Everything you need to know about getting your kayak from the garage to the water and back again with minimal effort. This is your one-stop shop for all kayak storage and transportation information.
The best advice I can dish out regarding kayak storage and transportation is to read your owner’s manual. Most kayak manufacturers offer a generous warranty program, but it’s critical to familiarize yourself with the details. There are strict recommendations against certain methods of storage and transportation. This pertains to transporting via automobile or trailer, as well as the method used to portage (or cart) your kayak from the automobile to the water’s edge and back. When you submit a warranty claim, you better believe the manufacturer will request video or photographic evidence before issuing a free replacement hull or free labor for your warrantied product to be repaired.
- Kayak cart that suits your terrain and fully rigged kayak weight
- Tie-down straps (cam type, not ratcheting)
- Safety flag
- Roof rack pads (if using a rack for transport)
- Optional: Truck bed extender
- Optional: trailer
- Optional: garage kayak storage platform/cart
Storage Do’s and Don’ts:
- Whenever possible, store your kayak long-term upside down. Due to the nature of the molding process, the gunnel of a kayak is the thickest and strongest part. If you prefer to store your kayak right side up in order to keep it rigged and ready to go like me, then support the yak’s weight over the widest area possible. For some kayaks, this means storing on a flat surface, such as padded ground or a padded platform.
- When storing your kayak on crossbars or with a strap system, shop for something at least a 2” wide that incorporates padding. Always situate the supporting crossbars at or near vertical support structures in the hull (i.e. scuppers or drive well) where the plastic is thickest.
- Never hang a kayak using a rope or strap threaded through scuppers.
- Never store a kayak on its side, with the entire weight resting on the sidewall of the kayak. The sidewall is susceptible to denting with this storage method, especially in warm weather.
- Never hang a kayak by padeyes, molded inserts or bow/stern handles. This is a recipe for failure. These components aren’t meant to take heavy load over an extended period of time. Besides, just as your kayak is susceptible to denting when stored on its side, the belly of your kayak is susceptible to sagging in warm weather when the entire weight of the vessel is hung from either end.
Transportation Do’s and Don’ts:
- Never use ratchet straps.
- Never strap your kayak down too tight, especially on trailer or roof rack crossbars, and don’t leave your kayak strapped down for long periods of time.
- If you’re using crossbars, wider bars like Thule Aero crossbars are recommended.
- Always ensure crossbars are rated for the weight of your kayak.
- Always sufficiently pad crossbars.
- Never use tie-down straps or rope to tie your kayak down through its scuppers.
- Never leave your kayak on a kayak cart for extended periods of time. This can cause hull deformations, especially in hot weather.
- When transporting your kayak in a short bed truck, a bed extender like the Boonedox Classic T-Bone can be extremely useful. Not only does it make loading a bit easier, the weight of your kayak will be more evenly supported.
- J-Cradles sound like a nice idea for transporting more than one kayak on a roof rack or truck rack, but most don’t suit the size of modern fishing kayaks. My advice is to steer clear of J-Cradles.
If you have a Hobie, their Trax 2-30 Plug-In Cart is by far the cart of choice for Southern California. The reason I like this cart so much is for its ability to tackle any terrain, from concrete to extremely soft sand. The Trax 2-30 features oversized balloon tires, and its big weight capacity (242 lbs.) suits heavy kayaks loaded with fishing gear. Inevitably, you’re going to encounter soft terrain, and you don’t want to be stuck with buried cart tires. Even the HD Plug-In cart isn’t going to perform well on soft terrain. So, why not go with a cart that can do it all? The one caveat with Hobie Plug-In carts is they only adapt to Hobie kayaks due to their unique scupper spacing. Another slight disadvantage to the Trax 2-30 is that the tires can be punctured if you roll over extremely sharp rock, broken glass, nails or anything capable of piercing the tire walls. A plastic weld will usually fix a puncture, but nobody likes a flat tire at the launch. If this is the cart you choose, I suggest carrying a small hand pump in your car for adjusting tire inflation as needed.
Hobie Plug-in Trax 2-30 kayak cart. Image courtesy of Hobie.
For Old Town, or any other make, I like the new RAILBLAZA C-Tug R with SandTrakz. The tire on this cart is versatile, seriously heavy-duty and puncture resistant. The construction is modeled after bulldozer tracks, which really helps the cart move over soft sand. The best part – no air required! The padded, adjustable 20” rails on the cart allow the C-Tug R with SandTrakz to adapt to almost any kayak on the market, and the whole assembly breaks down small enough to store inside the hull of your yak. Check the fit guide on their website.
RailBlaza C-Tug R w/SandTrakz. Image courtesy of RailBlaza.
Truck Racks and Roof Racks:
I have a Thule Xsporter Pro rack over the bed of my Toyota Tundra. I’ve had a great track record with this rack, and would recommend it to anyone looking for transporting kayaks elevated over their truck bed. The beauty in keeping kayaks elevated over your truck bed is that the cargo space remains available for gear. The Xsporter Pro has a 71” crossbar length. This generous dimension, matched with the rack’s 450 lb. capacity, allows me to transport two Pro Angler 14’s side-by-side. The crossbars overhang the vertical supports as well, which makes securing tie-down straps easy.
When transporting via crossbars, I cushion my kayak’s hull with the Dakine Aero Rack Pads 34” X-Large. These pads provide plenty of shock absorption to protect the hull from dents and cracks, especially during short jaunts to and from the kayak launch. If you’re considering longer road trips, especially in hot weather, you may want to consider a cradle like the Yakima BigCatch that disperses the kayak’s load over a wider area. I like the BigCatch cradles for their forgiving nature, and easy installation and removal. A hardware kit from Yakima is required for mounting to track slots if you’d rather use that feature on your rack versus the easy clamping method that’s standard.
There are a handful of super-slick, overbuilt kayak trailers on the market. I prefer a simple trailer. In my mind, there’s two trailers worth looking into: 1) Trailex and 2) Yakima EasyRider. I like these trailers for the fact that they’re lightweight and aluminum. Aluminum trailers won’t rust easily, and require very little maintenance – a huge bonus for saltwater use. The EasyRider is a more modern looking option compared to Trailex, and has a black powder coat finish. I also really like the EasyRider’s two-level configuration. Lastly, the folding tongue and kickstand feature makes the EasyRider compact for easy storage.
Yakima EasyRider. Image courtesy of Yakima.
Loading/Unloading – Make your life easier with proper mechanics:
The key here is to use fulcrum points; never lift the entire weight of the kayak. Here’s my step by step instructions for getting a large fishing kayak loaded and unloaded with ease (yes, even onto tall roof or truck racks).
*The steps below outline truck rack loading and unloading, but the same method applies to loading into a truck bed, with the exception that you’ll want to load the stern first into the bed instead of bow first. The wider and often squared off stern of modern fishing kayaks rests much more securely on the ground when loading/unloading on and off of elevated racks.
- Position your kayak on the ground at an angle; stern centered with the middle of your tailgate and bow positioned to either side of your truck bed.
- Lift your kayak’s bow and rest it on the rack, then center it for balance.
- Walk to the stern of your kayak, then lift and slide your yak onto the truck rack. It’s best to have each crossbar positioned near the aft scuppers at the rear, and the drive well at the front.
- Run tie down straps around the bottom of the crossbar on one side of the kayak, over the top, and back around the crossbar on the opposite side at front and rear. If you were loading your kayak into a truck bed, it’s best to go from the anchors in each corner of your truck bed, through the drive well and cinch the straps tight.
- Attach a safety flag to the overhanging end of your kayak if necessary. Good to go!
- Untie and slide your kayak off the back of the truck rack, resting its stern on the ground.
- Install the kayak cart to the kayak while you have the clearance to do so. Utilizing the cart keeper feature on Hobie carts or the straps on the C-Tug allows you to walk away from the kayak while the cart stays in place. Having the cart centered on the kayak is best, since this makes carting more effortless. If I’m close enough to the water, I don’t use a cart at all – I go straight to the ground instead.
- This is a great time to install the pedal drive as well. Use the bungee hook or locking feature on your kayak to ensure the fins or prop drive stay in the “up” position.
- Slide the bow of your kayak to the side of your truck rack so you can support it from underneath. Now, pivot and lower your kayak to either rest on the ground or its wheels.
- Portage your kayak close to the water’s edge, uninstall the cart keeper or cart strap, lift the stern and let the cart drop out. Easy as 1, 2, 3.