grab handles.
  • Place the vessel above the rack and set it down.

If you can’t find somebody to help, you can:

  • Purchase a kayak rack with a lift system
  • Buy a kayak rack with rolling wheels
  • Get a towel/blanket, place it on the top, and settle the bow on it. Then you push the vessel onto the rack.

#3 Tie it down with cam straps

Once you load the vessel on the car, ensure that it’s in the proper position – centered between the crossbars and as horizontal as possible. Then:

  • Get one of the cam straps and position it correctly. The buckle should be on the side of the vessel a few inches about the crossbar.
  • Throw the other end of the strap over to the other side of the car.
  • Go around the car and take hold of the strap.
  • Loop it underneath the crossbar and toss it back.
  • Go back to your original position.
  • Grab the end of the strap and loop it underneath the crossbar.
  • Bring it up to the buckle and lock it down.
  • Repeat the whole process with the second strap.
  • Tightened both straps to ensure that they are snug, but not too tight or the pressure might damage the hull or crack the boat.
  • Tie the loose ends of the straps below the buckles and them to the crossbars.
  • Check that the kayak is well-secured by shaking both ends from side to side. There should be little movement, but it’s too much, you’ll have to tighten the straps more.

When you tie the kayak, you must make sure that the straps are looped to the inside of the crossbars where they attach to the car. You can watch this video or this one for more information.

#4 Add the bow and stern straps

Strapping your kayak to the car roof might be enough in some case. But experts recommend that you also secure the bow and the stern, especially if you’re going to drive on the highway. To do that, you’re going to use ratcheting lines:

  • Grab the ratchet end of the line and attach it to the front of the kayak.
  • Secure the other end to the car. Avoid plastic parts.
  • Pull the loose end to tighten the line and tie off below the ratchet.
  • Repeat the same procedure with the stern.

#5 Do a double check

After you have strapped the kayak to the roof rack, do a double check to make sure that all the straps are tight and secure. Do another check after 10-15 minutes of driving to ensure that you haven’t missed anything. You don’t want to lose your kayak somewhere on the highway, right?

As you can see, it’s not that difficult to strap a kayak to a roof rack. You might be tempted to use more complicated knots, but remember that simple works as well.

What do you think about these tips on how to strap a kayak to a roof rack? How do you do it? Share your advice in the comments.

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