How to Tie a Kayak to a Roof Rack

2 min read
Last Updated: Jun 9, 2024
BY: Matt Keepnes

Do you need Roof Bars?

You'll need some roof bars to fit these boxes. We recommend you order these directly from your vehicles manufacturer.

Securing your kayak properly to a roof rack is essential for safe transportation. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of tying a kayak to a roof rack, ensuring your kayak arrives safely at your destination.

Essential Equipment for Tying a Kayak

Choosing the Right Straps

Select durable, weather-resistant straps with a cam buckle for secure tightening. Avoid using ratchet straps as they can apply too much pressure and damage your kayak.

Additional Equipment

  • Bow and stern lines
  • Protective padding for the roof rack
Essential Equipment for Tying a Kayak

Preparing Your Kayak and Vehicle

Positioning the Kayak

Place your kayak on the roof rack. If you’re using J-cradles, set the kayak in them. For flat racks, place the kayak hull up or down based on its design.

Protecting Your Vehicle and Kayak

Use padding or a non-slip mat under the kayak to protect your vehicle's roof and the kayak's hull.

Preparing Your Kayak and Vehicle
Preparing Your Kayak and Vehicle

The Process of Tying the Kayak

Placing the Straps

Lay the straps over the kayak, ensuring they are evenly spaced and not twisted.

Threading the Straps

Loop the straps under the roof rack bars and bring them back over the kayak. Thread the strap through the cam buckle, but don’t tighten it completely yet.

The Process of Tying the Kayak
The Process of Tying the Kayak

Securing the Kayak to the Roof Rack

Tightening the Straps

Gradually tighten the straps by pulling the free end. The kayak should be snugly secured but not overly tightened to avoid damaging it.

Tying Off Excess Strap

Secure any excess strap to prevent it from flapping during transport.

Securing the Kayak to the Roof Rack
Securing the Kayak to the Roof Rack

Attaching Bow and Stern Lines

Securing the Front and Rear

Tie the bow and stern lines to the front and rear of the kayak. Then, attach the other end to a secure point on your vehicle.

Adjusting for Tension

Ensure the lines are tight enough to stabilize the kayak but not so tight that they warp the hull.

Attaching Bow and Stern Lines
Attaching Bow and Stern Lines

Final Safety Checks

Double-Checking Your Work

Once everything is tied, give your kayak a gentle shake to ensure it is secure.

Checking During Travel

On longer journeys, periodically check that the kayak remains tightly secured.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best type of strap to use for securing a kayak?

The best straps are cam buckle straps, typically 12 to 16 feet long. They are strong, durable, and allow you to adjust the tightness easily without over-tightening, which could damage the kayak.

Can I tie a kayak to a car without a roof rack?

It's not recommended. Tying a kayak directly to a car without a roof rack can be unsafe and may damage both your car and kayak. If you don’t have a roof rack, consider temporary padding solutions designed for kayaks.

How tight should the straps be when securing the kayak?

Straps should be tight enough to hold the kayak securely in place but not so tight that they deform the kayak. A good test is to try and move the kayak side-to-side; it should not shift on the rack.

Do I need to use bow and stern tie-downs?

Yes, especially for longer trips or highway driving.

How can I prevent damage to my car or kayak when tying it to the roof rack?

Use protective padding or a non-slip mat under the kayak and on the roof rack bars. This prevents scratches and dents. Also, make sure the straps are clean and free of debris.

Is it possible to transport more than one kayak?

Yes, you can transport multiple kayaks if your roof rack is large enough and if you have enough straps. Make sure each kayak is individually secured.

How often should I check the kayak during transport?

It's a good practice to check the kayak's security each time you stop. For long trips, check the tightness of the straps and the stability of the kayak periodically.



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Matt Keepnes

Matt Keepnes, travel enthusiast and creator of I share expert tips on car storage solutions for seamless travels, combining personal experiences with practical advice.

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