How to Strap or Tie Down a Kayak on a Car Roof Rack? Steps and Tips

To secure a kayak on a car roof rack, place it flat-side down, use cam straps or ratchet straps to fasten the kayak to the rack’s crossbars, ensuring it’s snug and centered, with additional bow and stern lines for added stability during travel.

How to Strap or Tie Down a Kayak on Car Roof Rack?

Every sports or travel enthusiast must know how to strap or tie down a kayak on a car roof rack. Since Kayak is an expensive product, everybody wants to transport it safely. But, transporting kayaks on a car roof is a very challenging task.

You need to be careful and competent to do it perfectly. A simple mistake can be disastrous. To make things convenient for you, I’ve developed an article on how to tie down a kayak on the roof rack.

This article will help you to gain knowledge on the procedure of strapping a kayak on a car roof rack. Besides, this article can help make the tie-down on your vehicle quick, safe, and secure.

Here are the steps for tying down a kayak on a vehicle with a crossbar roof rack system.

How to Tie Down a Kayak

Before tying down the Kayak on the roof rack, you must collect some equipment to do the task flawlessly. Here, we’ll talk about it.

gears for tie down a kayak

Gears You Must Collect before Tie down a Kayak

Let’s check which gears you need to strap a kayak properly to a roof rack –

Kayak Roof Rack

This is the main foundation for your kayak transport system. A good roof rack should be sturdy, well-designed, adjustable, and convenient to install on your car’s roof.

Kayak Straps

You’ll need a minimum of two straps to secure your Kayak to the roof rack. Look for straps made from durable materials like nylon or polyester. They’re strong and far superior materials. Moreover, you should also ensure that they are long enough to reach your kayak and roof rack.

Bow and Stern Lines

These lines connect to the front and back of your Kayak and anchor it to the car’s bumpers. They help prevent the Kayak from shifting when driving fast on the highway or making a U-turn.


It’s essential to use padding to safeguard your costly Kayak from damage. Foam blocks or pads can be placed between the Kayak and the roof rack. Further, a small towel or blanket can cushion any contact points.

Ratchet Straps

These can be used in place of regular kayak straps for added security. Ratchet straps provide extra tension and help to prevent the Kayak from shifting during transport.

Safety Flag

If your Kayak extends past the end of your car, a safety flag can alert other drivers to your presence on the road.

How to Strap a Kayak onto a Roof Rack

How to Strap a Kayak onto a Roof Rack

Tying a kayak onto the racks with straps largely depends on your rack type. However, the process is almost similar. For example, entertainment-type kayaks are usually wider than traveling or camping kayaks. Therefore, the secure point can vary too.

Likewise, if you’re loading more than one kayak, it can vary. In the end, it can be pretty much straightforward.

Now, let’s check how to strap a kayak onto a roof rack –


  • Firstly, strap down the kayak seat and stow any loose articles
  • Lift Kayak centered onto roof racks. Do this task steadily. Don’t rush. Otherwise, things can be disastrous. I recommend you use two people while lifting the Kayak on the vehicle’s top.
  • Throw straps over Kayak while keeping Cam/buckle on the passenger side. Nevertheless, ensure that straps have no twists.
  • Now, run the strap under the roof rack bar. Depress the locking button on the strap and run through the back side of the clasp.
  • Keep the clasp vertical, if possible, for better leverage. Pull tightly until the board is secure. Don’t over-tighten. Otherwise, scratches can be made into the Kayak and it can lose its glamor. So, be careful about that.
  • Test tie-down by shaking Kayak. If there’s no movement, then Kayak is secure. Secure the additional strap by looping around your crossbars and then tie-off.
  • Open the hood and place two loop tie-down anchors on both sides. Close the hood and ensure the loops are snug.
  • Run a line through a loop, the bow handle, and the other side.
  • Run the line through the second loop. Tie off the line, keeping it tight by using a trucker hitch knot.
  • Now, trim the loose end of the line and place the loop tie-down anchor in the trunk. Close the trunk and pull on another until snug.
  • Tie off a line on the Kayak stern handle. Run the loose end of the line through a simple loop, and pull tight.
  • After that, run the line through the loop. Use a trucker hitch knot and tie the line tight.
  • Tie off or trim excess line.

It’s over! You’re ready. Just get into the car and start traveling without tension!

Here’s a reminder for you. If you have another kayak to carry, just repeat all the procedures I’ve told you above.

How to Strap a Kayak onto an Inflatable Roof Rack

Securing an inflatable roof rack requires a slightly different technique for tie-downs compared to hard and soft racks, as the former lacks fastening points for looping the straps through.

Once your Kayak is on the roof of your vehicle, open all car doors. Pass the buckle of each cam strap over the boat’s top. Hence, you’ll ensure that they run parallel to the inflatable racks.

Next, go around your vehicle and thread the buckle through an open car door. If you have a car without back doors, pass the straps through the windows instead. Pass the loose end through the buckle and cinch to secure the straps until taut.

Check the Straps Regularly

Essential Tips for Tying Down a Kayak

Let’s check some essential tips to tie down a kayak –

Use High-Quality Straps

Invest in high-quality straps that are specifically designed for tying down kayaks. Don’t try to use cheap things like bungee cords or ropes. The reason is they can become loose during transport and the chance of an accident will be increased.

Place the Kayak Properly

Make sure the Kayak is centered on the roof rack and positioned to prevent it from shifting during transport. The bow and stern of the Kayak should be secured to the vehicle.

Use a Ladder

If your body size is shorter or the vehicle is a bit tall, you can use a ladder to make the strapping process convenient.

Keep a Warp

Keeping a warp can resist the disgusting strap vibration while driving on the street.

Check the Tightness

Tighten the straps until the Kayak is adequately secured. Notwithstanding, you should be careful not to overtighten and damage the Kayak.

Secure Loose Ends

Tuck away any loose ends of the straps to prevent them from flapping in the wind or getting caught in your car’s wheels.

Check the Straps Regularly

Check the straps regularly so you’ll have a fair idea that they haven’t loosened.

If you follow these pieces of advice, I can assure you that you will be able to enjoy a hassle-free journey.

kayak on a car roof rack


What is the best way to position a kayak on a roof rack?

The Kayak should be positioned on the roof rack to be centered and balanced. The bow and stern of the Kayak should be secured to the roof rack. This way, it can successfully prevent the Kayak from shifting during transport.

What is the safest way to transport a kayak?

The best and safest way to transport a kayak is by securing it to a roof rack on the vehicle’s top side. But, if you don’t own a roof rack, you can convey it through the truck’s bed, on a trailer, or even behind a bike.

How tight should the straps be when securing a kayak to a roof rack?

You should tighten the straps properly to secure an expensive product like Kayak. However, you shouldn’t over-tight it. Otherwise, scratches will fall into the Kayak’s body, or it can be damaged seriously. So, be careful about it.

Can I transport more than one Kayak on a roof rack?

Yes, it’s 100% possible to transport more than a kayak on a car’s roof rack. But, it’s crucial to ensure the kayaks are placed and secured correctly to prevent them from shifting.

End Words

If you love kayaking, you must know how to carry a kayak on the roof rack correctly. It will help you to keep your beloved Kayak intact. So, you’ll get better service for an extended period.

Hence, you must ensure the Kayak is safe before your car hits on the street. You need to tighten the straps appropriately. This is how your boat will be pristine and stay in shape. Moreover, follow the steps closely I’ve discussed above.

So, what’s your opinion regarding our tutorial on how to tie down a kayak? If you find it useful, please share it with your companions. Contrariwise, you can ask queries in the comment box if you have anything to know. Thanks for reading. Happy Paddling!

Automotive products are like an addiction to me. Years ago, I started my job at a Roof Box installation co. Then I realized that I have a passion for cars. It is a perfect scope to share my different experiences about automotive products.