Now you have your new kayak and are rigged and ready to fish, but unless you are one of the lucky few that live on a body of water that is good to fish you have to find a way to transport your kayak to the fishing grounds. There are different ways to do so and a huge variety of different products to help you.
Taking a good look at any kayak put-in will give you an idea as to what locals in your area are doing to transport their kayaks and may help in narrowing down your choices. You will probably see a variety of vehicles with different styles of roof racks, trucks with bed extenders and small trailers with built-in kayak racks.
The most common way to transport a kayak is by using a roof rack of some variety.
There are many different racks available that can range in price from as little as $25 on up. If your vehicle already has a factory roof rack there are accessories that can be added to aid in ease of transportation. If you don’t have a factory rack then options include a basic loading system that features two shaped soft foam blocks that are placed directly on the roof under the kayak and are then strapped down with specially designed cinch straps. These straps wrap all the way around the kayak and thread through open doors to the other side of the vehicle. These systems are basic but work well if you are using more than one vehicle to transport your kayak, are rarely transporting, or if you are on a tight budget.
Another type of rack is the Cartop Rack System including those offered by companies such as Yakima and Thule. These systems start with towers (the parts of the rack that attach the cross bars to the roof). These towers come in different formats and can attach to factory roof rails, or with the use of vehicle specific clips they can lock into the built-in rain gutters that most late model autos have. The cross bars can be bought in varying lengths depending on the width of the roof and the width of kayak or kayaks.
There are many varieties of accessories that can be attached to the cross bars to cradle your kayak. They can range from foam pads to padded cradles to angled cradles that allow two kayaks to be loaded in a relatively narrow area by cradling them on their side (some of these cradles even feature a built-in bottle opener so that you can pop open a cold one after a good day on the water).
Roller cradles and roller accessories that allow loading from the rear of a truck or SUV (Like the Kayak HullyRoller or the Thule Slipstream XT Kayak Load-Assist Rack) definitely help in loading a heavy kayak (especially at the end of a long and tiring paddle).
When thinking about a roof rack system you should take into account the weight of your kayak and the height of the vehicle.
You may discover that without optional aids loading and unloading your kayak may have to be a two-person job. Another option offered by companies such as Thule is a hydraulic system that swings down from the side of the vehicle and allows the kayak to be loaded in the cradles at waist height. Then with one hand you can effortlessly push the whole assembly up and lock it into the roof rack.
Yakima offers another and more economical option such as the Boatloader. It is a simple cross bar extension that slides out of the cross bar and allows you to load the bow onto the extended arm while the stern rests on the ground. Then all you do is lift the stern and rock the kayak into place, never having to lift the full weight of the boat. There are other load assisting accessories offered that can make loading and unloading much easier so look at all of them and decide if one might work for you.
If you have a truck there are may options other than roof racks available. Bed rack systems are one possibility. These can be as simple as a standard utility rack such as those found on work trucks to haul ladders and materials (or even a frame made out of two-by-fours). They can also be more sophisticated systems that are adjustable and fold away when not in use. Those offered by companies such as Thule and Yakima can accept all their mount accessories and locks.
Another option is a Truck Bed Extender. These are long bars with a cross bar that slide into a receiver hitch and allow the kayak that is overhanging the trailer bed to rest securely on the extender. These are relatively inexpensive and allow for easy loading and unloading.
Trailers are another popular way of transporting heavier fishing kayaks and multiple kayaks. These can range from simple utility trailers that you strap your kayak down to, all the way up to super deluxe trailers that accept rack systems and even have built-in tents with fold-out awnings and tables such as those offered by Sylvan Sport. Many trailers including those offered by Malone will have folding tongues so that storage is easy in tight spaces. Still others like the Yakima Rack and Roll can have parts removed and the compact trailer can be hung on a wall for storage.
Many of these trailers have racks for one or two kayaks with options for adding a second tier for more boats (very handy if you are a paddling family). Trailers are said to be the most economical and fuel efficient method of transporting your kayak. They create less wind resistance than roof top systems and allow for easy loading and unloading. Another advantage to these trailers is they take all the salt and water grime that would otherwise be all over your vehicle after a day’s paddle.
However you transport your kayak to the water you want to make sure it is a safe and comfortable endeavor. Pick a system that works for you and will allow you to transport your kayak with minimum physical demands and to enjoy your day without throwing your back out or damaging your auto’s paint job. Make sure it is strapped down securely and if you are leaving it the racks at any point in time ensure you lock everything up – you want to rely on there being a kayak there to transport to your next fishing adventure.