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How To Transport A Kayak With A Truck? (8 Easy Steps)

Recreational kayaks can be difficult to transport.

To transport your kayak safely using a truck, you need to find a method that will avoid damaging both your vehicle and your kayak.

There are a few different ways that you can use a truck to transport your kayak safely. These include placing the kayak directly in your truck bed, using a truck bed extender, or getting a specialized utility rack or truck bed rack made for carrying cargo and kayaks. Whichever method you choose, be sure to always use ropes or straps to secure your kayak to your truck safely. 

This article will walk you through a few techniques and factors to consider to help you transport your kayak safely with a truck.

3 Methods For Transporting Your Kayak With A Truck

Truck Bed

Back of a red pickup truck

The easiest kayak transportation method is to simply place it in the bed of your truck. 

Most pickup truck beds are about 6.5 feet long.

Longer ones measure as much as 8 feet, while shorter truck beds are around 5.5 feet. 

Kayak lengths 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 place your kayak in your truck bed, it’s important to measure both, and double-check how much overhang there will be. 

Local regulations vary regarding how much cargo is allowed to hang over the edge of a pickup truck bed.

Transporting a longer kayak in your truck bed requires you to have a bed that is long enough to accommodate your kayak, and adhere to overhang regulations.

It’s also important that the heaviest part of the kayak is secured firmly in your truck bed, making sure the tipping point is not outside of the bed. 

When resting your kayak against the truck bed’s walls, make sure that the boat’s hull is well-supported, and not at an angle that will dent or damage the boat. 

When loading your boat onto the truck, push the kayak forward until it is up against the truck’s cab.

This will ensure that the maximum weight of the kayak is secure in the bed, and reduce the risk of it slipping during the drive.

Having a truck bed liner (such as a rubber mat) that is smooth, and free of debris and sharp edges will make the process easier while protecting your kayak.

Even if you’re transporting your kayak in a truck bed, it’s still important to use cam straps to ensure that the boat stays firmly in place throughout the drive.

Truck Bed Extender

If your pickup truck’s bed is not long enough to accommodate a kayak, consider purchasing a truck bed extender. 

These can be used to transport one or two kayaks, and they’re an easy way to keep long kayaks secure. 

Most extenders come in a blocky “Y” shape that’s similar to a football goal post. The extender’s anchor point is usually the hitch receiver on the back of the truck. 

Some people chose to use extenders because they’re 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 kayak into the back of the truck, placing the kayak upside down. 

Since the tailgate will be left open during the drive, it’s important to remove any unsecured cargo from the bed of your truck. 

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. 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 way past the end of your vehicle, you may need to put a red flag on it to alert other drivers around you. This is usually only necessary if your boat sticks out more than four feet or so. 

An extender also works on trucks with camper shells or a tonneau cover.  You just need to lower the tailgate, and allow the boat to stick out the end of the truck bed and rest on the bed extender. 

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

Kayak Racks

Red pickup truck with a roof rack system parked on the beach at sunset

Another option for transporting a kayak with a truck is by using a roof rack system. 

Truck rack systems usually include 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 a kayak with a truck bed rack is getting your boat on 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 of the process may involve drilling holes into your truck bed edges, which is a job best left to the professionals.

The commonly used ladder rack system, known as an “AA rack”, can work well as a kayak rack. Because these systems are traditionally designed to work for holding ladders, they’re extremely sturdy and can easily handle the weight of a kayak.

Depending on the length of your kayak, a kayak rack may be the easiest way to transport it. Longer kayaks often do well on roof racks that allow them to hang over both the front and back of the vehicle, if necessary.

If you choose this transportation method, be sure to use both the 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.

8 Steps Guide For Transporting Your Kayak In Your Truck Bed

Arguably the most common method out of the above-mentioned options is transporting your kayak(s) in your truck bed. 

Here are the steps you should follow to keep your kayak, your vehicle, and yourself safe as you transport your boat in your truck bed.

1. Make Sure Your Vehicle’s Bed Is Sturdy

The first thing you need to do is check how sturdy your vehicle’s bed is.

Most truck beds can handle the weight and easily transport a kayak, but you should 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 In Your Bed 

If there are any sharp edges or projections inside your truck bed, make sure you 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 to fall 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.

Make sure that it’s 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 enough 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 around the edge of the bed that can withstand the weight of the kayak shifting. 

These can be found either near 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.

Make sure that it’s 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.

How do you choose the best ropes for tying down a kayak?

Assortment of ropes hanging on a rack

Choosing the right rope is important when it comes to being able to tie down a kayak safely in your truck.

You need to make sure that your 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 extra to work with when making your knots.

How long should the ropes be?

You also need to make sure that your ropes are not too long, because they could become tangled around your kayak or cause damage to your vehicle. 

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

How do I tie down two kayaks?

If you’re 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 the other’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 items 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 can’t just lay your kayak on your roof rack and drive away. If you do this, it will fall off quickly and endanger both you and other drivers. 

You always need to use ropes to secure your kayak to your roof rack system safely. 


Follow these tips to transport your kayak using a truck easily, and get to your next outdoor adventure safely!

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