How to Tie Down a Kayak to a Roof Rack

Last Updated on May 11, 2021 by KayakPro

If you’re not sure how to tie a kayak down, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Considering a mistake could end up scratching or damaging your yak, it’s important to understand how to properly tie down a kayak from the start.

Whenever you’re transporting a kayak, you want to make sure it’s securely tied down so it doesn’t move or touch anything on the way. If you happen to tie your kayak down by the crossbar, you’ll need a piece of rope that is long enough for both sides of the kayak. Kayaks also have a front and back, so if you’re not sure how to tie them down securely, that’s where our guide comes in!

This article will teach you how to secure your kayak using ropes with plenty of pictures and detailed instructions.

Here’s a list of the steps involved when it comes to tie-ing down your kayak:

  • Properly load the kayak
  • Tie the kayak to the crossbar
  • Tying the front of the kayak down
  • Tying the back of the kayak down
  • Securing your kayak from moving around
  • Finalizing your tie downs!

By following this guide, you’ll end up with a secure and stationary kayak that won’t budge in transit! Let’s get started…

Properly load your kayak:

The first step in order to tie down your kayak is to load it correctly onto the roof rack. The key is to make sure the kayak is centered. You’ll want to ensure that the cockpit is centered too, so it doesn’t touch the roof rack.

Tie down the kayak to the crossbar:

It’s important to have the kayak properly and securely tied down before you put the roof rack on. If you’re using a crossbar to secure your kayak, make sure that it’s aligned in the center of your car’s roof rack.

You’ll want to have enough rope so that both sides of the boat are secured, and that it can’t move around or touch anything. It’s best to use cam straps here because they are stronger and can support more weight.

Tying the front of the kayak down:

Now that you have your kayak properly secured, it’s time to tie down the front of your boat. Make sure that you have enough rope so that the front of the boat is secured, but not too tight or it could damage your kayak.

If you don’t have a cam strap, use bungee cords or tie downs for this part of securing your kayak.

Tying the back of the kayak down:

As with the front of your kayak, make sure you have enough rope so that it is secured but not too tight or it could damage your kayak.

If you don’t have a cam strap, use bungee cords or tie downs for this part of securing your kayak. I recommend at least two extra knots in your rope to help keep your kayak secure.

Securing your kayak from moving around:

Now that you have secured everything correctly, make sure that it can’t move around while you’re transporting it to its destination. This will prevent scratching or other damage to your yak.

Finalizing your tie downs!

You’re basically done tying down your kayak now! Just make sure everything is tight and secure, and that you don’t have any gaps in the rope where it could slide out of place and scratch or damage your kayak.

Type of Straps/Ropes

Using the ratchet straps is ideal when there are no cross bars and you don’t want to tie down an anchor point on the kayak. Ratchet straps are quick and easy to buckle down, however they don’t have as much load-bearing capacity as rope does, which means they won’t last as long when tied down.

Using a nylon rope is ideal when there are crossbars, or when you want to tie down an anchor point on the kayak. Nylon will not stretch as much as a rope will. While it will be slower to secure a kayak this way, you won’t need to cut it, which makes it easier to use and more secure.

Using the bowline knot is ideal when securing the front and back of your kayak. The bowline knot has been used for centuries as an anchor point position on ships (Higgins 1994), so it’s easy to see why it’s still used today. The bowline is also incredibly easy to tie and untie by yourself, which makes it ideal if you’re looking for a quick solution.


trunk loop – the trunk loop is where you secure your kayak to the deck of your vehicle’s trunk.

hatch loop – the hatch loop is where you secure a length of rope to the hatch of your kayak for added security. This is safer than using a bungee cord, which could break or come undone mid-transit.

tow loop – this one is pretty self-explanatory – just make sure you have two!

Deck loops – deck loops are where you will attach your straps to. I recommend using the deck loops instead of the seats since they will be more secure and won’t damage your kayak.

Malone T-strap Loop – this loop is used to attach your Malone T-Strap to the deck loop on your kayak.


How much rope do you need to tie down your kayak?

Rope Lengths Either 30 or 45 feet are good lengths for securing a kayak.

Can you fit a kayak in an SUV?

You can, but it will be significantly more difficult and involve a lot of maneuvering.

Why do I need two tail loops?

This is to prevent damage to your kayak in case something should happen mid-transit.

What are tether straps?

Tether Straps (aka Kayak tie downs) – Tether straps are the most inexpensive and easiest way to strap down your kayak during transport.

What are anchor points?

Anchor points are what you secure to when your kayak is on the water. They are used to keep your kayak from moving around while in transit.


In conclusion, learning how to tie down a kayak properly is extremely important and can make the whole process of moving your kayak around much more enjoyable. Securing your kayak to the roof of your car will go a long way in preventing unnecessary damage to your yak.

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Ryan Stoltz

Ryan Stoltz

Avid kayaker and lover of the outdoors. Having been kayaking for over 7 years, I love sharing my experiences and learnings along the way. Currently kayaking in upstate New York and always open to new adventures!

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