Bow & Stern tie downs?


I am so excited because I just became the owner of my first kayak!! I haven’t brought it home yet because I want to make sure I know how to safely transport it. I have been doing some reading and I see that it’s important to use bow and stern tie downs. My question is can I hook the tie downs to these carry handles?

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Yes. I do it all the time. Just make sure the handles are firmly attached.

Make sure the handles aren’t attached to bungee cord - those look like they might be. If so then better to attach directly to the (non stretchy) perimeter line even if it isn’t exactly at the end of the kayak.

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I’ve used multiple types over the years, and my favorite is by Sierra Pacific Outdoors; the model is Particle Rope Lock Tie Down, part #595720. I’m having trouble finding them online but I bought another pair at Sportsman’s Warehouse the other day. They are similar to these:

Thule makes a ratcheting tie-down that quite similar to the Sierra Outdoors model.

The good thing about the Thule model is that almost every kayak shop carried them and they have S hooks on the ends. You can open the hook and replace them with something that works.

With handles like those I would use a carabiner, if the handle is held with a cord, if not, replace it with paracord, available at any Home Depot.

This was what I had purchased for bow/stern… This should work, right?

As was already mentioned, replace the open hooks with carbiner clips. Be sure to get ones with at least 300 pound rating. there is a lot of force on them if you were in an accident or panic stop. The hooks can slip loose, especially if the cord gets wet (it can stretch and come loose.)

Do you have places under or around your bumpers to attach these? you may have to get underhood loops if you don’t have attachment points on the car itself.

Thank you! I’m still learning all of this terminology, so I didn’t understand. I went ahead and just ordered what the poster suggested, though, since that sounds easier and safer than replacing the clips.

I checked my car out and I do not have any place to attach the hooks, so I bought these… They go in the hood and truck to secure the tie-downs…

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Yes those are the loops! I use them for the bow tie downs under my hood. For the stern I can attach to my trailer hitch but have also used the loops fastened under a trunk lid on a different vehicle.

Yeah, I realized after i bought the kayak that my SUV kinda sucks for kayak transport! The side rails of the roof rack are flush to my roof, so there’s no space between the rail and the roof to tie down, but I do have factory cross bars and I found a method that will allow me to tether that way. My plan is to pad the cross bars, place the kayak deck-down and use the teachers tethers to secure it to the cross rails… Then use the tie downs and loops we’ve been discussing (thank you all so much) for the Stern and bow!

This is more or less what my roof looks like!

You are headed in the right direction. It would be a little safer if you replaced the open hooks.

Carabiners are what mountain climbers use. They have a bar to close the hook. Spring loaded ones will be fine, they are just to make sure the hook doesn’t bounce off.

For the moment, tie your straps around the bars, that way the kayak won’t fall off. Better racks would be a good idea if kayaking is going to stay as a hobby.

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I think you become unhappy if something gets loose for one reason or another and you have an s hook flying around the windshield

Carabiners like these from Home Depot are what people are talking about. These are zinc plated so they will eventually rust but they should hold up fine since they’re only in the weather while you’re carrying your kayak. They also have them in stainless steel of you prefer. BTW, don’t get small aluminum or “keychain” carabiners. Those look strong but are not intended for supporting a load.

Home Depot Carabiner


I use some additional straps to go through the boat toggles or handles to avoid damaging it. I forget exactly what they are rated for but they are pretty strong.

The advice on switching out the hooks for carabiners is genius and I am definitely going to give that a try as well!

I don’t have any handles or toggles on one of my boats so through the bungee is my best option. Anyone else have a better suggestion?

Never rely on open hooks for use on tiedowns. There have been multiple cases where these hooks bounced free when driving on a rough road or when the car hit a bump. When that happens there is the risk of a tiedown getting wrapped up in a tire and destroying the boat, breaking a windshield, flying around and dinging up your car, etc. Older style Thule tiedowns used carabiners, but it seems that to save money they went to these open hooks.

I’ve used a heavy duty bench vice to close these hooks into loops.

I then used a marine grade quick link and swivel snap hook. (the colored nylon straps are for flagging on the rear tiedown salvaged from various projects). Black nylon strap loop goes over the stern in front of the rudder. I could have used a carabiner instead of the quick link , but that could be taken off and lost or misplaced.

Be careful using non-marine grade carabiners or snap hooks, especially in salt water environments, as the spring can corrode and fail allowing the hook to come free.

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How old are those Thule tie downs?

I bought mine 8 years ago, and I recently replaced them with new ones as the salt was getting to the mechanisms. All the ones I’ve ever seen look like this…

I did ditch the hooks at the left of the image though and just do loop-to-loop connections to my hood and trunk loops.

This has been discussed quite a bit and there isn’t any right and wrong. But even though I posted earlier what a carabiner looks like, I’m in the camp that prefers to use just rope with appropriate knots. No clips, hooks, length adjusters etc. I just prefer the simplicity and minimum number of parts that could fail. Plus I can’t accidentally drop a heavy hook on the hood of my car. My go to knot for bow and stern tie downs is a taught-line hitch which is used to make a loop in a line that can be adjusted in length but doesn’t slip. But as I said, there’s no right and wrong, just personal preference.


I agree with Wolf here, with a little practice you can learn to tie a good strong knot or two and have a lot more versatility than with hooks or carabiners. I use cam straps to secure the boats to the car racks, but rope for bow and stern lines. I use cheap 3/8" three-strand nylon from Lowes. A bowline knot on one end of the line, and a truckers hitch to lightly tension it.

What do you use on the other end of the line to attach it to the vehicle? Do you use another snap hook or carabiner there too?

We use another large bass swivel snap clip like the one shown, as we have two towing eyes on the front of our Subaru Forrester. A stainless captive eye carabiner is another option, but in marine grade they are very expensive in the larger sizes. You just don’t want to use open hooks anywhere.

If no towing eyes, the captive hood/trunk/hatchback loops work just fine. A fair number of our people have used them for years wit no problems. Many car manufacturers no longer supply towing eyes, front or rear.