Transporting A Kayak To the Water

Hey Fellow Paddlers!!

Thanks for all the good advice you gave in responding to my posting the other day. Just curious though, I have a Volkswagen Jetta Wagon with the generic roof frame. This is another area where I am confused. Which seem to be the best options for transporting a kayak. The second part of this question is: If one is taking a long trip, is it better to rent when you get to your destination or simply lug the yak along and when ya see da water…???

Any advice is much appreciated!

have it with you
i have been driveing along an see a new spot an putin an had a great time.

well moosey, you can spend

– Last Updated: Oct-01-04 8:16 PM EST –

$200-$300 on some nice Thule or Yakima saddles, that would be the BEST way. You could also spend $20 on some v-shaped foam blocks and straps, that would be the cheap (yet effective) way. If you're REALLY cheap, get a tire tube and some rope from the local junk yard and attatch your boat to the roof on top of the inflated tube.

As far as lugging your boat? If I can drive there, I take my boats. I love my boats.

Protect & Serve
MD, To me it is worth the cost of a good rack to properly secure my YAK. First it was not cheap and second I like it to much to see it damaged. Why spend $$$ renting when you have your own vessel? Didn’t you get it to use it? Usually rentals are abused and not outfited to your spec’s. That’s my opinion. rvranger

Renting - Depends on the trip
I have no problem with renting a boat if I’m taking a trip to someplace like Seattle where I know I can use it as a chance to try out a quality boat, or if I know I won’t get a whole lot of paddling time. Heck, I’ll rent a paddling buddy (take a tour) if I’m going some place I don’t know or where local knowledge may be important.

Sometimes it’s nice not to hassle with the boat if you have decent options.

This is my solution…

– Last Updated: Oct-03-04 12:51 AM EST –

I have a GTI, it makes for a spiffy, if unusual, rig. I don't go too far with it, though I certainly could.

Even with the Jetta wagon you have to work around the cute VW stinger antenna on the roof. Guess you can unscrew it if you have other sources of audio, or there are shorty antennas available.


I’m leaving on a month long trip. I’ll be in Nev, Utah, Mont,Id, Wa and Or. I plan on paddling where ever I see some nice water especially along the Wa and Or coast. Take you yaks, don’t rent.


I bike and paddle so I’ve got an all
purpose set up. Your vehicle has to have gutters to use my system. I have the LLBean brackets that support 2 2x4’s. I use fork mounts on it for my mountian bikes, I just lay the canoes flat on them, and I’m getting the Thule saddles that will bolt to the 2x4’s. I can put 5 mountian bikes on the car. I bungie the rear wheels down and I bungee the front wheels to the back wheels. Works great! I can also carry a canoe and a kayak at the same time. Cost for the brackets was about $60 ten years ago. 2x4’s are wicked cheap! The fork mounts for the bikes are $20. I’m not sure about the saddles. Maybe $100? But, like I said, you need to have gutters for the brackets.

Happy paddeling!


I have a Jetta. It’s got special metal (prongs?) stickie outie things just under the rubber door liners at the top of all of the doors. The rack makers have special attachments that fit over these and that’s what I have. These little prongs are like a part of the roof, they’re thick, and they’re not going anywhere.

Check for those. The antenna does get bent to one side or the other and I just let it. I also have nice shiny grooves on my trunk from opening it and hitting the rudder. Is that another reason I shouldn’t have a rudder? LOL. Or another reason I shouldn’t carry my boat upside down? LOL.

I haven’t rented a kayak since I’ve owned my own, although, I don’t take it on all of my trips either.

Hope this helps.


P.S. Make sure to keep your warranty up to date on the Jetta. Based on my experience, you’re going to need it.

$15 worth of nylon straps for me
When I purchased my Loon 111 last week I asked the dealer (located next door to where I work) to install Thule hull-a-ports on my standard roof rack on my Pontiac Vibe but the cross bars were too close to the rooftop to allow the installation. As a result the guy helping me suggested that I unscrew the mid roof antenna, set the kayak on the rack cockpit up, and use two nylon straps (which at least gave him a small sale). The arrangement worked perfectly and saved me $100 plus for the hull-a-ports. By the way, when we bought hybrid bikes last month the same guy showed me the $$$ roof rack systems available thru Thule, then steered me to an $85 Thule rack that straps to the rear hatch on my Vibe, works great and is easy to take off. Great staf

Have it with you
Boats (like bikes) become part of us in how they feel while in use. Renting something else doesn’t ensure you’re going to like the way it handles=a less enjoyable paddle.

Get a trailer
I use one and its great! No more lifting the yak after a long day of paddling!

Rent vs. bring along
By asking the question, I assume you’re driving to your destination. Or else (flying), your choices are already made FOR you, not by you.

At $40-60 a day rental fee, it add up pretty quickly. Hear it from someone who fly and rent quite a few times. I got a long list of complains, if any outfitters here are reading!

First, there’re not nearly enough outfitters where there’re interesting paddling opportunities. Why? Of course they need a certain number of renters to make money. So you’re stuck in places where it’s likely to be over-crowded.

Then, there’re many quirky restrictions you ended up bumping against.

  1. about 1/2 of the outfitters I contacted don’t rent to single paddlers. And they don’t even bother to tell you when you make reservation! A shrug and a half-hearted sorry was all they gave when you made the trek over!!! So if you’re on business in a place and want to just get a bit of water time? Forget it.

  2. you can’t paddle where you want. Many have a limit on where you shouldn’t go that’s based on novice’s ability to handle the condition. But I guess you can just say yes and go ahead to paddle out of the “box”…

  3. some won’t rent you a spray skirt, period. It doesn’t matter if you’re willing to demonstrate you can get out and get back in, which in itself could be a hassle, to get all wet before starting. Others don’t even give you a paddle float!

  4. boat models can be limited (recreational only, or fat and slow sea kayaks) and conditions can range from good to poor. Non-funtioning rudder and un-movable footpeg are common place.

    This is a long rant. But I’m basically only paddling my home water, and bring my bike on trips for exercise and recreation, not bothering with chancy rentals.

Lug it…
most rental stuff is CRAP…

Limits on renting
Above posts have covered most of it - limited paddling, less boat, often can’t wear a skirt (yuk when things are splashy) etc. Outfitters have to make sure their insurance company is unlikely to actually have to pay out on a claim.

That said, some outfitters will give a renter more latitude under either of two conditions. One is that the to-be renter shows up with some credentials in hand indicating that they have certain assured skills, such as a BCU rating at 2 or 3 star level. The other is that the renter goes out and shows that they can manage certain skills before being alloowed to really go out. One woman I know has rented from a place in the San Juans a couple of years running, and before being allowed to depart had to go out and prove to a guide that she had decent paddling skills and a couple of self-rescue methods that she could execute. Note that this person could roll - but she still had to demo a paddle float re-entry.

If you can pass this kind of muster, the good news is that you get a skirt.


Take your boats with you
I carry mine whether by car, boat or plane. Much nicer to have your own gear and no limits.

Bring your own gear
>If you can pass this kind of muster, the good news is that you get a skirt.<

Or get a skirt that fits the most common cockpit openning size and put it on after paddling out of sight of the launch.

best tie down
is the one that is not going to let the craft come loose to slam into other traffic. The cost is cheap compared to what some biker will do to you if it falls off and doesn’t kill him. I have had to dodge all kinds of road debris on my bike. A skid plate off of something was thrown up by a semi’s tires and would have taken my head off if I hadn’t seen it and ducked. A recap from a semi killed a guy in Colo. two years ago when he hit it and it lodged in his wheel, locking it up. I managed to avoid a ladder which slid off of a van in front of me and disintegrated on I-25 at about 60mph. Avoiding it kept me from catching up with the van driver, though.