How to Transport & Launch Your Kayak With a Trailer

May 11, 2024

How to Transport & Launch Your Kayak With a Trailer

Hitting the water in your kayak is a thrilling experience, but getting your boat from home to the water's edge can be challenging. That's where a trailer for kayaks comes in handy. 

Loading kayaks is safer and much less strenuous with a trailer than a kayak roof rack system because trailers are closer to the ground. Comparatively, lifting a kayak past hip height onto a roof rack could be a struggle, especially for smaller paddlers. Knowing how to properly secure your kayak to a trailer is essential, whether you're a seasoned kayaker or a newbie just learning how to paddle

Benefits of Using a Kayak Trailer

A kayak trailer not only frees up your vehicle's roof rack for other kayaking gear but also offers:

  • Ease of transport: Trailers designed for kayaks are typically lightweight enough for smaller cars to tow, which is only possible with a few utility trailers. They're very secure, with integrated cradles and strap tie-down points.
  • Specialized options: Purpose-built kayak trailers feature cradles that attach to the crossbars on the trailer and are built explicitly for secure kayak transport, with additional tie-down points for straps.
  • Convenience: Slowly and safely backing your trailer down the launch ramp is a breeze compared to awkwardly hauling your kayak over your shoulder. A trailer makes the launch simple, quick, and hassle-free, especially for solo paddlers.

Choosing the Right Kayak Trailer

While the available choices could be overwhelming, understanding your needs can help you select the ideal trailer for transporting your kayak.

Size & Capacity

The size and capacity of the trailer are crucial aspects to consider. Heavy fishing kayaks, for instance, require solid trailers designed to withstand a significant amount of weight. When exploring different options, be sure to check the maximum load that each trailer can handle. 

Suspension & Durability

Materials like aluminum and galvanized steel are known for their sturdiness and longevity, and trailers with an optimized suspension system can ensure a smooth ride even at highway speeds. Check the tire pressure specifications, too. Going for pressure at the lower end of the recommended range can lead to less bouncing and a smoother transportation experience.

Hitch Compatibility

Your chosen trailer should be able to be securely attached to your vehicle's hitch. Check your vehicle's hitch type and size relative to the trailer's hitch mechanism - most trailers require a 2" ball, the standard for most non-commercial towing trailers. Always ensure your vehicle and trailer hitch match before making that final purchase.

Benefits of Hybrid Kayak Trailers

There are many different types of trailers for kayaks, but hybrid kayak trailers remain popular for the following advantages:

  • Multipurpose use: Hybrid kayak trailers are designed to transport kayaks and other types of outdoor equipment, such as bikes, canoes, or kayak camping gear. 
  • Lightweight construction: Lightweight materials like aluminum reduce fuel consumption and put less strain on your towing vehicle, which can be ideal for long trips.
  • Improved maneuverability: Hybrid kayak trailers are more accessible when parking or storing in tight and crowded spaces.
  • Ease of loading & unloading: Hybrid trailers often feature lower loading heights, simplifying the process of loading and unloading kayaks.
  • Reduced storage space requirements: Many hybrid trailers' compact design takes up less space when unused. Some models can even be folded or disassembled, allowing you to store them in a garage or shed.

Importance of Kayak Trailer Tongue Length

A kayak trailer's more extended tongue makes it easier to maneuver, especially when backing up or turning. The extra length provides a greater distance between the towing vehicle and the trailer, which reduces the likelihood of the trailer hitting the vehicle during sharp turns. This can be particularly beneficial in tight spaces or when navigating tricky areas like campsites or boat launches.

Trailers with longer tongues also tend to be more stable on the road. The increased distance between the axle and the hitch point provides a more balanced towing experience, helping to minimize swaying and bouncing. This stability is crucial when traveling at higher speeds or in windy conditions, as it helps keep the trailer and the load secure.

Tips for Loading & Securing the Kayak

Securing the kayak to the trailer uses principles similar to attaching a boat to your vehicle's roof rack. 

  • Get a cradle or padding for the kayak to rest on. Then, secure it with a couple of nylon straps to the trailer's rack.
  • Products like the Extend-A-Truck can add additional support when transporting your kayak using a pickup truck, assuming you don't have a trailer.
  • The shocks and jolts during transport can affect your kayak, possibly causing damage. Utility trailers, designed to haul heavy loads, can bounce if loaded with just a kayak. To avoid this, consider reducing your tire pressure slightly.

How to Prepare Your Vehicle for Towing a Kayak Trailer

Take the time to prepare your vehicle. This will ensure a safe towing experience and prevent damage to your vehicle and kayak. Also, if you're new to towing, consider practicing in a secure, open area to get accustomed to the differences in vehicle handling. Learn how to reverse and park with the trailer attached, as these can be challenging maneuvers.

Check Your Vehicle's Towing Capacity

Before anything else, verify that your vehicle can tow the weight of the kayak trailer, the kayaks, and any additional load. This information can be found in your vehicle's owner's manual or the manufacturer's website.

Install the Hitch

Ensure your vehicle has the appropriate hitch for towing a kayak trailer. Check for any signs of wear or damage, and if necessary, have a professional install the hitch.

Install the Electrical Connections

Ensure your vehicle's electrical system matches the trailer's lights and indicators. Install any necessary adapters or converters to ensure the trailer's brake lights, turn signals, and taillights function correctly.

Examine Your Tires

Check both your vehicle's and the trailer's tires. Ensure they are correctly inflated according to the manufacturer's specifications and check for signs of wear or damage. Good tire condition will be essential for safe towing.

Check Your Brakes

Ensure both your vehicle's and the trailer's brakes (if the trailer is equipped with its own brakes) are in good working order. Consider having a professional inspection, especially if you plan on towing frequently or over long distances.

Adjust Your Mirrors

Adjust your side mirrors to see the trailer and the traffic behind it. If your regular mirrors don't provide enough visibility, consider installing extended mirrors designed for towing.

Acquire Safety Gear

Ensure you have all the required legal and safety gear, such as a trailer license plate, lighting, and safety chains. A roadside emergency kit with flares, tools, and a first aid kit is also a good addition.

Tips for Driving with a Kayak Trailer

When towing a kayak trailer, you must adapt your driving style to keep everyone safe. Here are five essential tips to keep in mind:

  • Trailers tend to cut inside the path of the towing vehicle during turns. To accommodate this, make wider-than-usual turns to ensure the trailer does not hit curbs, poles, or other obstacles. This is especially crucial in tight corners and while maneuvering in smaller spaces.
  • Regularly check your mirrors to monitor the position of the trailer. This helps you know the trailer's alignment and ensure it tracks correctly behind your vehicle. Frequent checks are also vital for lane changes and overtaking, as the trailer extends the length of your vehicle setup.
  • With the added weight of a kayak trailer, your vehicle's stopping distance will increase. Anticipate stops earlier and apply the brakes gently but firmly to avoid sudden jolts and ensure a smooth stop.
  • Maintain a steady speed and avoid sudden accelerations or decelerations. Smooth driving helps prevent the trailer from swaying, which can destabilize both the trailer and your vehicle.
  • Proper weight distribution is critical for maintaining control of the trailer, particularly at higher speeds or in windy conditions. Balance the load so that most weight is centered over the trailer's wheels.

Launching Your Kayak

Now that you've successfully transported your kayak using a trailer, it's time to understand how to launch it safely into the water.

Find the Right Spot

Identifying the perfect launching spot is an essential part of the kayaking journey. Terrain, currents, and the presence of other water users are vital factors you'll need to assess. Look for a place with calm waters and gentle slopes—it will be safer and make the launch process easier.

Always be conscious of your surroundings and other water users. A congested area can complicate your launch and bump your kayak into other people or crafts. Also, stick to an area with hard sand or tiny pebbles. Stepping into soft mud or stumbling on hidden rocks can disrupt your balance and result in an unintentional dip or even severe injuries. 

Consider the Water Depth 

While it might seem obvious, ensuring the correct water depth can make all the difference between a smooth launch and a rough start. The depth at your launching site should be enough to float your kayak while allowing you to stand comfortably. The water level should reach about mid-calf or knee height to stay stable while entering your kayak.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where should I launch my kayak?

An appropriate location for launching your kayak would be an uncrowded area with terrain suitable for a smooth launch. A place with hard sand or pebbles and a water depth reaching mid-calf or knee height is ideal.

Why is the depth of water necessary for launching a kayak?

Water depth is crucial in launching a kayak as it determines stability, which can positively or negatively impact your process of getting into your kayak.

How can I ensure a safe kayak launch?

Prioritize safety at every step, from safely transporting and unloading the kayak to choosing the perfect place and water depth for entering your kayak. Ensure the kayak is well-balanced and stable before you climb into it. Also, it's always good to avoid crowded areas.

Is it beneficial to invest in a kayak trailer?

Purchasing a high-quality kayak trailer can make transporting your kayak more manageable, comfortable, and secure. If you plan to go kayaking frequently, a good trailer can be a worthwhile investment and provide a safer experience.

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Erika PaciniHead of MarketingErika is a novice adventurer and dedicated member of the Outdoorplay family for over two years. With a passion for hiking, biking, and all things outdoors, she's always on the hunt for new trails, waterfalls, and secluded beaches to explore. Erika's passion for the natural world and mindfulness fuels her desire to inspire others to deepen their connection with themselves and nature through outdoor adventures.