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Kayak Transport for the Adventurer 2024

Transport A Kayak In A Truck

Transport A Kayak In A Truck

Updated on 2/18/2024
Abigail ScottBy Abigail Scott
Hi, I'm Abigail 👋 Since embarking on my kayaking and boarding adventures in 2010, I've navigated rivers and lakes across North America and beyond. With over a decade of experience and countless waterways explored, I'm here to help enthusiasts like you embark on unforgettable water adventures!
Learn More about Abigail Scott


Once you have purchased a kayak, you must buy kayak transport. You are not the only one who wonders how to get your kayak to the water. Many newcomers to the sport have this question, which is a good one. Here are some product overviews that we've compiled for you. A variety of factors influence the type of kayak transport you choose. Here is our list of DIY roof racks broken down by SUVs, cars, and trucks.

Owners Of Jeep Wranglers And SUVs

Finding the right equipment is relatively easy if you own a Jeep Wrangler or SUV. Roof racks come standard on most large vehicles, so you've already got a head start. From there, you have a variety of options for securing your kayak. 

The following are our top picks for SUV kayak transport:

Kayak Carrier TMS J-Bar Rack HD

You can use the TMS J-Bar Rack for kayaks up to 75 pounds and 36 inches wide, so it covers most kayaks. If you aren't great with tools, don't worry. You can relax more after your kayaking adventures since the hardware is easy to install and remove!

TMS J-Bars Have The Following Benefits:

    To prevent scratches, space should be between your car roof and your kayak on bumpy backroads to your final destination.Kayaks are protected from damage by the protective foam that wraps around the rack.Thule kayak racks work best with square and wing-shaped shelves.

The Rio Folding Kayak Carrier

The Rio Folding Kayak Carrier is an excellent option if you have a lifted Jeep Wrangler or other SUV. You can reach parking garages or other low-clearance areas without worry when the bars are folded down. No matter what roof racks you already have, these work well. It's a folding kayak option that will fit any Jeep or SUV.

Another Reason To Consider This Option:

  • There is a tool included for assembling and disassembling the J-bars. 
  • It fits all aftermarket crossbars made for SUVs and Wrangler kayak racks.
  • The anti-slip strap regulator on this foldable carrier provides added safety when you hit those potholes to your destination. 
  • It should fit most kayaks with a weight capacity of 75 pounds and a width of 36 inches.

Kayak Carrier Universal Saddles Car Rack

By contrast, the SUV Saddle Kayak Carrier by Car Rack & Carriers looks and functions differently than the J-bars mentioned previously. The rubber saddle kayak racks for SUVs ensure that the watercraft is protected and are placed directly opposite each other on both crossbars.

Straps are attached to the crossbars behind the saddles and around the kayak to hold it as the four cradle hands own it. Imagine you and another person were carrying a kayak above your heads and resting your two hands on either side of the hull while you took it. Imagine doing the same thing with a car rack carrier.

What Are The Benefits Of The Saddle Kayak Carrier?

  • It is essential for kayak transport that the straps and tie-downs are secure. It is not a flying watercraft.
  • Half the price of bigger brand competitors but just as good.
  • With the standard 75-pound weight limit, they can support any width. The kayak carrier is so versatile that it can hold even a canoe.
Product tested by Board and Kayak
Our Overall Review

Things we like:

  • Smart multi-pivot rubber saddle kayak carriers adjusts and conforms to almost any kayak shape and size for a customized, scratch-free, secure fit every time
  • Pivoting saddles make loading and unloading watercraft a breeze
  • Constructed of high strength materials and stainless hardware for superior boat security year after year, season after season
  • Universal hardware works with ROLA and most other crossbars
  • Premium heavy-duty straps and bow/stern tie-downs

Things we don't like:

  • Not compatible with all crossbars
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Owners Of Prius Or Other Small Cars

Some small cars, such as the Toyota Prius, may not have a roof rack, and roof racks are not standard on many vehicles. It is possible to transport kayaks with seats easily by attaching an aftermarket product. Thule and Yakima are good options. 

The Thule Complete Crossroads System

Thule's Crossroad System comes in 2 sizes to fit different-sized cars and is compatible with factory-side rails. After installing these puppies, you can attach another J-bar or saddle carrier to your vehicle. Few systems are on par with Thule when keeping your car and kayak secure.

Here's Why The Thule Is So Well Known

  • Two crossbars, four feet, and four locks make up the Complete Crossroad System. It means you don't have to guess whether you need additional equipment. Knowing everything is included in one package is reassuring.
  • These sturdy crossbars will not bend if you are transporting heavy watercraft. A customer called them pretty bulletproof.
Product tested by Board and Kayak
Our Overall Review

Things we like:

  • Integrated handle ensures fast installation to vehicle side rails
  • Complete rack system unit out of the box - ready to accept virtually all Thule Accessories
  • Packaging also included recommended fit applications
  • Refer to Fit guide for recommended application
  • Carrier includes 4 Crossroad feet, 4 locks and 2 square 58 inch load bars.

Things we don't like:

  • Integrated handle may not be suitable for all types of vehicle side rails
  • Limited compatibility with non-Thule accessories
  • Packaging may not include fit applications for all vehicle models
  • Fit guide may not cover all recommended applications
  • Included locks may not provide sufficient security against theft
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Yakima Whispbar Rail Bar Roof Rack

You can reduce drag by up to 70% when using Yakima Whispbars if you want the quietest, most luxurious ride possible. You're lucky if your kayak is heavy or you want to carry two kayaks. No bending is involved in using this roof rack that can carry up to 165  pounds.

The Yakima Is A Serious Kayaker's Best Choice

    Their QuickDock system makes attaching and removing their accessories extremely easy.There are over ten different sizes, so you are almost sure to find rail bars that fit your Prius or another small car. The Yakima Whispbar provides a quiet ride, even at high speeds, for kayakers used to the obnoxious howling of other car racks. 

If You Don't Have Roof Racks, You Can Try This.

Rack-Free Car-Top Kayak Carrier Kit 11438-7

You can purchase foam blocks and supports if your vehicle has no roof rack and you do not want to spend the money on a roof rack. Together with straps and a rope, these items make up a standard kit that is an affordable alternative to rail bars.

We recommend the Attwood 11438-7 Car-Top Carrier. 

What Makes The Attwood Tick All Of Our Boxes?

  • Both standard and dual-hull kayaks can use V-shaped foam blocks.
  • Including Mustangs, Mini Coopers, and Eclipses, it can convert any car with a sunroof into a kayak transporter.
  • All items are included and are of a quality that can support up to a 12-foot kayak, so you don't have to run out to the hardware store. If your watercraft is longer, tie the stern and hull to the front and back of your vehicle.

Roof Rack DIY

There's no roof rack? No problem! We have compiled a list of things you'll need to construct a DIY kayak roof rack. Don't be discouraged when looking at the instructions; anyone can make one. You only need some elbow grease, time, and a few materials!

Materials You Need.

  • Thick, Heavy Duty Pool Noodles (minimum of 3)
  • Ratchet Straps (2-5 sets)
  • Moving blankets 

Instructions for DIY Kayak Roof Rack.

  • Make your pool noodles fit your vehicle's width by trimming them. There should be a minimum of three - one for the front, one for the middle, and one for the back. There should be noodles every two feet on both cars and kayaks.
  • Ratchet straps are attached to each noodle. Then, thread them through the inside of your vehicle after running them through the center of the noodles.
  • The moving blankets should be placed on the back of your vehicle when you are ready to load your kayak. After setting the bow on the blankets, push the watercraft from the back onto the pool noodles.
  • Then, secure the kayak inside your vehicle using the remaining ratchet straps by twisting them as you join them.

See this video for more details on creating a DIY roof rack using pool noodles.

How to make DIY Foam Noodle Roof Racks

Owning A Pickup Truck

You can use a roof rack or the bed of your truck if you have one. It is easiest to get in and out of bed. You need to lower the tailgate, hoist your kayak in the back, and secure it with a few tie-downs. What hitch receiver does your truck have? Then for not a lot of money, you can make this tie-down situation safer on the back of the car. An extendable truck bed could be just what you need. Here are our favorites:

944 Extend-A-Truck from Darby Industries

Darby Industries' Extend-A-Truck is an excellent solution for water lovers with long cargo. When you aren't using your watercraft, fold the extender and store it behind the back seat. Furthermore, you can quickly secure a kayak to a bed or a roof rack with an adjustable height on the bed or a roof rack with a height-adjustable.

This Truck Extender Is Great Because

  • All you need is included right out of the box, including the red flag and receiver hitch.
  • You can use its versatility for hauling kayaks, canoes, ladders, lumber, and more. 
  • The washboard road to your water destination is a great place to keep your kayak and truck safe.
Product tested by Board and Kayak
Our Overall Review

Things we like:

  • Good weld quality
  • Works well for canoe support
  • Price isn't terrible
  • Can be stored behind the seat in a pickup
  • Has loops to use with a ratchet strap to secure load

Things we don't like:

  • Square tubing is thin but should work fine for intended load rating
  • Significant slop in the slip joint for height adjustment
  • Paint is very thin, easily scratched and scuffed
  • Item was inside an intact box but was filthy with what appeared to be dust from abrasive blasting (don't open it in your house)
  • Needs more reflective tape on the black tubing to make it stand out
  • Flag included in the box isn't durable
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Rack For Thule Xsporter Trucks With Load Stops

With the Thule Xsporter Kayak Rack for Trucks, you can quickly load, carry, and store your kayak! Due to the Thule's ability to adjust, you can load your watercraft and adjust the bars to your desired height. For solo travelers, this is the perfect solution.

We Love The Thule Because

  • The airstrip Technology combined with WindDiffuser Technology makes for an aerodynamic (saving fuel) and tranquil ride.
  • A SecureLock design locks your kayak in place with one key, giving you peace of mind.
  • Compatible with most standard truck beds.
Product tested by Board and Kayak
Our Overall Review

Things we like:

  • The rack is durable and heavy-duty to withstand tough use.
  • The rack is easy to install and uninstall for added efficiency.
  • The crossbars are easy to move and the notches provide easy adjustments.
  • The rack is able to adjust as low as possible to easily load heavy gear.
  • The adjustment knobs are easy to handle, allowing quick tightening and loosening.
  • Works effectively for carrying a variety of sporting gear.
  • The rack doesn’t whistle or make noise during use, making for a comfortable ride.
  • The installation is straight forward and easy to follow with the clear directions.

Things we don't like:

  • The exposed brackets on the rack can corrode after substantial exposure.
  • The paint can bubble and peel off after prolonged use.
  • At the high end of the price spectrum when compared to other similar choices.
  • The plastic end caps on either side of the supports can break off after use.
  • The plastic clips have no mechanical fastener to keep them in place while using, leading to a potential lack of durability.
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Truck Rack X35 from AA-Racks

Look no further than the sturdy AA-Rack Truck Rack if you don't want to drill into your truck's sides but still want a rack that can hold up to 800 pounds. With the eight included C-Clamps, you can easily remove the frame when you aren't planning to load up a kayak or two for transportation, and it's easy to set up.

What Do We Recommend About AA-Rack Truck Racks?

  • The extendable top bar allows it to fit different-sized cab heights and is compatible with the standard X35 bed. 
  • Thanks to the clamps that don't require drilling into your truck bed, it takes only 10 minutes to set up and take down when not in use.
  • The type of trucks/beds this product cannot be used on is evident immediately.
Our Overall Review
Read full review

Kayak Dollies And Carts To Transport Your Kayak

You must transport your kayak from your vehicle to the water once you arrive at your destination. We have found dollies and carts to be the best options. Look at the weight capacity, the tires, and how easy it is to use. 

Kayak Cart, Malone Clipper Deluxe

Malone Clipper Deluxe Universal Kayak Cart has a 200-pound load capacity, so you can rest assured your kayak won't break down the cart. In addition, the universal frame fits any kayak width, length, and canoe if you have more than one kind of watercraft on your vehicle.

Our Reasons For Choosing The Malone Clipper

  • The company guarantees they will never go flat because the removable 10-inch tires don't have air. 
  • Fold up the cart and store it in your trunk or truck bed until you complete your water journey.

Kayak & Canoe Cart C-Tug

You're hesitant to buy a cart to transport your kayak, right? Do you worry you won't be able to put it together? Are you afraid you won't be able to fit your heavier watercraft? Don't want your product to end up stuck in sand and rocks? You can set aside your fears with the C-Tug Kayak & Canoe Cart. 

What Makes The C-Tug So Special?

  • Rust-free ride thanks to noncorroding parts and stainless steel axles.
  • You won't have to worry about flat tires with puncture-resistant rubber wheels that help you get your heavy kayak onto the water.
  • The green pads can accommodate a variety of kayak and canoe bottoms.
Our Overall Review
Read full review

CART For Challenger Mobility Kayaks

We created the Challenger Mobility Kayak Carrier CART specifically for challenging conditions such as sand, mud, and loose gravel- pretty much anything you would expect to find in rivers, lakes, and oceans! Due to the 12-inch, large, low-pressure balloon tires. When you're out in the middle of nowhere, these big things are heavy-duty and have their air pump, so there are no surprises. 

Why We Like The Challenger Mobility Kayak Carrier CART

  • It has squishy foam padding to protect your kayak from the strong frame as you pull it along rough terrain. The middle is shaped like a 'V' to work with all kayaks.
  • The balloon wheels can be removed for easy storage when not in use.
  • The saltwater won't damage this CART because it's powder-coated.

The Easy Ways To Transport Kayaks!

The kayak transport you choose can mean the difference between a fun day out and a grueling, not-so-fun adventure. No one wants to move their watercraft with difficulty, and losing your kayak on the road is a worst-case scenario for anyone who loves water sports. Whether you do it yourself or buy it, choose the right gear for your vehicle and equipment for your kayak.

Verify your vehicle's weight limits and specifications and the type of kayak you want to transport. Thanks to this handy guide, figuring out the best way to transport your kayak has become a breeze. If you follow one of our recommendations, you won't be disappointed.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to transport kayaks on top of each other?

Some popular kayak brands do not recommend stacking kayaks on each other when storing or transporting them because it can damage them. Invest in roof racks if you are transporting kayaks. Don't forget to secure the bow and stern with straps as well.

How fast can you drive with a Kayak on your car rooftop?

If your kayak is properly secured before hitting the road, you can drive at 60-90mph without a kayak on your roof. You can take your kayak for a leisurely drive once you've completed this step.

Is it possible to transport a kayak without a roof rack?

A pool noodle is an easy and cheap way to transport your kayak without a roof rack. It takes just a few quality straps to mount the kayak to the car's roof and some quality straps to run through the hole in the middle of the pool noodle.