How to Put Kayak on Roof Rack

2 min read
Last Updated: Jul 12, 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.

Whether you're preparing for a serene lake paddle or an adventurous river excursion, it's crucial to know how to safely and efficiently put your kayak on your vehicle's roof rack.

Essential Preparations Before Loading

Choosing the Right Roof Rack

Select a roof rack that suits your vehicle and kayak type. Common options include J-cradles, saddle racks, and stackers. Ensure the rack is properly installed and secured.

Gathering Your Equipment

Prepare cam straps, bow and stern lines, and protective padding to prevent scratches on your vehicle and kayak.

Essential Preparations Before Loading
Essential Preparations Before Loading

Positioning Your Kayak for Loading

Aligning the Kayak

Position your kayak next to your vehicle, parallel to it, and close to the rear or side, depending on your lifting method and roof rack type.

Protecting Your Vehicle

Place padding on the edge of the roof where you will lift the kayak to avoid any damage to your car.

Positioning Your Kayak for Loading
Positioning Your Kayak for Loading

The Proper Technique for Lifting the Kayak

Lifting from the Rear

Stand behind the kayak, bend your knees, and lift the stern, sliding the kayak onto the roof rack.

Lifting from the Side

For a side load, lift the kayak from its center and place it onto the rack in one smooth motion.

The Proper Technique for Lifting the Kayak
The Proper Technique for Lifting the Kayak

Securing the Kayak on the Rack

Positioning on the Rack

Ensure the kayak is centered on the rack. The hull should face down on J-cradles and saddles and up if using a flat rack.

Strapping the Kayak

Secure the kayak with cam straps, making sure they are tight enough to hold the kayak in place but not so tight that they deform it.

Securing the Kayak on the Rack

Finalizing the Setup

Tying Bow and Stern Lines

Attach bow and stern lines for added stability, especially for long drives or highway travel.

Conducting a Safety Check

Do a final check to ensure the kayak is stable and the straps are properly secured.

Finalizing the Setup
Finalizing the Setup


Loading a kayak onto a roof rack doesn't have to be difficult. With the right technique and preparation, you can ensure that your kayak is safely secured and ready for your next adventure.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of roof rack is best for carrying a kayak?

The best type of roof rack depends on your specific needs and vehicle type. J-cradles are great for saving space, saddle racks provide good hull support, and stackers are ideal for carrying multiple kayaks.

Can I load a kayak by myself, or do I need help?

It's possible to load a kayak by yourself, especially with the right technique and if your kayak isn't too heavy. However, having a second person can make the process easier and safer, particularly for heavier kayaks.

Do I need special equipment to put a kayak on a roof rack?

Basic equipment includes cam straps to secure the kayak and bow and stern lines for additional stability. Protective padding is also recommended to prevent damage to your vehicle and kayak.

How do I know if my kayak is secure on the roof rack?

After strapping the kayak down, give it a gentle shake to ensure it's stable. The kayak should not move independently of the vehicle. Make sure the straps are tight but not overly tightened.

How can I protect my car's paint from scratches when loading a kayak?

Use protective padding or a non-slip mat on the roof of your car where the kayak will make contact. This will help prevent scratches and dents.

Is it safe to transport a kayak on a roof rack at highway speeds?

Yes, it's safe if the kayak is properly secured. Make sure the kayak is tightly strapped to the rack and the bow and stern lines are attached. It's a good idea to check the kayak’s security periodically during your trip, especially when driving at higher speeds.

How do I prevent damage to the kayak when strapping it down?

Avoid over-tightening the straps, as this can deform the hull of the kayak. The straps should be snug but not so tight that they change the shape of the kayak.



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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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