Transporting: hull down or hull up?

How does everyone please transport their kayaks, right side up, or upside down. I know, the purists would say side transport is best, but I was in Maine and looked at most yaks being transported not on fancy devices that permitted sideways to even be a consideration, but rather they transported most frequently hull down, ie right side up. But why? Rain catcher, prone to sliding off the rack in abrupt stop, etc. Thoughts?

Composite - Poly
Composite boats are best traveled right side up (hull down). Plastic boat are best traveled on their sides. In each case it is traveling them on their strongest (sturdiest) aspect.

When this is not possible, it is generally accepted to travel either composite or poly boats upside down (on their decks).

Crossbar distance
Crossbar distance plays a key role. Wider crossbars make carrying upside down easier. If there isn’t enough space between the crossbars, proper balance often would dictate a crossbar somewhere within the cockpit region. Not only does this stress the coaming unduly, but also it usually means a kayak pointing upwards around 20 degrees.

Another point: It is easier to load a boat 'right side up.’ You just slide it onto the rack. If these people you observed drive short distances to the water, it is advantageous to them to load up the easiest way possible. Their kayaks just aren’t on the roof long enough to be significantly stressed by hull-down transport.

Wood strip kayak
I transport mine on wood racks with the hull up, cockpit down. My 4 reasons: 1) Protects the varnished hull from rubbing on the foam and carpet (all those scratches slow me down .001 MPH), 2) the deck is flatter and needs less foam blocking for a secure fit, 3) I load alone by carrying boat upside down with head in cockpit resting on the seat 4) My bow tiedowns are on the deck, lined up and close to bumper, 5) No problem keeping rain out. 6) I do put a bow protector of cardboard over the bow in case road debris hits the bow at 60 MPH- bow repairs are the hardest to get right. 7) That’s how I do it, regardless of how I count.

upside down
I always transport my kayaks upside down mainly to eliminate rain from from getting inside. But like viator said, some vehicles won’t allow the roof racks to be far enough apart to allow you to properly fasten the kayak upside down. In this case all you need is a cockpit cover.

Upside Down with foam block protecting
the cockpit ring. Two straps across, no bow or stern lines. Lays flat on top of the car roof with no racks.


– Last Updated: Oct-02-05 7:05 AM EST –

That's the way I do it. Hull up or hull down. None of this sissyboy "on the side" stuff for my boats. Nope. It's hull up or hull down and nothing in between!

Do you eat your eggs from the narrow or the wide end?


Our shop transports our thermoformed plastic test/rental fleet boats hull down (right side up I suppose). We do this on our roof mounts as well as on trailers. We’ve not had it negatively impact any of the boats nor have any ever come loose or shifted to the point that we were concerned they might come off. If you have a rood rack system I’d get a setup that transports them on their side like a stacker or a hullraiser to save space but a set of hullyrollers and a set of saddles work just as well. Or if you are on a budget a couple of foam pads (rectangular with a v-shaped cutout so the boat can be transported upright) and some webbing straps will do the trick. The key is in securing them properly using bungees or webbing. In terms of protecting the boat from the elements just cover it with a tarp or a kayak specific cover (would recommend that even on nice days as it would be a bummer to finish a roadtrip with the boat on top and find it nicked and scratched up unneccessarily by gravel kicked up by other travelers) when transporting it more than a few miles.

Hull Down
for my boats, unless I am transporting more than two. Than I may stack them on the sides. This is true for my composite and plastic boats.


Top up for sea kayak
Since my Thule racks are for top up mounting, thats what I do. I can see that there are times that top down would be good like for heavy rains. But, That might not look cool…

I think it depends??

Saddles are made for …
…carrying kayaks cockpit up and hull down.

that should tell you something.



Hull down is OK
Just make sure that you don’t overtighten the straps, and that you place the kayak so its bulkheads sit over the saddles (if it’s a plastic kayak).

A cockpit cover blocks any rain during transport and creepie-crawlies if the kayak is lying on the ground at a campsite overnight.

how strong peoples opinions are on this. As I’ve said before, I have hauled hundreds of kayaks over the past twenty or so years and unless you are too weak to load a boat easily alone, there is no need for rollers, saddles, cradles etc. Also, hulls are usually NOT stronger than decks. In the water a hull is supported, but typically decks are flatter making for a better contact, and due to coamings, hatches, rdf’s etc., stronger by shape. In rare cases, decks may be flimsy. I almost always carry boats deck side down on well padded cross bars, and I have NEVER had an issue, even on trips to Alaska and Horrific BC logging roads. So, my experienced advice is to save your money on all that rack fluff and cockpit covers, and apply it toward a carbon paddle, or composite boat. If you feel better with all that stuff buy it and enjoy it. Your boat got to your dealer wrapped and on cross bars inside a semi trailer, or on a big kayak trailer. To me the only rationale for these attachements is in cases of weird car/kayak combos or single loading by a weaker person. Just my thoughts.

People above are only partially right.
For plastic WW boats, always on the side, or if necessary, hull up. Putting a plastic WW boat on a rack with the hull down is asking for trouble (oil canning). The same applies to plastic touring boats unless you have something to support the boat like cradles. Then, and only then, transport hull down. For composite touring boats, transport hull down in cradles or on sides or deck down if no cradles. If you have ever rented a plastic touring boat from an outfitter that transports them hull down you will know that they are warped and oil canned. There is no excuse for that.

I meant to say DECK DOWN (or bottom up) for me. Oy…