5 Tips To Install Kayak Roof Rack On Your Vehicle

Kayaking across a lake or down a river is only half the battle when it comes to kayaking. Equally important is the ability to transport equipment safely from your home to a water source or campsite located miles away. The most elegant method for cars and SUVs is to strap a kayak to the roof of your vehicle. 

You’ll need a specialized rack or pads for this purpose to provide a stable mounting surface for the boat while protecting the car from scuffs and scratches. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of securing a canoe or kayak to a factory-installed or aftermarket kayak roof rack. Always refer to the instruction manual that came with your car or roof rack when in doubt. 

Factors To Consider 

When looking for a kayak carrier, the first thing to consider is your current roof setup. Many hard-mounted solutions necessitate using a standard “crossbar” roof rack and ratchet-style tow straps. Softer fabric or foam pads are frequently attached directly to the roof, but they don’t provide as good a grip on cargo. 

Cargo capacity ratings are also assigned to racks, carriers, and roof rails. You should make sure that your preferred carrier can handle the weight of your kayak. At the same time, the vehicle should be able to haul the total weight of the kayak, carrier grips, and any installed crossbar racks. 

The Tools You’ll Need 

When it comes to tying a kayak to a roof rack, planning is essential. The following is a list of the necessary equipment: 

  • Roof Rack: Many different kinds and brands are available to choose from. You can select the appropriate roof rack based on the orientation of your vehicle’s roof and your personal preferences. 
  • Tie-down straps: Normally, each crossbar requires straps. However, straps with cam buckles should be prioritized because they aid in tightening without tying knots. 
  • Padding: The type of padding you use is critical to preventing damage to your car roof and kayak. Inflatable roof racks may not require padding because they also serve as padding. 
  • Bow tie-down straps: These are necessary for securing your kayak’s front and back ends. You can also use solid ropes and tie them to the front and rear of your vehicle. 

How to Strap Your Kayak to a Roof Rack? 

Step 1: Place the Kayak Straps on the Roof Rack’s Bars. 

Laying the straps over each bar is the first step in tying your canoe or kayak to your car. First, of course, you’ll want to make sure that the buckles at the ends of the straps don’t scratch your car door. Next, thread each strap beneath and around each bar, then lay the kayak straps flat against your vehicle

Boat straps typically have two ends: one with a metal buckle or clamp and one without. To avoid damaging your paint, carefully place the clamped end against the window and let the non-metal end hang along the car’s body. Check the kayak rack crossbars now, if you haven’t already. First, check that they are not loose. Then, if they’re not, tighten them up. Each rack will be different, but most will only require an Allen wrench (a good tool for your paddling gear). 

Step 2: Mount Your Kayak or Canoe to the Roof Rack 

Prepare to mount the kayak to the roof rack. If you’re tying the kayak to the roof rack’s crossbars, place it upside down on the rack. Placing a plastic boat hull-side down can result in indentations, which can be removed but affect your boat’s ability to track straight. 

You can place the kayak right-side-up on the roof rack if you use kayak carrier pads or special attachments like hooks or rollers. 

The type of kayak will determine whether it is better to face forward or backward. Some sea kayaks are more lightweight from the bow—this is how they ride in water—and the less resistance you create, the better your gas mileage. Recreational kayaks are frequently less defined from front to back, allowing you to go either way. 

Step 3: Bring the Canoe Straps Over the Canoe 

To avoid car damage or a broken window, tie the straps over the canoe or kayak to the other side of the roof rack once the boat is on the car’s roof and the straps are around the bars. It can be challenging to get the canoe straps over a large canoe, but it is well worth the extra effort. 

Pull on the buckle end of the strap (while keeping the belt over the bar) and walk it around the back of the vehicle and over the boat. Allow this end to dangle freely while pulling on the other end to add length, then toss the non-metal end over the ship. The idea is to get the straps over the canoe while avoiding damage to the car, boat, or yourself. 

Step 4: Tighten the Kayak Straps 

It’s time to strap the kayak down once it’s on the roof rack and the straps are lying over it. 

Be sure the straps are not crossed and flat against the kayak. Slide the straps, so the buckle is against the kayak’s hull. Bring the opposite end underneath the crossbar and up to meet the buckle. Thread the kayak strap through the buckle by pressing the clamp’s button, which opens a slot for the strap to fit through. Pull the straps to take up any remaining slack. 

It’s time to tighten the kayak straps, which have been threaded through their buckles. Pull down on each strap, allowing the straps to pass through the buckle. These buckles are one-way clamps that enable straps to pass through them one way. To undo a strap, press the button and tug to loosen it. 

Step 5: Roll and tie the kayak straps together. 

To keep your kayak straps from flapping in the wind and slamming into your car, you’ll need to tie them up in some way. Wrap each strap around the roof rack part that connects to the car. Then, take the strap’s end and knot it against the rest of the straps or wedge it under them. After you’ve completed these steps, your kayak should be secure, and you’re ready to go.

You can also check out the blog for adventurous activities, learn more here


Knowing how to tie your kayak to the roof rack is critical for improving driving safety. However, it also has significant other benefits, such as reducing damage to your vehicle or kayak. Other important considerations should be made when tying the kayak to the roof. They include checking the fastenings, keeping a safe distance from other vehicles on the road, and making frequent stops when traveling long distances.  


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay in Touch

To follow the best weight loss journeys, success stories and inspirational interviews with the industry's top coaches and specialists. Start changing your life today!


Related Articles