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How-To Guide

How to Tie Down a Kayak to a Vehicle

 Updated on: September 2nd, 2020

With how the last couple of years have played out, it's no wonder so many people have taken up kayaking and canoeing! Who wouldn't want to take advantage of a beautiful, sunny day on your favorite body of water, enjoying fresh air, gorgeous nature views and a bit of a workout? When the urge to move and groove towards the lake hits, it's important to take the time to properly load and tie-down your kayak onto the roof of your vehicle before you turn the key. Otherwise, you could create a dangerous situation for yourself and other drivers, as well as possibly damaging your kayak in transit.



Optional Tools

  • A willing friend
  • Under-hood straps

Loading & Tying Down a Kayak

Load the kayak onto your roof rack

Load the kayak onto your roof rack

This is the part where that friend may come in hand. Lift up the kayak onto your roof rack and make sure it’s centered within the crossbars of your car. It should be running parallel to your vehicle for maximum wind resistance.

Load the kayak onto your roof rack

Use straps to Tighten

Use cam straps or ratchet straps to tighten the kayak to the roof rack, looping around the crossbars for additional support. Take care not to overtighten! Plastic hulls can get deformed; and much like most humans, composite/fiberglass hulls may crack under too much pressure.

Load the kayak onto your roof rack

Secure the bow to the front of your vehicle

Secure the bow with a sturdy line by connecting one end of the line to a secure part of the kayak and the other to a metal part on your vehicle, such as the front tow hooks. Never hook a line to plastic car components as it won’t be as secure and could cause damage to your vehicle. If you don’t have tow hooks on your car, consider using a hood strap, which attaches to a bolt under the side of your hood and can stay in place permanently when the hood is closed.

Load the kayak onto your roof rack

Secure the stern to the rear of your vehicle

Secure the stern with a sturdy line just like the bow. The best connection point is the hitch of your vehicle. If you don’t have a hitch, quick-loop straps can be used instead. They can be placed at the base of your trunk, partially sticking out, and when you close the trunk firmly they can be used as a secure connection point.

Load the kayak onto your roof rack

Tighten any slack

Check that all the lines and straps are tight, and tie off any slack. The last thing you want is a loose strap whacking in the wind as you drive away, or catching in your tires. Knot up any slack, and it will provide an extra level of security in case the lines loosen in transit.

Load the kayak onto your roof rack

Periodically check all straps & tighten if necessary

While driving, stop periodically to double-check your straps and lines. To make sure your kayak stays securely in place, stop after 5-15 miles of driving and inspect the connection points and tautness of the lines. Give everything a tug and shake, and re-tighten as needed. Then, continue to stop and check every 25 miles until you reach your destination.