Anyone will tell you that a kayak is easiest to transport with a vehicle that has a spacious, open truck bed. If you don’t have that kind of vehicle at your disposal, the chances of you leisurely transporting a kayak from point A to point B are extremely slim – unless you buy a trailer. But that’s a conversation that we won’t be having today.
And even if you have a vehicle that fits that description, you still need to learn how to tie down a kayak in a truck bed first.
I know it seems easy – but there’s a catch:
If you make a single mistake before and during the tie-down process, there’s a serious risk of causing a traffic accident or injuring someone by turning your kayak into a projectile.
So, I’d suggest you keep reading!
Traveling With A Kayak Isn’t Easy!
If you’re privileged enough to live in a place where you have a chance to experience kayaking – near a lake or a river, for example – then I highly recommend that you try it at least once.
I was skeptical the first time – and the feeling of being on a tiny boat weirded me out. But despite that, I fell in love with kayaking pretty much instantly.
I was on the verge of buying my kayak right then and there. I didn’t – but it wasn’t because of the price. What turned out to be a far bigger problem when getting into kayaking – for me and, I’m guessing, thousands of others – was transporting the kayak itself to the water.
Just to be clear:
Certain rivers will also have access to a paddling club, where you can rent a kayak for the day – and even leave your kayak in their storage. But, the latter is more difficult to find, meaning you’re stuck with hauling your boat.
So, how does one successfully transport a kayak with a truck?
Prepare The Truck Bed Before Tying The Kayak Down
Before explaining how to tie down a kayak in a truck bed, I need to tell you more about the preparation process. And yes, there is a preparation process.
Depending on how you prepare the truck bed for accommodating the kayak and how securely you tie it down, there is a chance that you might injure someone on the highway while on your way to the water.
I’ve seen kayaks fly off of cars before; it’s terrifying!
Because of that, I need to tell you a couple of things before explaining how to tie down a kayak. Before placing a kayak inside a truck bed, the number one rule is to free the space in your truck bed as much as possible.
People tend to pile up a bunch of stuff in the back of the truck, and most of that stuff is used only once or twice per year. One example that comes to mind is your average truck toolbox filled with heavy-duty tools.
Regardless of what’s inside your toolbox, if you plan on transporting your kayak somewhere – you’ll have to get rid of it. No matter how small or big that toolbox might be, you’ll need to free as much space as possible when cleaning your truck bed.
That usually also goes with tonneau covers.
Most trucks these days are fitted with a tonneau cover, as they are the perfect solution for protecting any cargo placed inside the truck’s bed.
But, tonneau covers – with their unique rail system and closed-off design – aren’t compatible with transporting kayaks. That’s especially true if you plan on tying down a kayak in a truck bed that needs to close its tailgate before turning on the engine.
You can see where I’m going, right?
Don’t even begin thinking about tying and transporting a kayak in a truck bed without cleaning it out and removing the tonneau cover first.
Remember To Use Additional Requisites
The second thing that you should consider is the truck bed mat. These units are easily accessible on the Internet and will aid you in numerous situations.
One of those can be transporting a kayak somewhere.
Truck bed mats are usually made from rubber, which proves beneficial when thinking about the general placement of a kayak inside a truck bed. The rubber will minimize the initial impact of placing a kayak inside the truck bed and serve as a cushion whenever you hit a bump on the road.
Only after you’ve checked all of the previous steps should you consider entering the final stage of loading the kayak and hitting the road with it.
That brings me to the last step – and one that’s crucial for the safe transportation of a kayak -which is tying it down correctly.
So, what’s the most successful way to tie down a kayak in a truck bed?
The answer might be obvious for individuals that are versatile in rope ties and transporting hefty cargo. But, if you aren’t knowledgeable in that area, listen carefully to what I’m about to explain!
Ask For Help If Necessary
Before beginning the tie-down process, you’ll need to place the kayak inside the bed of your truck correctly. Depending on the kayak you are traveling with – mainly its weight and length – you might need helping hands for this bit.
Kayaks usually weigh somewhere between 20 and 80 pounds. The closer it gets to the 80-pound mark – let alone go above it – the more challenging it becomes to load it inside a truck bed on your own.
Because of that, don’t hesitate to ask for a helping hand whenever you need to load a kayak in the truck’s bed.
Carefully lift it and carry it until you reach the back of your truck.
I recommend lowering the tailgate before bringing the kayak over to the truck if you wish to keep the inconveniences as low as possible. With that in mind, remember to dismount the tonneau cover, remove unnecessary cargo, and place a non-slip rubber truck bed mat inside.
Now, when you finish with all of that:
You can lift the end part of the kayak and rest it against the truck bed. If you have someone helping you, now would be the time for one of you to use the integrated ladder (most trucks have it) to get up there and help with positioning the kayak in the desired spot.
Slide It Inside As Much As Possible
It’s important to remember that you need to place the kayak in the bed of your truck correctly. In this case, “correctly” means a few things:case,
One, you need to lower it gently on the truck bed mat to avoid scratching the hull. Position the truck bed mat all the way back. If you buy a mat that can cover the entire interior of the truck bed, though, then you won’t need to worry about that.
Two, when you start sliding the kayak in, place it as far as possible and at an angle, rather than straight down the middle of the truck’s bed. That way, it won’t stick out as much.
And three, make sure that at least 70% of the kayak is placed inside. You don’t want to have too much overhang, because that means your kayak’s weight isn’t supported properly.
When you finish with that, you can move on to tying it down.
Use The Straps Strategically!
Let’s make one thing clear:
Using regular rope will be fine as long as it is high-quality and reliable.
Anything less than that shouldn’t even be considered when trying to tie down a kayak in a truck bed. If you want things to go smoothly – and you should – then I suggest using heavy-duty straps for trucks that have a working load of up to 5000 pounds.
It might seem like overkill to use those. But I assure you – you don’t want to put other drivers in harm’s way just because you insisted on using old, unreliable ropes.
Now, locate the truck bed’s anchor points and connect them with your kayaks’ carry handles. Don’t try to improvise; connect them in a simple but effective way. The straps should run parallel to the tailgate and perpendicular to the kayak – and back to the truck bed’s anchor points.
With that, you’ll successfully tie down a kayak in a truck bed.
It’s worth mentioning that you should pay close attention not to fix the straps extremely tight, as the pressure from that tightness might damage the kayak’s hull, especially directly under the line of the strip.
If you wish to take additional safety precautions, you can also use a cable lock. It won’t just further tighten the connection – it will serve to protect your kayak from any unwanted visitors, too. Because, as it turns out, kayak theft is a thing.
Oh, and always attach a red flag to the kayak’s end!
Depending on where you are – as in, where you live – you may have access to various on-the-water activities. One of those recreations is, of course, kayaking.
But, before you could begin experiencing that joy, you had to learn how to transport a kayak to the river. More specifically, you had to master how to tie down a kayak in a truck bed.
It’s a necessary prerequisite for road safety.
Remember to double-check everything before you drive off – and have fun on your kayaking excursion!