How to Strap a Kayak to a Roof Rack | Full Guide

Strapping a kayak to a roof rack

Kayaking is one of the excellent ways to spend a pleasing time with family and friends. Unfortunately, if you don’t live near a river or lake, there’s a good chance you have to transport your kayak.

Transporting a kayak is not always simple due to its heavyweight. In that case, mounting the kayak on your roof rack is one of the best solutions. If this is your first time doing something like this, you might have difficulty figuring out how to do it.

There is a high chance your kayak can get damaged for never strapping it the right way. However, for your help, here we will discuss everything about how to strap a kayak to a roof rack.

What Kind Of Roof Racks Do You Have?

There are different types and designs of roof racks that can be equipped with vehicles’ rooftops. Some roof racks are made with durable plastic materials, while others are furnished with cushions. So before looking at the strapping process, let’s explore some widely used roof racks for kayaks you can use.

  • J-Style: This type of roof rack has a sturdy design that fits multiple vehicle rooftops. J-Style roof rack enables you to mount the kayak from the vehicle’s side.
  • Saddles: Saddles are horizontal racks where the kayak sits during transportation. There is a large space where the kayak can sit, and the loading process is performed from the rear of the vehicle.
  • Crossbars: Crossbars roof rack allows attaching kayak racks to your car. They are trailblazers for many kinds of roof racks.
  • Pads: Pads are either inflatable or foam. They don’t require other hardware since pads are one-step installations.

Instruments You’ll Need To Strap A Kayak To A Roof Rack

Before strapping a kayak to a roof rack, you will have to arrange some instruments to make the strapping process easier. Here we have pointed out some essential equipment you will require:

  • Roof Rack: You might know different types of roof racks that can be used for transporting kayaks. So, you will need to select your desired roof rack according to your car’s roof orientations.
  • Tie-Down Straps: Usually, you will need straps for each crossbar. When choosing straps, look for cam buckles, which help you tighten without tying knots.
  • Padding: Padding is very important; it helps prevent damage to both your vehicle roof and kayak. If your roof rack is inflatable, you may not need to use padding.
  • Bow Tie-Down Straps: These straps are essential in securing the back and front of a kayak. You can also use strong ropes to tie your kayak.

How to Strap a Kayak to a Roof Rack?

After arranging all the required instruments, you can go ahead to strap your kayak to a roof rack. Below we have demonstrated a step-by-step guideline about strapping a kayak to a roof rack properly every time.

  • Step 1. Attach The Kayak Straps To The Vehicle’s Roof Rack
  • First, you will need to spread the straps over each bar. The straps should be positioned underneath all the bars, flatting against the vehicle. Make sure the buckles on the ends of each strap do not scratch your vehicle.

    Additionally, confirm that the straps are not loose and tighten them if they are loose. Depending on the kayaks you intend to transport, you may need to increase the number of straps. Besides, if your kayak is heavy or long, you can use a load extender to boost efficiency. This will offer additional stability while transporting.

  • Step 2: Put Your Kayak On The Roof Rack
  • After the straps have been properly placed, it is time to put the kayak onto your car's roof rack. Kayak loading on the roof rack depends entirely on the kind of roof rack you have. For example, if you have a crossbar, you may have to load the kayak upside down.

    On the other hand, kayaks need to be placed on the right side for pads and rollers. Besides, consider whether the kayak will face backward or forwards. Typically, it depends on the type of kayak. In most cases, a 10-foot lightweight kayak needs to face the front while being transported.

  • Step 3: Secure Your Kayak
  • Once you place the kayak in the right position, you have to tie it properly. At this stage, you can use cam straps since they don’t require knots when securing. The good thing is they can easily be adjusted while tightened.

    Besides, strapping down your kayak can be varied depending on your kayak. You should apply one strap to each crossbar and ensure they are not twisted and tighten against the kayak. After fastening the kayak, secure the loose strap end by looping it several times.

  • Step 4: Enhance Kayak Stability
  • No one may want to lose their kayak somewhere on the highway. So, the kayak should be completely sturdy on the top of your car. For that, check all the straps to ensure you didn't miss anything. To improve the sturdiness of your kayak, tie it on the front and back properly. You can also use ordinary ropes to tie the place where the kayak seems loose.

Some Useful Tips On Strapping A Kayak To A Roof Rack

Transporting a kayak to the top of the car will be easy if you employ some simple techniques. These will help you to make safe kayak transportation. For your help, below, we have pointed out some useful tips for strapping your kayak to a roof rack.

  • Always make a final check to confirm whether the straps are appropriately fastened for ensuring safe driving.
  • Avoid excess strapping because too much strapping can block your view during driving.
  • When driving a car with a kayak, keep a safe distance from other cars on the road. Besides, avoid sudden braking and hasty accelerations because these can be dangerous for your safety.
  • If you drive a long distance, check your fastenings several times. Sometimes car bumping due to rough roads may cause loose straps, which can cause serious accidents.
  • Set a twist in the strap first to avoid buzzing from roof rack straps. This will also assist in reducing distracting noise.
  • Use a 5 m strap to cover both kayaks on their sides or one on top of the other when transporting two kayaks.


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Things To Consider Before Strapping Kayaks On A Roof Rack

While strapping a kayak on your car rooftop, you will have to consider some important things. Below we have outlined such additional factors that you should consider.

The Law & Rules Of The Road

Before transporting a kayak to a roof rack, you have to consider the local laws regarding uncensored loads, overhang, and kayak transportation safety. You should transport a kayak after ensuring that it's legal to drop things through a vehicle in your area.

Space On The Roof Rack

Another prime consideration is whether your roof rack has enough space to place a kayak. In that case, you can measure the length between the side railings and the crossbar spread of the roof rack. This helps you understand whether the roof rack is right for your kayak. Kayak transporting requires a minimum crossbar span of 24 inches.

Your Vehicle’s Capacity

Every vehicle has a specific rooftop weight limitation that determines how much weight you can transport through a car’s rooftop. If you carry weight above the limit, there is a high chance of your car’s rooftop damage. Most vehicles only carry about 165 pounds.

Roof Rack’s Capacity

The roof rack’s capacity completely depends on the car’s rooftop weight limit. Even if your roof rack can carry 200-pound weight, you can’t transport more than the car’s rooftop weight limit. So, it is better to choose a roof rack according to your car’s rooftop capacity.


Now that we've covered how to strap a kayak to a roof rack. You might have understood it doesn't sound as difficult as you assumed it would be. You just need to carefully follow every step discussed above to strap your kayak to a roof rack.

Besides, we have outlined some effective tips that will help you to ensure your strapping is fastened enough to transport a kayak. Before transporting a kayak, consider some essential factors discussed in the section above. However, if you find any complications write to us in the comment section.

About Author:

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Hi, I'm Kevin Pommells, a lover of camping and the great outdoors as everyone says nowadays. I'm also a passionate soccer fan and the proud owner of, a website dedicated to helping campers and outdoor enthusiasts make the most of their adventures. With years of experience exploring the wilderness and a deep love for the sport of soccer, I'm always looking for new ways to combine my two passions and share my knowledge with others. Follow me for tips, tricks, and insights on all things camping and outdoor recreation.

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