Kayaking is a great way to explore the outdoors, and it has become very a popular sport in recent years. One challenge of owning kayaks is getting them to and from the water. Transporting one kayak can be hard enough, let alone two. In this article, we focus on how to transport two kayaks in a truck.
Roof racks are a great way to transport kayaks to the water, and many people own a car or an SUV with a roof rack. But trust me, kayaks are heavy and awkward to lift overhead. So lifting them on top of a vehicle is not easy for everyone.
If you own a pickup, a truck bed has a lot of room for a kayak. But what about two kayaks? Hauling two kayaks in a truck bed requires some careful planning. Don’t worry; we will help you get through all the details as you head to your favorite paddling spot.
How to transport two kayaks in a truck
There is a little bit of prep work to get ready to haul your kayaks in your pickup. You need to have a few supplies, like straps to secure your kayaks, and you need to get your truck bed ready. The last thing you want is for your kayaks to fly out as you are speeding down the road.
With that said, let’s get to it!
Gather your materials
There are a few items you will need, and some of this depends on your setup. You will need a way to tie down your kayaks in your truck, like with straps (cam straps, ratchet straps, etc.) or ropes.
Make sure you have enough tie-downs to secure the kayaks. You don’t want them to take flight out of your truck bed on your way to the water.
Other items you may want to consider are a bed extender and red flags. We will discuss the bed extender in a bit. The flags will let other people know you have an oversize load sticking out of your truck bed.
Get your truck bed ready
It’s essential to make sure the bed of your pickup is clear of debris before you start loading your kayaks. If you have heavy accessories, like a fifth-wheel hitch, you should remove that too.
Removing garbage or other items creates more room for your boats and helps eliminate the risk of something scratching, denting, or compromising the integrity of your kayaks.
If your truck bed is really nasty, you might want to put down some cardboard or a piece of plywood. This can help protect against oil or other grimy substances you don’t want to get on your kayak.
Tailgate up or down?
These days, trucks come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you have your tailgate up or down can depend on a few factors. Many newer pickup trucks have short beds compared to older trucks.
It used to be truck beds were pretty standard, 8 feet long on a full-sized pickup. Nowadays, truck beds tend to be a lot shorter. It depends on if your truck has a long, standard, or short bed.
Another factor is whether you own a smaller truck or a full-sized pickup. Smaller trucks typically have shorter, narrower beds. The length of your bed makes a difference in whether you have the tailgate up or down.
If you have a 14-foot kayak, leaving the tailgate down makes sense because the tailgate gives you more support. For an “average” recreational kayak that is 10 feet long, many people choose to leave the tailgate up and tie the kayaks down to cleats inside the truck bed.
Whether you leave the tailgate open or closed comes down to the size of the kayaks you are transporting and the size of your truck bed.
When the tailgate is up, it’s easier to get leverage on the kayaks to tie them down. This gives the kayaks something to lean against when you apply downward pressure with your straps.
Use a bed extender
If you go with the tailgate down, you can use a truck bed extender which provides more support out beyond the end of the tailgate. The extender fits into an existing hitch receiver.
Many truck bed extenders are adjustable in length (how far they extend from the truck) and width (can be adjusted to hold one or two kayaks), which allows you to get the right fit.
A truck bed extender is an excellent option if you have a lengthy kayak, here is a popular model.
Load your kayaks
Loading one kayak in a truck is pretty simple. Loading two kayaks in a truck bed is much the same; just make sure both kayaks fit well together. Sometimes kayaks can get hung up on the wheel wells or each other.
Depending on the size and weight of your kayaks, you might need help hoisting them into the back of the truck. You can put down a towel, blanket, or piece of cardboard over the tailgate to protect the kayaks from scratches.
How you load the kayaks is up to you. Some folks put them hull side up. Others prefer hull side down. If you have a narrow truck bed, you might need to slide the kayaks in sideways.
If you keep the tailgate up, you might consider covering the top of the tailgate with a pool noodle or towel to protect the hull or deck of your kayak (depending on how you loaded your boats).
Be careful, go slow, and try not to dent, scratch, or otherwise damage your kayaks when loading them in the truck.
If you have the tailgate down, you can lift one end of the kayak onto the tailgate and simply slide the kayak into the bed. Then repeat with the second kayak.
Strap your kayaks down
Your kayaks should be securely tied down before you hit the road. You want the kayaks to stay in the bed of your truck. Whether you are traveling on a freeway or down a quiet country road.
You can use cam straps, ratchet straps, rope, or even bungees. Ratchet straps and bungees usually come with hooks on the ends, which are great for attaching to the cleats on your truck.
Watch out with ratchet straps that you don’t tighten too much. They are great for tie-downs but can dent your kayak if you go too far.
There are different ways to tie down your kayaks.
- With the tailgate up or down, run the straps through the handles on your kayak. Tie down the bow and stern to the cleats that run along the bottom corners of your truck bed.
- You can also use the holes in the bed rails to tie down your kayaks.
- Use the hitch to tie down your kayaks to the rear of the truck.
- You can tie down the bow and stern for good measure and then use another strap across the middle of the kayaks using a cleat or the bed rails as an anchor point.
There are many ways to strap your kayaks down. The important thing is to make sure they are secure.
If necessary, you can also lock your kayak to your truck if you will be stopping for extended periods along the way.
What not to do:
Don’t overtighten the straps when you tie down your kayaks. This can lead to denting the boat. You want the straps nice and secure but not overly tight.
Use a flag
Adding a red flag to the end of your kayaks is a good idea so other drivers can see your cargo. It’s also a good idea to check out local regulations for hauling in your area. Using a flag help alert other drivers to leave more distance when they are following you.
If transporting kayaks in a truck bed isn’t the best option for you, there are other ways to get the job done. Maybe you have a work truck that is always full of gear, or you have a camper shell on your truck. Here are some other ways to transport two kayaks on a truck.
A kayak rack is a great way to haul your kayaks with your truck. Many of these don’t require drilling either. You can use C clamps to attach the rack to your truck bed.
A rack is a great way to get the kayaks up out of the way, so you can fill your truck bed with other gear. Click here for more information on kayak racks for trucks.
A trailer gives you a lot of flexibility to haul multiple kayaks and frees up the bed of your truck for other gear. One downside to using a trailer to haul kayaks is parking. It can be more difficult to find launch spots off the beaten path when you have to park a trailer.
If you don’t have room or don’t want to hassle with loading and unloading kayaks, you might want to consider an inflatable kayak. Inflatables are very easy to transport compared to their hardshell counterparts, which is one reason they are so popular.
There are a variety of ways to transport two kayaks in a truck. Make sure the kayaks are securely tied down and are well supported. Try having the tailgate up and down to see which option works best for you.
Be sure to use a truck bed extender if you need more support or have a lengthy kayak. Finally, drive safe and check your tie-downs periodically when you are en route to ensure your boats are secure.
Please feel free to reach out with any questions.
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.