Obviously, owning a kayak is completely useless if you can’t get it to the water to paddle it!
Therefore, how to transport a kayak is an important question that every new kayaker asks eventually. Fortunately, because kayaks are all relatively long and slim as well as being relatively lightweight, they are fairly easy to transport on top of a car, truck, or SUV or, you can transport them on a specialized kayak trailer.
However, it should be noted that not all car top kayak carriers are created equal and, in fact, they differ widely in design. Therefore, the first step to deciding how to transport your kayak is to decide between a trailer and a rooftop rack. Then, from there, the choice becomes as much a matter of personal preference as it does function.
Trailers To Transport Your Kayak
So, first let’s discuss kayak trailers. While not a common option for transporting your kayak, the fact is that a fiberglass composite kayak commonly weighs 50 to 55 pounds whereas plastic kayaks commonly weigh 70 to 80 pounds. Thus, not everyone has the physical strength needed to lift a kayak up onto a vehicle’s roof rack and then take it down again by themselves.
For those people who are not able to lift their kayak up to, and down from, a roof rack, then kayak trailers are a viable option for transporting your kayak to and from your paddling destination.
Furthermore, kayak trailers are available that are designed to carry one, two, four, or six kayaks and, they can feature kayak cradles that range from simple, straight, bars to elaborate kayak cradles depending on your preference. However, it should also be noted that kayak trailers are not cheap and thus, they commonly cost between $500.00 and $1,500 depending the manufacturer, the model, and the type of cradles it has.
It should be noted that plastic kayaks have significantly softer decks and hulls than composite kayaks do and thus, they require either more padding or more ergonomic kayak cradles when carrying them on a trailer in order to prevent the hulls from deforming. Also, they should not be strapped down as tightly as a composite kayak to prevent deforming the hull and, they should not be left sitting in the sun any longer than necessary because the warmer the plastic becomes, the softer it becomes.
Roof Racks Pros And Cons
On the other hand, for those paddlers who would prefer to forego the expense and hassle of using a trailer to transport your kayak, there are numerous different types of kayak roof racks.
For instance, although there are kayak racks that consist of nothing more than straight, square or round, bars, it should be noted that kayak carriers are commonly divided into three categories consisting of saddles, cradles, and rollers.
As the name implies, a kayak saddle is a short, compact, kayak carrier that can consist of something as simple as a pair of contoured, closed cell, foam blocks that fit over either round or square bars to something more elaborate such as Thule’s Set-To-Go Saddles which consist of a pair of wide rubber pads that cushion a cradle with an adjustable angle so that it can made to conform to the shape of the chines.
Kayak cradles consist of a more elaborate means of supporting the kayak such as elaborately bent metal tubing that holds the kayak up on its side (where it is the strongest) while also supporting the hull.
Furthermore, kayak rollers are exactly what they sound like in that they consist of kayak saddles that have rollers built into them so that, once you get the bow of the kayak resting in the rear roller, all you have to do is lift the stern and then roll the kayak up onto the roof of your vehicle and into the front saddle!
It should be noted that there are kayak racks made specifically for pick-up trucks; some of which are designed to fit into a receiver hitch while others are designed to fit into the post holes in the sides of the bed that will enable a paddler to use the truck’s cab to support the front section of the kayak while the rack supports the back section.
For the ultimate in kayak carrier luxury, you simply cannot get along without Thule’s Hullavator Pro Lift Assist which is essentially a cartop elevator that lifts your kayak on to the roof rack for you and then lifts it down again!
So regardless of how slight your stature may be or the fact that you may not have the upper body strength necessary to lift a kayak up onto, and then down from, a vehicle’s roof, there is a roof rack to suite your needs ranging from those that merely assist you in getting your kayak up onto the roof and into the saddles or cradles to those that do the work for you.
But, if you are one of those paddlers who simply cannot along with the idea of carrying your kayak on top of your vehicle, then for you there is the option of purchasing a kayak trailer; thus eliminating the need for all of that lifting up and down. But, either way, if you decide to purchase a kayak, then you will need some means to transport it.