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How to Safely Transport a Kayak

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Kayaking is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while slicing through the water. Here are some tips for safely transporting a kayak so you can bring it along with you on your next outing or camping trip.


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Pick a roof rack system

If your vehicle already has a factory-installed roof rack, you might just need to buy a universal mount adapter, to start transporting your kayak. If your vehicle lacks a roof rack system, you can purchase one from a reputable brand like Yakima or Thule. A typical rack system has two horizontal bars and four vertical towers, to accommodate different attachments. Sometimes the rack system has clamps, for temporary fastening it to the vehicle roof. With other designs, you’ll have to permanently attach it to the vehicle roof.

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Choose attachments

Attachments clamp or screw on to the roof rack system so you can safely transport your kayak to your destination. There are a few styles to choose from.

Saddle-style mounts

Like its name implies, this mount is shaped like a saddle. It cradles the sides of the boat and keeps it upright during travel.

J-cradles and stackers

This type of attachment holds the kayak on its side, which leaves space for additional gear and/or another kayak.

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Boat loader

If you tend to do a lot of solo kayaking, you might want to invest in a boat loader. This attachment has a telescopic extension which you can pull out while loading the kayak onto the roof racks, then push it back in when you’re finished loading.

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Secure the kayak

Heavy straps with a padded cam buckle will securely hold the kayak while protecting your vehicle’s roof from scratches. The method for loading your kayak onto the roof and where you place the straps differs depending on the type of roof rack and attachments you have. REI recommends using bow and stern straps, for additional security, especially if you’ll be driving on the highway or in windy conditions.

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Safe driving tips

Once you’ve loaded the kayak and strapped it down, you’re ready to hit the road. Just remember to drive slowly, especially in windy weather. Keep a safe distance from the car in front of you. Occasionally pause during the trip to get out of the vehicle and check the straps are secure on the kayak.

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News Sources: Access Roadside Assistance, REI (here and here)