We’ve written about how kayaks are virtually indestructible and can take constant abuse (see The Unsinkable Kayak Blog Topic). But as kayaking has become increasingly popular, we’ve been seeing a lot more damaged kayaks, mostly due to improper strapping for transport.

The fact is that it really doesn’t take much to properly secure a kayak to avoid damage and more importantly, a car accident.

Here’s an example: This Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 was reported to have fallen off a vehicle on IH-35 (a very busy highway in Texas) because the kayak wasn’t secured correctly and ended up tumbling end over end at 70 mph and was eventually hit by a vehicle. Fortunately nobody was hurt, but the damage to the kayak was so severe that there was no way it could be repaired and it was deemed a complete loss.

The fact is that it really doesn’t take much to properly secure a kayak to avoid damage and more importantly, a car accident.

So how do you avoid this scenario?

Don’t Use Ratchet Straps Or Bungee Cords 

Ratchet straps typically attach by means of a hook, and if the kayak shifts, the hook can become dislodged. Why would you want to use ratchet straps anyway? They are too easy to over-tighten and will easily damage the structure of the kayak. I’ve seen multiple accounts where ratchet straps have bent the hull of a kayak so bad that the paddler had to adapt their paddling technique to correct the direction of the boat.

Ratchet straps also cause stress fractures near sensitive areas such as scupper holes and around hatch openings.

On rare occasions, I’ve seen paddlers use bungee cords to secure their kayak to roof racks or trailers by hooking them to padeyes and handles. Keep in mind that padeyes are sometimes made of plastic and can break under too much pressure and bungee stretches — it’s what it was meant to do.

When traveling at high speeds, your kayak will stretch the bungees causing them to loosen their grip. This can easily turn into a bad situation.

Invest In A Roof Rack 

It is imperative that you use the proper equipment to secure your kayak to your vehicle or trailer. Utilizing a roof rack designed specifically for your vehicle is key. If budget allows, you should also consider “saddles” or “cradles” for your kayak. These will ensure that the kayak stays in position throughout the duration of your trip and also form fit to the kayak to prevent damage or deformation.

The great thing about using saddles is that they typically come with the straps you will need to properly secure your kayak. This usually includes bow and stern tie-downs, which brings me to this — secure the bow and the stern! Your bow and stern ties are just as important as the ties you use to secure the kayak to your rack. If you decide to buy your own straps, consider cam straps, which tighten to the fullest extent without damaging your kayak and are easy to use.

When using straps, take care in how you use them and follow the directions that come with your products to avoid dangerous scenarios. When you tie your kayak down, do not weave your straps through scupper holes as this can cause stress fractures. Secure your kayak by wrapping the strap around the entire hull instead of things like handles, clips or other accessories that can come unattached. Also, tie down any excess straps after the kayak has been secured.

I lost one myself because the loose strap hung down behind the car and melted from the exhaust pipe.

If you have the opportunity to visit one of our stores, have a sales associate show you how to best secure a kayak to a roof rack. At Austin Kayak, we also recommend the use a of a kayak storage rack to keep your kayak in good, floating shape.

By Dave Graves – Assistant Manager – ACK – San Marcos


  1. Hey Dave,

    Any tips on what kind of knots to use to prevent the cam buckle tie downs from slipping? I’ve got an X-Factor that seems intent on moving around during long trips and I think the proper knots might make the difference.

    1. Are the buckles slipping or is the boat moving around under the strap? Many times folks run the tie-downs to the outsides of their roof rack towers instead of under the bars directly beneath the kayak, this allows the boats to slide left and right under the strap. If the strap is slipping through the cam, usually a simple overhand know is enough to stop it from moving. Maybe you have a defective cam?