Transporting a Kayak on top of a Car or SUV

by frank on November 14, 2013

How to Transport Your Kayak

There’s a smart way and a dumb way. There’s a easy way and a hard way. There’s also the potential to damage your kayak as well as your car or SUV if you do it the wrong way. This article will explain the right and wrong way to transport your kayak on top of your car or SUV.

The wrong way. Here’s why.

If you ever see a kayak laying flat on top of a car rack this is the wrong way. While this could be acceptable for the occasional very short trip in nice weather, laying flat on a roof top rack too often will eventually cause your kayak to bend and warp. 

Also consider stability and safety. When traveling at high speeds or in high winds on longer trips a kayak laying flat, tied down to a rooftop rack isn’t the most stable way of transporting. Don’t risk it possibly breaking free or sliding off there’s no telling how much damage this could do to your vehicle or the vehicles around you.

So what’s the right way?

There are special cargo carriers that install to your car’s or SUV’s roof top rack that will allow you to transport your kayak safely and efficiently. There are three main types of carriers: saddles, j-cradles and stackers.

Saddles - Carries kayak right side up just as it would look sitting in the water. Saddles carriers provide support and stability at both the stern and bow areas.

J-cradles - This type carries the boat in the side position. One reason many prefer the j-cradle is by carrying the kayak on its side this helps protect against bending and warping. Although it ultimately depends on the width of your roof rack, j-cradles makes it possible to carry more than one kayak at a time.

Stackers - This option, like the j-cradles mention above also carries the kayak on the side. Most consider stackers a less stable and safe. The only real advantage is you may be able to fit 3-4 kayaks up on the roof top.

If you are intersted in learning more about any three of these different cargo carriers: Saddles, j-cradles, stackers.

Roof Rack information

A common question: My car came with a pre-installed roof rack, will this work for transporting my kayak?

Answer: It’s possible. It would be a good thing to know the width of your rack. The cross-bars on most pre-installed factory racks are sometimes too narrow. If this is the case you may also need to replace your roof rack.

How to Choose the Right Kayak Roof Rack

Step 1: This might be obvious but important. “Don’t buy a rack before you buy your kayak.”. This is because you will need to know the dimensions of your kayak (width and weight) to choose the appropriate rack.

Step 2: Choose a rack that was specifically manufactured to fit your vehicle. With that said, there are universal car racks that are said to fit any type of car, truck or SUV but this is easier said than done. Sometimes the universal option will work but other times it doesn’t. To be certain you get something that works for you and your vehicle the safest bet is to buy a rack that was specifically manufactured to fit your vehicle.

Step 3: Choose “cross bars” and “feet” that match your vehicle.

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