8 Easy Steps How to Transport a Kayak In a Truck

Recreational kayaks can be difficult to transport. To transport your kayak safely using a truck, you must find a method that will avoid damaging both your vehicle and your kayak.

This article will walk you through a few factors to consider and techniques to use to transport a kayak safely in a truck.

How to Transport a Kayak Safely

There are a few different ways that you can transport your kayak safely:

  • You can transport the kayak directly in your truck bed.
  • You can use a truck bed extender.
  • You can use a specialized utility rack or truck bed rack made for carrying cargo and kayaks.

For these options, you always need to make sure that the kayak is tied down well so it doesn’t get damaged.

How You Can Transport Your Kayak in a Truck

Truck Bed

Any easy kayak transportation method is to simply place it in your truck bed. Most pickup truck beds are about 6.5 feet long, with a long bed truck being around 8 feet and a short bed truck around 5.5 feet. 

Kayaks can range anywhere from 6 to 16 feet long. The average kayak is around 10 feet long, and can be transported easily in a truck bed.

When trying to decide whether to carry your kayak in your truck bed, it is important to measure both to double check how much overhang there would be. Local regulations vary regarding how much cargo is allowed to overhang a pickup truck, so carrying a longer kayak in your truck bed requires you to have a bed that is long enough to accommodate the kayak.

It’s also important that the heavy part of the kayak is secured in the truck bed, making sure the tipping point is not outside of the bed. When resting the kayak against the bed walls of the truck, make sure that the kayak’s hull is supported well and not at an angle that will dent or damage the boat. 

When loading the boat, push the kayak forward until it is up against the truck cab. This will make sure that the most possible weight is secured in the bed, and prevent it from slipping during the drive.

Having a truck bed liner, such as a rubber mat, that is smooth and free from debri and sharp items will make the process easier and protect your recreational kayak.

Even when transporting a kayak in a truck bed, it is still important to use cam straps to make sure that the kayak stays firmly secured throughout the drive.

Truck Bed Extender

If your pickup truck bed is not long enough to accommodate a kayak by itself, consider purchasing a truck bed extender. Bed extenders can be used for transporting one or two kayaks, and they’re an easy way to keep a long kayak secure. 

Most extenders have a blocky “Y” shape that’s similar to a football goal post and their anchor point is usually the hitch receiver on the back of the truck. Some people chose these extenders because they are easier to set up than permanent mounts, and they can be easily removed when not in use.

To use a bed extender, leave your tailgate down and gently slide the kayaks in the back of the truck, usually placing each kayak upside down. Since the tailgate will be left open during the drive, it is important to remove any unsecured cargo in the bed of the truck. 

The kayaks can then be set on top of each post of the extender and secured using tie downs like ratchet straps or cam straps. The rear end of your kayak will be resting on the bed extender and while this usually poses no problems, it may expose the kayak to a few more bumps and bruises while it’s on the road.

If the kayak extends a ways past the end of your vehicle, you may need to put a red flag on it to alert other drivers. This is usually only necessary if the boat will be sticking out more than four feet or so. 

An extender also works on trucks with camper shells or a tonneau cover, as you simply let the tailgate down and allow the boat to stick out the end of the truck bed and rest on the bed extender. 

Remember to secure the kayaks to tie down points around the truck bed before driving away!

Kayak Racks

Another option for transporting a kayak on a truck is by using a roof rack system. Usually truck rack systems have a combination of racks that attach to the truck bed with possibly some racks over the cab as well. 

Truck bed racks elevate the kayak, keeping the kayak straight and making it less susceptible to damage. The hardest part of transporting kayaks with a truck bed rack is getting the kayaks onto and off of the racks. 

Most trucks come with anchor points for rack systems, so adding a basic rack system for your kayak should be relatively straightforward. The most difficult part may involve drilling holes into your truck bed edges, which is a job best left to the professionals.

A commonly used ladder rack system, known as an AA rack, can work well as a kayak rack. Because these systems were traditionally designed to work as a ladder rack, they are extremely sturdy and can handle the weight of a kayak easily. 

Depending on the kayak’s length, this may be the easiest way to transport it. Long kayaks often do well on roof racks that allow them to overhang both the front and back of the vehicle, if necessary.

If you choose this transportation method you should use bow and stern lines to secure each end of your kayak to your vehicle, in addition to tying it down using the D-ring and grab handles.

A Guide for Transporting Your Kayak with a Truck

Arguably the most common method out of the options listed above is simply carrying your kayak, or multiple kayaks, in your truck bed. Here are the steps you should follow to keep both your kayak and you safe as you transport your kayak in your truck bed.

1. Check Your Vehicle’s Bed for Sturdiness

The first thing you should do is check your vehicle’s bed. Most truck beds can handle the weight and easily transport kayaks, but you may want to check your vehicle’s weight limit to be on the safe side.

If you want to transport more than one boat, make sure the vehicle can support the combined weight safely.

2. Remove Sharp Objects Around Your Bed 

If there are any sharp edges and projections in your bed, make sure to remove them. This will protect your kayak hull from being punctured or scraped. 

It will also prevent the ropes from getting snagged and coming loose. You don’t want your kayak falling off while you’re driving!

3. Loop One End of Your First Rope Through Your Kayak’s D-Ring

You’ll need two ropes of equal length to tie down a kayak. One end of the first rope should be looped through one of the D-rings in the deck, or through the kayak handle.

Make a tight knot with the end of the rope coming out from underneath it.

4. Loop the Rope Around Your Bed’s Edge

Next, you’ll need to tie the other end of the rope to the edge of your truck bed. You should make sure that it is wrapped around firmly so that it won’t slip off during transport.

5. Check for Tightness

Now check to see if your knots are tight by pulling on the ropes firmly. If they’re not, untie the entire thing and start over again until you have secure knots that won’t come loose!

6. Loop the Other End of the Rope Through Your Kayak’s D-Ring

Now you’ll need to loop the first end of your other rope through one of the D-rings on the other side of your kayak. Make a knot and tighten it by pulling on both ends of the rope.

7. Loop That End Around Your Truck’s Bed Edge and Tie it Down

Next, loop that end around a stable part of your truck’s bed and tie it down. It should be attached to one of the tie down points in the edge of the bed that will withstand the weight of the kayak shifting. 

This can be either the wheel well edges or aftermarket loops that have been added around the truck bed edges.

8. Tighten Your Knot

Pull tightly on both ends of the rope to tighten the knot. You should make sure that it is secure by tugging on it.

If you want to transport more than one kayak, it is important to tie all of them down so that they won’t shift around while driving.


Transporting your kayak safely to the boat ramp or water’s edge is an essential part of having an enjoyable kayaking adventure. Here are some frequently asked questions about transporting your kayak in a truck.

How do I choose the best ropes for tying down my kayak?

Choosing the right rope is important when it comes to being able to tie down a kayak safely in your truck. You should make sure that both ropes are made of strong material and that they are the appropriate length.

There should be at least one foot of extra rope on either end so that you have some space to work with when making your knots.

How long should the ropes be?

Make sure that the ropes are not too long because they could become tangled around your kayak or cause damage to your vehicle. Of course, they shouldn’t be too short or else they won’t work at all!

A good rule of thumb is to have each rope about four feet longer than your kayak is wide.

How do I tie down two kayaks?

If you are transporting more than one kayak, it’s important to tie them all down in the same location so that they won’t shift around while driving. You can tie a piece of rope from one kayak’s D-ring to another’s so that they are securely attached.

If you have two properly tied kayaks, they shouldn’t be able to move more than four inches in any direction.

Can anything else be used as a rope?

Yes, there are several things that can be used as tie-downs, but you have to make sure they are strong enough to hold your boat down properly. Bungee cords, ratchet straps, and cam straps can all be used as tie-downs.

If I have a roof rack, do I still need ropes?

Yes! You cannot simply lay the kayak on the rack and drive away, it will fall off quickly and endanger both you and other drivers. 

You need ropes to secure the kayak to the roof rack system safely. 


Use these tips to easily transport your kayak and get to your next outdoor adventure safely!