Transporting Kayaks long distances

I’m moving to Florida in a few weeks and we’re thinking about how to transport our kayaks. Besides putting them in our moving truck, we were thinking about transporting them on top of our car in our Thule system. Any thoughts on how to do this best? I’m leaving from Indiana. It’s a 1200 mile trip and the weather in January is very unpredictable, especially the winds.


good cradles and tie downs
you shouldn’t have any problem at all using a solid set of cradles (yakima, thule or other), some high quality tie downs (try your local paddle shop or nrs online) and front and rear ropes (tied loosely). i drove a 23’ double and a 18’ single from seattle to atlanta that way, no problem at all.

enjoy the trip


I have made
that trip twice with two boats on the cab and shell. Use a Yakima system with saddles and hully rollers. NRS straps with no bow/stern tiedowns. Never a problem. I also came back from Canoecopia(Madison) with a new boat and that was the worst driving ever with 50mph cross winds. Checked the boat a couple of times but all was well.


Use Bow and Stern TIe Downs
I’ve seen people lose boats off their racks and its not pretty.

If you tie your boat down well and have a good solid rack the trip should be no problem, just check the straps everytime you stop. Park where you can keep an eye on your boats if you don’t have someway to lock them to the rack.

Double Strap
As a basic, use double straps. Two around the boat in each location where you would normally use four. That way if one gets weakened by stretching (like from rain) or was not tightened down well the other is still there. This is a recommendation for Maine Island Kayak where we got our boats, and as we have gotten used to it we’ve found it to be a real good idea.

As to tie-downs run the usual way, to under the bumper, there are horror stories out there. I have seen one person set up what I thought was a really creative and simple system that got around these issues. He had a truck and, instead of under the bumper, ran two bow lines out in a V to simple metal clips that hooked under his hood. There was a similar arrangement on back where he found a way to again avoid running under the bumper, though I forget the details.

As to things that can go wrong with the under-bumper part - with stern lines, someone (like in a parking lot) backs into the stern line, tightens the line and the boat snaps. Heard of this happening at a sea kayak sumposium. Risk of this really depends on the vehicle and the amount of overhang. For bow lines, they come loose from the bumper and catch in the wheel well, tighten up and snap the front half of the boat before you can stop the car. Just missed having this happen ourselves one night a couple of blocks from home.

I agree with the above posts that extra security against wind is a very good idea for the trip you are planning, but on that long a drive your attention to the details of the kayak ropes may also be a problem. If you must use bow or stern lines, you may want to find a place to hook them that avoids the above risks.


Been using a trucker’s hitch
w/a minimum of 3 half hitches on it and have yet to have one come undone . And make sureyou secure the excess .Yes , sometimes it feels like alot o time but would you really like to have your boat go thru socar moms windshield ? A cockpit cover if they are upright , I even use one w/em cockpit down . Do not feel “stupid” for pulling over an spending the night some place because of wind an weather . As mentioned afore if the lines or straps get wet they will losen-stretch , dew will also do it , and you don’t want em too tight , plst. bends glass cracks . I also secure the rudder w/bungee around the stern and deck .3 seakayaks on top of a 94 Dodge van NY to the Everglades . And watch out for the bows when pulling up to a building , motel facia is low !

I would agree that cradles and tie-downs
will do the trick. The only thing that I would add is that you try to use ratchet style tie-downs so that you can adjust them as required along the way without too much difficulty.

Florida, eh? I’m jealous.

Have a safe trip.

Long Haul
I’ve had my two sea kayaks atop my truck continuously for the past 4 years & ~80,000 miles. I use Yakima Land Shark saddles and NRS straps (which I replace yearly). Have yet to have any problems.


If you have time… when stopping for
the night or more than an 1/2 hour in the warmer climes… good idea to ease the tension OFF the straps… prevents any chance of creep…

Don’t forget to reverse this action before flooring it to sun and warm water.

I appreciate the great tips. We just want to bring them down safely so we can enjoy the year round paddling! Wind is my biggest concern. I’ve read how some people experience an oil canning effect on their boats when they’re transporting them in a high wind situation. You just never know what the wind is going to be like in the Midwest winters.

Transporting kayaks
In Oct. I did a 3000 mile trip around the Northwest. I have Thule racks and saddles and also used rachet tie downs on both front and back. No accidents.


transporting kayaks long distances
I’ve driven to Florida and back, 2400 miles round trip, carrying two kayaks on a Yakima rack with shark cradles. No problems. Make sure you lock your boats to your car or rack. Cable locks with a good master lock is all you need. Available at any Home Depot.

Kayak covers
Even some cheap poly will keep the grit off. But a custom kayak cover is nice if you can swing it.

Hatch covers
Nobody mentioned hatch covers. Don’t leave home without them. The last thing you want is to fill the hatch with snow, ice, or rain while you are enroute.



Tether everything
as well. If using vcp or other hopefully aritight hatches make sure bulkheads are vented.

Ratchets and levers?
Can result in overtightening. I prever not to have such things, but room for everybody, no doubt.