Racks, Trailers & Carts: How To Transport Your Kayak

November 21, 2022

Kayaks on back of truck

Some kayaks can be cumbersome, especially to transport. Lucky for us this has been an issue since the invention of the kayak, giving people and companies enough time to work out some really ingenious kayak transport solutions.

The first thing you’re going to have to figure out when purchasing a kayak is how to get it home from the store. In order to do this easily you’re going to need to look at a few key elements in your personal transport equation.

Pickup Truck Bed

If you have a pickup you can toss the kayak into the truck bed, which is probably one of the easiest ways to transport a kayak. This works great for shorter kayaks, but can be an issue with long boats, like sea kayaks.

If you decide to transport your kayak in a truck bed be sure to secure it, even if it fits snugly inside. You can use rope for this, if you’re handy with solid knots, but an even easier way is to use a cam strap or two. 

Roof Transport

Many kayaks won’t fit inside your vehicle, or well in a truck bed. The next option is to find a way to securely mount your kayak atop your vehicle.

The most basic way to carry a kayak on top of your vehicle is with an inflatable or foam block rack system, like the Malone HandiRack or NRS Deluxe Kayak Roof Rack. This will also be the most economical option.

A more secure way to transport your kayak, which is also less likely to scratch up your vehicle’s roof paint, is a crossbar system. While not inexpensive, a proper roof rack system is extremely versatile. The specific bars and towers you go with will be determined by the specific vehicle you’re putting them onto.

Roof Rack Accessories

While in many cases you can strap your kayak directly to the roof rack cross bars, it is usually more secure and easier to fit more boats and/or gear on your roof rack through the use of saddle cradles, J-cradles or kayak stackers. If you need to transport a lot of kayaks at once on your rack a great option is something like the Malone Stax Pro2.

For those of us with tall vehicles and/or limited strength, a load assist system comes in really handy, especially with bigger and heavier kayaks. There are a variety of systems out there, from the super basic Malone SeaWing Stinger Combo to the super convenient drop down style like the Thule Hullavator Pro.

Kayak Trailer

Kayakers with lots of kayaks can tow a trailer behind their vehicle like this Malone MicroSport 4-Boat FoldAway-J Kayak Trailer Package

Another transport option is to use a dedicated kayak trailer. These trailers are small, lightweight and can be towed by most vehicles. Trailers are most useful if you need to transport boats and gear for several persons or just ease of loading and unloading. You will need a hitch on your vehicle to tow a trailer, and an electrical hookup for lights. A 2-inch hitch should work for most kayak trailers, but be sure to check the technical specification before any purchase. Note too that driving while pulling a trailer does require some experience — particularly when backing up or driving in close quarters. And some states require a tag or plates for a kayak trailer.

Once you are set up, you will enjoy the extra capacity that a kayak trailer provides. Boats and gear can be loaded at waist-level, rather than lifted overhead. Most trailers are flexible enough to accommodate boats, bikes, cargo boxes and anything else that can be tied down.

Getting to the Water

Kayak carts are an easy way to get your kayak in and out of the water, like the Suspenz Deluxe Airless Kayak Cart

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you will need to get your kayak from the vehicle to the water. Carrying the kayak over your shoulder and walking to the water is the cheapest and most direct method, but possibly not the easiest or even possible for some of us. Many kayaks are just too long, heavy and cumbersome to carry easily.

A great solution for this is a kayak cart. There are many on the market, and should be chosen based on the style of kayak, weight of the kayak and gear combined and the terrain you need to traverse between the vehicle and the water.  A great all purpose choice that will work for most paddlers is the Malone Clipper TRX Deluxe Kayak/Canoe Cart

Hopefully these suggestions help you find the kayak transportation solutions that best fit your paddling life. Now get out on the water and get that paddle wet!

Happy Paddling!

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Stacey JohnsonCustomer Experience ManagerStacey has been with Outdoorplay for over 17 years, sharing wisdom from her years of experience and passion for all kinds of kayaking (whitewater, recreational, and touring), stand-up paddle boarding, and rafting. When she's not out on the water, Stacey also enjoys camping with her family and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the Cascade mountains.