How to Carry a Kayak Without Busting Your Back

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Methods on how to Carry a Kayak:

  1. Two People Lift
  2. One Person Lift
  3. One Person lift with Kayak Cart
  4. Lifting a Kayak onto a Roof Rack
  5. How to Strap Down a Kayak
  6. Alternatives for Transporting Big Kayak
  7. Whether alone or with a partner, every paddler must have a technique for carrying, lifting, and strapping down their kayak.

Of course, it is not an easy deed to transport a bulky boat. You should always be cognizant of your health and limitations. Ask for help when it is appropriate. Shop around for a kayak that is best suited for you.

In this article, we examine the various methods for transporting kayaks. We show you the correct way to carry, lift, and strap down a kayak both by yourself and with a partner. We also address some of the best alternatives to hard-shelled kayaks.

If you are in a rush, check out this helpful video tutorial.Otherwise, stay tuned to become an expert in kayak transportation.


How to Carry a Kayak

There are several different ways to carry a kayak. Methods vary depending on the size and shape of a kayak as well as the number of people lifting the boat. In this section, we offer directions on how to perform safe and protective one- and two-person kayak lifts.

Two People Lift

It’s much easier to carry a kayak with an extra set of helping hands. To do so:

  1. Position your kayak on the ground with the bow facing the direction of you intend to travel
  2. Position one person in the front of the boat and the other in the back. Both people should be facing toward the intended path of travel.
  3. Both people should grab a handle.
  4. Lift the boat in unison. Then, proceed to your target location.

Tip: You can use this method to lift two boats at the same time. Line the boats up next to each other. Position yourself and your partner between the kayaks. Both paddlers should squat down and grab hold of a handle.

One Person Lift

Are you lifting your kayak alone? These steps will help you do it most safely and productively:

  1. Position the kayak with the bow facing in the direction you intend to travel. Place your paddle on the ground a few feet to the side of your kayak.
  2. While facing the cockpit of the boat, kneeling along the side of the boat.
  3. With two hands, take hold of the side of the cockpit that is closest to you.
  4. Using your legs, pull the kayak onto your thighs.
  5. While the kayak is resting on your thighs, reach one hand over the opposite side of the cockpit.
  6. Using that hand, pull the kayak up and over your shoulder. Take the time to balance the boat on your shoulder before proceeding.
  7. Kneel to retrieve your paddle. Then, proceed to the waterway or your vehicle.

Safety Tip: One-person lifts should only be attempted by physically fit individuals. If you are elderly or have some sort of physical disability, seek help when lifting your boat.

Maintain awareness of your surroundings to avoid hitting any people or objects with your boat.

Keep in mind that you can drag a kayak if its hull is made of plastic. Nevertheless, you should never drag a boat made of fiberglass or composite. What’s more, only ever drag a plastic kayak over grass or sand. Pavement will damage the hull.

One Person With a Kayak Cart

A kayak cart is an excellent piece of boating equipment. It makes it super easy for a lone paddler to move their boat to and from a car.

  1. If your cart has strap tie downs, position it next to your kayak.
  2. Kneel alongside your kayak. Reach into the side of the cockpit closest to you.
  3. Slowly pull the kayak onto the cart.
  4. Adjust the kayak so that the hull is centered on the cart.
  5. Tighten and lock down the straps.
  6. Pull the kayak cart to your destination.

Tip: There are so many amazing kayak carts to choose from. Check out our favorite kayak carts here.

Avoid Dragging

Avoid dragging fiberglass or composite kayaks. These materials are highly susceptible to abrasions and punctures.

If you have a plastic boat, you may be able to drag it to the water. However, you should only traverse sandy and grassy areas. Anything more abrasive could damage the hull or skid plate. A kayak cart is a good investment for anyone with a fiberglass or composite boat.

kayak on a jeep in the dark

Lifting a Kayak Onto a Roof Rack

It can be difficult to lift a kayak on to a roof rack, especially if your vehicle is tall and/or your kayak is extra-long and bulky.

What You’ll Need:

One Person

  1. Line your kayak up with your vehicle. The stern of the boat should be aligned with the rear wheel of your vehicle.
  2. Grab the handle on the bow of your boat. As you lift the boat into the air, rotate your hands to the bottom of the boat.
  3. Rotate the boat over to the side of the vehicle. Lean the boat up against the side of the boat. The bow should be slightly higher than your roof rack.
  4. Kneel and lift the stern of the boat.
  5. Push it so that it is resting on top of the roof rack in the perpendicular position.
  6. Grab the stern of the boat and gently rotate it so that it is parallel to your vehicle.
  7. Center the boat on top of your vehicle.
  8. Connect your boat to your roof rack with a set of cam straps. Place the cam straps on the two widest points of the boat Adjust the cam straps so that they are snug but not overly tight.
  9. Using a high-quality, stretch-resistant rope, tie the hull and bow of your boat to the chassis of your vehicle. Cars tend to have tow points along the front and rear bumpers. Use a trucker’s hitch knot to attach the rope at both points.

Depending on the height of your vehicle, you made need a step stool or small ladder to comfortably lift your boat onto

Two People

If you are lucky enough to have a helper, you should have no trouble lifting your boat onto a roof rack.

  1. Position your boat so that it is parallel to your vehicle. The bow should be positioned alongside the front of your vehicle.
  2. Grab the handle on the stern of the boat. Gradually lift it till it is above your heads.
  3. Carry the boat to the back of the vehicle.
  4. Direct your partner to place the front of the boat directly over the rear of the vehicle’s roof.
  5. Direct the the person holding the hull handle to push the boat up and over the roof racks. The person on the bow side should guide the boat from the front.

Tip: Place an old towel or rag on the top of your vehicle before lifting it your kayak on to the roof rack. Use the fabric as a buffer between your boat and vehicle. It will limit the amount of friction between the objects. What’s more, it will protect the surfaces from damage.



How to Strap Down a Kayak

There are a couple of different ways to strap down a kayak. The following instructions detail how to tie down a kayak with cam straps and rope.

  1. position your kayak in the center of the crossbars on top of your vehicle. The same goes for J-bars and other roof rack systems.
  2. Position your cam straps on the front and rear of the kayak.
  3. Take one cam strap and toss it over the top of the boat.
  4. Go to the opposite side of your vehicle and retrieve that end of the cam strap.
  5. Feed the end of the cam strap under the crossbar on that side of your vehicle.
  6. Toss the cam strap back over to the side it originated from.
  7. Return to the other side of your vehicle. Grab the end of the cam strap and loop it under the crossbar on that side of your vehicle.
  8. Feed the strap through the buckle.
  9. Pull the buckle until the strap is snug but not overly tight.
  10. Repeat the same step with the second cam strap.
  11. Attach a segment rope to both the bow and then the stern of the boat.
  12. Use a secure not to attach pieces of rope to both handles.
  13. Connect the opposite ends of the ropes to secure points on the bottom of your vehicle’s chassis. Use a tow point or trailer hitch.
  14. Tighten the bow and stern lines. Then, tie off or remove any loose ends.
  15. Check the overall tension of your roof rack tie-down system.

Alternatives to transporting Big Kayaks

If transporting large kayaks seems like too much of a hassle, consider one of the following alternatives. Revolutionary improvements in the kayak industry have made it possible for paddlers with limited storage space and transportation to own and transport their own boats.

Inflatable Kayaks

Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Sport

Inflatables are excellent options for paddlers who don’t want to invest their time or money into complicated transportation roof racks and kayak carts. Inflatable kayaks can be inflated and deflated at a waterway. Most inflatables fit into bags that are small enough to fit in a car truck, overhead compartment, or even a bike trailer.

Modular Kayaks

Modular kayaks consist of smaller pieces that can be snapped together and taken apart with ease. They make it possible to transport a large kayak without a roof rack or trailer. Many modular kayaks can be assembled in various ways.

Folding Kayaks

Folding kayaks can be collapsed into small parcels for easier storage and transportation. In most cases, these origami-like boats fit into the trunk of a small car.

Final Thoughts

We hope that you found these kayak carrying tips to be helpful. Share your thoughts, comments, and questions in the comment section below!

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