How to Tie Down a Kayak With Saddles, J-Cradles, Stackers, Temporary Pads/Soft Roof

how to tie down a kayak

Most kayaks are constructed with PVC material, which is known for being abrasion-resistant, lightweight, and mechanically robust.

There is very little chance of a kayak developing cracks or getting scratched when in water.

How to Tie Down a Kayak With Saddles – Intro

Beginner paddlers are unaware of the fact that most kayaks get damaged during transportation. And frequent repair is detrimental to the life of the boat.

This post will teach you how to tie down a kayak on top of truck or car.

How to Tie Down a Kayak With Saddles

Saddle roof racks make boat loading quick and easy. They allow you to place your kayak on top of a vehicle in a horizontal position. Although to use these racks, your car or a truck needs to have crossbars on the roof.

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To install a saddle rack on the roof of your car, you do not need any special equipment. Usually, the package will come with four pre-assembled saddles with a spring-loaded base. Most likely, the base will have integrated wheels.

To install saddles, connect two saddles on the front crossbar of the car/truck and the other two on the rear crossbar. Tightly screw the four saddles. Now you can load the kayak.

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How to Tie Down a Kayak With J-Cradles

J-Cradle racks are used for side boat loading. Meaning, the kayak will be placed on top of the car, resting on its side and not the hull. This mechanism allows you to load two kayaks along with some gear.

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The vehicle must have two roof rails (one for each kayak) to install J-Cradles on your car/truck roof. Crossbars will do just fine. Screw-in two J-Cradles on one rail and the other one on the other rail. One rail will hold one kayak.

The space in the middle can be utilized for storing fishing gear or backpacks. Once you load the kayak and the gear, you must keep the entire setup in place with straps. Most J-Cradle rack manufacturers provide a set of straps with the product.

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Shorter straps can be used to tie up the kayak to the J-Cradles. The longer ones (greater than 8 feet) can be used to tie the kayak to the front and rear mudguard (or any other part with a hole) of the car/truck. Straps come with buckles. For added assurance, you can tie a knot over the buckle.

How to Tie Down a Kayak With Temporary Pads/Soft Roof

Installing roof rails or crossbars can be expensive. Some car/truck owners may not want to affect the vehicle’s aesthetics by installing bulky accessories on the roof. This is where temporary pads (or also known as soft roof racks) come into the picture.

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You can strap them on top of your vehicle before a fishing trip or a boat tour. Also, the soft roof is foldable. You carry it in a backpack on an airplane and later use it on a rental car.

Open all the doors and lay the pads on top of the vehicle’s roof to install the vehicle’s soft roof. Place the, across the car, parallel to the windshield. The two ends of the pads are equipped with buckled straps.

Finally, place the kayak on in the horizontal position and tie it up with the straps. The soft roof can easily hold 1-2 kayaks. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about damages incurred to the kayak from the disturbance caused by speed bumps and potholes. The soft pads are shock absorbent.

How to Tie Down a Kayak With Stackers

The stacker kayak roof rack was first introduced by Thule, an American boat equipment manufacturer.

After that, many other manufacturers came up with their versions of the stacker. Essentially, a stacker is a roof rack for smaller one-person kayaks. The same setup can also be used to place bicycles on top of the car/truck roof.

They are affordable and easy to install. Also, more reliable than temporary pads. However, a stacker is not suitable for vehicles with roof rails.

They fit well on crossbars. Further, you also must purchase a locking cable to secure the kayak in place. The straps that come with the stackers might not be sufficient to hold a kayak amid heavy winds or bad weather.

Stackers are used for sideloading a kayak. To load a kayak, place it on top of the crossbar. The hull portion of the boat should rest comfortably on the two stackers. Stackers designed by Thule are equipped with straps.

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how Pull up the straps, wrap them over the kayak, and buckle them on the crossbar.

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How to Tie Down a Kayak With Saddles – Summary

Yakima and Thule are one of the top kayak roof rack manufacturers. It is always a good idea for a newbie or a beginner kayaker to go for a cheaper soft roof system.

Assuming your kayak is worth a thousand dollars, you don’t want to spend more than $200 merely on a car/truck topping system.

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