Transporting a pedal kayak can be an arduous task, especially if you’re about to embark on this mission for the first time. In this how-to guide, we’re going to break down the process for you so it’s no longer as daunting to haul a pedal kayak safely
While it’s possible to transport any kayak on most vehicles, some options prove better than others. In this article, we’re going to consider: affordability, time, security, and overall convenience when hauling your kayak.
If You Haven’t Purchased Your Kayak...
Here are some features you might want to consider before purchasing your pedal kayak include:
- Storage space
- Glide technology and pedaling mechanisms
- Kayak material and durability
- Adjustable seatings
- Rudder and propel drives
We share a lot more thoughts on our review pages about individual kayaks. The overall message is this: some pedal kayaks are easier to haul than others.
If you’ve already made your choice and are now thinking of how to haul it, consider the following questions before transporting your vehicle.
Where Do I Start After I Bought My Kayak?
The first thing to start with is to consider how suitable your car is for moving your kayak. Pedal Kayaks vary in dimensions, with some starting off at 9.5 feet, and others reaching 15 feet in length.
It’s always better if your kayak doesn’t protrude too much from the front and back of your car. It will make it more difficult for you to safely judge distances if your kayak is longer than your car by more than a few feet.
But more importantly, make sure that your car, or your car's roof racks, can support the extra weight of a pedal kayak. Pedal Kayaks’ weights range from 60 to 120 pounds, and while the extra weight might provide stability on the water, it could very easily buckle in your car roof!
If you’re still in the market for a kayak and you plan to frequently transport your pedal kayak via car, then look for a pedal kayak that has slip-resistant features, PDL drive systems, easy control, and multiple adjustment positions for security and stability while riding. For example, the well-regarded Hobie kayaks have these features.
What Are the Best Vehicles for Hauling My Kayak?
Without a doubt, a pickup truck is the optimal choice for transporting any kayak, because all you need to do is leave the tailgate down and secure the kayak with some tie-downs. We drive an F-150, and our truck bed is more than big enough for our pedal kayak, especially if we put the kayak in at an angle.
Don’t stress out if you can’t secure a truck, because there are ways to transform your SUV or sedan into a kayak-hauling vehicle through the use of soft-rack systems.
What Is a Soft Rack System?
Soft rack systems are generally used to attach surfboards to the top of cars, but a lot of them can also be used for kayaks too. The word “soft” comes from the fact that these racks can be easily attached and removed, as opposed to hard-racks, which are used by people driving vehicles with rain gutters.
The basic components of a soft-rack are two foam tubes with two straps running through their centers. Watch this video to learn how to install it, or contact your kayak vendor for instructions. We've also had a great experience
While soft racks are excellent for short trips, keep in mind that you’d need a more secure mounting system if you’re taking your kayak on a long trip. We typically define a short term as under 2 hours.
Mounted crossbars are considered safer options for longer trips, because they elevate the kayak for a greater distance than soft rack systems, ensuring that any rods or permanent mounts on the kayak don’t damage your roof.
Keep in mind that this system might not work with vehicles that have overly rounded roofs because spacing the tubes far enough would cause the kayak to contact and damage the roof in between them. The tubes need to be mounted at least three feet apart for this system to work. If you have a bigger SUV, this is probably a good fit for you. We recommend these mounted crossbars because there's a short quiz that ensures these crossbars will fit your car.
How about If I Have an SUV?
A lot of SUVs already have luggage racks on the top along with their crossbars. If that’s the case with your car, then you’re set to go. If it doesn’t have the crossbars, you’ll need to visit the aftermarket section to purchase roof racks.
There are two main types on the market: Thule and Yakima. Both systems are the same price and fit a wide range of cars.
Loading the Kayak
There are a lot of things to keep in mind when you hoist a significantly large kayak on top of your vehicle. The good news is that there are many add-ons to make the process easier and smoother.
These simple steps will keep both your kayak and car safe and secure:
- Before lifting the kayak, make sure that it's upside-down, to ensure that its pedals don’t get hung up on the rack while loading.
- Start with the kayak behind the vehicle.
- Raise one end of the kayak onto the rear crossbar so that one of its ends is resting on the rack.
- Place a towel in any location where your kayak might come to contact with the car while loading.
- Lift the other end of the ground and slide it gently onto the rack.
- Place the kayak evenly between the crossbars as you pivot it.
Securing the Kayak Before Movement
To secure the kayak, you can use tie-down straps. It’s advisable to use rack-pads, which will protect the kayak while loading it and help fasten it more tightly.
You can also use ropes to tie the kayak to the rack, but it's worth reading online briefly about how to tie ropes properly. We actually know someone who didn't tie knots correctly and the kayak slide off on the highway. It's almost always better just to use tie-down straps.
To use the straps:
- Hold the buckle end of the strap in your left-hand (or right one if you’re a leftie) and throw the tag end over the kayak.
- Set the buckle on the roof of the vehicle near the crossbar, and loop the tag end under the crossbar, then throw it back over the kayak.
- Return to where you started, and pull the tag end of the strap so that the buckle is pulled 8 inches over the crossbar. Repeat the process on the other end of the kayak.
If you plan to travel and bring your pedal kayak to new locations, then it’s essential to be familiar with the process to transport it safely and securely. The last thing you want to do is damage your expensive kayak or your even more expensive car.
As we mentioned, some cars are more optimal for transporting kayaks than others, depending on the size of the car and the weight of the kayak, but it’s never wrong to borrow your friend’s car for the job.