How to Strap a Kayak and Paddle to a Roof Rack

Photo Credit: Taryn Manning / Unsplash

While attempting to strap a kayak to a roof rack can present its own problems, figuring out what to do with a kayak paddle poses its own set of obstacles. Most people try to fit the kayak paddle in their vehicle, scratching the roof, doors, seats, and dashboard in the process. For some reason, very few people consider strapping the paddle onto the roof rack along with their kayak. This method keeps the paddle out of the car and lessens the likelihood of damage to the interior of your vehicle.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 10 Minutes

Here’s How:

1. Lay the Straps on the Roof Rack

Thread the kayak straps onto each crossbar of the roof rack and allow the straps to hang down against the car. Adjust the strap so that the metal part rests on the window, so as not to scratch the paint of your vehicle.

2. Place the Kayak on the Roof Rack

Place the kayak on top of the roof rack in a stable position. Each boat is unique in how it will rest on the roof rack. You may need to try it in different positions to find the best way.

3. Throw the Straps over the Kayak

Before you place the kayak paddle on the roof rack, throw and drape the kayak straps over the body of the kayak. The reason for this is you don’t want to place the paddle on the roof rack before this step or the paddle could roll or blow off the car. Be careful you don’t throw the buckle over the kayak in such a way that it will smack the window or paint on the other side.

4. Place the Paddle on the Roof Rack

Now place the kayak paddle on the roof rack on the side where you will secure the straps. Make sure that the blades of the kayak paddle are not touching the roof of the car. Rotate the paddle and make sure that the blades still don’t make contact with the vehicle. This is a check just in case the kayak paddle adjusts a little due to the wind. If it will hit the roof when rotated, adjust the kayak paddle forward or backward while checking for the best position so as not to damage the roof of the car with either blade of the paddle.

5. Secure the Straps

Now that the straps, the kayak, and the paddle are in position on the roof rack, it is time to secure the straps. Ensure the buckle end of the strap is resting against the kayak and the other end is draped down the side of the car. Bring the free end of the strap under the crossbar of the roof rack and up to the buckle. Thread it through the buckle and pull down on it until the slack is taken up. Do the same to the other strap. Then go back to each strap and tighten them up.

6. Tie the Straps Up

Lastly, tie up the loose ends of the straps to the roof rack and kayak paddle.

7. Concluding Thoughts

Again, if any step needs clarification, click on the heading for further instructions on each step and for a photo explaining the procedure. Kayaks that get wide at the center could cause the paddle to bend where the straps pull the paddle against the kayak. If this is the case you can strap the paddle to the roof rack with its own set of straps instead of using the same straps as the kayak paddle. This is entirely up to you. And, if your paddle is a breakdown paddle, you are probably better off separating it into two pieces and placing it in the car with your gear.


Buy kayak straps that are long enough to strap your kayak down with a couple of feet left over.
Have different length straps on hand. You never know when you’ll have to carry a different kayak or help out a friend who has a different size kayak than yours.

What You Need:

Kayak Paddle
2 Kayak Straps
Roof Rack