How to Tie a Kayak on Top of a Car

How to Tie a Kayak on Top of a Car
Fastening a kayak to the top of a vehicle is a crucial part of the sport of paddling. The knowledge of a couple of knots and some basic strapping techniques will make this task very simple.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Attaching Kayaks to a Standard Rack

Things You’ll Need:
  • Kayak rack 100 feet of 3/8 inch braided polyester rope, or nylon straps with cam buckles
  • Kayak rack
  • 100 feet of 3/8 inch braided polyester rope, or nylon straps with cam buckles
Step 1
Check your kayak rack. If you are buying a new rack, make sure that it will fit your vehicle, and be sure to attach it securely. Some modern racks come with attaching systems. If you have one of these, follow the attachment directions that were included. If you already have a rack, check the attachment and sturdiness of the rack frequently.
Step 2
Carefully lift the first boat onto the rack and place it in a balanced position near one edge of the rack. If the boat is filled with gear, place it with the cockpit up and the articles securely fastened inside. A cockpit cover is inexpensive and useful for securing gear inside a boat. Placing the cockpit face-down is usually more streamlined, but this obviously does not allow for gear storage in the boat.
Step 3
Strap or tie the boat to the rack. Loop the strap under the middle of one segment of the rack and then pull both ends of the strap over the boat. The strap end should then be placed under the edge of the rack, but inside of the vertical member and adjusted until the buckle is about ten inches above the rack. Carefully straighten any kinks in the strap, thread the strap end through the buckle and pull to tighten. Repeat this step for the second segment of the rack. Carefully check the attachment by pushing on the boat. A properly loaded boat will have little or no movement. If ropes are used, a trucker's hitch and two half hitches are both easy to tie and untie and are used in the same sequence as the cam buckles.
Step 4
Place additional boats next to the attached boat. These may be stacked flat or on edge, depending on quantity and size. Tie or strap the additional boats to the rack using the method in step 2. It is best to run the additional straps over the previously attached boat, so they are all tied together as a unit.
Step 5
Tie the bow and stern loops of the kayaks together and attach a safety line to the front and rear of the vehicle. This step can be skipped, but it provides a good safety factor, especially for large numbers of boats and rough roads.

Tips & Warnings

Carefully check all knots and straps for tightness and tie off the loose ends. A boat that falls off of a rack at high speed could easily cause a serious accident, and the boat will almost certainly be damaged.

Article Written By John Mattson

John Mattson is an architectural engineer, adventure writer, and photographer who has traveled to many remote corners of the earth. He has recently self-published a colorfully photographed book of 26 diverse and extreme adventure stories titled "Dancing on the Edge of an Endangered Planet."

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