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How to Strap a Kayak to a Roof Rack (Cover)

How to Strap a Kayak to a Roof Rack in 4 Steps (With Pictures)

Anyone who has ever set their coffee on their vehicle roof and driven off can attest that this is the kind of thing that can ruin a perfectly good morning. Your kayak flying off the roof on the highway, however, is unquestionably an even bigger tragedy (not to mention a significantly more dangerous one).That's why it's important to properly strap your kayak to your vehicle roof and secure it in place. Fortunately, it's a simple process once you've done it a few times. We'll walk you through it step by step below. Let's get started!
*Note: Consult your vehicle's owner manual to confirm the weight carrying capacity of your roof prior to loading.

Install Roof Rack and Kayak Carrier

Feel free to skip this step if you already have a roof rack and kayak carrier. (If you're interested in transporting a kayak without a roof rack over short distances, check out our guide here.) Choosing a roof rack mainly comes down to finding a rack that fits your vehicle. I suggest inputting your year, make, and model into our fitguide to see a list of racks that will work for you.
Roof Rack Crossbars and Kayak Carrier Components
As for choosing a kayak carrier, you have a few options. The right carrier for you depends on the size/weight of your watercraft, how many kayaks you want to transport, and how convenient of a setup you prefer. If you only plan to haul your kayak occasionally, foam block carriers or crossbar pads can be great low-cost options. These attach to your crossbars and provide secure, protective padding for your kayak to rest on. If you plan to haul your kayaks more frequently and need something more secure, a designated kayak carrier is the better option. J-style and saddle-style carriers are the most popular styles. If you have a large kayak, or if you struggle to load it alone, you may also want to consider a carrier with built-in load assist. (Note that some larger kayaks should not be used with roof racks—check your manufacturer's instructions for details.)
Economical choice for infrequent transportation - great for getting your kayak home or just down the road.
Mid-tier security that won't break the bank. Can also carry surfboards and other toys; hold up better than blocks.
Most secure option and greatest longevity. Recommended for frequent transportation and long trips.
Can I Strap Two Kayaks to a Roof Rack?Yes! Fortunately, this is a simple task with a double capacity carrier. Most J-style carriers can accommodate two kayaks on your roof. (Just make sure not to exceed your roof's weight capacity!)
Load Kayak Onto Crossbars or CarrierLift your kayak onto your crossbars or carrier. The front of the kayak should be facing forward. Generally speaking, your kayak should be centered on your vehicle roof. The exceptions are if you're carrying two kayaks, or if you're using a J-style carrier designed to mount closer to one side.
Loading kayak onto crossbar pads or foam blocks
Loading Kayak onto Crossbars
Loading kayak onto J-style carrier
Loading Kayak Onto J-Style Carrier
Loading kayak onto saddle-style carrier
Loading Kayak onto Saddle-Style Carrier
Secure Side-to-Side with Cam Buckle StrapsWhatever type of block, pad, or carrier you have, you'll secure your kayak to it and to your crossbars in this step. Loop your cam buckle strap around your crossbar, toss it over the kayak, and loop it around the crossbar on the other side. Then, toss the end of the strap back over the kayak. (Many straps provide a cover for metal buckles so they don't scratch your car or watercraft.) Finally, secure the strap in the cam buckle. The idea is to wrap the strap snugly around the kayak's hull to hold it against your crossbars. If you have a J-style carrier, loop the strap around the carrier rather than the crossbar on the backside of the kayak (see below). Pull the strap tight enough to be secure, but not so tight that it damages the kayak. . Secure any excess strap—you don't want it flying around in the wind while you drive!Tips:
  • Pull the strap tight enough to be secure, but not so tight that it damages the kayak
  • Secure any excess strap—you don't want it flying around in the wind while you drive
  • We recommend cam buckle or cinch straps over ratchet straps. It's too easy to damage your kayak with the tie-down force of a ratchet strap!
Strap looped around crossbar (side 1 - saddle-style carrier)
Strap Looped Around Crossbar
Strap looped around crossbar (side 1 - saddle-style carrier)
Strap Looped Around Crossbar
Strap looped around crossbar through J-style carrier
Toss Strap Over Kayak Carrier
Strap looped around J-style carrier on kayak's backside
Toss Strap Over Kayak Carrier
Strap looped around crossbar with pad (side 1)
Strap around crossbar
Strap looped around crossbar with pad (side 2)
Kayak Side 1 (Strap Around Crossbar)
Repeat these steps with the second strap on the other crossbar.
Choosing the Right Tie-Down Straps: Choose a strap based on its safe working load limit (WLL). The weight of the secured cargo must not exceed the combined WLL of the straps being used. For example, if you are using straps with a WLL of 500 lbs each to tie down a 1,000-lb load, you need at least 2 straps to safely secure that load.To determine the maximum load, or break strength, of the strap, multiply the WLL by 3. The WLL is always one-third (1/3) of the maximum load. It is recommended that you always use straps in pairs.

Secure Bow and Stern

Now that your kayak is secured side to side, you can move on to securing the front and back. For this step you'll need a set of bow and stern straps. Bow and stern straps will run front to back across your kayak and keep it from sliding off the end of your vehicle. (This step will look the same no matter what type of carrier or crossbar pads you have.)If your vehicle has a secure point on the frame, bumper, hitch, or tow loop, this is a good place to attach your strap. Use straps with hooks (like these) and secure them to these points.
Kayaks Secured to Vehicle with Bow/Stern Straps (front view)
Kayaks Secured to Vehicle with Bow/Stern Straps (back view)
Bow/stern strap secured to vehicle frame (front view)
Strap attached to tow loop
If you don't have any such point on your vehicle, don't worry—you can still use anchors. Anchors are placed beneath your hood and inside your trunk to provide a protruding attachment loop for your straps. If your straps have hooks, you can hook the strap to the loop directly. If your strap doesn't have hooks, pull the strap through the anchor loop and secure it via the cam buckle. (I recommend checking out our video to see how this is done!)
Kayak secured to car with bow/stern strap and anchors (front view)
Kayak secured to car with bow/stern strap and anchors (back view)
Anchor inside vehicle hood
Tie-down strap hooked to anchor in vehicle trunk
Tips:
  • Give your bow and stern straps a few twists to prevent them flapping in the wind
  • If you use an anchor under your hood, make sure to keep it away from heat sources
  • Secure any excess strap—
Related ArticlesRelated ProductsWritten by: Amber S.Updated: 3/23/2022


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