Now that you are the proud new owner of a kayak, the next logical purchase is kayak transport.
If you’ve wondered how to get your kayak to the water, you are not alone. It’s a common question among those new to the sport, and a good one at that!
We’ve done the research for you, and put together some product overviews. The type of kayak transport you choose has to do with a variety of circumstances. So, we have organized our list by SUV’s, cars, trucks, and DIY roof racks.
Which type of kayak transport is right for you? Click the Table of Contents below to navigate to the section that pertains to you most.
If You Own a Jeep Wrangler or SUV…
If you have a Jeep Wrangler or SUV, it’s relatively easy to find the right equipment. Pretty much all of these larger vehicles come with roof racks, so you’ve already got a head start. From there, the number of choices for securing your kayak are numerous.
Here are our top picks for SUV kayak transport:
TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier
The TMS J-Bar Rack is made for a single kayak up to 75 pounds and 36 inches wide, which just about covers every kayak under the sun.
If you aren’t the best with tools, you don’t have to fret. The hardware is quick to install and remove, and this results in more time relaxing after your kayaking adventures!
Here’s why you should consider the TMS J-Bar:
- Enough space between the roof of the car and the kayak to prevent scratches on the bumpy backroads to your final destination.
- The protective foam wrapped around the rack protects your kayak from the strong steel materials that keep it safely in place.
- Works best on square and wing-shaped racks, such as Thule kayak racks.
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Rio Foldable Folding Kayak Carrier
If you have a lifted Wrangler or other SUV, then the Rio Folding Kayak Carrier is an excellent option. The bars fold down when not in use so you have worry-free access to parking garages or other low clearance areas.
These also work well no matter what kind of roof racks you have already. It’s a truly universal option that will suit any SUV or Jeep.
A few other reasons to consider this option:
- The J-bar is easy to put together and take apart, and the necessary tool is included.
- Fits all aftermarket crossbars made for SUVs and Wrangler kayak racks.
- This foldable carrier includes an anti-slip strap regulator for extra safety when you hit those potholes on the way to your destination.
- Fits watercraft up to 75 pounds and 36 inches wide, meaning it fits most any kayak.
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Car Rack & Carriers Universal Saddles Kayak Carrier
This SUV Saddle Kayak Carrier by Car Rack & Carriers looks and works differently than the previously discussed J-bars.
Saddle kayak racks for SUVs are made of rubber to protect the watercraft, and are placed directly opposite each other on both crossbars.
These 4 cradle hands make 2 saddles that hold your kayak in place while 2 straps are placed around the kayak and attached to the crossbars behind the saddles.
Think of it as if you and one other person were carrying the kayak above your head and each of you placed your two hands on either side of the hull to rest it while you carried it. Same concept except with a car rack carrier.
Why go for the Car Rack & Carriers Saddle Kayak Carrier?
- The included straps and tie downs are secure, which is extremely important for kayak transport. No flying watercraft here!
- Half the price of bigger brand competitors but works just as well.
- They can support any width, and the weight can be up to the standard 75 pounds. This type of kayak carrier is so versatile, it can even hold a canoe!
If You Own a Prius or other Small Car…
Prius’s and other small cars may or may not have a roof rack. Many cars do not come standard with one.
However, if yours does, there are plenty of aftermarket products that can be attached for easy kayak transport. Two of the best are Thule and Yakima.
Thule Complete Crossroad System
The Thule Complete Crossroad System is compatible with factory side rails and comes in 2 different sizes for different sized cars.
Once you put these puppies on your car, you can attach one of the other J-bar or saddle carriers discussed throughout this article.
If you want a fool-proof system to keep your car and your kayak safe, there are few on the same level as Thule.
Here’s why the Thule gets such a good name:
- The Complete Crossroad System includes 2 crossbars, 4 feet, and 4 locks. No guessing as to whether or not you have to purchase any additional equipment. It’s reassuring knowing everything is included all in one package.
- If you are thinking about transporting heavy watercraft, you don’t have to worry about these stable crossbars bending. One user called them ‘pretty darn bulletproof’!
Yakima Whispbar Rail Bar Roof-Rack System
When you want the quietest, most luxurious ride possible, keep in mind that the Yakima Whispbar reduces drag by up to 70%.
If your kayak is heavy or you want to carry 2 kayaks, you’re in luck. This rail bar roof-rack system carries up to 165 pounds (75 kilograms) without bending.
Here’s why any serious kayaker should consider the Yakima:
- Yakima makes all of their accessories extremely easy to attach and remove with their unique QuickDock system.
- With over 10 different sizes, it is pretty much impossible not to find a pair of rail bars that fits your Prius or other small car.
- Any kayaker who’s had to put up with the obnoxious howling of other car rack systems will appreciate the quiet ride you get with the Yakima Whispbar, even at high speeds.
If You Have No Roof Racks…
Attwood 11438-7 Rack-Free Car-Top Kayak Carrier Kit
If there is no roof rack and you don’t want to spend the cash, you can purchase foam blocks and supports. These, along with straps and a rope, make up a standard kit and are an affordable alternative to rail bar costs.
We recommend the Attwood 11438-7 Car-Top Carrier.
Why does the Attwood check all of our boxes?
- The V-shaped foam blocks fit both standard and dual-hull kayaks.
- Literally transforms any car — Mustang, Mini Cooper, Eclipse, or vehicles with a sunroof — into one that’s able to transport a kayak with ease.
- Instead of having to run to the nearest hardware store to buy new straps and a rope, all items are included and are quality enough to hold up to 12-foot kayaks. If you have a watercraft longer than this, tie the hull and stern to the front and back of your vehicle.
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DIY Roof Rack
No roof rack? No worries! We have put together a list of things you need in order to make your own DIY kayak roof rack.
Anyone can make one of these, so don’t get discouraged when looking at the instructions. All it takes are a few materials, a little bit of time, and some elbow grease!
- Trim your pool noodles so they fit the width of your vehicle. There should be a minimum of 3 – one for the front, middle, and back. For longer automobiles, a noodle should be placed every 2 feet for both car and kayak protection.
- Each noodle gets a set of ratchet straps. Run them through the center of the noodles, and then thread them through the inside of your vehicle. Secure them.
- When you are ready to load your kayak and you are by yourself, place the moving blankets on the back of your vehicle. Then, set the bow on the blankets and push the watercraft up from the back and into place on the pool noodles.
- Finally, secure the kayak using the remainder of the ratchet straps by twisting them as you join them and secure them inside of your vehicular transport.
For more detailed instructions on how to create DIY roof rack using pool noodles, check out this video here:
If You Own a Pickup Truck…
If you have a truck, you have the option of using a roof rack or the bed.
The bed is the easiest. All you have to do is put down the tailgate, hoist your kayak in the back, and secure it with a few tie downs.
Does your truck have a hitch receiver? If so, you can make this back-of-the truck tie down situation much safer for not a lot of money.
A truck bed extender could be just the answer you need. Here’s our pick:
Darby Industries 944 Extend-A-Truck
The Extend-A-Truck by Darby Industries is the answer for water lovers with long cargo.
When you aren’t carrying around your watercraft, you can simply fold the extender and store it virtually flat behind your backseat. Additionally, the height adjusts in case you do want to tie down your kayak on the bed or on a roof rack.
We like this truck extender because:
- The red flag and receiver hitch are both included – you have everything you need right out of the box.
- Versatility — use it to haul kayaks, canoes, ladders, lumber and more. The ability to mount this clever device for both bed-level and cabtop-level is ‘ingenious’ according to one happy user.
- It’s an inexpensive way to ensure your kayak and your truck stay safe on the washboard road out to your water destination!
Thule Xsporter Pro Aluminum Truck Rack with Load Stops
The Thule Xsporter Kayak Rack for Trucks makes it easy to load, carry, and store your kayak on any truck!
The Thule’s ability to adjust makes it easy to load your watercraft on, and then move the bars up to your desired height. That makes it perfect for the solo traveler.
Here’s why we love the Thule:
- AirTrip Technology and WindDiffuser Technology makes for an aerodynamic (saves fuel) and supremely quiet ride.
- SecureLock design locks in place with one key, so you get peace of mind knowing your kayak is securely fastened.
- Fits on most standard truck beds.
For a more detailed review about the Darby or Thule truck racks, check out this article here: Top Kayak Racks for Trucks (For Any Bed and Any Budget)
AA Products Inc. AA-Racks X35 Truck Rack
If you aren’t interested in drilling into the sides of your truck but still want a stable rack that can hold up to 800 pounds, look no further than the sturdy AA-Rack Truck Rack.
There are 8 C-Clamps included so you can easily take off the rack when you aren’t planning on loading up a kayak or 2 for transport. Set up is just as easy.
Why do we recommend the AA-Rack Truck Rack?
- Compatible with the standard X35 bed and the extendable top bar allows it to fit different sized cab heights.
- 10 mins to set up and take down when not in use thanks to the handy clamps that eliminate the need to drill into your truck bed.
- Clearly states which types of trucks/beds this product will NOT work for — no need to guess.
Dollies and Carts to Transport Your Kayak To Its Launch Point
Once at your destination, you’ll need to consider kayak transport from your vehicle to the water.
For this, we’ve found dollies and carts are the best options.
Things to look for are weight capacity, tires, and ease of use.
Malone Clipper Deluxe Universal Kayak Cart
The Malone Clipper Deluxe Universal Kayak Cart has a 200-pound loading capacity so you can rest assured your kayak won’t break down the cart.
In addition, the universal frame fits any width and length of kayak as well as a canoe if you have multiple kinds of watercraft on your vehicle for a full day of water sports.
Here’s why we think the Malone Clipper is tops:
- The removable 10-inch tires don’t have air, and that’s why the company can guarantee they “never-go-flat”.
- After you are finished transporting your kayak through the sand and gravel, simply fold up the cart and put it in your trunk or truck bed until you are done with your water voyage.
C-Tug Kayak & Canoe Cart
Are you wary of buying a cart to transport your yak?
Worried you can’t put it together?
Afraid you won’t be able to fit your heavier watercraft?
Don’t want to get your product and not be able to push it through the sand and rock?
Set aside your fears with the C-Tug Kayak & Canoe Cart.
What makes the C-Tug so fantastic?
- Made with non-corroding parts and stainless steel axles for a rust-free ride.
- The rubber wheels are grippy to help you get your heavy kayak to the water and you don’t have to stress about flat tires with puncture-resistant wheels.
- The green pads swivel to accommodate a variety of kayak and canoe bottoms.
Challenger Mobility Kayak Carrier CART
The Challenger Mobility Kayak Carrier CART was created specifically for challenging circumstances such as sand, mud, and loose gravel — you know, pretty much all of the conditions you would expect to see at rivers, lakes, and oceans!
This is all thanks to the 12-inch, large, low-pressure balloon tires. These big things are heavy duty and come with their own air pump so there are no surprises when you are out in the middle of nowhere.
We like the Challenger Mobility Kayak Carrier CART because:
- The middle is shaped like a ‘V’ for use with all kayaks, and includes squishy foam padding to protect your kayak from the strong frame as you pull it along the rough terrain.
- The balloon wheels are removable making for easy storage when not in use.
- This CART is coated with powder so the salt water will not cause rust damage.
Conclusion: Kayak Transport the Easy Way!
Your choice of kayak transport can be the difference between a fun day out and a royal pain in the butt, not-so-fun adventure.
No one wants to have a difficult time moving their watercraft — and losing your kayak on the road is a worst-case scenario for any water sports lover.
Whether you DIY or buy, make sure you choose the right gear for your vehicle and the right gear for your kayak. This includes verifying the weight limits and specs of both your vehicle and the type of kayak you’re trying to transport.
Thankfully this handy guide has taken the guesswork out of figuring out the best way to transport your kayak and made it easy. When you choose one of our recommendations, you can’t go wrong!
Last update on 2020-04-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API