Tips on How to Transport a Kayak in a Truck

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The Short Answer:

Transporting a kayak in your truck requires that you have the right kind of kayak, truck and straps. You should consider the length of the kayak and truck, and maybe even consider using truck racks or a hitch extender if you have a longer kayak. Regardless, you must secure your kayak into the bed properly and use a red flag if necessary.

When you’re planning on taking a kayak trip, one of the most important things to consider is how you’re going to transport the kayak with you. Kayaks are obviously large objects that require secure and safe protection while they’re being transported, so you must be aware of how to bring the boat with you properly. Some people have special kayak bars assembled to the top of their cars. Others have kayak trailers, but these can be expensive and tend to be more difficult to place and secure the kayak into position.

That being said, this guide is focused on helping you to transport your kayak using a truck in particular. It contains all of the information needed as far as the elements you should have access to as well as tips on how to place and secure kayaks into your truck. Trucks are more recommended for transporting kayaks because they’re larger and designed to withstand larger objects.

Below is a YouTube video that can help to introduce how to tie down the kayak once it’s in your truck. It’s easy to follow and provides a nice and simple setup for the instructions that you’ll find here. But this video only addresses the concept of manually tying down the kayak and leaves out a lot of information about what materials you’ll need, how to place the kayak in the truck bed and much more. So you’re recommended to watch the video simply for an introduction and then return to this guide for full instructions.

What You Need

A Kayak

The first thing you’ll need for transportation is easy to access to your kayak. Kayaks come in a variety of sizes, shapes and types, sometimes making it difficult to know whether you can fit a certain kayak in your truck or not. Most kayaks range from at least 10 feet long to around 16 feet long. Some ocean kayaks can even get up to 23 feet long. That being said, the shorter ones are obviously going to fit in your bed easier, and the longer ones with more difficulty.

For your purposes, it’s probably the safest to only transport a kayak in the bed of your truck if it’s no longer than 12 feet in length. Since most truck beds measure between five and six feet long, a standard 12-foot kayak will then stick out six feet, which is probably the furthest that I would recommend for safety.

Even more, the type of kayak is important to consider here because the shapes and overall designs of each of the types differ greatly, differing the transportation process for each. Given the length and overall design, the ultimate best types of kayaks for transporting in your truck bed are the recreational kayaks , since they tend to be shorter and wider, making your process easier and safer.

Touring kayaks are also suitable for truck bed transportation, since they usually measure between 10 and 16 feet long. But you should still keep in mind how much distance the kayak is going to extend off of the bed when it’s assembled. I would highly recommend to avoid putting long ocean kayaks in truck beds simply because of their narrow shape and the long length. Their design makes them more unstable, especially during the transportation process.

How to Transport a Kayak

A Truck

Other than the kayak, you’ll obviously need a truck for your carrying and transporting the kayak from point A to point B. I find pickup trucks the easiest vehicles for carrying kayaks, since they make the transportation process safer and you don’t have to lift the kayak as high onto the truck. A truck is also convenient because they have more storage space than other types of vehicles on the market. That being said, you can fit a kayak as well as many other belongings on there, making trucks great for camping or other kayaking adventures.

But even then, what kinds of pickup trucks are the best for kayaks? I’d say that the best overall truck for kayaking is the Dodge Ram, and this is merely because the bed of the vehicle is available in various lengths. All Dodge Rams have beds that measure at least five feet in length, and some can even measure up to eight feet, making it great for transporting kayaks. Aside from the bed length, the Dodge Ram offers heavy duty features, so you can easily access streams, lakes and other bodies of water with the truck’s power to access these hard-to-reach waters.

Other than the Dodge Ram, any Chevrolet pickup truck is suitable for transporting kayaks, since they have tie-down loops on the walls of the bed as well as long beds in general. Overall, the types of truck that you have doesn’t matter as much as the size of it does. Obviously you’ll want a truck whose bed is long enough to safely and properly carry a kayak, but you also need one that has enough power to withstand carrying the kayak and all of your other belongings on different types of roads.

You should refrain from using any trucks that don’t have tie-down loops, anchor points or a way to open the back end. Especially with longer kayaks, you’ll need to be able to leave the tailgate down so that it essentially acts as a bed extender for the kayak to have additional support. So if a truck doesn’t have the option to extend the bed or open the tailgate, then I wouldn’t use it for kayaking.


One of the most important accessories you’ll need for transporting your kayak after you have the right kayak and truck are the straps that you’re going to use for security. The straps are going to be assembled around the outside and over the top of the kayak, keeping it in place while you’re driving and preventing the kayak from potentially falling off.

That being said, it’s important that you use the right kind of straps and that you install them correctly onto the kayak and your truck. Refrain from using any bungee cords or other type of material that has a flimsy, unstable construction. They will likely snap while you’re driving the truck, causing the kayak to fall off and possibly hurt other people driving around you .

In addition to avoiding bungee cords for straps, you should also refrain from using any straps that have a ratchet-style, since you can easily over-tighten these and damage your kayak. Also, avoid using tie-downs that have metal hooks on the ends of them, since you won’t be using the hooks for anything and these aren’t ideal.

The best straps that I recommend using are the Hand-Tighten Tie Down ones, since they are the easiest to use and the most affordable on the market. They feature a metal cam buckle that can provide for a quick assembly, and they allow for a proper securing method for your kayak transportation process. They’re also virtually impossible to over-tighten, eliminating the risk of you damaging your kayak in any way.

How to Transport Your Kayak in a Truck

There are several different approaches to transporting your kayak in a truck, since you have the option of choosing between laying it down and strapping it in, or you can use a rack. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, so it really depends on what you personally prefer. Regardless, make sure that the kayak is secure to your truck and that it won’t move while you’re driving.

Laying in the Truck Bed

Laying your kayak in the truck bed is probably one of the easiest and most recommended ways for transporting it. To do so, you’re simply going to lower the tailgate and slide the boat into the bed. You’ll want to place it in the truck bed at an angled position, since this will allow more of the kayak’s length to fit in there.

After you’ve placed the kayak at an angle, you should then use the tie-down straps to secure it into place, and you’ll do this by feeding the loose end of the strap through the anchor point that’s located in the corner of the truck bed. After you have the strap through the anchor point, you should then feed the other end of the strap through stable points through the kayak as well as over its top. Then, feed the other end of the strap through the anchor point that’s at the other end of the truck bed.

Once you have the strap tied to the kayak and the truck bed, you should tighten the straps by pushing the release mechanism and feeding the loose end through the bottom of the buckle that has teeth. Make sure that the buckle is against the side of the kayak to prevent any scratching during transit.

I recommend that you also do the same process for a second strap, but make sure that this strap secures the handle that’s located at the rear end of the boat. This is essentially just a safety measure to ensure that the kayak won’t move back and forth while you’re driving.

Using a Rack

You also have the ability to use a rack for your truck if needed. I would recommend it for those of you that need extra room for storage, which can be helpful if you’re going on a long trip with a few people.

Types of Racks Available

AA Racks

Originally designed for ladders, AA racks are mechanisms that can be installed onto truck beds to provide more storage space for larger and longer objects. Because they’re traditionally designed to handle ladders, they can easily support the weight and length of many kayaks. If you have a shorter truck bed, a long kayak or you simply have too much luggage that you need extra space, then I recommend getting an AA rack. For help installing AA racks, here is aYouTube video for reference.

Hitch Extender

Other than using a truck bed rack, you also have the option of using a hitch extender when transporting your kayak. The mechanism simply attaches to your truck hitch and acts as an extended stabilizer for your kayak. This YouTube video can provide reference on how to install one and place the kayak on it.

How to Lift the Kayak into the Truck

Lifting the kayak into the truck is probably the most difficult part of the process, since the boat is heavier and it risks the most damage during this step. Before you lift the kayak into the bed, you should consider the height of the truck as well as the location that you’re going to do the lifting in. Obviously it’s easier to lift into a truck that’s lower to the ground, since you don’t have to do as much work. But you can still place it into a lifted truck, just with more ease and care.

I recommend that you lift the kayak into the truck in a grassy area, since concrete or other hard surfaces may cause damage to the bottom part of the boat, especially if you have a rudder. The process for lifting a kayak into a truck is overall simple, since you essentially have to raise the front end of the boat onto the tailgate and then lift the rear end of the boat, pushing it in with your momentum while doing so.

You should put the front end of the kayak in first, since it’s easiest this way and will benefit those of you with a rudder on the kayak. I also advise that when lifting the rear end of the kayak, you use both hands to ensure stability and prevent damage or injury. This YouTube video may help to provide a visual representation of the process.

Securing it

You’ll secure the kayak into place using the straps as described previously. With the right kind of straps, you can protect the boat’s surface and keep it in place during all of your transportation process. To secure the boat into place, feed the straps into the anchor points of the truck while also going through secure points on the kayak.

You should use two straps, since one will prevent the kayak from going up or down and the other will prevent the boat from moving forward or backward during transit. It’s also important to note that if your kayak extends beyond three feet out of your truck bed, then you’ll need to use a red flag and install it to the rear end of the kayak for safety.

Final Thoughts

Overall, transporting the kayak is likely the most difficult part of the process while on your kayaking trips. Kayaks are heavy and awkwardly-shaped, so it can be frustrating to try and fit it into your truck bed and secure it into place. But this guide contains all of the information needed for an easy process, including the information regarding what you’ll need, how to do it as well as some videos for a visual representation.

I hope you liked this article and that it helps you with your future kayaking endeavors. If you have any further suggestions, then you’re encouraged to leave them in the comments below. And if you found it helpful at all, then please share the video to spread the information.

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